Chelsea laboured to a 2-1 win at home to Portsmouth, ending our run of matches without victory and also putting us atop the Premier League table once more. Avram Grant returned to Stamford Bridge for the first time since his harsh sacking in the summer, as he looks to salvage Portsmouth’s disastrous season thus far.
Alex was given a start in place of Ricardo Carvalho for Chelsea and in Didier Drogba’s absence, Salmon Kalou started alongside Nicolas Anelka in attack, making his 100th Chelsea appearance.
It was Kalou who, almost typically, spurned a glorious opportunity to give Chelsea the lead in the sixth minute. Deco’s corner from the right was flicked on at the near post by Michael Ballack, perfectly picking out Kalou. Somehow though, the Chelsea striker headed the ball over from almost underneath the bar.
Soon after, the talented young keeper Asmir Begovic made a decent stop to deny Anelka. Begovic was deputising for the ill England keeper, David James. Then, Lampard picked Begovic out from the edge of the area.
Twenty three minutes were on the clock when the Blues broke down the Portsmouth resistance. Alex, of all people, sprinted to keep the ball in play on the right. He took on and beat a Portsmouth defender, charging into the area at the byline, before cutting back to Nicolas Anelka who scored with an easy tap in.
Alex lined up a long range free kick, but sent it flying wide, before Chelsea were given another set piece scare as old boy Tal Ben Haim headed over a Jamie O’Hara free kick from a very good position.
Shortly before half time, Ashley Cole’s well struck effort from just inside the area was half a yard wide of Begovic’s goal.
Chelsea’s set piece woes were to continue though, five minutes into the second half. Terry clumsily fouled Boateng 25 yards out, to the right of goal. O’Hara stepped up and fortunately for Pompey, his free kick deflected off of Kalou and then Ashley Cole, before falling perfectly for Piquionne to smash high into the net past Petr Cech.
Chelsea looked to hit back immediately. Ivanovic’s fierce long range shot was beaten away by Begovic, before Ashley Cole made a fantastic block to deny Boateng who had found himself at the near post.
Deco, Malouda and young Borini all came on within a few minutes of each other, with Joe Cole, Mikel and Kalou making way. Begovic then denied Frank Lampard from long range, as he lined up a long range sighter.
The breakthrough though, came with twelve minutes remaining, just before uneasiness looked like setting in. Ballack’s ball found its way to the charging Ivanovic who was sliced down in a horribly mistimed challenge by Marc Wilson. It was as straight forward a decision as was possible for Mark Clattenburg, who awarded the penalty.
Lampard stepped up, having missed against Manchester City, but netting his previous nineteen from the spot. The pressure was palpable, but Lampard smashed the spot kick high into the net, down the middle. Unstoppable.
Stoppage time nearly saw a first senior goal for Fabio Borini, who intercepted a back pass but having rounded the otherwise impressive Begovic, he sent his finish narrowly wide from an awfully tight angle.
Nonetheless, the three points were successfully attained, whilst Portsmouth remain rooted to the foot of the table. Avram Grant though will have been impressed by the spirit and tenacity that his Portsmouth side showed and will be optimistic that he, of all people, can pull off the minor miracle required to keep the South Coast side in English football’s top division.
Chelsea (4-diamond-2): Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry (c), A Cole; Mikel (Malouda 63), Ballack, Lampard, Deco (J Cole 58); Kalou (Borini 71), Anelka.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti
Portsmouth (4-3-2-1): Begovic; Finnan, Ben Haim, Wilson, Hreidarsson; Mullins, Mokoena (Utaka 85), Diop (Hughes 69); Boateng, O’Hara; Piquionne (Dindane 71).
Manager Avram Grant
Referee Mark Clattenburg