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Fratton Park | 26th September 2009 12:45

Portsmouth v Everton

Everton's winning run has been extended to four consecutive games - but they had to work hard to claim all three points at Fratton Park.

Louis Saha's 42nd minute goal proved the difference on a hot day on the south coast.

But a fourth victory and a fourth consecutive clean sheet was marred by the sight of Steven Pienaar being stretchered off early in the second period.

A collision with Aaron Mokoena left him nursing a knee injury that forced his removal from proceedings. As a result, he missed a nervy end to the game that saw the home side hit the crossbar, have a penalty claim turned down and be denied by a goalline clearance from Leighton Baines.

Ultimately, it was goalscoring quality that proved the difference. The net may not have bulged quite as often as recent outings - but Saha got the one goal that mattered.

His seventh of the campaign was a masterclass in touch and finishing and deserved to win the contest.

The three points pushed the Blues into the top half of the table for the first time this term - albeit ahead of the weekend's other fixtures.

For Pompey, it was a record-breaking seventh consecutive Premier League defeat that keeps them rooted to the foot of the table.

Steven Pienaar celebrates with goalscorer Louis SahaSteven Pienaar celebrates with goalscorer Louis Saha

David James has been kept busy during the opening weeks of the season. He put that practice to good use on a number of occasions throughout the afternoon, begining in the ninth minute. He produced an acrobatic save to claw away an audacious effort by Cahill from 20 yards.

It was a rare moment of excitement in an otherwise slow start to the afternoon. Indeed, Everton's next chance of note did not come until 21 minutes - Saha driving just over after a neat turn on the edge of the area.

James was not called upon again until the 37th minute. He somehow managed to scramble the ball away despite being wrong-footed by a Marouane Fellaini header from a Leon Osman centre.

That was in response to Pompey's best chance of the opening half which came three minutes earlier. Aruna Dindane stole in only to be denied by a smart save from Tim Howard - although the late intervention of Sylvain Distin also played a part in putting Dindane off his stride just as he produced his shot.

Those two chances ignited what had hitherto been a lacklustre affair. Kevin-Prince Boateng fired over in the sunshine before Louis Saha blasted the opening goal of the game three minutes before the interval. The French hitman's seventh goal of the campaign was an outstanding finish.

He chested down a raking cross-field ball from John Heitinga before firing a left-foot shot over the advancing James and into the roof of the net from eight yards.

Pompey started brightly in the second period. And were denied an equaliser on 50 minutes by a stunning reaction save from Howard. The US international improvised a save with his shoulder to dent Tal Ben Haim with a header from point blank range.

John Heitinga evades Portsmouth's Michael BrownJohn Heitinga evades Portsmouth's Michael Brown

After that high point - there was the worrying sight of Pienaar being stretchered off with what appeared to be a knee injury following a full-blooded collision with Mokoena. The enforced change saw Diniyar Bilyaletdinov entering the action with more than a third of the match remaining.

The Russian was the provider for a typically deft Cahill header that forced Tommy Smith into a goalline clearance shortly after.

The home fans, agitated by the time it took Pienaar to be stretchered away, became even hotter under the collar when referee Alan Wiley waved away claims for a penalty following a collision between Heitinga and Boateng.

As the game entered the final quarter, Mokoena saw a header clatter the crossbar and Smith volleyed over as the home side upped the pressure in search of an equaliser.

Their frustration increased as the minutes ticked away. Sub Hassan Yebda looked to have secured a point with a powerful header two minutes from time but Baines was on hand to clear off the line.

Five minutes of injury time added to the tension. But the men in Black, and Howard in particular, held firm to seal their first win on the road in the league this term.

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