Five years on and Adams still can’t watch one of Pompey’s greatest matches

Kanu was amongst the Pompey goalscorers on the night Blues drew with AC Milan in the Uefa Cup
Kanu was amongst the Pompey goalscorers on the night Blues drew with AC Milan in the Uefa Cup

Fan who collapsed during friendly game dies

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Tony Adams has never watched that AC Milan match since – he has never felt the urge in all honesty.

By his own admission, it was his greatest day as both a manager or coach, albeit in a career which has recently seen him serve with Azerbaijani club Gabala FC.

The chanting of his name for 15 first-half minutes unquestionably contributed to one of the greatest atmospheres ever witnessed at Fratton Park.

Ultimately, two months and 13 days later, Adams was sacked – on the back of a 3-2 home defeat to Liverpool which saw two late goals ruin the occasion.

Back on November 27, 2008 – five years ago yesterday – Ronaldinho and Filippo Inzaghi struck in similar circumstances to scramble a 2-2 draw at Fratton Park.

Another 120 seconds without conceding and Adams would have masterminded a remarkable 2-1 triumph over the European giants in the Uefa Cup.

Not that those fortunate to have been present could ever truly curse the outcome of an event which entered Pompey folklore – not even Adams.

He said: ‘Do you know what, not being blasé, but I didn’t realise the magnitude for Portsmouth at the time.

‘Then I saw it – the full house, an evening game, a fantastic occasion with the supporters creating a wonderful atmosphere. They didn’t stop, it was magnificent.

‘People still come up to me in the street now to talk about it. I remember three months ago a Pompey fan came up to me and said it was the best game he has ever seen and he had been a fan for 30 years.

‘It was an incredible game and Milan were lucky.

‘I remember when Harry was in charge and we had Manchester United at home (April 2007) and did a pressing session in the build-up to the game.

‘It was about putting pressure on the opposition, closing down and running, and that was the way we were going to play for that match.

‘The focus was not giving them time to play behind the midfield and putting the pressure on and it went really well – we won 2-1.

‘From the first minute, Edwin Van der Sar kicked the ball into the sky under pressure, Linvoy Primus won the header, we put it in behind them, Michael Carrick miscontrolled it.

‘I had a clip of the first five minutes of that match and showed it to the players before AC Milan. They had to realise that if you give these teams time then they are going to destroy.

‘That night against Milan, the pressure was fantastic and we were two goals up – it was a super, high tempo game.

‘There was one weakness to that approach, however. The players did physically deteriorate, naturally.

‘We played it with George Graham at Arsenal and were always top of the table at Christmas and fell away because we could not sustain it, we ran out of steam.

‘That night against Milan, Pompey ran out of a bit of steam.’

Kanu netted in the 62nd minute, then Younes Kaboul made it 2-0 with 17 minutes to go.

Substitute Ronaldinho scored from a direct free-kick in the 84th minute to give Carlos Ancelotti’s side hope.

Then, two minutes into stoppage time, Inzaghi prodded home the equaliser to poop the Fratton Park party.

A brave, brave display from a patched-up Pompey side without five first teamers through injury, including Lassana Diarra, Sol Campbell and Jermain Defoe. Heroic, in actual fact.

Adams added: ‘I remember the left flank being particularly great, with Nadir Belhadj and Armand Traore. It was probably the best game Kaboul had for Pompey as well.

‘Belhadj and Traore were both better going forward than defending. On that day they were on the left and went for it, it was very exciting.

‘Philippe Senderos played for Milan that day and told me after the game we had “murdered” them, and credit to the guys for that.

‘You look at our midfield that day and Glen Little was a technical guy who could play the ball well, Richard Hughes was so dependable and must have won clubman of the year every season I was there.

‘Then there was Papa Bouba Diop – he was massively, physically strong and on his day could be a handful.

‘To not win that game hurt. I was gutted and have never watched it since. But, realistically, we were never going to progress and there was an element of needing to stay in the league that year.

‘It was a great occasion and would have been fantastic to have pulled it off and won it – I was still immensely proud of them, though.

‘It’s all part of me. I am still a young man and it is part of my learning process as a coach.’