Premiership review: Portsmouth 0 – 2 Chelsea

Match reports

The Observer, Amy Lawrence: “John O’Shea may be many things, but as far as Chelsea are concerned he in no way resembles a fat lady singing. Manchester United’s snatched lunchtime win at Anfield might have offered compelling evidence that the title is bound for Old Trafford. But Didier Drogba and Petr Cech inspired their team to snap out of it. As long as Drogba continues lurking with intent and Cech is patrolling the net at the other end, the champions will not give up without a few dogged results of their own.”

Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “Chelsea’s conviction was eroding in front of the turbulent home support as Didier Drogba’s lone goal suddenly seemed the slightest of advantages. With Portsmouth intensifying their attacks, Andy Cole, on as a substitute, met Kanu’s cross with a crisp contact on his forehead. Cech, diving the wrong way, somehow managed to claw the ball away to keep his goal intact. “Unbelievable world class,” muttered Harry Redknapp.”

Independent on Sunday, Nick Townsend: “It may have been the Special One versus The Sexagenarian – Harry Redknapp having turned 60 on Friday – but there is no footballing senility about the Pompey manager yet. True, they have faltered, after being seemingly Europe-bound, but here his team possessed energy, pace and creative prowess.”

Sunday Times, Duncan Castles: “As the cabal of advisers surrounding Roman Abramovich has discovered, dispensing with Jose Mourinho is not easy. While Sir Alex Ferguson will have little time for the schemers, he should understand their frustrations as he struggles to finally shake off his Portuguese adversary.”

Official Chelsea FC Website, Neil Barnett: “Chelsea have now gone 22 games without defeat against Portsmouth in a run stretching back to 1960.”

The goals/highlights

The good

  1. The result. Yes I know it’s a bit bloody obvious, but the fact remains that the destination of the Premiership title is out of our hands. Going into this game with a 12-point deficit may have phased other teams and created a mentality of “let’s concentrate on the FA Cup and Champions league”… but not with Chelsea. The team have a duty to keep the pressure on Manchester United just in case they do slip up and this is exactly how they reacted yesterday.
  2. The performance. A great example of professionalism and patience, alongside some stoic, practical and unfussy defending from Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Essien. No – it wasn’t vintage, nor was it slick passing and balletic grace as we are so often reminded of Arsenal’s playing and ultimately losing style. This was more a smash and grab operation akin to that of a crack military squadron. Be patient, be cool, follow team orders, get the result and get out quick. We won two Premierships doing this away from home and no-one is better… ahem… barring Manchester United, who seem to be rather adept and “doing a Chelsea”. Imitation, so they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.
  3. Petr Cech. Words are not allowed to fail me… I’m a writer of sorts. However they damn near fail me today. If anyone thought the loss of Joe Cole and John Terry was a big impact on our relentless pursuit of glory then they were wrong. How many points a season is a world class goalkeeper worth? Just ask Alex Ferguson how much Peter Schmeichel was worth in points. Get my drift? Another clean sheet where any lesser mortal would have conceded one, if not two goals against a persistent and buoyant Portsmouth side.
  4. Ricardo Carvalho. The second best centre-back in the world? Magnificent in every aspect and far too under-rated by the media.
  5. The Big Man – Didier Drogba – had a quiet game by recent standards, but some magnificent work back in defence topped off by a goal that Thierry Henry would have been proud of. The angle was impossible but there was no room for error – a perfect strike and just reward for a man truly comfortable with his ability in the Premiership.
  6. The referee. Did you notice him? Exactly the sort of game every ref should have. Played good advantages, seemed happy to tell players to get on with it and to engage in friendly banter. They often get some unfair criticism lobbed into the morass of brickbats they receive from fans merely sulking or angry at their team’s incapability. Rarely do they ever receive praise, but Mark Halsey deserves the credit for a good game.
  7. Portsmouth. In each of my reviews I’ve been fortunate enough to have been asked to write about games whereby the opposition have played football. Portsmouth in the same fixture last year were led by Joe Jordan having just sacked Reggie Perrin (well it may as well have been him). They were a clueless bunch of halfwits whose strategy to stop us was to kick Joe Cole relentlessly and to kick us up in the air generally. Enter Harry Redknapp. Not only does he perform the impossible and keep them in the Premiership, but this season they’re still in with a shout of Europe. Yesterday they played good football and anyone else will struggle to get any result at this throwback to the 1940’s ground. I live about 6 miles outside of Portsmouth and believe me, for Pompey fans this is one of the dullest seasons they’ve endured. Safe from relegation, remote chance of Europe, but most likely the warm comforting bosom of mid-table obscurity. And do you know what? They’ve never been happier.

