Monday, March 25, 2019

Boro safe after seeing off Portsmouth

SoccerNews in English Premier League 3 May 2008

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Middlesbrough ended their lingering relegation fears on Saturday at the Riverside with a 2-0 win over FA Cup finalists Portsmouth courtesy of goals in either half from Chris Riggott and Tuncay.

Portsmouth, ostensibly saving themselves for their Wembley date with Cardiff on May 17, made a bright enough start as evidenced by Glen Johnson's early effort just wide against a Boro side still not entirely out of the woods at start of play with a four-point cushion over third from bottom Birmingham.

The hosts, needing to win to avoid any chance of registering their lowest points total ever in a Premier League campaign – 42 seven years ago and also 1997, when they were relegated – finally galvanised themselves, however and soon had their reward.

Five minutes before the break, Riggott bagged the opener as he climbed above Sylvain Distin to direct home a powerful header from a Fabio Rochemback corner.

The young defender, a former England Under21 centre half, had only just returned from a loan spell at Championship side Stoke City and had been due to feature in the latter's promotion-deciding home match with Leicester on Sunday.

Instead, his goal helped take the pressure off the shoulders of coach Gareth Southgate.

No sooner had the fans settled in their seats after half-time and it was 2-0, Tuncay, on target in the Teessiders' win at Fratton Park earlier in the campaign, doubling the margin in the 52nd minute by heading in at the near post from the edge of the six-yard box.

That was enough to settle Boro and they coasted through the final quarter to land their 100th home Premier League victory as Pompey slid to a third straight Premiership loss in coach Harry Redknapp's 150th match in charge over two spells in between a short spell with local rivals Southampton.

Redknapp, who earlier this year turned down the chance to take charge up the A1 motorway at Newcastle, now has to bank on a first FA Cup success for Pompey since 1939 to guarantee European football next season after a reverse which means his team can no longer catch fifth-placed Everton.

Portsmouth could easily have shipped a third goal 14 minutes from time when a Stewart Downing effort brought a fine save from Jamie Ashdown, deputising for David James

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