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MATCH REPORT: POMPEY 0, SPURS 1

Posted on 15 December 2007  - 12:00

Dimitar Berbatov scored the goal that secured us a first Premier League away win of the season against Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Saturday.

Dimitar Berbatov scored the goal that secured us a first Premier League away win of the season against Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Saturday.

It was fifth goal of the season for the striker in all competitions and it provided the perfect pre-Christmas tonic of three points banked.

In what felt like sub-zero temperatures on the South Coast, Juande Ramos handed a second Premiership start to Kevin Prince Boateng in central midfield alongside Jermaine Jenas, while Darren Bent got the nod to begin up front in tandem with Dimitar Berbatov. Michael Dawson was unavailable due to illness, so Didier Zokora once again occupied a central defensive berth alongside Younes Kaboul.

Pompey had four former Spurs in their 16 on duty - Sol Campbell, Noe Pamarot, Pedro Mendes and Sean Davis. It was John Utaka who made the first purposeful surge, one that it took Jenas to speed back and repel. Utaka was looking the principal threat for the home side, while there was a good tempo and some crisp passing from the team in white, with Bent dispatching the first shot that flew a foot or so wide of the top corner.

Steed Malbranque thought he was on the scoresheet for the second time in as many seasons at this venue in the 16th minute when, from an Aaron Lennon cross, Boateng struck in on goal and was foiled by David James. Malbranque poked home the rebound, but the flag of the assistant was aloft.

Papa Bouba Diop attempted to muscle his way through at the other end and had his effort diverted away by Zokora, before Berbatov flicked just over the bar from an offside position. A Sulley Muntari free-kick was, moments later, smothered well by Paul Robinson. Bent then evaded his marker and worked himself a shooting position but failed to generate enough power to trouble James.

Lennon and Bent combined to create an opening for Berbatov in front of goal, with only a late Campbell intervention preventing the Bulgarian stroking home.

Malbranque buzzed into the box at the start of the second half but clipped a cross-shot to the unoccupied far post, while Lennon and Bent both had opportunities to stretch the home defences with their pace.

Lennon fizzed in a cross with 53 minutes on the clock that James attempted to prevent making a connection with the head of Bent. What he did do was ensure the ball struck the back of Glen Johnson, but Bent had already advanced and was unable to seize on the loose ball.

Neither side was really establishing superiority in the game, one which was a little frenetic and lacking some poise from individual playmakers. It was punctuated with fouls, which was not helping the flow of the contest, but the home crowd were voicing a degree of frustration - something that is normally a good sign.

Berbatov strode goalwards at the midway point in the half but the on-rushing James got just about enough on the ball to prevent him making capital before the substitute David Nugent headed narrowly over at the other end.

On 74 minutes Berbatov was joined by Jermain Defoe with Bent making way and he was quickly followed by Jamie O'Hara, who got to make his Premier League debut in place of Boateng. He made a quick impression with an angled ball that picked out Defoe, who proceeded to ping it over James but also over the bar.

The changes breathed new life into attacking intent and the deadlock was broken on 81 minutes. Lennon zipped a cross off the back of his marker Hermann Hreidarsson and the deviation in flight deceived the defenders and Berbatov was waiting at the back post to steer past James before joining the Spurs fans for a celebration.

O'Hara might have netted were it not for the head of Niko Kranjcar getting in the way but it mattered little when the referee sounded the whistle to send us home happy. Cold, but very happy.