Andrew Cole came back to haunt his old club as Portsmouth claimed a point against Fulham at Fratton Park this afternoon – although Chris Coleman raged at referee Steve Bennett for allowing the hosts’ controversial equaliser to stand.
Cole stabbed home his second Pompey goal to earn Harry Redknapp’s side a point they more than merited on the balance of play, but Kanu was fortunate to escape with no punishment after twice impeding Antti Niemi in the build-up to the goal. The Nigerian forward kicked the ball out of the Fulham goalkeeper’s hands and then appeared to hold back Niemi as Cole’s close-range finish just trickled over the line but Bennett saw nothing untoward and gave the goal.
Coleman has been unapologetic about reverting back to his lone striker system following the opening day hammering at Old Trafford and injuries robbed him of six first choice midfielders. For a while, it looked as if the Londoners would emerge with all three points as a reward for their battling backs-to-the-wall display but that would have been harsh on the hosts, who completely dominated this encounter. Kanu spurned two early chances to put Redknapp’s men in front before former Fulham midfielder Sean Davis hit the post with a header.
Niemi did brilliantly to turn aside a long-range free-kick from Lomana LuaLua that threatened to dip into the net and the Fulham goalkeeper was equally alert to deny the Congolese forward from an acute angle before LuaLua fired a cross from Linvoy Primus off target just before half time. Fulham, with Brian McBride battling away despite being horribly isolated up top, fashioned few chances although Carlos Bocanegra tested David James from an away corner. Niemi, jeered throughout having spent four years at Southampton, kept out a Kanu header that seemed destined for the corner in first half stoppage time.
Fulham punished Pompey for their prolificacy after the interval. Knight rose commandingly to head home his first of the season from Claus Jensen’s corner – with Dejan Stefanovic unwittingly deflecting the ball into his own net. Coleman’s charges now had something to hang onto and they defend with gusto. Liam Rosenior cleared off the line to deny Primus and Noe Paramot rattled the crossbar with a far post header.
That was the cue for Redknapp to introduce Cole, who hit the bar himself almost immediately with a powerful header from Gary O’Neill’s corner. The veteran striker had no hesitation in bundling home at the second attempt with a quarter of an hour to go after an almighty goalmouth scramble that saw Niemi’s attempts to avert the danger hindered by Kanu. Portsmouth might have gone on to win it with Niemi brilliantly denying LuaLua in added time.
PORTSMOUTH (4-4-2): James, Pamarot, Primus, Campbell, Stefanovic, O’Neil (Thompson 87), Davis, Pedro Mendes, Taylor (Cole 66), Kanu (Mwaruwari 83), LuaLua. Subs (not used): Kiely, O’Brien.
GOAL: Cole (74).
FULHAM (4-5-1): Niemi; Rosenior, Queudrue, Knight, Pearce, Bocanegra, C. Jensen (Diop 86), Volz (Routledge 79), Radzinski, Boa Morte; McBride (John 90). Subs (not used): Lastuvka, Helguson.
BOOKED: Knight, Niemi, Queudrue.
GOAL: Knight (57).
REFEREE: Steve Bennett (Kent).