Premier League
Portsmouth 1-1 West Ham United 

Tuesday, 26th January 2010
by Staff Writer

West Ham United blew a string of chances to build an unassailable lead before conceding a late equaliser in tonight's Premier League clash with Portsmouth.

Matthew Upson had given Gianfranco Zola's side - watched for the first time by new joint-owners David Gold and David Sullivan - a deserved lead six minutes into the second half. However the Irons then wasted a string of chances before former Sheffield United striker Danny Webber - on the field for just three minutes - fired home a controversial equaliser.

A first half not unbecoming of two teams battling nervously against relegation played out predictably with little drama, although both goalkeepers played their part in ensuring the stalemate. Rob Green made a smart save from Portsmouth captain Mokoena midway thorugh the half, although was perhaps a touch fortunate not to find himself picking the ball out of his net when a Hreidarsson centre across the face of the six-yard box was narrowly missed by a stretching Piquionne at the far post.

At the other end reserve 'keeper Begovic had to be at his best to deny Frank Nouble on 21 minutes when the youngster had a clear run on goal, and again seconds later to prevent Alessandro Diamanti from converting the resulting loose ball. However he saved his best for a stunning save two minutes later when Jack Collison thought he had completed a superb counter-attack on the left side - not so, as the 'keeper seemiingly defied gravity to tip Collison's goalbound effort wide of the post.

The second half - a distinct improvement on its predecessor - was sparked into life by Upson's somewhat fortuitous 51st minute opener. Alessandro Diamanti's deep cross would have been diverted to safety by former Tottenham defender Kaboul had it not been for the presence of the Irons captain behind him. Kaboul's header appeared to rebound off the chest (or chin) of Upson before looping over the head of Begovic, who for once could do little more than watch the ball fall over the line.

Visibly bouyed by the goal, West Ham set about putting the game to bed and certainly created enough chances to do so. For the next quarter-of-an-hour they dominated the game and Diamanti, Valon Behrami, Nouble and Julien Faubert all went close to extending United's lead. The fact that they failed to do so ultimately proved costly - as it has done so often this season already.

Portsmouth, perhaps sensing that they had successfully fended off West Ham's best blows set about clawing their way back into the game. Boateng and Kaboul should both have done better with chances from close range before the home side finally struck gold with quarter-of-an-hour remaining, albeit in the most controversial of circumstances.

James Tomkins, flawless all night, was clearly floored by a flailing Boateng arm right in front of referee Andre Marriner. The fact that moments later he was taken off with what looked like concussion cemented the fact that it should have been a clear foul, if not a red card for serious foul play.

Not so according to Marriner - who afforded similar leniency to Sunderland's Lorik Cana in the 2-2 draw at the Stadium of Light earlier this season - who waved play on, to the advanatge of Portsmouth who used the space afforded by a stricken Tomkins to send substitute Webber through on goal.

A smart finish followed - Webber expertly placing the ball between Rob Green's legs - although it was disappointing that play had been allowed to continue. From a West Ham perspective at least; no doubt a delighted/relieved Avram Grant will claim Wenger-like that he didn't see the incident.

Thereafter the game could have gone either way with both sides creating a number of half chances, although West Ham were possibly the more relieved of the two sides to hear the final whistle. No doubt a good game (or second half, at least) for the neutral, but a result that does neither team any great favour.

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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Comments to follow.

Julien Faubert
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Jonathan Spector
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James Tomkins
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Matthew Upson
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Radoslav Kovac
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Mark Noble
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Valon Behrami
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Jack Collison
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Alessandro Diamanti
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Frank Nouble
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Carlton Cole
(Replaced Nouble, 74 minutes) Comments to follow.

Manuel Da Costa
(Replaced Tomkins, 80 minutes) Comments to follow.

Junior Stanislas
(Replaced Diamanti, 87 minutes) Comments to follow.

Marek Stech
Did not play.

Fabio Daprela
Did not play.

Luis Jimenez
Did not play.

Fred Sears
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Jonathan Spector, James Tomkins, Matthew Upson, Radoslav Kovac, Mark Noble, Valon Behrami, Jack Collison, Alessandro Diamanti, Frank Nouble.

Goals: Matthew Upson 52                  .

Booked: Mark Noble           .

Sent off: None.

Portsmouth: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Andre Marriner.

Attendance: 18,322.

Man of the Match: tbc.