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Kanu the hero again as Pompey win FA Cup – (SN)

SoccerNews in English Premier League, FA Cup 17 May 2008

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Nwankwo Kanu's goal was good enough to give Portsmouth a 1-0 win in the FA Cup final against Cardiff City at Wembley here on Saturday.

Kanu, who scored Pompey's semi-final winner against West Brom, struck eight minutes before half-time following a miss that threatened to go down in Wembley folklore.

The Nigerian's goal meant the south coast club won the FA Cup for only the second time in their history following their last appearance in a major Wembley final back in 1939.

It also gave Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp his first piece of significant silverware as either player or manager and meant Portsmouth, who finished eighth in the Premier League, would be playing European football for the first time in their history next season.

Portsmouth's win saw Redknapp become the first English manager to win the FA Cup since Everton's Joe Royle in 1995 – the last time the competition was won by a team outside the 'big four' of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Reknapp was emotional after seeing his side to victory, especially as his sister-in-law Pat – mother of England international Frank Lampard – had died last month.

“It's fantastic for everybody, the team, the fans and especially my family,” said Redknapp.

“It's been a difficult year (he was also the subject of a dawn raid by police over bung allegations).

“It's a dream come true. We are a very close family and this is a fantastic present to give them.”

For his Cardiff counterpart Dave Jones there was sorrow but also great pride.

“We gave everything and every player whether he was Welsh, Irish or English did as much for the cause.

“If we don't move on from here we deserve to be shot.”

Kanu, who played briefly in two previous FA Cup finals with Arsenal, said it was a wonderful feeling to have scored the goal that gave Pompey their victory.

“I feel good and I feel happy. I'm a players player,” said the Nigerian.

A season of Cup shocks, including Portsmouth's quarter-final win over English champions United, did not have one last surprise.

Second-tier Cardiff, bidding to become the first team from outside the top flight since West Ham in 1980 to win the FA Cup, caused Portsmouth problems early on.

But they couldn't sustain that effort against a defence which conceded just one goal, against Plymouth in a 2-1 fourth round win, on the way to the final with all their other FA Cup victories this season achieved by a 1-0 margin.

The decisive moment of the match came in the 37th minute.

France international midfielder Lassana Diarra, who repeatedly proved adept at bringing the ball out of defence, released John Utaka down the right.

Kanu's fellow Nigeria forward teased Cardiff full-back Tony Capaldi before crossing. Cardiff goalkeeper Peter Enckelman let the ball slip from his grasp when he should have clung on and Kanu scored from barely a yard out.

It was Kanu's first goal since he scored the winner in the 1-0 semi-final win over West Brom, one of his former clubs, and Pompey's first in four matches after a disappointing end to their league season.

And it came as an immense relief to both the striker and his team-mates, without cup-tied goalscorer Jermain Defoe, after an agonising miss.

Played in by Sulley Muntari in the 22nd minute, Kanu slipped the ball past Enckleman but, albeit from a slightly tight angle, his shot hit the left post with the goal unguarded.

At that moment Pompey fans could have been forgiven for thinking their team's hopes of winning a first major trophy since being crowned champions of England 58 years earlier was about to pass them by.

And on the stroke of half-time Cardiff, the only non-English side to win the FA Cup back in 1927, almost equalised.

England international David James has been one of Portsmouth's stars this season but his career has been punctuated by a series of high-profile errors, earning himself the nickname of 'Calamity James' based mainly on coming for crosses other goalkeepers would leave to their defenders.

So it was when he flapped at a corner and the ball dropped to Glenn Loovens who lobbed the ball back over James and into the net.

But referee Mike Dean had spotted that Loovens had controlled the ball with his elbow and disallowed the 'goal'.

However, with Portsmouth inviting City pressure by playing Kanu as the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation, James kept the game goalless in the 14th minute when he smothered a shot from Paul Parry after Joe Ledley's slide rule pass opened up the Pompey defence.

Early in the second-half Kanu's shot from Diarra's cross was deflected away for a corner.

Cardiff manager Dave Jones then sent-on 17-year-old midfielder Aaron Ramsey with 30 minutes left.

But the Bluebirds, with veteran Dutch striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink leading the attack, couldn't find a way to test James in the second-half despite a goalmouth scramble in the final minute of stoppage time.

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