The bad

  1. Now here comes the controversy. Michael Ballack. I’ve been critical of him so far, but yesterday it was like the ghost of Ray Wilkins was on the pitch. Virtually every pass was backwards. He managed to take potential attacks and turn them into defence. His passing was off, his tackling non-existent and if he had five percent of JT’s bravery he might have got his head in once or twice. But no, he did nothing of any worth in the entire game. He isn’t a passenger, he’s a coward.
  2. Ashley Cole. The worst performance I’ve seen in the left-back position since any of Asier Del Horno’s last season. Did he make his comeback too early? Well, let’s hope so because barring the nod onto Salomon Kalou for the second and decisive goal he was dismal. When Pompey were crossing from the right he was completely missing. Wayne Bridge must be utterly pissed off at being on the bench because right here, right now he is way in front of Cole in terms of quality and performance.
  3. Frank Lampard. Played slightly better than Ballack and had one fierce shot saved. But, for the rest of the game was anonymous in his contribution, but synonymous with losing possession cheaply. One bad game doesn’t make you a bad player so I’ll write it off as post-Cardiff lethargy.
  4. The bell-ringing drummer – aka Pompey John. Yep, he’s the tattooed goon who never seems to wear a top. He’s notorious around these parts but not for any really bad reasons other than the bloody incessant annoying bells. Mind you I believe he did once get ejected from St. Mary’s for urinating on his seat to display his contempt for the Scummers, as Southampton are known locally. Class act huh? Seriously, if his season ticket were next to mine, I’d puncture his drum and superglue his bloody bells. Or I’d be doing a 20-stretch at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. It’d probably be worth it.

Player ratings

  • Petr Cech: Superb – 9/10
  • Lassana Diarra: Another solid showing – 7/10
  • Ricardo Carvalho: Superb, surely deserves more credit – 8/10
  • Michael Essien: Solid again – 7/10
  • Ashley Cole: Rubbish barring one good moment for goal number two – 3/10
  • Claude Makelele: Not bad, but still looks a season too far in my view – 6/10
  • Frank Lampard: Poor compared to recent performances – 5/10
  • Michael Ballack: Lucky to rate this highly – 2/10
  • Arjen Robben: Should always be a starter – should have scored – 7/10
  • Andriy Shevchenko: Didn’t shine in a game oriented on defence – 6/10
  • Didier Drogba: As above, but showed his class and when we needed it – 7/10
  • Salomon Kalou (sub): Great finish, occasionally sloppy in possession – 7/10
  • Shaun Wright-Phillips (sub): Looked bright and eager – still on his way out – 7/10
  • Wayne Bridge (sub): Did more in 15 minutes than Cole did all game – 7/10

Man of the Match

For once the choice is easy. Despite okay showings from Drogba, Shevchenko (who seemed to be at odds with several of the team) and Makelele, good performances from Diarra, Robben and Essien and especially Carvalho, the clear choice is Petr Cech. During a 10-minute spell of Portsmouth domination in the second half he made two world-class saves, which effectively kept us in the game when everything else had gone a bit wobbly. Take a bow Pete, take a bow.

Final thoughts

It’s like the days of old, when we won two back-to-back Premierships isn’t it? A defence that’s as tight as a duck’s arse, a midfield that despite misfiring can still do enough to cause problems for the opposition and a strike force that wins games and this despite the full understanding being missing. Games like this were our bread and butter during our winning campaigns and for “long-in-the-tooth” supporters like me this is a key reason for our dogged belief in the team. The Premiership is not in our hands, but we are fighting all the way… and who knows what the future holds? Keep the Blue Flag flying high!

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