FA Cup – United floored by Pompey
United dominated proceedings at Old Trafford, but the game turned on its head when Kuszczak – a half-time substitute for the injured Edwin Van der Sar – upended Milan Baros as Pompey countered in the 76th minute.
The Pole received his marching orders and Muntari duly slotted home from the spot to hand Pompey their first victory at Old Trafford since 1957 – and win them a trip to Wembley for the semis.
United had enough clear cut chances to put the tie beyond doubt, but a lack of cool heads in front of goal, along with some resolute Pompey defending, left United’s treble dreams in tatters.
United manager Alex Ferguson named his strongest available side, with both Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez starting. Owen Hargreaves and Paul Scholes returned after having been rested midweek for the Champions League win over Lyon and Nani got the nod to replace the injured Ryan Giggs.
And Pompey’s rather cautious selection policy was reflected for the majority of the game as United dominated possession and attacked in numbers. The visitors rarely threatened Edwin Van der Sar’s goal and were left hoping to catch the hosts on the break.
And it was those tactics that would ultimately decide the tie as the hosts’ attacking intent that proved to be their undoing.
Portsmouth broke with Kranjcar on the right, and with United terribly short on numbers at the back as they committed men forward in search of a winner, he slipped the ball through to Milan Baros who bore down on goal.
The Czech striker attempted to take the ball round Kuszczak, only to be stopped in his tracks by the keeper, who was not the last man at the moment of impact and could consider himself unlucky to have been shown red.
With Van der Sar injured and no further keepers on United’s bench, defender Rio Ferdinand was forced to don the gloves for the remainder of the match, but he could do nothing about Muntari’s excellent spot kick.
United had enjoyed by far the better opportunities to break the deadlock before the goal, the first coming on 19 minutes when Rooney broke clear of the Portsmouth back line.
But as the England international took the ball around keeper David James, Sol Campbell was able to get back and make a decisive challenge. The ball then broke free to Tevez, but his shot on target was headed off the line by Glen Johnson.
Ferguson had earlier been left fuming by referee Martin Atkinson’s refusal to award a penalty for Sylvain Distin‘s shoulder barge on Ronaldo. And it appeared the United boss had a point, particularly as Diarra had been penalised just moments earlier for an almost identical foul.
A goalmouth scramble on 58 minutes ended with Ronaldo firing wide of the mark before Michael Carrick should have put United ahead with 20 minutes remaining. Only some last ditch defending from Sylvain Distin prevented the midfielder from bundling the ball over the line.
Patrice Evra then saw a super strike tipped onto the upright by James, allowing Muntari to step up and net what proved to be the winner minutes later.