Pompey suffered late heartbreak at the hands of Milan after Fillipo Inzaghi’s last gasp equaliser salvaged a point on a dramatic night at Fratton Park. In a game where the Italian giants were largely outplayed, they somehow summoned an alarming fight back to stun the South coast side.
Portsmouth went into the game minus four key players and were forced to go with an unorthodox strike pairing of Peter Crouch and Kanu. Both forwards lacking in pace and general mobility were charged with breaching the solid Rossoneri back line in the absence of main man Jermain Defoe. Also missing was influential midfielder Lassana Diarra along with the highly rated playmaker Niko Kranjcar and skipper, Sol Campbell. This paved the way for lifelong Rossoneri fan Richard Hughes to be handed a dream start, along with Glenn Little, whose surprise selection seemed forced upon Pompey Manager Tony Adams, after seeing limited football this season.
This made il Diavolo firm favourites for the match, even with Carlo Ancelotti deciding to leave the in-form Ronaldinho on the bench. The Brazilian maestro was joined on the sidelines by fellow countryman Alexandre Pato, as well as the experienced midfield duo of Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo. It made for an impressive looking bench, but the starting 11 was far from weak, boasting the likes of Kaka, Gennaro Gattuso and Andriy Shevchenko.
The first half proved to be a rather tight affair – both sides creating decent openings without really threatening their opponent’s goal. Inzaghi did strike the post after Shevchenko’s blocked free-kick fell kindly for the Italian forward and the former Juventus man was denied by the woodwork again moments later, this time clipping the top of the bar after lobbing an on-rushing David James. Pompey’s Peter Crouch had opportunities throughout the half, but failed to test Dida with any of his three efforts.
But it was the second half where the game really came to life. Pompey started dominating possession and got their reward on 62 minutes. Glen Johnson produced a fine first time cross teeing up Younes Kaboul to nod home from six yards, leaving Dida with no chance. The Blues were now well on top and soon doubled their advantage, thanks to more outstanding work down the right from the terrific Johnson. The full-back danced round two Rossoneri shirts before laying on a low cross for Kanu to fire in from under the cross bar. The Fratton faithful were now rejoicing at the sight of their patched up side on the verge of securing a famous victory in their first European campaign.
Shortly after the ex-Inter man netted, Milan brought on Brazilian pair Ronaldinho and Pato in the hope of rescuing the sorry situation they had found themselves in. And it wasn’t long before it paid dividends as moments after the woodwork had denied Inzaghi for a third time, Johnson conceded a harshly awarded free-kick 30 yards from his own goal, which Ronaldinho promptly whipped into the top right hand corner of the goal. It was sumptuous, and left the Rossoneri with six minutes plus stoppage time to find another.
Their English opposition tried to batten down the hatches and after a solid five minutes of pressure and multiple corners, it seemed like the visitor’s desperate attempts were going to fail. But Pompey had conceded vital late goals in each of their last three home games and they were to come up short once again. Two minutes into stoppage time Pippo Inzaghi stepped up to break Pompey hearts as he expertly collected a high ball on the edge of the area, spun, and poked the ball past the helpless James.
It was devastating for the home crowd who had seen their side produce an excellent second half display that had put them on the brink of beating Europe’s most decorated club. Ancelotti was the first to concede his side had been ‘‘lucky’’ to return home with a point, while his counterpart was left to rue his side’s late lapse but was quick to declare himself “incredibly proud” of his troops. However the result leaves the FA Cup holders facing an up-hill task to qualify for the last 32 of the competition, with a visit to Wolfsburg next up set to decide their fate. Meanwhile, Milan sit top of the group and guaranteed a place in the next round thanks to Inzaghi’s late, late heroics.