Premier League wins ought not to feel as hollow as this. Long before the end, this had the feel of a pre-season friendly, as the needed three points seemed assured, and sympathy for Pompeyâ€™s plight took over. A procession of injured Portsmouth players leaving the field brought it home: just what else could go wrong for the visitors?
I donâ€™t think it was just us fans either. Several of our own players (not to mention the manager) have links with Portsmouth, and Peter Crouch seemed to confirm the suspicion that weâ€™d gone easy on our opponents, when he said later on TV that weâ€™d taken our foot off the gas in the second half.
So it was a strange affair really, and the eight minutes of injury time that had to be played left me feeling faintly embarrassed, since half of the stadium had emptied by then, provoking scathing comment from the Pompey fans. Sympathy is not an emotion that sits well within a football supporterâ€™s breast, so let me assure everyone that, come the visit of Arsenal to the Lane next month, weâ€™ll be back on our best partisan behaviour.
Considering the wider story and the whiff of tragicomedy that accompanies it, the actual match seemed almost an after-thought. That we won it was crucial, since we have a daunting April ahead of us. Winning it comfortably didnâ€™t prove too taxing either, with former Pompey boys Crouch and Niko Kranjcar scoring the goals before half time. Kranjcarâ€™s muted celebration again hinted at a less than merciless frame of mind.
Pompey played some bright football in the first half and threatened twice, but found Gomes equal to the task. Gareth Bale was again in rampaging form, and whether you play him at left back or left midfield, he still performs astonishing feats of acceleration and strength to burst through the oppositionâ€™s defence and cause havoc. From a typical run he provided the cross for Crouchâ€™s headed opener. There was an accomplished debut from Kyle Walker at right back, and he was heavily involved in the build up to the second goal.
After that, everything petered out as first Herman Hreidarsson and then Danny Webber left the field on a stretcher, and David James hobbled off as well, leaving Portsmouth down to 10 men. Bizarrely, all of these injuries happened without a Spurs player even being close. Maybe these Pompey boys need to eat more Shredded Wheat?
We meet them again in the FA Cup semi-final next month. I suppose it would be disingenuous to say I hope itâ€™s a better match than this was, because getting to the final is the only important thing. Charity does, after all, begin at home.
Star man: Gareth Bale â€“ staggering power, and top notch quality too
Best moment: At 1-0 we had a corner that was cleared to Tom Huddlestone. He struck a fabulous shot that almost snapped the crossbar; the ball bounced out to Peter Crouch, who planted an equally stunning strike across David James and onto the post. Amazing stuff with James a mere spectator.
Tactics: We paired Eidur Gudjohnsen with Peter Crouch up front, with Pavlyuchenko resting his hamstring on the bench; Wilson Palacios was also rested because he is close to his 10th booking and a 2-match ban; Kyle Walker came in for the injured Corluka to make his debut in defence. It was the usual 4-4-2 with Bentley and Kranjcar, as well as Bale, providing width.
Opposition fans: Terrific â€“ they were the real stars of the day
Best chant: Two from Pompey: â€˜Always look on the bright side of life.â€™ And seconds from the final whistle, surveying a half empty stadium: â€˜Is there a fire drill?â€™
I quite liked our â€˜Pay up Pompey, Pompey pay upâ€™, as well………..
By Andy Knaggs
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