Writes: Evan Halliday
The second day of Champions League action for Portsmouth saw a first-place deciding group fixture before an afternoon semi-final to decide who would have a place in Sunday’s conclusive game.
Portsmouth sat second in Group B going into Saturday, already securing a place in the semi-finals with one game left to play, hopeful of continuing the perfect opening day they had on Friday.
However, it was a difficult start to the day for Pompey, with an early morning fixture against group leaders Sahinbey who had scored 18 goals across their two previous group fixtures – beating Bohemian F.C. 7-1 and then thrashing Paris FC 11-0.
The Turkish side continued their hot streak in front of goal, adding another five to their tally at the expense of Portsmouth who failed to put the ball past the Sahinbey keeper, and the English side were dealt their first defeat of the tournament.
The group standings were finalised and finishing second in the group, Pompey would face Group A’s top side, Wisla Krakow who had won both games they played with the third being decided pre-game after their opponent forfeited – meaning they went into the semi-final fixture having not played a game prior in the day.
The game proved to be a hotly contested tie in the first half, the best chances for Portsmouth coming from set pieces as forward Jamie Tregaskiss struck the woodwork on two occasions from dead-ball situations.
At the opposite end, Thomas Atkinson put on a resilient display in between the sticks, frustrating the Polish side, with both sides level at the break.
The second period appeared to be of a similar script, however, Wisla Krakow began to gain the edge and as the half progressed, proved to be the more dominant side.
Once again, Pompey’s number one was proving too difficult to beat, keeping his team in the tie with a repertoire of world-class saves.
Notable saves to deny the Krakow forwards with an expert double save from close proximity as well as a flying stop from a strike destined for the top right corner, is the reason he is so highly thought of at EAFA.
Pompey remained diligent but in the 50th minute, their hard work was undone when a long-range effort from Krakow’s number 16 found the bottom corner of the Blues’ goal.
Portsmouth took the initiative and pushed for an equaliser - on the front foot in the dying embers of the game but were unable to find it.
The final whistle blew and that solitary goal was enough to separate the two sides, meaning Portsmouth’s run in the Champions League was over.
On all accounts, it was a terrific performance from Portsmouth, every player showing evidence of why they belong on the grandest stage in European amputee club football, displaying their class across the group stage and into the knockout round, just narrowly missing out on a place in the final right at the death.