Pompey 0-2 Chelsea
Saturday 03-03-07, 5:15pm
Following last weeks poor showing at Blackburn Pompey returned to Fratton Park with defending champions Chelsea the visitors. A spirited and much improved performance of recent weeks saw Pompey push Chelsea all the way but it wasn't enough to prevent Chelsea leaving with their usual 2-0 victory.
Glen Johnson was ineligible due to the term of his loan so Noe Pamarot switched to right back with Djimi Traore coming in at left back. With Pedro Mendes set to miss the remainder of the season his place was filled today by Richard Hughes with Kanu coming in to partner Lomana LuaLua in place of Andrew Cole.
Chelsea left Fratton Park knowing that had been in a game but still did so with three points thanks to late goals in each half from Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou. But for some brilliant saves from Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal maybe we would have got at least a point?
In front of the biggest Fratton Park crowd of the season Pompey started very brightly with Lomana LuaLua forcing the first save of the game out of Petr Cech. His shot from Kanu's pass from a tight angle was saved by the Czech International diving down low.
After Lassana Diarra had shot Chelsea's first effort wide it would be Gary O'Neil, fit to play after being a doubt he shot well over from range, but the start was good from Pompey, could an upset be possible?
Chelsea started to find their footing but it was still Pompey dictating most of the play and another Pompey break saw them with men over but instead of picking out O'Neil who had run wide looking for the ball Kanu decided to take on a speculative long range drive which was comfortably saved by Cech. Had he scored he would have been a hero but on this occasion I think the decision made was certainly the wrong one.
Against the run of play Chelsea took the lead through Ashley Cole's cross-field pass to Didier Drogba. With the Ivorian let go by the Pompey defence he took his chance very well volleying home from a tightish angle beating David James at his near post. Maybe it could have been prevented by nevertheless it was a fine strike. Chelsea went in one up at half time.
Chelsea started the second half brightly with Arjan Robben striking the post and bar in the same effort from a tight angle although had he pulled the ball back one of his teammates would have surely scored, with David James having to save Frank Lampard's 30-yard drive shortly after.
Pompey were having a lot of the play but nothing was really being created, but it wasn't as though we weren't playing our part as we were. On another day against another team we probably would have been comfortably ahead.
With just over twenty minutes to play Harry Redknapp made his first change, Niko Kranjcar coming on for Djimi Traore then minutes later Andrew Cole was on for LuaLua. Just after coming on Cole got on the end of Kanu's cross but couldn't direct his header on target, Cech watched the header sail wide.
Pompey's best chance fell to Cole minutes later, another header was brilliantly saved by Cech to parry away and deny us an arguably deserved equaliser. And a mere minute of two after this Pompey were denied again by another fine save by Cech, getting down low to turn away Kanu's header this time.
As was inevitable Chelsea broke away with less than ten minutes to go, and only minutes after the two fine saves from Cech they wrapped up victory through Salomon Kalou. The Ivorian substitute got onto the end of a pass ahead of James who had slipped when coming for the ball to slide under him.
Wayne Bridge came on shortly after to a chorus of abuse from the Pompey fans with him almost silencing us immediately but his drive was safely claimed by James. We kept on battling to the end but it wasn't to be Chelsea ran out 2-0 victors.
Any doubts about Pompey's effort and commitment were proved otherwise today following a fine performance much more in line with the majority of what we have seen this season. Chelsea weren't at their best and as so often happens with them when I've seen them they were slow to start, but again as so often happens they punished opponents for not taking chances.
Had we not come up against one of the best goalkeepers in the World let alone Premiership in Petr Cech we would have easily drawn if not won this game but even with Cech had Andrew Cole beaten him with his header instead of being brilliantly denied I think that we would have gone on to win let alone draw.
The European dream is still alive despite defeat here as other results today didn't go entirely against us. Defeats for Spurs and Bolton tomorrow and we are still right in there but victories over Reading away next time out and Fulham, also away after are musts!
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Chelsea 2 - Didier Drogba 33, Salomon Kalou 82
Djimi Traore (Niko Kranjcar 68)
Lomana LuaLua (Andrew Cole 73)
Substitutes Not Used