|Diana Muldaur193881||Jonathan Frakes195267||Sara Martins197742||Erika Christensen198237|
|Simon Bird198435||Lexi Jayde200217||Brighton Sharbino200217||Siena Agudong200415|
A first goal for Marcus Harness since his summer switch from Burton broke the deadlock – and the Blues were good value for their lead.
But the Black Cats had turned things around by the interval, with Jordan Willis heading a leveller before Chris Maguire struck against his former club.
There were chances for the visitors to leave with at least a share of the spoils, but Sunderland held on for the win.
Kenny Jackett made one change from the side that beat Tranmere on home soil the previous weekend.
John Marquis returned to the starting line-up to lead the line, with Ellis Harrison dropping to the bench.
Former Blues loanees Marc McNulty and Maguire both featured for the hosts, with the latter having scored the decisive goal in last season’s play-off clash.
It was Pompey who made the brighter start and a cross from Anton Walkes in the opening seconds was diverted over by Ronan Curtis.
Ben Close has netted a couple of recent stunners and tried his luck with another 30-yard effort, although this time the ball narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Then, after Marquis had done well to win a corner on the right, Lee Brown’s delivery was cleverly collected by Jon McLaughlin.
The Sunderland stopper soon had to come racing from his line to stop Marquis latching onto Close’s fine pass.
And the visitors made their dominance count by breaking the deadlock midway through the first half.
Harness played a neat one-two with Marquis and was unable to dig out a shot, with his team-mate also failing to make a clean connection at the second attempt.
But the ball fell for HARNESS and he made no mistake, sweeping home a shot to open his goalscoring account for the club.
The lead did not last long, however, as Willis charged into the box to powerfully convert a Grant Leadbitter corner.
Both sides were looking capable of adding to the scoring as the half progressed, although it was the hosts celebrating on 39 minutes.
Walkes tried to stop Aiden McGeady, but his interception ricocheted against the winger, who continued his charge
The Irishman then played a lovely pass across the face of goal, with Maguire there to slot past a helpless Craig MacGillivray.
The hosts did receive a blow soon after the restart, as McNulty went down injured and was unable to continue, with Charlie Wyke on to replace him.
Pompey were looking for a leveller, but Curtis could not find the target after rising to meet Walkes’ right-sided delivery.
They had a better chance when the visitors won position and Harness slipped a neat pass through to Marquis, who was unable to find the target.
And a spell of intricate short passes led to Brown finding the ball on the left, although his cross was not quite right for Harness.
Brown soon received the ball back again, though, and this time could not beat McLaughlin from a tight angle.
Luke O’Nien wanted a penalty at the other end after going down under pressure from Tom Naylor, but his appeals were immediately dismissed by referee Michael Salisbury.
And the official was equally unimpressed just moments later, when Maguire decided to theatrically hit the turf.
Jackett made a double switch just past hour mark, with Curtis and Andy Cannon making way for Harrison and Gareth Evans.
There was then a nervy moment as the ball flew around the Blues box and could not be cleared, but the danger eventually passed.
The final substitution for the visitors saw on-loan Scottish youngster Ross McCrorie replace Walkes at right-back.
And he immediately released Marquis with a great pass down the right. The striker squared for Evans, whose goal-bound effort was blocked by Alim Ozturk.
A cross from McCrorie was then diverted towards his own net by Leadbitter, but McLaughlin was able to claw the ball to safety.
Pompey continued to control possession as the seconds ticked down, although Sunderland remained resolute to see the game out.
Sunderland (4-2-3-1): J.McLaughlin; O’Nien, Ozturk, Willis, C.McLaughlin; Power, Leadbitter (c); Gooch, Maguire (Hume 87), McGeady (Grigg 81); McNulty (Wyke 49)
Goals: Willis 27, Maguire 39
Booked: McGeady, Maguire
Subs not used: Burge, Flanagan, Dobson, McGeouch
Pompey (4-3-3): MacGillivray; Walkes (McCrorie 73), Downing, Burgess, Brown; Close, Naylor (c), Cannon (Evans 62); Harness, Marquis, Curtis (Harrison 62)
Goals: Harness 22
Subs not used: Bass, Raggett, Haunstrup, Pitman
Referee: Michael Salisbury
Attendance: 29,140 (874 Pompey fans)
The midfielder netted with a second long-range strike in the space of just a few days and it was a finely-executed effort midway through the first half.
There were plenty more chances for the dominant Blues to extend their lead, but they had to wait until the closing stages for Tom Naylor to wrap things up.
Kenny Jackett stuck with the same side that eased past Birmingham in the Carabao Cup earlier in the week.
It meant that the returning duo of John Marquis and Ross McCrorie had to be content with a place on the bench.
