Pompey remain rock bottom


LONDON, March 10 – Crisis club Portsmouth remained four points adrift at the foot of the English Premier League as Birmingham City gained revenge on their FA Cup conquerors with a 2-1 win at Fratton Park on Tuesday.Portsmouth, the 2008 FA Cup winners, beat Birmingham 2-0 at their south coast home on Saturday to reach the last four of this season’s edition thanks to two goals from Frederic Piquionne.

But there was no repeat performance as Birmingham moved up to eighth in the table thanks to a double from striker Cameron Jerome.

Nwanko Kanu, who scored Portsmouth’s winning goal in their FA Cup final win over Cardiff two years ago, pulled a goal back in stoppage-time but it came too late to prevent victory for the visitors.

"We were well up for it," said delighted Birmingham manager Alex McLeish. "We spoke before the game about how Pompey might have thought our confidence has dropped and that we didn’t have much more to play for this season – and we responded brilliantly."

McLeish’s Portsmouth counterpart, Avram Grant, said: "I think there was a physical effect because players had to play because we are short in the squad. But the players did a great job on Saturday and they tried to do it again."

Portsmouth are due to return to the High Court on March 15 to answer a winding-up order brought by British tax authorities. Their entry into administration is likely to result in a nine-point deduction that would all but confirm their relegation.

But if a judge decides Portsmouth cannot overcome debts said to total 76 million pounds (115 million dollars) they could be liquidated and go out of business completely.

"I hope we will not be docked the points," Israeli manager Grant said. "I hope football decisions will be made on the pitch.

"When you punish something you punish the people who did something wrong. You need to punish the right people," the former Chelsea boss added.

In the day’s other English top flight clash, Darren Bent’s first Premier League hat-trick inspired Sunderland to a 4-0 win over Bolton – the north-east side’s first league win since November 21.

A victory that started with Fraizer Campbell’s first-minute goal at the Stadium of Light moved Sunderland six points clear of the relegation zone.

Bent’s treble ended the Black Cats’ 14-match wait for a league win and took his tally for the season to 19 goals. That total is only bettered among top-flight players by Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney.

And while Rooney, fitness permitting, is a certainty for England’s World Cup squad in South Africa, Sunderland boss Steve Bruce said Fabio Capello, the national side’s Italian manager, should also look at Bent.

"I have had a bad enough time trying to pick a team for the last three months, so I am not going to tell Fabio Capello how to do it because he has been there, worn the T-shirt and done it," Sunderland manager Steve Bruce said.

"All I can say is he must be in his thoughts, he has to be because of his goalscoring exploits.

"No disrespect to us, but to be at a team in the bottom half of the table and get what he has got, it’s fantastic."