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English Premiership

Pompey set for windfall

LONDON, April 11 – Portsmouth can look forward to a much-needed cash boost of after a stunning 2-0 win over Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

Victory for the south coast strugglers, achieved a day after they were relegated from the Premier League, set up an improbable FA Cup Final against holders Chelsea at Wembley on May 15.

The match will pit a ‘bust’ club in Portsmouth, a team with debts of some 76 million pounds (115 million dollars), against cash-rich Chelsea, a team Pompey boss Avram Grant managed when they lost the 2008 Champions League final to Manchester United.

But while the 900,000 pounds in prize money for reaching the final, with an another one million coming from television money and gate receipts, will be a welcome addition to the Fratton Park coffers, Portsmouth’s victory on Sunday was not down to the allure of money.

Goals in extra-time from French striker Frederic Piquionne and former Tottenham midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, from the penalty spot, took Portsmouth to their second FA Cup final in three years.

‘You can break many things but you can’t break our spirit,’ said a banner, quoting Grant, displayed by Portsmouth’s loyal and vocal fans.

Their support was matched by the industry of a Portsmouth team that harried Spurs throughout and were always a threat on the break thanks to the pace of Piquionne and fellow striker Aruna Dindane.

Meanwhile Pompey’s Portuguese man-of-the match Ricardo Rocha, one of several players on both sides appearing against their former club, and South Africa’s Aaron Mokoena each made several timely tackles.

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"The way we did it after what has happened all this season and to see players give everything and not take the easy solution and not give up and to be in final, it is a crazy day," said Grant, whose side were effectively condemned to life in the second-tier Championship next season after they were docked nine points last month for entering administration.

Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp, Portsmouth’s manager when they beat Cardiff in the 2008 FA Cup Final, slammed the state of the Wembley pitch after Spurs defender Michael Dawson slipped in the build-up to Piquionne’s opener.

The old Wembley was criticised for everything but its pristine playing surface, while hardly a match passes by at the new one, redeveloped at a cost of over 800 million pounds, without the pitch being slammed.

"The pitch is a disgrace. I won’t use the pitch as a excuse because it was the same for both teams," said Redknapp.

"But for any professional team to have to play football on that is farcical. How can you play on a pitch you can’t stand up on?"

Portsmouth could be without several first-choice players against Chelsea because of financial clauses in contracts which, if activated, the club could not afford.

But Grant batted away that problem by saying: "Every day since I came to this club I needed to answer so many questions about the future, contracts, points deducted, administration.

"For one day I want to speak only about football."

Tottenham, who saw Pompey old boy Peter Crouch denied by England goalkeeper David James just before the match went into extra-time, still have European ambitions of their own.

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They resume their push for a Champions League place when they face Arsenal in a north London derby at White Hart Lane on Wednesday.

And Redknapp believes it will be an ideal fixture for his injury-hit side.

"In my opinion I couldn’t have asked for a better game. If I could choose a game it would be Arsenal at home," he said.

"With Manchester City (Spurs’s rivals for a Champions League spot) winning (5-1 against Birmingham) this has been one of those days.

"This is a big blow and the mark is how you pick yourself up from these types of days."

Former Pompey playmaker Niko Kranjcar suffered an ankle injury and is a doubtful for Wednesday while Wilson Palacios will miss his next two games after collecting his 10th booking of the season against Portsmouth.

Ledley King (thigh) and Aaron Lennon (groin) are also touch and go to take on the Gunners.

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