Pompey cry foul as Arsenal take early bus home
Arsenal were handed a huge Champions League bonus by referee Mike Riley after their Premiership game at Portsmouth was controversially called off because of a waterlogged pitch.
Riley postponed the game an hour before kick-off after deciding Portsmouth’s Fratton Park pitch was unplayable following a torrential downpour.
With increased injury chances in such conditions the decision will have been welcomed by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and his players ahead of Tuesday’s European Cup quarterfinal first leg at home to Italian Serie A leaders Juventus.
But with Pompey bidding for a third successive victory to keep the south coast club’s renewed survival hopes alive, Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp was far from happy.
“We expected the game to go ahead but the referee ruled against us,” Redknapp said.
“I have played on far worse pitches than that. We have missed out on a good game of football.
“We played Leicester here two and half years ago and the pitch was nowhere near as bad as that. That game was unplayable but this one was not.
“It would have been a good time to play Arsenal with their big game coming up in midweek,” he added as the Gunners wasted no time in getting on their team bus and heading back to London.
Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric shared Redknapp’s sentiments, saying: “We are extremely disappointed. This does not do us any favours. We had built up a bit of momentum and were all geared up to play. Our supporters were really up for it too, so we are all disappointed.
“My main concern is that we may have to play Liverpool and Arsenal back-to-back at the end of the season,” he added with his second-bottom side locked on 24 points with Birmingham City ahead of their relegation rivals’ trip to Manchester United on Sunday.
“This is like having a penalty you do not agree with awarded against you, the punishment for us could be severe.”
Riley conducted four pitch inspections before deciding to abandon the match.
Redknapp and Mandaric stood open-mouthed on the touchline as the referee, flanked by Wenger and Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, gave his verdict.
There were small pools of water on the pitch but these did not look serious enough to stop the game going ahead.
Riley though claimed he took the decision to protect both sets of players from the risk of serious injury.
“My first concern was for the safety of the players. You cannot have players of that calibre risk getting injured,” he said.
“The most important man in this situation is the groundsman, he knows his pitch, and he said he did not feel confident he could remove the surface water from the field.
“Portsmouth recently relaid their pitch and the new pitch would not have drained quickly enough. The rain was always going to worsen.” - Sapa-AFP