Saturday 20 January 2018

Diao's late sucker punch caps a day to forget for Portsmouth


Sachin Nakrani

Portsmouth's lurch towards financial doom has been accompanied by more misery on the pitch.

A late goal from substitute Salif Diao made it four defeats in five games for the bottom-placed side, who will feel frustrated having taken the lead through Frederic Piquionne before half-time, but then threw it away after the break.

Only adding to the pain, they were playing against 10 men for the final 17 minutes after Andy Wilkinson was sent off for the visitors.

This match followed the announcement that the Premier League had rejected Portsmouth's request to be allowed to sell players outside the transfer window to raise much-needed funds. It was curious to see what effect that would have on a side that, quite literally, does not know if it is coming or going.

The contest settled into an even affair with neither side able to impose itself on the other. Indeed, it took another 13 minutes for another meaningful attempt on goal. Again it fell to the visitors, although again it led to little of note as Mamady Sidibe dragged his shot from inside the area wide of the post.

Portsmouth finally threatened on 23 minutes and will feel aggrieved it did not lead to the opening goal. Quincy Owusu-Abeyie fed a cute through pass to Piquionne, which the Frenchman lifted over Thomas Sorensen and into the back of the net. The effort was immediately ruled out for offside, although replays showed the 31-year-old was being played onside by both Stoke's full-backs, Andy Wilkinson and Danny Collins, when he collected the ball.

But it did not matter, as only 10 minutes later, Piquionne did score. The striker reacted quickly after Sorensen had failed to hold Owusu-Abeyie's stinging long-range drive and from a tight angle side-footed the ball into the net.

Piquionne did not return after the interval and was replaced by Kanu. The veteran striker came into a team that had survived two promising chances that came the way of Stoke's Turkish forward Tuncay Sanli right at the end of the first-half. That proved to be a warning as on 50 minutes the visitors equalised after Robert Huth headed in Glenn Whelan's corner from the right. The equaliser did not crush Portsmouth and they remained firmly in the game. Saying that, they were struggling to create clear chances, with Kanu showing little of the dynamism and cutting edge that had characterised Piquionne's display.

Portsmouth sensed they could retake the lead after Wilkinson was sent-off on 73 minutes, having received two yellow cards from the referee Mike Dean, both for grappling with Aruna Dindane, but instead they were caught by Diao's late sucker-punch.

Sunday Independent

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