Portsmouth's Wembley fairy-tail as relegated club beat Spurs to reach FA cup final

WHAT a crazy football tale to tell of the day a broke and broken football club reached the FA Cup final.

That is what the history books will record after Portsmouth, on the weekend they were relegated from the Barclays Premier League, beat Tottenham 2-0 after extra-time at Wembley to take their place in the final against Chelsea next month.

'You can break many things but you can't break our spirit,' proclaimed the banner amid the blue and white Pompey hordes up in the Wembley stands.

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And so it was in a match in which Tottenham dominated possession but Portsmouth refused to surrender. Refused to accept that a season of torment had to end in abject misery.

Frederic Piquionne and former Tottenham midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng from the penalty spot scored the goals deep into extra-time, goalkeeper David James produced the save of the match to deny Peter Crouch and Portsmouth manager Avram Grant, wearing a black suit and undertaker's demeanour, actually broke into a smile and punched the Wembley skies with his fists.

You simply cannot heap enough praise on what Portsmouth and their fans brought to this occasion. They sang their songs, professed their loyalty, covered Wembley in its brightest hue.

You would never know they were supporters on the edge of an abyss, uncertain of how much longer they might have a team to support. They were magnificent.

A pity we could not say the same for the Wembley pitch which once again did not assist the spectacle. Can it really be so difficult to lay a piece of turf conducive to playing flowing football in the nation's premier stadium? A stadium which cost the thick end of 1billion.

Just as in Saturday's semi between Chelsea and Aston Villa players routinely slipped over, the ball held up like a golfer's putt against the nap of the green and divots were ripped from the turf, so much so that 14 groundsmen were detailed to replace them at half-time.

No wonder there was a caution among the defenders on such a fragile surface, one which should cause embarrassment at the Football Association.

Not that the pitch entirely explained the poor quality of the early football. The tenseness and usual reticence to make mistakes in a semi-final took care of that.

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In truth, the first half struggled to get out of first gear. Tottenham were poor, lacking fluency, Struggling to match the bite of Portsmouth.

Grant's team were the better side with Hassan Yebda and Michael Brown setting the tempo and Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes making the most important saves from Aruna Dindane and Piquionne.

The second half was a distinct improvement. Redknapp decided change was required before the hour mark and Roman Pavlyuchenko came off the bench to replace Jermain Defoe. The Portsmouth fans loved that, having booed their former striker Defoe throughout.

For the first time an urgency arrived in Tottenham's game. A Pavlyuchenko shot thundered wide, a Crouch header narrowly missed its mark.

Chances came and went, one of them right at the end of normal time when James pulled off that instinctive save from Crouch which would have delighted England manager Fabio Capello.

It wrested the momentum from Tottenham, who must now try to reconstruct a season which is in danger of unravelling at the seams. The cup gone and fourth place in the Premier League looking distinctly unlikely with Manchester City on the charge.

For Portsmouth, unless a buyer with real cash can be found then their fate still looks dire and their final resting place uncertain.

But, against all the odds, they are in the FA Cup final. Their fans are superb. And, who knows, history is in the making. What a story.