Benjani’s first half strike saw Fulham fall to Portsmouth in their first outing in the Premier League Asia Trophy in Hong Kong this morning.
Despite the sweltering temperatures and the fact that this was a pre-season friendly, the game began at quite some intensity. Pompey squandered a great chance to take the lead after just four minutes when Gary O’Neil threaded a fine ball through the Fulham defence but David Nugent’s tame finish was easily smothered by Tony Warner. The lively Clint Dempsey had Fulham’s first opportunity on 21 minutes but the American’s 25-yarder was watchfully gathered by David James at his near post.
After a much-needed water break, the pace of Diomansy Kamara caused Portsmouth some serious problems. The Senegalese international beat two defenders before finding Alexei Smertin in the box and the Russian’s improvised back heel put Simon Davies through on goal, but the Welsh midfielder’s angled drive was well read by James. Davies fizzed in a great choice for Brian McBride shortly afterwards but the striker’s shot on the turn was easily fielded by the England goalkeeper.
Fulham fashioned the game’s clearest opening three minutes before the break. Davies was to the fore again, marauding down the right flank and sending over a great cross, that was met by a magnificent diving header from Dempsey. James made a fine reaction save from the England goalkeeper, but Steven Davis should have done better than blast the follow-up over the bar. Seconds later, Dempsey saw a snapshot bravely blocked at source by Sol Campbell.
Portsmouth punished Fulham’s prolificacy a minute before half time. Niko Kranjcar took aim at the Fulham goal from 25 yards and, although Zat Knight blocked the shot, the ball fell kindly for Benjani who swept the rebound past a helpless Tony Warner from ten yards out.
Harry Redknapp’s side made the stronger start to the second period with Knight producing an excellent bit of defending to prevent Lomana Lua-Lua from doubling the Portsmouth lead from Pedro Mendes’ low cross. Matt Taylor flashed a trademark long-range effort fractionally over the crossbar before Kamara’s pace took him clear of the Pompey defence but James did brilliantly to save the former West Brom forward’s impudent chip.
Fulham threatened largely on the break with a devilish Dempsey cross narrowly eluding substitute Collins John and David Healy shooting wide after being put under pressure by Sol Campbell. John volleyed over from twelve yards before Diop drew another excellent save from James having unleashed a thunderbolt from 30 yards out. Fulham pressed for an equaliser but Taylor almost doubled Portsmouth’s advantage in the second minute of stoppage time when his 25-yarder clipped the outside of the far post.
PORTSMOUTH (4-3-3): James; Lauren, Hreidarsson, Distin, Campbell; Muntari, Mendes, O’Neil; Krancjar, Nugent, Benjani.
GOAL: Benjani (44).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Warner (Batista 45); Baird, Konchesky, Hughes, Knight; Davis, Smertin (Diop 66), Davies (Rosenior 66), Dempsey (Timlin 80); McBride (John 57), Kamara (Healy 57).