FA Cup – FA Cup glory for Pompey

Eurosport

Portsmouth beat Cardiff 1-0 to lift the FA Cup for the first time since 1939 thanks to Kanu’s first-half goal.

FOOTBALL; Sol Campbell, David James, lift the FA Cup for Portsmouth, May 2008 - 0

The Nigerian swooped after 37 minutes to settle the 127th final as Pompey rounded off a highly successful season by lifting the famous trophy in front of a packed Wembley.

Defeat for Cardiff was cruel after the Championship side had comfortably held their own for much of the game and contributed to an open and entertaining contest.

But as Cardiff legs tired as the second half wore on, their challenge gradually petered out and glory was ultimately reserved for Harry Redknapp and Portsmouth, who will now play in Europe next season for the first time in the club’s history.

In the absence of the cup-tied Jermain Defoe, Kanu was asked to plough a lone furrow up front, and the Nigerian did not disappoint – he was central to most of Pompey’s attacking play, particularly in the opening period.

Before he netted, a brilliant piece of individual skill from the veteran striker saw the woodwork struck for the first and only time in the match. Sulley Muntari played the ball in and, with his back to goal, Kanu spun past Glenn Loovens before taking the ball round James and to the byline. But such was the tightness of the angle, he could only hit the outside of the upright.

Nevertheless, the chance highlighted the threat posed by the ageless Nigerian and he underlined that menace when he netted the opener.

It was a real poacher’s goal, Cardiff keeper Peter Enckelman fumbling John Utaka‘s fiercely struck cross into the path of Kanu, who had the simple task of prodding the ball home.

It was not Enckelman’s first error of the day and he had been fortunate that neither Sylvain Distin or Kanu had earlier been able to capitalise on his spilled free kick after 15 minutes.

Pompey went in at half-time in the lead, but in truth there was very little between the two sides after the opening period and the Championship side did themselves proud on their big day.

From the outset, Paul Parry‘s industrious running posed a constant threat to the Pompey back line as Sol Campbell in particular struggled to match the Cardiff striker for pace.

As early as the 13th minute, Parry got in behind Campbell as he ran onto a measured Joe Ledley through pass, only for David James to race off his line and make the stop.

And Parry was at the centre of Cardiff’s best chance of the half when he burst clear again before finding the rampaging Kevin McNuaghton free at the back post. But his cross was a little too firmly struck for the full-back to control and the ball squirted behind for a goal kick without troubling James.

Earlier, Peter Whittingham had seen a shot deflected behind for a corner with James rooted the spot and Roger Johnson had met a 27th minute corner with a firm header over the bar.

And as the half drew to a close, defender Loovens did find the back of the net with a neat lob from the edge of the box after James had flapped on a corner, only to have it correctly chalked off for an earlier handball offence.

After the break, Pompey began to show their Premier League class as they enjoyed more possession and fashioned the better chances.

The tireless Lassana Diarra – excellent in the winners’ midfield – set up Kanu for a shooting chance soon after the restart, but this time the striker mis-hit his effort, the ball eventually taking a deflection and rolling wide of the mark.

Muntari fired over before Enckelman was called into action on 72 minutes to keep out substitute David Nugent‘s fierce drive towards the near post.

Cardiff did come into the game for a brief spell soon after – Loovens headed into the ground and over the bar – but Pompey held firm. Even a late attempted onslaught from the Welsh side – Roger Johnson saw an effort superbly blocked by his namesake Glen in injury time – failed to breach their back line.

Mike Hytner / Eurosport

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