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REPORT: Portsmouth 3 Blues 0

Blues are knocked out of the Carabao Cup.

BCFC

An inexperienced Blues side were knocked out of the Carabao Cup at the hands of a physically superior Portsmouth at Fratton Park.

Goals from Ellis Harrison (2) and a stunning Ben Close volley condemned Blues to defeat on a disappointing Tuesday night on the South Coast.

Blues battled on gamely throughout the contest but were ultimately overpowered by a direct and intense Portsmouth display.

The tie yielded no less than six debuts for Blues, with Jude Bellingham breaking Trevor Francis record as the Club’s youngest ever player at just 16 years and 38 days old.

Jake Clarke-Salter, Agustin Medina and academy product Geraldo Bajrami were also handed their first starts for the Club.

Odin Bailey and Coalan Boyd-Munce were introduced in the second period as Pep Clotet used the first round tie to run the rule over the Club’s young talents. 

There was an enthusiasm and confidence about Blues in the opening stages.

The fearless Bellingham enjoyed some neat early touches, settling any pre-match nerves the teenager may have been combating whilst Gardner and Medina, tasked with protecting a Blues back three, also provided a pipeline to the dangerous Dan Crowley.

All the pre-match chatter surrounded record-breaking Bellingham but it was another of Blues debutants who was called into action with just five minutes on the clock.

Geraldo Bajrami, one of 13 academy products in the matchday squad, rose highest to turn the ball behind for the first corner of the game after Marcus Harness’ fizzing cross asked questions of an inexperienced backline.

Blues had dominated the ball up until that point and continued to add to the passes completed column despite the early warning.

Wes Harding, the most experienced of the defensive trio, slid a pass into Bellingham moments later and after turning unopposed, the 16-year old sent a rising left-footed drive over MacGillivray’s bar. A sign of his increasing confidence.

Whilst Bellingham’s effort failed to threaten the Pompey goal, Blues did go close to an opener on the 15-minute mark.

Crowley’s low corner was hooked high into the air at the near post by Christian Burgess. The ball dropped into a crowded penalty area and after MacGillivray could only bat the ball downwards, Harding’s prodded effort was deflected wide of the post.

Harding was in the thick of the action again moments later, receiving the first of four yellow cards in the game for what looked to be a fair but firm tackle on Ronan Curtis.

The challenge sparked the hosts into life and drew the inexperienced Blues side into a scrappy ten minute period.

All the early zip and zest Blues showcased had now dissolved and Clotet’s side were unwittingly seduced into battle.

Josh Dacres-Cogley was caught in possession on the half-way line and when Marcus Harness pinched the ball from the blindside it spelt danger.

Fortunately for Clotet’s men, the bullish striker dragged his effort wide of the upright when he should have done better from 18-yards.

A succession of crosses into the Blues box midway through the half added to the mounting pressure and the natives could sense an opener.

Momentum was firmly with Jacket’s men when Ellis Harrison slid the ball into the side netting. Despite protests from Blues players, Pompy were controversially awarded a corner – David Stockdale’s outstretched leg the culprit according to referee Neil Hair.

The decision proved decisive.

After a number of attempts, Blues failed to clear the danger and when the ball dropped to unmarked captain Tom Naylor, Blues were left exposed. With Stockdale grounded, the skipper nodded towards goal only for the ball to rebound to Ellis Harrison. The forward had the simple task of heading into an empty net only for Wes Harding to recover ground and clear off the underside of the crossbar.

His efforts however were in vein as the assistant on the near side correctly indicated the ball had indeed crossed the line.

Tempers frayed when Bajrami and Harrison clashed near the touchline. Both were booked for their part in the minor melee after the Portsmouth striker appeared to push Bajrami off the pitch.

If Pompey’s opener was scrappy, their second was stunning.

Jake Clarke-Satler managed to block a cross from the right and diverted the ball high into the air. Ben Close watched it onto his left foot before unleashing a sweet volley from outside the box which arrowed low into the bottom corner and past the despairing Stockdale.

Blues were on the ropes and needed some respite. There was time for the visitors to suffer one final scare in first-half added time when Pompey launched a rapid counter attack. Curtis cut in on his favoured right foot and arched the ball inches wide of the post.  

Half-time: Portsmouth 2 Blues 0

Blues emerged for the second half and understandably tried to force the issue but there was a physicality about Portsmouth which the visitors struggled to contain.

Less than ten minutes after the interval their lead was extended, banishing any hopes of a Blues comeback.

The hosts worked an overload down the Blues left, allowing Naylor to steady himself before floating a deep cross towards the far post.

Seddon back peddled to reach the header but was nudged out the way by the powerful Harrison who guided the ball back across goal and into the bottom corner.

Bajrami managed to avoid a second yellow after losing his footing and crashing into a Harness on the half-way line.

To their credit, Blues battled on gamely. Gardner’s cross-field pass found Seddon who in turn fed the advance Lakin inside the Pompy penalty area. The industrious midfielder swivelled away from his marker but tumbled inside the box before he could get a shot away.

Odin Bailey who had replaced Dan Crowley after ten minutes of the second half sent a searching 40-yard pass across the pitch. Seddon plucked the ball out the air and after playing a one-two with Lakin, saw his fierce effort bravely blocked. The block sent the ball spinning to the edge of the box where Bailey, who had followed his initial pass across the pitch, didn’t have to break stride to strike high and wide.

Blues came closest to a consolation ten minutes from time. Gardner stood over a free-kick midway through the Portsmouth half and sent a rasping effort towards the top corner. MacGillivray managed to scamper across his goal to tip the ball behind much to the disappointment of the travelling 1,513 travelling support.

Full Time: Portsmouth 3 Blues 0

Portsmouth (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray, Walkes, Downing (85 Raggett), Burgess, Brown (Haundstrup 76), Cannon, Naylor, Close, Curtis, Harrison (Pitman), Harness

Subs not used: Bass, Hawkins, Evans, Maloney

Booked: Harrison

Blues (3-4-2-1): Stockdale, Harding, Bajrami, Clarke-Salter, Seddon, C.Gardner, Medina, Dacres-Cogley, Bellingham (Boyd-Munce 80), Lakin, Crowley (Bailey 54)

Subs not used: Trueman, O’Keeffe, Burke, Redmond, Stirk

Booked: Harding, Bajrami, Bellingham

Attendance: 9,913 (1,513 away)

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