Chelsea

Well & Truly Battered, Reports Gary Bowen

PORTSMOUTH 0 CHELSEA 5

Chelsea travelled to Fratton Park for their midweek clash desperate for win
after a shocking run of results by their standards. Out of the Champions
League and conceding ground to Manchester United and Arsenal in the league,
they could not afford to drop more points at lowly Portsmouth. Carlo
Ancelotti has lost his air of confidence of late and he knows only too well
that unsuccessful Chelsea managers don’t last long, just ask Avram Grant.
But Chelsea’s problems seem a little insignificant compared with the
turmoil at Portsmouth this season. The gulf between the sides on the table
is equally as wide off it.
The premier league has granted permission for Pompey to sell players
outside the transfer window and the absence of Nadir Belhadj from the team
sheet hinted that he may be the first one through it. Steve Finnan came
back into the side as his replacement. Also in for Pompey was a rare start
for Richard Hughes, often called upon in such games for his defensive
attributes.
Chelsea named five changes to the team that drew last time out at
Blackburn, most notably missing was Nicolas Anelka and still no room in the
starting eleven for England hopeful Joe Cole. Petr Cech was back between
the sticks.

It was a slow start with Chelsea dominating possession, but they didn’t
manage to bother David James until the 10th minute with a long range effort
by Lampard tipped away. Good defending by Rocha early, he was wearing
Drogba like a glove. Lampard had another effort from outside the box
shortly after but it was easily taken by James. Pompey had to wait until
the 18th minute before they got a sniff of Chelsea’s goal, with Piquionne
shooting speculatively from a wide position outside the box and into the
crowd.

Despite Chelsea dominating play, the Pompey crowd was in fine voice with
renditions of “wembley” and “Que cera cera” ringing out loudly.
Pompey were looking steady enough and when O’Hara appeared to be brought
down cutting inside Zhirkov, referee Lee Mason waved play on. Seconds later
Deco’s header looped into the path of Drogba. David James looked to have it
covered only for the ball to bobble on a divot and over his foot for an
easy tap in for Drogba.

It was a disastrous moment that James will not
enjoy watching back. Up to that point Portsmouth had been defending stoutly
and had dealt with Chelsea’s attack comfortably. O’Hara was livid with the
linesman for not awarding a freekick, and replays showed he had a fair
case.

Mokeona was getting physical and a crunching tackle on Ricardo Carvalho
ended Carvalho’s game. He was replaced by Alex.
The turning point of the half, and indeed the game, was when Malouda
challenged Rocha in an aerial battle with his arms raised. Rocha fell to
the ground clutching his face and was stretchered off after receiving
medical attention.

Malouda got away with a yellow card, when a red looked
possible. Wilson dropped into defence and Basinas was brought on to replace
Rocha. Shortly after Tommy Smith was caught by another flying limb, as a
Sturridge elbow caught him on the nose. He finished the half with much
blood and a suspected broken nose. Pompey had defended well and had it not
been for a bit of “top 4” luck, could well have gone in level and possibly
had Chelsea reduced to at least to 10 men.

Second half and Tommy Smith was replaced by Owusu-Abeyie.
Five minutes in and Malouda stuck the knife into Pompey when he wriggled
free of Mullins to drill his angled shot high into the Pompey net.
Joe Cole replaced Sturridge on 54 minutes and instantly looked like a man
wanting to make a point.

On the hour Lampards effort was parried by James only for the in-form
Malouda to pop up again, this time to twist the knife, and smash the
rebound confidently past the goalkeeper. Malouda’s celebrations further
angering the crowd.
Chelsea were looking unstoppable now and it was damage-control for
Portsmouth. O’Hara was getting frustrated and gave away a yellow card for a tug on
Deco’s shirt. The Pompey fans were venting their frustration at the
referee, not happy that Malouda was still on the pitch.
Kanu came on for Mokeona in an effort to stimulate Pompey.
Not long after Drogba slotted home his second and Chelsea’s fourth after
being played in by Obi-Mikel.

The night got worse for Portsmouth when the unmarked Richard Hughes headed wide a golden opportunity from a few yards out. The final whistle couldn’t come quick enough. Deep into stoppage time Lampard completed Portsmouth’s misery and made it
5-0, with a close range header.

A solid first half performance from Portsmouth was undone in the second as
Chelsea went on a scoring rampage. Pompey fans will argue that crucial
decisions went against them in the first half and perhaps Malouda got off
lightly and that losing Rocha unsettled the defense.
Pompey edge closer to mathematical relegation and will be looking forward
to locking horns with Spurs this weekend as a prelude to the FA Cup
semi-final.

Chelsea appear to have got a shot in the arm and hope to keep the heat on
United.

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