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Portsmouth 0-1 Chelsea


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Portsmouth 0-1 Chelsea F.C.

March 3 2009, Premier League, Fratton Park, Portsmouth

Didier Drogba celebrates his winning goal.

Didier Drogba scored a vital winner with 10 minutes remaining to continue Chelsea's revival under Guus Hiddink.

The Blues had been on the back foot for much of the match, and but for a couple of efforts from range by midfield maestro Frank Lampard, the Blues were second best for long periods of the game. Portsmouth went close early on when Hreidarsson's effort was deflected out for a corner, and only magnificent saves by Petr Cech could deny Sean Davis' rasping drive from 25 yards and David Nugent's powerful strike from inside the area. Niko Kranjcar was guilty of missing a glorious opportunity for the hosts when he volleyed wide from Peter Crouch's cross, but it was Didier Drogba - anonymous for much of his 200th appearance for the Blues - who smashed the ball home when Bosingwa's cross was directed into his path.

With Jose Bosingwa back from suspension, Michael Mancienne returned to the bench. Nicolas Anelka was out nursing a bruised toe, so Florent Malouda replaced his compatriot out on the left flank. The welcome news of Michael Essien and Ricardo Carvalho featuring for the reserves recently was cause for much optimism amongst the Chelsea ranks, but the duo were not yet ready for first team action.

Portsmouth piled on the early pressure, in their desperate attempts to end a 48 year hoodoo against Chelsea at Fratton Park during which the Blues have remained unbeaten. They had two presentable opportunities during the opening exchanges, but Hreidarsson's shot was put out for a corner, before the Icelandic defender laid off former West Ham player Hayden Mullins on the edge of the area, but he ballooned his shot well wide of the mark.

The conditions on the south coast were ever worsening, with a howling wind now accompanying the driving rain - the Fratton Park turf had clearly seen better days. Kalou fluffed a difficult chance when he failed to connect properly with Malouda's cross from out wide, and Ballack fired well over. The yellow-kitted visitors were enjoying a spell of possession after Portsmouth's bright start, but the well-drilled Pompey machine was doing well to frustrate the narrow Chelsea midfield, and the usually influential Michael Ballack and John Mikel Obi were forced to drop deep and help out their defenders.

Drogba had a glorious chance to open the scoring when Ashley Cole benefitted from Malouda's victory in an aerial battle with Sol Campbell, and launched a low cross to the far stick where Drogba was inches from connecting. The ball had zipped along the waterlogged surface and surely in less severe conditions, Drogba would have put his side in front.

James then spilled shots from Malouda and Lampard as the England international demonstrated what a difficult night it was for goalkeepers, but luckily for the Portsmouth faithful, there was sufficient cover to deal with the loose ball on both occasions. Chelsea were in the ascendancy, however, and Lampard was at the centre of everything; orchestrating attack after attack.

However, it was Cech's turn to show his pedigree when Davis launched a vicious, well-struck half-volley. Straight out of the top drawer, the effort forced a stunning reaction save from the goalkeeper, who managed to palm the ball beyond the upright despite seeing the ball late and through a number of defenders. Cech would come to the rescue of his team once again on 40 minutes when he dropped on the loose ball in the penalty area after Alex had failed to clear the ball, and with Kranjcar and Crouch waiting to poke home, it was good play by the Czech international.

Ballack had a bullet header go six inches over the bar and Alex saw a powerful freekick turned around the post by David James as Chelsea ended the half the more willing to attack of the two teams, and were unfortunate not to have a lead at the interval. The Blues had been good throughout despite tricky conditions, and Lampard and Ashley Cole in particular were enjoying impressive outings - and not for the first time this season.

The second half took a while to start properly, with both teams preferring a more cautious, considered approach. Portsmouth enjoyed a good spell of possession which drew cheers from the home faithful, but the FA Cup winners failed to cause any danger to the Chelsea rearguard. However, Terry was deceived by a bouncing through ball on 58 minutes, and only Cech's alert goalkeeping denied Nugent, who was sure to score, but for the presence of the Chelsea number 1. Belletti and Quaresma were brought on as Hiddink searched for the key to unlock the Portsmouth backline.

The two substitutes had an immediate effect; with Belletti launching goalwards from all of 20 yards that James had to grasp, before Quaresma turned his marker inside-out to launch a teasing cross towards Drogba, who flicked the ball wide of James' post. The Ivorian had moments before headed inches over from another Quaresma cross - the Portuguese winger was giving his teammate the service he badly craved, as the double centurion was not enjoying his most effective game for the Blues.

And after Crouch's cross from the right was volleyed wide by Kranjcar, it was evident the Gods were smiling on Guus Hiddink's side. Bosingwa was played in by Quaresma, whose cross from the right was diverted into Drogba's path either accidentally or brilliantly by Ballack, giving the Ivorian the simplest of tasks to steer the ball into the bottom corner with his right foot. Drogba ran to the Chelsea bench and kissed the badge on his jersey. Maybe, just maybe, the real Didier Drogba is back.

Belletti and Drogba made crucial interceptions in the dying seconds as the Blues looked to withstand a late flurry from the hosts, and Alex had to be at his best to first deny Kranjcar with a brilliant header before making a stunning block with his feet to stop Crouch from unleashing a shot from 20 yards. The final whistle sounded, and was met by cheers from the Chelsea travelling contingent. Four wins from four under Guus Hiddink – surely Chelsea are back?


The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match award goes to...


Frank Lampard

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry ©, A Cole; Ballack (Mancienne 90), Mikel (Belletti 56), Lampard; Kalou (Quaresma 59), Drogba, Malouda

Portsmouth(4-5-1): James; Johnson, Campbell ©, Distin, Hreidarsson; Mullins, Davis; Pennant (Utaka 69), Kranjcar, Nugent; Crouch

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It was a good game and better Win for us...

I most said... this game was Cech... He save us 3 times... to be down the score...

Lampard without no doud is the most regular player and the most influence player of the team... I don`t know what would happend if he would leaf last summer....

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Ballack has been bad again. possession losses, Missed kicks. The goal that Drogba scored should have been Ballack's. A Young Ballack would have scored that but he missed it.

Cech MoM for me.

Agree with that.

It was potentially a big, big win last night, what with Rafas binmen beating Sunderland.

Drogba over the years has scored some incredibly important goals. Fans might not like him because of his ..erm..artistic temprament.. but theres no denying the fortunes of the club mirror his own....

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