West Ham United picked up a hard-earned point against a lively Portsmouth side on Saturday as they ended a 24-match run without a clean sheet - thanks in no small part to Robert Green.
Green was inspirational with three superb second-half stops from England colleague Jermain Defoe, while Craig Bellamy came the closest for the Hammers with a second-half free-kick that smashed against the woodwork of David James's goal.
Gianfranco Zola had made three changes from the side that impressed for long against Everton last weekend. Jack Collison, the goalscorer from that game, started in midfield and was joined by Valon Behrami who returned after recovering from a calf injury. Carlton Cole was also back after completing a three-match ban to partner Freddie Sears and Bellamy in attack.
The home side started brightly and six minutes in had a strong claim for a penalty when a Sears cross from the right hit Sylvain Distin on the arm. Four minutes later former West Ham United striker Defoe could have given the visitors the lead as fired over from seven yards out.
Portsmouth, already without the injured Sol Campbell and Niko Kranjcar, suffered a setback in the 19th minute when Lassana Diarra was forced to leave the pitch after a knock and had to be replaced by Armand Traore. Green then saved a long-distance drive from Glen Johnson.
With the Barclays Premier League table so tight and both teams knowing that the game's result could lead to a big jump - or drop - it was no surprise the opening period was proving to be a cagey affair on a dim and dingy day in east London. There were a few shining lights though, notably the energetic performance of Collison, who was contributing at both ends - winning crucial tackles in midfield and adding some clever touches going forward.
Six minutes before half-time Noe Pamarot caught Behrami - who had slotted straight back into side- late and was shown a yellow card by referee Martin Atkinson. At the interval, Zola changed things by bringing on Matthew Etherington for Sears, reverting to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation.
Two minutes after the restart Green, under the watching gaze of Fabio Capello, had to be at his best to tip a swerving drive from Defoe over. He had to be on his toes once more a few moments after to keep the scores level, as the Portsmouth No9 tried his luck with a lob.
West Ham United nearly took the lead when Behrami was felled illegally on the edge of the area after a jinking run. Bellamy tried to curl his effort into the far corner but saw it cannon back off the post. Collison volleyed the rebound goalwards but David James smothered it.
The home side suffered a blow just after an hour when the whufc.com player of the month Herita Ilunga had to leave the pitch after picking up a knock. He was replaced by Julien Faubert who came on at right-back with Lucas Neill moving to the left.
The Hammers were playing with more fluency and a slick passing move involving Neill, Etherington, Collison and Parker saw the latter fire a shot just wide. Both teams made late changes with the visitors sending on Nwankwo Kanu on for Peter Crouch and Scott Parker replaced by Hayden Mullins.
Green then performed heroics again in the 83rd minute, coming out to deny the onrushing Defoe yet again. Upson then had a chance at the other end but could not direct his header on target. Zola's men piled on the pressure as time ticked away but had to be content with a share of the spoils.