CITY 3 PORTSMOUTH 1
Nationwide Division One
21st April 2002
City Howey(9th), Goater(27), Macken(86)
Ref R Furnandiz
City Nash, Pearce, Dunne, Howey, Horlock, Jensen, Benarnia, Wright-Phillips, Tiatto, Goater, Huckerby – subs Wiekens(55), Berkovic(70), Macken(86), Royce(unused), Sun(unused)
Portsmouth Beasant, Buxton, Primus, Vincent, Wilson, Quashie, Prosinecki, Harper, Summerbell, Pitt, Vine – subs Cooper(79), Brady(82), Barrett(unused), Miglioranzi(unused), Tardif(unused)
STUART PEARCE MISSES A LAST MINUTE PENALTY BU STILL GETS TO CELEBRATE PROMOTION WITH HIS DAUGHTER
WHAT THE PRESS SAID
Stuart Pearce said goodbye to his playing career with a penalty miss in injury time that should have clinched his 100th goal.
Pearce, urged on by City fans, had been trying his hardest all afternoon to cap a great day with that treasured goal.
His chance looked to have come four minutes into injury time when Linvoy Primus was judged to have handled.
Up stepped Pearce to put the icing on a great day but he managed to blast the spot kick over Dave Beasant’s bar – shades of Italia 90 – and the dream goal was lost.
City had cruised to another victory, a club record 31st, and the fans celebrated long after the game as the players – plus cult hero Paul Dickov back to say his goodbyes too – took their bows.
The title won, Maine Road was treated to a wonderful day of celebrations.
The old stadium, to be abandoned in a years’ time, had never looked finer.
Tens of thousands of flags, ecstatic fans and a championship crown received by skipper Pearce at the final whistle, the club’s first title since ’68.
Pearce, after more than 1,000 games in a marvellous career, went into retirement with his first ever title winning medal, if not that precious goal.
Three days short of his 40th birthday he was defiant, fierce and committed as ever. He spent the match trying to the last, just like he has always done.
Every time he touched the ball, 34,000 voices pleaded with him to shoot, and every corner saw old ‘Psycho’ try to curl the ball straight into the net.
Shaun Wright-Phillips and Darren Huckerby had both seen shots charged down in the opening minutes before Steve Howey powered home a fine header from 12 yards from a Pearce cross after nine minutes.
Pompey, through a Nigel Quashie 20 yarder and a Robert Prosinecki curling free kick, responded bravely, and Carlo Nash needed to be alert to take another Quashie drive, and then dive at the Pompey midfielder’s feet toblock another effort.
But City were toying with Harry Redknapp’s side at times and Huckerby crashed another effort against a post from Kevin Horlock’s cross before City claimed their second.
Player of the Year Ali Benarbia was the instigator yet again, threading the ball through on 26 minutes for Goater to stride away to belt his 32nd of the season past Beasant.
Goater had two more efforts charged down as City went in search of the goal – which would be their 108th league strike of the season – to equal their all time record.
Pompey, though, were unwilling fodder and in Quashie and Prosinecki, had two players with attacking talent and both tested Nash from long range.
City’s biggest crowd of the season – 34,657 – wanted more goals and Niclas Jensen and Danny Tiatto, twice, went close early in the second half, with Beasant saving superbly from a Pearce thunderbolt.
Gerard Wiekens replaced Howey, Jon Macken came on for Goater and Eyal Berkovic took over from Tiatto – all three retreating heroes receiving standing ovations for their contributions to a great season.
But Pompey were not reading the script on 58 minutes when they pulled a goal back. Prosinecki swung over a corner, Kevin Harper flicked the ball on and Courtney Pitt bundled the ball over the line at the near post.
Huckerby got the ball past Beasant on 72 minutes, but once again was given offside.
That elusive, record-equalling third goal, came on 86 minutes when Jensen’s ball into the box was guided past Beasant by Macken – City’s 108th league goal of the season to equal their best ever haul.
The real story was almost written for Pearce with that last ditch penalty miss. It would have been a fitting end to a great career and great season, but the medal and trophy will do just nicely for Psycho and City.
PAUL WALKER WRITING FOR THE SPORTING LIFE