No way through for Pompey
Portsmouth ground out their fourth goalless draw in five games after a tight encounter with rivals Everton.
By Kate Burlaga
Last Updated: 01/12/07 5:35pm
Portsmouth ground out their fourth goalless draw in five games after failing to make a breakthrough against Everton at Fratton Park.
Harry Redknapp's side extended their unbeaten run to ten games, but it was a case of two in-form teams cancelling each other out on the South Coast, in a tight game that had plenty of graft but little creativity.
Pompey, who were looking to put their manager's recent off-the-field problems behind them, had the better of the chances, chiefly from set-pieces.
But the home side were repeatedly frustrated by Toffees goalkeeper Tim Howard, who kept out Papa Bouba Diop's glancing header with his toe, before tipping over Sulley Muntari's free kick in first-half stoppage time.
Despite Everton's mammoth 7-1 win against Sunderland last week Pompey were in their faces right from the start and made by far the better chances in a somewhat disappointing first half.
The visitors had three players booked in the first 45 minutes and were lucky to see midfielder Steven Pienaar escape a red card for two reckless lunges at John Utaka and Benjani, who again started as a lone striker with fit-again Kanu on the bench.
In the 10th minute Utaka robbed Nuno Valente near the halfway line and raced away to produce a cross which was headed behind by Joleon Lescott for the game's first corner.
That was cleared but some Pompey supporters at the far end of the ground thought Muntari had scored two minutes later when his shot flashed inches wide from a stylish Niko Kranjcar pass.
Pompey continued to look the more dangerous and Benjani produced a bit of magic to go beyond Joseph Yobo after latching onto Utaka's delicate clip but the Everton defender recovered sufficiently to restrict the Zimbabwean to a snatched shot which slipped wide in the 18th minute.
Phil Neville's hopeful 30-yarder was the only thing to cause goalkeeper David James anything like trouble in the first half.
Utaka's speed almost cashed in on a long clearance by James, flicked on by Benjani, but Howard showed quick reactions to come out and smother the half-chance.
Valente was shown a yellow card for a late tackle on Utaka as Everton became frustrated and Cahill went in the book as well for flattening the giant Diop.
The big Senegalese had clearly not recovered by the time Muntari took the 36th minute free-kick and when it deflected off an Everton head he completely lost his bearings in front of an open goal.
Kranjcar and Muntari both fired over when they could have done better and when Pienaar briefly lost his head to lash out at both Utaka and Benjani referee Peter Walton only cautioned him with the furious home fans demanding a red card.
Muntari's injury-time effort would have crept in but for Howard's fingertip touch.
Pompey could have had two goals in the first five minutes after the interval when Pedro Mendes - in for the injured Sean Davis - fired narrowly over from 20 yards from a half-cleared header before Kranjcar nudged a Glen Johnson cross just wide.
Everton looked a sharper proposition though when Andrew Johnson replaced Pienaar, who had wasted a chance given to him by Glen Johnson's careless slip.
Mikel Arteta, quiet in the first half, became a growing influence and pieced together a move with Cahill which should have given Leon Osman a goal against the run of play but for his heavy first touch which allowed James to smother.
Benjani fired both wide and over before substitute Kanu tried in vain to side-foot the winner after shots by Muntari and Diop both bounced off a resilient Everton rearguard.
It all ended rather scrappily with Johnson pushing and shoving with four heavyweight opponents having accused James of leading with an elbow when gathering a cross.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||2|
|15||Shots off Target||3|