Portsmouth’s survival bid is gathering pace after their eased to a third consecutive win at Fulham.
Midfielder Gary O’Neil’s brace secured a comfortable win at Craven Cottage for Harry Redknapp’s men. They made the perfect start when O’Neill punished an untimely slip from England international Wayne Bridge to poke home Benjani’s cross at the far post.
Fulham level on ten minutes with a magnificent goal from Steed Malbranque. The French midfielder, in an excellent vein of form since returning from injury last month, collected a throw in on the left wing and cut inside before curling a glorious finish off the far post from the edge of the Portsmouth penalty area.
Former Fulham midfielder Sean Davis should have put Pompey ahead again but he contrived to balloon over from close range – much to the delight of the Cottage crowd, who still remember his departure for Tottenham last summer. But the visitors did go back in front through the pacey Lomana LuaLua who sped onto Benjani’s flick, beat Zat Knight and slipped a calm finish beyond Mark Crossley.
The hosts did put the Portsmouth goal after prolonged pressure as they pushed for another equaliser. Brian McBride headed against the crossbar and Collins John screwed a shot wide with only Dean Kiely to beat, but Pompey grabbed a crucial third on the break. O’Neill’s drive from distance flicked off Philippe Christanval’s head and left Crossley with no chance.
Michael Brown was then sent off for a senseless and spiteful lunge on Davis and, even though Fulham, kept pressing forward they couldn’t find a route back into the match. Substitute Heidar Helguson had two good late chances – sending one glorious opportunity over the bar before seeing another shot deflect wide off Andy O’Brien.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Crossley; Volz, Bridge, Knight, Pearce (Christanval 34); Pembridge (Radzinski 74), Brown, Malbranque, Boa Morte; McBride, John (Helguson 66). Subs (not used): Warner, Rosenior.
BOOKED: Malbranque, Helguson.
SENT OFF: Brown.
GOAL: Malbranque 10.
PORTSMOUTH (4-4-2): Kiely; Priske, O’Brien, Primus, Taylor; D’Alessandro (Stefanovic 66), Davis, Mendes, O’Neil; Benjani (Todorov 69), LuaLua (Karadas 89). Subs (not used): Ashdown, Routledge.
BOOKED: O’Neil, Mendes.
GOALS: O’Neil (1, 62), LuaLua (24).
Ref: C Foy (Merseyside).