Pompey also kept the same 4-3-3 system that had yielded such positive results against Championship opposition.
Michael Eisner and his family were over to watch the game – and were joined by an extremely famous face.
Hollywood favourite Will Ferrell – star of hit films like Anchorman and Elf – was sat in the directors’ box to take in the action.
When the action began, it was the hosts who quickly began to dominate and some early balls into the box had to be dealt with.
Ronan Curtis then played a neat one-two with Andy Cannon and drilled in a low shot that Scott Davies did well to get down and save.
But it was the Republic of Ireland international who was first to the loose ball and George Ray was forced to make the block.
Newly-promoted Tranmere’s best chance of the half came from a corner, with Craig MacGillivray having to claw away Manny Monthe’s powerful header.
Kieron Morris also drilled the ball narrowly past the post, but the visitors were not causing too many problems.
Pompey were looking more threatening and a couple of crosses from Marcus Harness were not far from reaching their targets.
The opening goal almost arrived from an unlikely source, with a fierce volley from Naylor well dealt with by Davies.
Rovers eventually managed to clear behind for a corner – and that did lead to the Blues forging ahead.
An initial attempt from Cannon was blocked, but the ball bounced up nicely for CLOSE, who showed excellent technique to guide it into the top corner from 30 yards.
They looked to add to their scoring and Paul Downing could not make a clean connection after diving in to meet a Curtis free-kick.
Tranmere tried to hit back before the break, but MacGillivray comfortably dealt with a Connor Jennings drive.
Anton Walkes then did well to stop Morgan Ferrier from collecting a threaded pass and advancing towards goal.
Tranmere Rovers 0
Jackett made a change at the break, with Harrison making way for John Marquis in the centre of the hosts’ attacking three.
Tom Naylor then became the first name taken by referee Scott Oldham following a clumsy challenge on Ferrier.
But the Blues might have doubled their advantage within five minutes of the restart following a display of fine footwork from Harness.
He then squared the ball for Walkes in space inside the box, but the right-back fired wildly over the crossbar.
Marquis did manage to find the net moments later, although the whistle had already been blown for a foul on David Perkins by Naylor.
Pompey were still showing plenty of attacking promise and one neat passing move ended with Lee Brown firing just past the post.
The windy conditions were making life difficult, however, and a couple of Brown crosses were blown off target.
And when the ball did land for a blue-shirted player, the woodwork managed to come to Rovers’ rescue.
Brown’s low delivery was not cut out by Davies and flew along the face of goal, with Cannon arriving at the back post to smash the ball against the post.
A Rovers corner was then glanced narrowly wide by Monthe, while Curtis soon had the ball in the net at the other end, only for the linesman’s flag to cut short any celebrations.
Brett Pitman replaced a tiring Cannon on 68 minutes, with the midfielder abiding by the new substitution rules by exiting the pitch in front of the North Stand.
His performance was recognised by the Fratton faithful, who rose to give a standing ovation as he made his way around to the dug-out.
Tranmere were suddenly looking lively and Walkes timed his challenge well to dispossess Corey Blackett-Taylor in the box, while MacGillivray kept out a low Morris shot.
But the Blues had a cushion on 75 minutes after Harness won a corner on the right that was delivered by Brown.
Downing rose to meet it and saw his header cleared from the line by Perkins, only for NAYLOR to rifle home the loose ball.
A third almost goal arrived courtesy of a fierce Pitman strike that was heading for the net, but inadvertently blocked on the line by team-mate Downing.
In a hectic finale that saw both sides on the attack, it looked like Brown had finally opened his Pompey account.
He tucked the ball home after Pitman’s initial attempt had been parried by Davies and looked utterly dejected when he spotted the offside flag.
The Rovers keeper then did well to deny Curtis after Harness had sent a teasing ball across the box following a quick break.
But the hosts had already done enough to secure the points and Fratton Park roared in appreciation when the final whistle was blown.
Pompey (4-3-3): MacGillivray; Walkes, Downing, Burgess, Brown; Cannon (Pitman 68), Naylor (c), Close; Harness, Harrison (Marquis 46), Curtis
Goals: Close 27, Naylor 75
Booked: Naylor, Downing
Subs not used: Bass, Raggett, Haunstrup, McCrorie, Evans
Tranmere (4-1-4-1): Davies (c); Wilson, Ray, Monthe, Ridehalgh; Potter; Morris, Banks, Perkins, Ferrier (Payne 63); Jennings (Blackett-Taylor 58)
Subs not used: Pilling, Nelson, Gilmour, Ponticelli, Mullin
Referee: Scott Oldham
Attendance: 18,575 (639 away fans)