Ten-man Sunderland lost a top of the table clash at Fratton Park as Glenn Loovens sending off changed the game as Pompey moved eight points above Sunderland.
The first half was a tight affair with very few chances, but minutes into the second period Loovens foolish challenge on Hawkins resulted in a penalty and red card for the Dutchman. The momentum swung towards the hosts who went on to score again soon after. Sunderland temporarily fought back with a goal from Luke O’Nien, but it wasn’t enough as Ben Thompson sealed the points with a third goal for Pompey.
Jack Ross made a few surprise changes as Duncan Watmore made his first start in 13 months in place of top scorer Josh Maja. Adam Matthews travelled with the team but wasn’t fit enough to make the matchday squad and was replaced by Luke O’Nien.
Pompey have been in brilliant form this season and have been an ever-present at the top of League One. They posed the greatest challenge this season for Ross’ men, however, they hadn’t won either of their last two games- against Charlton and Barnsley only picking up one point.
The game began at an incredible pace, both sides were trying to start the game positively and it was a brilliant atmosphere in the ground with both sets of fans singing in their numbers.
In the opening 20 minutes there were few chances and neither team had got a grip of the game, it was a feisty affair with the two teams knowing exactly how big the game was.
In a real scrappy first half, Sunderland tried to control the possession, but we're giving it away poorly which was stopping any attack before it got started.
Watmore was starved of service and the forward tried to make things happen himself and got right to the byline as he managed to sneak his way into the box, but his cross was blocked by a Pompey defender just before it could get to Lynden Gooch.
Not long before half time whistle Sunderland suddenly sprang into action, Watmore cut out Craig MacGillivray’s pass and played it across the box to Gooch whose shot was well stopped by MacGillivray who breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Minutes into the second half the worst happened, Glen Loovens was sent off for bringing down Oliver Hawkins in the box for the penalty and to make things worse he was sent off as it was the last man.
Hawkins got on the end of a great Ronan Curtis pass and beat Loovens for pace and he clumsily brought him down in the box and gave the ref no other choice. Gareth Evans stepped up and hit high into the top right corner past Jon McLaughlin.
Portsmouth went two up not long after through Curtis who was in acres of space on the left-hand side, he cut in and fired it underneath McLaughlin to double the home sides lead.
Sunderland were down and out; the team were shell-shocked, and Portsmouth had completely taken over the game. The lads had a mountain to climb if they wanted to salvage anything from the game.
Luke O’Nien had been Sunderland’s best player and the former Wycombe man got on the end of a fine Max Power cross to volley home from close range. No one had picked up the right back and out of nothing Ross’ men were back in it!
Sunderland’s fightback didn’t last long, from a corner Mclaughlin made a great save to deny Hawkins but Sunderland failed to clear, and the ball dropped back to Ben Thompson who smashed it in from the edge of the box.
Portsmouth were looking to put the game beyond doubt and almost did as Hawkins got on the end of a great ball in and just put his header wide of the post, as he left McLaughlin rooted to the spot. Hawkins was having a stormer in the second half and the back line simply couldn't handle him.
The hosts thought they had a fourth goal, as Brett Pitman diverted a shot in the back of the net, however, was given for offside as he was clearly standing behind the Sunderland defence.
The lads looked flat on their feet, they knew it was over and it was just a case of going through the motions and waiting for the final whistle, with ten men it was to bigger task to bet back into the game.
Pompey could have easily added a fourth late on as Lowe chipped the ball over McLaughlin, but Reece James just managed to get back and denied Pittman from getting on the end of it.
Full Time: Portsmouth 3-1 Sunderland
ALS Man of the match: Luke O’Nien