The Observer, Stuart Barnes: “Delight for Jermain Defoe, disappointment for Chelsea and another twist in a fascinating Premier League championship race from a match that ebbed and flowed entertainingly throughout.”
Independent on Sunday, Ronald Atkin: “In a midfield containing the world-renowned likes of Michael Ballack and Claude Makelele, Lassana Diarra shone like a Portsmouth harbour light, forever prompting, setting up attacks at one end and closing them down at the other. It was the sort of performance which covered up weaknesses such as the slowness of Sol Campbell and the errors of Glen Johnson.”
Sunday Times, Andrew Longmore: “With Avram Grant, his former technical director at Fratton Park, alongside him, Redknapp laid down Chelsea’s title credentials rather more forcefully than the quietly spoken Israeli. “No Lampard, no Terry, no Drogba, no Essien and they won nine on the spin,” said the Portsmouth manager. “Carvalho was out today. When they all come back, they’ll get stronger and stronger. This championship is a long way from being over.””
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “Chelsea are six points behind leaders Arsenal but have reinforcements on the horizon. Either Michael Essien or John Obi Mikel will be back after Ghana play Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations, while Frank Lampard is fit and ready. The influential Ricardo Carvalho, who is suspended, will also return.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Portsmouth took their first Premier League point from Chelsea at the tenth attempt.”
We travelled down to Portsmouth hoping to see an historic victory, ten straight wins setting a new record, but unfortunately the only historic Victory was moored up at the naval museum.
Pre-match amusement was provided by the on pitch interview with Portsmouth’s oldest fan. He was only asked two questions.
Question: “How long have you supported Portsmouth?” Answer: “Pardon?” Question: “Who’s your favourite player?” Answer “I can’t remember.”
So the moral is never work with children, animal or old people.
The only point of note in the first half was a Michael Ballack header, which all the Chelsea fans at the far end thought was going in so were disappointed to see it headed off the line.
Half time entertainment was the lottery draw prize. It was announced that the winner would receive 30,000 Holiday Inn bonus points. Well 30,000 sounded great but this was put into context when we were told this would purchase one night in any UK Holiday Inn or two nights in a Holiday Inn Express. Wow, people in Portsmouth really know how to live.
The second half was entertaining end to end stuff.
- Our goal was fantastic. Out of defence, Florent Malouda racing down the wing and a perfect cross to Joe Cole, who unselfishly played the ball back to Nicolas Anelka for a classy tap in.
- Away support. The home fans didn’t sound that loud.
- Portsmouth equaliser.
- Arsenal winning.
- Fratton Park. The place could be used as an entrance to a time tunnel in Doctor Who and walking up the steps took me back a few years to the Shed terracing. The toilets are a joke and unlike the Reading match review there was no sign of a Royal Flush. I think it’s time a battleship in the harbour turned its guns towards land and dropped a few shells.
- Portsmouth traffic. Took ages to get away. Is it always this bad or just on match days?
Is it Good or Bad?
The result. Portsmouth, who have drawn at home with Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool this season, are a good team and no pushovers. Still I can’t pretend I’m not disappointed!
- Petr Cech: Reasonable game but could he have done better with the goal? – 7/10.
- Juliano Belletti: Good defending, good attacking – 7/10.
- Alex: Could be an 8 but I partially blame him for the goal because he got nudged out of the way too easily – 7/10.
- Ashley Cole: Stood up well all things considered. While the Portsmouth fans sang “Where’s your Cheryl gone” (to a tune by Middle of the Road I think but I wait to be corrected) Chelsea fans provided moral support with “He’s here, he’s there, he’s shagging everywhere, Ashley Cole, Ashley Cole” – 7/10.
- Tal Ben Haim: Excellent. My fear was that losing Ricardo Carvalho would be our weak spot but Ben Haim defended well, stuck his head in at the right times and didn’t weaken the team – 8/10.
- Claude Makelele: Still the best at the Makelele role. Lot’s of great interceptions and a nicely timed tackle on Milan Baros, or should that be Baros’s tackle – 8/10.
- Michael Ballack: Played well and you could see he is committed to our cause as he put himself about. The head bandage was a great impersonation of Basil from Fawlty Towers, ironically from the Germans episode – 8/10.
- Joe Cole: Also a great contribution to our goal but has Joe ever heard the term “early ball”? If there were no players to beat Joe would turn away from goal to try and find one – 7/10.
- Florent Malouda: A great contribution to our goal but otherwise lightweight. After the Community Shield game I thought we’d found a tough winger who could take some knocks, unlike Arjen Robben. Unfortunately since then he’s either been injured or played and been too easily knocked off the ball. Plus he completely bottled one challenge with Sol Campbell – 6/10.
- Shaun Wright-Phillips: Not as good as recent games – 7/10.
- Nicolas Anelka: Got the goal but didn’t do much else. In the last three seasons we’ve got used to all players chasing every ball. Well clearly “chase back” doesn’t translate easily into French. Still, if Anelka continues to score 1 in every 2 games I guess we won’t be complaining – 7/10.
- Claudio Pizarro (sub): Ran around a bit like a headless chicken but amazingly he seemed to stumble through defenders and still retain the ball – 7/10.
Man of the Match
Is there anything more satisfying than sitting on the loo with the Chelsea programme studying the season’s results so far: W W D W W W W W W W W W D. It’s an amazing run and in years gone by I’d be ecstatic if I could find two ‘W’s’ side by side.
Also there’s an argument that we’ve now got through our sticky patch and, week by week, our squad is going to get strong and stronger. Some sticky patch – 11 wins and 2 draws. The title is far from over, unless of course Emmanuel Adebayor scores two every week and Arsenal keep on winning.