FA Cup 5
Pompey’s Emirates FA Cup run was finally ended by Premier League giants Arsenal at a packed Fratton Park.
For much of the first half it looked like a shock could possibly be on the cards, with the hosts proving more than a match for their illustrious opponents.
But Sokratis Papastathopoulos fired the Gunners ahead just seconds before the interval to deflate most of those inside the ground.
Eddie Nketiah then added another goal soon after the restart and the Londoners were able to see the contest out with relative ease.
Kenny Jackett made six changes from the side that eased past Rochdale in the league three nights earlier.
Gareth Evans returned to captain the side, while Ellis Harrison was brought in up front and Marcus Harness on the left wing.
Ben Close was recalled to the midfield engine room and there were starts at the back for Steve Seddon and James Bolton, with the latter handed a rare central role.
Andy Cannon, John Marquis, Ronan Curtis, Tom Naylor and Sean Raggett dropped to the bench, with Lee Brown missing out completely.
But Arsenal were not at full strength either and there was little to separate the sides throughout the first half.
Emiliano Martinez flapped at the ball when Seddon’s deep cross was nodded back into the middle by Harrison.
Marcus Harness was also causing problems with his trickery, although was unable to test the Gunners keeper.
The visitors were forced to make an early change when a robust Bolton challenge left Lucas Torreira writhing on the turf.
He eventually had to be stretchered off the pitch, with Dani Ceballos chosen as the man to replace him.
Harness then had an effort deflected past the post by Pablo Mari after twisting and turning on the edge of the box.
A quickly taken free-kick gave the Blues a chance to break the deadlock, but Evans could only nod wide after racing in to meet Seddon’s delivery.
Arsenal soon had an opportunity of their own, with Gabriel Martinelli unable to guide Reiss Nelson’s firmly-hit centre on target.
There was an amusing moment when Matteo Guendouzi was told to move the ball back for a free-kick.
He theatrically placed the ball down on the turf, but referee Mike Dean was not amused and promptly showed the midfielder a yellow card.
Cameron McGeehan soon followed him into the notebook for an agricultural challenge on Joe Willock.
That earlier injury to Torreira – and the lengthy treatment received – meant there were five minutes added on at the end of the first half.
And Arsenal broke the deadlock in the fourth of them, with Sokratis bursting forward to slam home Nelson’s low cross.
Pompey were first to threaten when the action restarted, but Ryan Williams was only able to drag a shot narrowly past the post after escaping a challenge in the box.
But their opponents soon doubled their lead, with Nketiah doing well to find the roof of the net after bundling his way through following good work from Nelson down the right.
Arsenal were looking comfortable and content to keep possession in the centre of the park with a series of intricate passes.
It meant that there was a lot less intensity in the contest, with the Blues struggling to regain possession.
Jackett made a double substitution on 67 minutes, as Harrison and Harness made way for Marquis and Curtis.
And the latter was soon in the action, cutting onto his right foot and drilling in a low shot that was gathered by Martinez.
Pompey then made their third and final change of the night, as stand-in skipper Evans made way for Cannon.
Alex Bass had not been given much to do, but he got his fingertips to Bukayo Saka’s drive and tipped the ball over.
There was still plenty of huff and puff on show from the hosts, as they tried to find a route back into the tie.
Cannon did have an opportunity to reduce the deficit when the ball fell to him inside the box, but could not keep his effort down.
And Arsenal saw the closing stages out with relative ease to book their place in the draw for the quarter-finals.
But it failed to dampen the mood inside Fratton Park, with the home faithful singing about their forthcoming trip to Wembley.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Bass; McCrorie, Bolton, Burgess, Seddon; McGeehan, Close; Williams, Evans (c) (Cannon 74), Harness (Curtis 67); Harrison (Marquis 67)
Subs not used: MacGillivray, Whatmough, Raggett, Naylor
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Sokratis, Luiz (c), Mari, Saka; Guendouzi, Torreira (Ceballos 16); Nelson (Maitland-Niles 90+1), Willock (Xhaka 87), Martinelli; Nketiah
Goals: Sokratis 45+4, Nketiah 51
Subs not used: Leno, Holding, Pepe, Lacazette
Referee: Mike Dean
Attendance: 18,839 (2,206 away fans)