Dream maker! Avram Grant inspires Portsmouth to Cup glory but Wembley pitch is a shocker

Avram Grant heaped praise on the ‘never-say-die’ spirit of his players after Portsmouth defied the odds to book their FA Cup final place with a dramatic extra-time victory over Tottenham.

But, after an exhilarating semi-final, Spurs manager Harry Redknapp slammed the
Wembley pitch as a farcical disgrace.

Piquionne

Slip-sliding away: Dawson can't keep his feet on a Wembley surface strewn with divots, and a routine clearance becomes a chance for Piquionne to put Portsmouth in front

Pompey’s opening goal came when on-loan striker Frederic Piquionne capitalised on a slip by Michael Dawson.

Avram Grant

Magic moment: Avram Grant can't contain his delight

Grant, who will now face former club Chelsea on May 15, was equally critical of the playing surface at the national stadium. But the Portsmouth manager, who wore an armband for Holocaust Remembrance day, understandably preferred to concentrate on a magnificent victory for his side.

Lauding his players for their dedication to the cause in a campaign which has seen Portsmouth come perilously close to going out of business, Grant said: ‘It’s one of the best upsets of my career. It was the way we did this. What has happened this season, and with players also being injured in the last few weeks…to see these players give everything and never give up, it was a crazy story.’

Portsmouth had to wait until the ninth minute of extra time for the breakthrough. Tottenham appeared to have hit back almost immediately through Peter Crouch, but referee Alan Wiley contentiously ruled out the England striker’s effort for a foul by substitute Niko Kranjcar on David James.

More controversy followed when Wiley adjudged that Wilson Palacios had brought down Aruna Dindane in the area before pointing to the spot. The Honduras midfielder was booked for the tenth time this season and will miss Tottenham’s vital games against Arsenal and Chelsea.

SPORTSMAIL COMMENT

Wembley was the scene of a remarkable match on Sunday. Plucky Portsmouth overcame a season blighted by financial woes to land a victory that reminded everyone why the FA Cup is so magical. But both the weekend’s semi-finals were scarred by the disgraceful Wembley pitch. Players slipped, divots littered the turf… and Pompey’s opener was a direct result of Michael Dawson losing his footing. This has gone on for too long. Wembley is a magnificent stadium - with a sub-standard pitch. The home of football deserves a perfect playing surface and the FA must get it right before the Cup final.

Redknapp was happy to take defeat on the chin, but could not hide his anger at the way the shocking Wembley pitch contributed to Tottenham’s downfall.

‘The pitch is a disgrace,’ he said. ‘I’m not using it as an excuse, but for any professional team to have to play on that is farcical.

'How can you play football on a pitch you can’t stand up on? Michael Dawson slipped on it at the goal. It’s rock hard and wet on top: it’s like a skating rink.’

Insisting Crouch’s goal should have stood Redknapp added: ‘I thought it was a good goal disallowed. If you see David James’ face, he looked round and said: “How did I get away with that?”

‘But full credit to Portsmouth. Full credit to Avram.’

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