A hobbling Ian Pearce made light of his injury to snatch a point for Fulham deep into stoppage time against Portsmouth at Craven Cottage. Niko Kranjcar’s fabulous curling effort had looked to have secured all three points for Harry Redknapp’s side and bolstered their European push, but Pearce’s deflected shot denied David James a record 142nd Premier League clean sheet right at the death.
Kranjcar had given Pompey the perfect start with a brilliant strike from the edge of the box after just four minutes that left Antti Niemi utterly helpless. The Croatian’s first goal for Portsmouth was a terrific curler after Kanu had won a high ball against the Fulham defence. It was one of the few highlights of a poor first half – although James made a terrific save to keep out a long range blast from Franck Queudrue just before the interval.
Chris Coleman sent on Wayne Routledge in an attempt to inject his side with more creativity but they struggled to create clear cut openings throughout. James almost spilled a Simon Davies cross into his own net and then produced a brilliant save to deny Alexei Smertin. Vincenzo Montella should have levelled shortly after being introduced midway through the second half but blazed wastefully over from Brian McBride’s cross and Niemi kept the home side in the contest with two smart saves to thwart substitute Svetoslav Todorov at the other end.
Fulham put the Pompey goal under siege in the closing stages. Pearce, troubled by a foot injury, couldn’t be replaced after Coleman had used his three substitutions. Instead, he was pushed forward to try and cause chaos in the Portsmouth penalty area. That trick paid dividends in the third minute of stoppage time. Smertin surged into the ball and a loose ball broke for Pearce on the edge of the box. The big defender swung a boot at it and his shot took a wicked deflection off Gary O’Neill – completely wrongfooting James.
The home side even had the chance to steal all three points but John couldn’t convert a late opening and both sides had to settle for a point.
FULHAM (4-5-1): Niemi; Rosenior, Quedrue, Pearce, Bocanegra; Smertin, Diop (Routledge 57), Brown, Davies, Radzinski (Montella 62); McBride (John 65). Subs (not used): Lastuvka, Helguson.
GOAL: Pearce (90).
PORTSMOUTH (4-4-2): James; Lauren, Campbell, Primus, Stefanovic; O’Neil, Hughes, Davis, Kranjcar (Taylor 61); Benjani (Mvuemba 83), Kanu (Todorov 80). Subs (not used): Ashdown, LuaLua.
GOAL: Kranjcar (4).
REFEREE: Mike Riley (West Yorkshire).