Ex-Barcelona and Real Madrid star Robert Prosinecki: I scored my only career hat-trick at Portsmouth against Barnsley - and it was for nothing

Robert Prosinecki’s glittering career saw him serve footballing giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, while featured in three World Cups.

Monday, 30th March 2020, 12:00 pm
Updated Monday, 30th March 2020, 12:56 pm
Robert Prosinecki listed Barcelona, Real Madrid, Red Star Belgrade and Pompey during a highly-successful career. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Allsport

Yet it was Pompey which provided the stage for the mercurial midfielder’s only hat-trick – against Barnsley in February 2002.

However, in a 2015 interview for Played Up Pompey, Prosinecki revealed how he afterwards refused the match ball in disgust.

With the Fratton Park match ending in a 4-4 draw, the Croatian international was left fuming that his three-goal burst still didn’t earn Graham Rix’s side a Division One victory.

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‘Football took me to Barcelona, Real Madrid, Red Star Belgrade as well as the World Cup finals three times. Yet it was Fratton Park which staged the only hat-trick of my playing career,’ Prosinecki told Played Up Pompey.

‘I had scored two goals in a game plenty of times, but never three – until Barnsley. It would also prove to be the final occasion I achieved it before my retirement.

‘I really enjoyed my year with the Blues and felt I had a very good relationship with those noisy supporters. I can still hear them now singing ‘Play up Pompey’!

‘Coming into that Barnsley game I had scored in successive matches – a 3-2 defeat at home to Wolves and a late winner in a 1-0 victory at Nottingham Forest.

The only hat-trick of Robert Prosinecki's career came while wearing a Pompey shirt. Picture: Allan Hutchings

‘Then it was onto the Tykes and a fixture during which I would score a hat-trick for nothing. I didn’t even want the match ball after the final whistle!

‘It would take just four minutes for us to break the deadlock, Courtney Pitt being fouled and I sent Kevin Miller the wrong way from the penalty spot.

‘We would have the lead for just 12 minutes before Chris Lumsdon curled in an equaliser from 25-yards. It was a good goal, a really good goal.

‘Just before half-time we were back in front when Pitt steered my free-kick back into the box and Linvoy Primus headed home at the near post.

Robert Prosinecki celebrates with Pompey fans along with Mark Burchill after Alessandro Zamperini's stoppage-time winner against Gillingham in September 2001

‘The match was up and down and Chris Barker equalised for Barnsley on 48 minutes when he collected Mike Sheron’s pass and slotted the ball past Dave Beasant.

‘We were attacking the Fratton end in that second half and it makes me happy to remember my second and third goals came during that period, ensuring my hat-trick would come in front of the home supporters.

‘My second goal – which gave us a 3-2 lead – arrived on 61 minutes when Peter Crouch and Kevin Harper worked the ball to me 30-yards out.

‘It was pleasing to see the Barnsley defenders standing off and allowing me room, I even slipped at one point, but was able to carry on and then hit a left-foot shot.

‘My attempt struck the inside of the post on its way into the net and the cheer was deafening. The fans seemed to enjoy that one!

‘The hat-trick, my first and only ever hat-trick, was completed in the 69th minute after Crouch had been fouled just outside the penalty area.

‘I knew what to do and sent a right-foot shot into the top corner with the goalkeeper, Miller, unable to move and the score was 4-2.

‘How I wish the match could have ended there and then, I am sure the fans felt the same, but there were 21 minutes remaining and it didn’t turn out that happy for any of us.

‘You wonder how you can score three goals and still not win a match? You don’t think it is possible, but it happened that day, and in the last seven minutes of the match. Incredible.

‘In the 83rd minute Primus was sent off for apparently throwing a punch at one of their players with Lumsdon scoring from the penalty and also leaving us to play with 10 men.

‘Then, in stoppage time, Sheron scored a header and we no longer had a win, it was a point.

‘I was a little bit angry afterwards, I admit that, and didn’t even ask to keep the match ball. We didn’t win so it didn’t seem right. I was very annoyed.

‘To be 4-2 up and draw 4-4 is football, that is life, but it would be the only hat-trick of my career, the first and last time, and I couldn’t celebrate also getting a win. I was not happy!

‘I left the dressing room very quickly with Mladen Rudonja, who I am still friends with, he lives in Slovenia now and we talk every single day.

‘Looking back, though, my memories of this game are very good, despite how it ended. The entire stadium were cheering my name – and that is something I will never forget.’

Robert Prosinecki made 35 Pompey appearances and scored nine goals from August 2001 until April 2002.