Apologies for the lack of a proper review of the match. I didn’t see it. There was no live television coverage here in England. I did manage to catch audio commentary on the majority of the game though.
Guus Hiddink made two changes to the side that beat Wigan 2-1 on Saturday. Jose Bosingwa returned from a one match suspension to take Michael Mancienne’s place at right-back and the much maligned Florent Malouda came in for Nicolas Anelka, who missed out with an injured toe.
Portsmouth had 10 days to prepare for the game, whereas we were playing our third in the space of six days after victories over Wigan on Saturday and Juventus in the Champions League last week.
Obviously it’s very difficult to judge a game from listening to audio commentary, but the first half sounded much like the weekend performance against Wigan at Stamford Bridge, in that we started pretty slowly and Portsmouth had plenty of possession in the opening period. We imposed ourselves on proceedings after about 15 minutes but couldn’t put the ball in the back of Pompey’s net in what were described as difficult playing conditions. David James made a couple of saves and Petr Cech was called upon to make one from a Sean Davis shot. Condensed first half highlights here.
I spent much of the second half chatting with a friend online and only had one ear on the commentary so didn’t jot down many notes. I heard mention of "five across midfield" and "holding on to what they have" and "precious point" and "Chelsea need to be patient" and "Cech saves Chelsea again!". Hiddink’s decision to replace John Obi Mikel with Juliano Belletti with more than 30 minutes to go caused me to utter "eh?". Ricardo Quaresma replaced Salomon Kalou and Ashley Cole did something to his old mate Jermaine Pennant and almost talked himself into a yellow card. I lost focus for a few minutes and went to make a cup of tea…
While I was in the kitchen Didier Drogba scored! Looking at the video, it was a good finish. It was his first goal in the Premier League since scoring against West Brom on Boxing Day. Referee Phil Dowd gave Pompey a free kick that wasn’t a free kick in the 88th minute which was cleared. Pompey continued to press but couldn’t break us down. Another free kick deep into added on time was also cleared, this time by Drogba. Dowd blew his whistle and another hard earned three points were in the bag.
Pompey haven’t beaten us in the top flight since 1957. We have put nine goals past them in league and cup this season.
I’ll leave it to those who were lucky enough to see the game to judge the good and bad and player ratings. My radio commentary Man of the Match goes to Frank Lampard. Ha!
I’ll add the usual match reports and links as they become available.
In other results, Liverpool beat Sunderland 2-0 at Anfield, while Arsenal beat West Brom 3-1 at the Hawthorns. We remain second in the table ahead of Liverpool on goal difference, and four points behind Manchester United who have two games in hand.
The Times, Matt Hughes: "Guus Hiddink had insisted that Chelsea would not give up the pursuit of Manchester United until the very last kick of the season, and his players were as good as his word last night. A match that appeared to be ebbing away from the visiting team on a sodden South Coast was settled in their favour by a 79th-minute goal from Didier Drogba, who appears a player reborn under their new manager."
Daily Telegraph, John Ley: "United may have two games in hand – one on Wednesday night at Newcastle – but the intentions from a battling performance in difficult conditions were apparent, that Chelsea are refusing to give up the title lightly, with Drogba claiming his first League goal of 2009 and only his second in the Premier League this season."
The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: "Didier Drogba, so anaemic for much of this campaign but resurgent in recent weeks, provided the game’s pivotal moment only 11 minutes from time, gathering Jose Bosingwa’s cross and cushioning a curled finish low and beyond David James to squeeze out the advantage."
The Independent, Sam Wallace: "Another case of deadly Didier and golden Guus, a double-act that is turning into a beautiful friendship. The moodiest striker at Chelsea has now rescued his new manager twice in the space of a week and last night Drogba kept alive any fading hopes his club might have of the title."
Official Chelsea FC Website: "On a filthy wet and windy night on the south coast, Guus Hiddink’s players were made to work hard by a well-rested Portsmouth side but the single goal wins keep on coming. Petr Cech was another hero on the night with a couple of fine saves and numerous commanding catches."