Yakubu scored a hat-trick to clinch a seven-goal thriller and Portsmouth’s first win of the season against Fulham at Fratton Park tonight.
The Nigerian striker, whose nineteen goals kept Pompey in the Premiership last season, was afforded a standing ovation after an outstanding display of finishing broke Fulham’s resistance – with two goals in the space of ten first half minutes proving crucial. Yakubu’s third game at a time when the visitors were punishing for another equaliser on a night that brought back memories of the time these two sides shared eight goals in 1985 when the Londoners fought back from 4-0 down.
Portsmouth made the early running with recent recruit Riccardo Fuller testing out Edwin van der Sar’s reflexes twice in six minutes, the home side hit the front with two goals in three minutes. Yakubu eased Moritz Volz, who might face further sanction after clashing with a supporter when he fell over the advertising hoardings, aside and saw his blocked shot bounce kindly for Eyal Berkovic to fire home from the edge of the area.
There was an immediate let off for Harry Redknapp’s men at the other end when Tomasz Radzinski’s cheeky lob almost embarrassed Shaka Hislop and Pompey quick took advantage with Yakubu lashing home his first goal of the season from the penalty spot after Luis Boa Morte had brought down Fuller in the box.
Portsmouth raced into a three-goal lead when Yakubu latched onto a through ball from Fuller and fired home a low drive, but any expectations of the rest of the evening being a comfortable stroll soon dissipated. Andy Cole, who had twice gone close previously, guided a header over Hislop after reaching an excellent high ball from Boa Morte and then turned provider as the Portuguese winger clinically finished a fine move started by Papa Bouba Diop, who had turned down a move to the south coast this summer in favour of joining Fulham.
Chris Coleman’s side started the second half on the front foot. Hislop made a magnificent save to prevent Cole from levelling matters and then got his angles right to deny Sylvain Legwinski. Just as Fulham looked likely to mount a late assault on the Pompey goal, Yakubu settled the home nerves by completing his hat-trick with a precise finish from Berkovic’s brilliant pass.
There was drama right until the end as Carlos Bocanegra’s first goal for Fulham – a fine diving header from Boa Morte’s free-kick – gave them hope of an amazing comeback but Coleman’s men couldn’t find another equaliser.
PORTSMOUTH (4-4-2): Hislop, Primus, De Zeeuw, Stefanovic, Unsworth, Stone, Quashie, Berger, Berkovic (LuaLua 79), Fuller, Yakubu (Taylor 88). Subs (not used): Ashdown, Griffin, O’Neil.
GOALS: Berkovic (19), Yakubu (pen 22, 28, 72).
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar, Volz, Bocaengra, Goma, Knight; Diop, Legwinski (McBride 86), Jensen; Boa Morte, Radzinski (John 68), Cole. Subs (not used): Crossley, McKinlay, Pembridge.
BOOKED: Legwinski, Knight.
GOALS: Cole (39), Boa Morte (41), Bocanegra (75).
REFEREE: Barry Knight (Kent).