A dogged Portsmouth earns draw
By Mandeep Sanghera
Liverpool endured the frustration of being held to a goalless draw by a dogged Portsmouth side at Anfield.
The Reds were allowed to dominate play as an injury-ravaged Pompey barricaded their goal behind the massed ranks of a spirited and stubborn defence.
A low Steven Gerrard cross caused some desperate defending for the visitors but keeper David James saved Luis Garcia's shot to avert the danger.
Gerrard went close with a late diving header but found the side-netting.
Liverpool played Jamie Carragher in midfield because of their injury problems and he sent a shot wide early on as the home side quickly took a grip of the game.
Striker Peter Crouch chested down a long Sami Hyypia pass and tried to curl in a shot but could only find the grateful arms of ex-Reds keeper James.
The Reds were comfortable in possession and spraying the ball around with confidence as they tried to prise a way through the packed Pompey defence.
But, while Hyypia went close with a long-range strike and Gerrard with a free-kick, the home side never built up a concerted spell of pressure on the visitors' goal.
Pompey's own injury worries forced them to field Matthew Taylor and he epitomised his side's resolve.
Taylor was playing through the pain barrier with a back injury but was still easily able to stifle out any threat posed from Reds right winger Jermaine Pennant.
Pennant's lack of form and confidence was a contributing factor and it was left to right-back Steve Finnan to support him and deliver a threatening cross which Garcia nodded into the side-netting.
The match developed into an exercise testing Liverpool's creativity in being able to break down the banked lines of a well-organised and disciplined visitors' defence.
Garcia did get a sight of goal for Liverpool after a Gerrard cross caused some desperation in Pompey's backline but keeper James saved his strike.
The frustration of the Reds was highlighted when a rash Pennant challenge on Taylor earned him a yellow card.
Gerrard headed just wide two minutes from time as the Anfield crowd tried to spur their team on to a win but a tired Pompey refused to buckle and earned a battling point.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:
"When you work as hard as we did and you cannot score you must be disappointed.
"You cannot say anything to the players as they tried everything but they broke up the game all the time.
"They tried to waste time from the beginning and it depends on the referee if you can stops those things."
Portsmouth keeper David James:
"It's the first time I've got anything on my return so I am delighted.
"We were very strong defensively and I didn't have a great deal much to do and it was a thoroughly deserved point.
"We stuck to our gameplan. I know it wouldn't have been the greatest game for Liverpool fans too watch but we couldn't afford to be gung-ho."
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