CHELSEA POUR FOUR PAST POOR PORTSMOUTH

By Stuart Wilson
Aug 18th, 2008

Chelsea eased to their first league victory under new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, after beating Portsmouth 4-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Now unbeaten in 83 home league matches, the Blues played impressively throughout and delighted the Chelsea fans with slick passing and robust attacking.

They struck incisively through Joe Cole’s low effort on 12 minutes after a superb through ball by Michael Ballack, before Nicolas Anelka added a second with a precise header on 25 minutes after a cross from the exciting ex-Barcelona midfielder, and debutant, Deco.

If Portsmouth hoped to respond just before half-time, they instead contributed further to their own downfall, when Sylvain Distin handled and Frank Lampard struck from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time.  And despite no goals for over an hour afterwards, including the interval, Deco then capped a superb display by striking a swerving effort from 25 yards, which eluded England keeper David James on 89 minutes.

It was no less than Chelsea deserved as they controlled the ball elegantly in possession with sublime one-and-two touch passes, whilst marauding probes by full-backs Ashley Cole and debutant Jose Bosingwa, caused Portsmouth numerous problems.

Portsmouth, who had not won at Stamford Bridge since 1955 in Chelsea’s first top-flight title winning season, were overawed by Chelsea’s threatening deadly trio of Ballack, Deco and Lampard.

Although new signing Peter Crouch promised to offer an aerial threat up front, he struggled in the opening half, whilst ex-Chelsea midfielder Lassana Diarra toiled unrewardingly against the Blues’ industrious midfield. Harry Redknapp’s side appeared unlikely throughout to breach a Chelsea defence, who had only conceded twice against Pompey in 10 previous top-flight meetings.

Petr Cech kept goal for Chelsea once again, with John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho completing the back four, behind midfield-anchor John Obi Mikel.

And although Didier Drogba again missed out via his recurring knee injury, Chelsea’s fluid passing football defied their normal necessity for a ‘route-one’ approach.  Scolari’s side appeared effervescent from the offset and after some half chances in the opening 10 minutes, they were ahead after just 12.

Ballack’s searching ball from the outside of his boot, found Joe Cole who delivered a sliding drive past James.
Chelsea constantly threatened after, and Nicolas Anelka’s shot on 20 minutes from the edge of the box was impressively denied by the Pompey keeper.

However last season’s forlorn Frenchman was not to be denied his first goal at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea, when after a right-wing rampage by Bosingwa, the Portuguese found Deco, whose cross to Anelka caught James flat-footed as he headed nonchalantly for 2-0.

Portsmouth by contrast offered little and central-midfielders Papa Bouba Diop and Diarra were being outshone by their Chelsea counterparts.  After Anelka had a chance for a second goal squeeze just past the post after rounding James on 28 minutes, Florent Malouda replaced the injured Ballack on 37 minutes. The Frenchman’s impact was immediate, as his sharp cross-shot almost found the run of Ashley Cole in the area.

However Chelsea were not to be denied for long. Shortly after Cech produced his first meaningful saves from Kranjcar and Crouch on half-time, Chelsea soon broke and Distin’s handball after a run from Joe Cole presented Lampard with a chance to seal the points before the interval.

The England midfielder netted confidently from the spot and it capped a jubilant week for the ex-West Ham player, who signed a new five-year contract on Wednesday.

With Chelsea in cruise control and almost adding to their lead through Anelka and Joe Cole after the break, the tempo eased as the hosts toyed with their opponents, Deco particularly. Despite party tricks the Portuguese’s forte, the 30-year-old delivered a near-faultless display, with perfect passes and hard-working runs and tackles, which summed up Chelsea’s afternoon.

However Portsmouth did create a brief spell which almost produced a goal. But after Younes Kaboul’s header over from a corner, a Crouch effort blocked in the area by Carvalho, with the visitors suggesting handball, and a Jermaine Defoe strike skewed wide, Chelsea regained authority.

Carvalho himself almost scored after a pinpoint Lampard corner, before the twice Premier League winners rounded off a wonderful afternoon through the flamboyant Deco.  The Euro 2004 runner-up under ex-Portugal boss Scolari, fired a rasping drive which roared past James for 4-0, with the England keeper perhaps slightly at fault.

But, the goal and the performance against a mostly toothless Portsmouth side, who were repeatedly troubled in defence, highlighted a refreshing approach under Scolari’s new regime. Although it is early to suggest Chelsea are ready to re-claim the Premier League, those in the north are sweating greater than might have been anticipated for the season to come.

Squads:

Chelsea; Cech, Bosingwa (Ferreira 84), A Cole, Terry, Carvalho, Mikel, Ballack (Malouda 37), Lampard, Deco, J Cole (W-Phillips 78), Anelka.

Portsmouth; James, Kaboul, Hreidarsson, Campbell, Distin, Johnson, Kranjcar (Thomas 73), Diarra (Mvuemba 68), Bouba Diop, Crouch, Defoe.

Referee: M Dean.

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