A very much changed Reds side lost out at Portsmouth despite doing enough to get a point at least in my opinion. Undone by two first half goals the Reds always had a big hill to climb in the second half and came close to getting up there.
With the Champions League match very much on their minds the Reds left three players at home. Argentine left back Emiliano Insua came in at left back for his debut whilst Jack Hobbs took his place on the bench. Gabriel Paletta came in for his first league start alongside Sami Hyypia who was playing his 400th Reds game. Jerzy Dudek kept goal whilst there was a rare start for Robbie Fowler also.
Before the game started there was a tribute to Alan Ball. A former manager at Portsmouth they had fond memories of the man who died in the days before the game.
Having seen the team sheet before the game it looked rather lob sided to the left with Gonzalez and Zenden both in midfield along with Alonso and Sissoko. It was generally the case that Bellamy left Fowler alone up front and played on the right.
The Reds had the ball in the net after just twelve minutes. Mark Gonzalez went at the Portsmouth box before threading one in for Fowler but the flag went up as Fowler slotted home and the goal didn't stand. Being at the Portsmouth end it's difficult to say how tight it was but it looked very tight.
It's always noisy at Fratton Park and the usual bells were ringing out and the drums being struck. I'm not sure I could live with that all the time.
It was a fairly even game though. Portsmouth were forced in to an early change when Matt Taylor went down injured and signalled quickly that h had to come off. Niko Kranjcar came on in his place.
The opening goal of the game went to Portsmouth and it has to be on of the more bizarre goals you will ever see. James was about thirty yards from his goal and pumped one forward. Paletta lost Benjani who raced for the ball which was falling just near the area. Dudek got caught in two minds whether to attack the bal or let it get to the area. In the meantime Benjani nipped in and slotted the ball home.
It got worse five minutes later when Kranjcar exploited the gaping hole in the Reds' back line and he slotted home past Dudek. Perhaps being over critical here but both goals came in Paletta's centre back position.
The two goals really dented the Reds and they looked very ordinary and makeshift now. Half time was really needed so the players could re-group and get a better idea of how to score.
Zenden did manage to hit the bar with a long range effort but the goal threat was relatively light from the Reds.
The second half Reds were so much better than the first and they really piled on the pressure in time. This was more down to the fact that the Reds controlled the pace of the game more.
The goal came just short of the hour mark and unusually from a corner. Fowler whipped in a superb ball which Hyypia ran and met to head past James in the Portsmouth goal.
Inside a minute and Dudek was in the action saving from Benjani after a poor back pass from Arbeloa. Up at the other end and James was forced to save from Bellamy.
On sixty five minutes Portsmouth had the ball in the back of the net but Kanu was flagged offside.
As much pressure as the Reds put on Portsmouth their defence stood firm and the clock continued to tick down. Pennant had replaced Gonzalez and in the final eight minutes El Zhar replaced Sissoko in an attempt to go more at the home side wit pace and something different.
A couple of minutes after coming on El Zhar broke down the right and put in a great cross but it was just inches ahead of Bellamy and the chance went begging.
In the final minute Fowler was found in the area and you waited for the net to burst but James managed to save at the second attempt and the clock was now really against the Reds.
As the final whistle went the Reds were left to rue the two goals conceded too easily in the first half. Overall a draw would have been a fair result but the Reds probably just didn't quite work James hard enough.
MotM : Sami Hyypia - worked hard at the back and scored on his 400th appearance for the Reds to get the Reds back in the game.