Up until 10.00 on Saturday evening I thought this game was kicking off at 4.00. It was only when the wonderful Margaret phoned me to find out what time I intended to get to the ground that I found out the kick off time was actually 12.30. At half time I was cursing her for making sure I was at the ground on time. We had just been treated, if that is the word, to an exhibition of football that two pub sides would have been embarrassed to have been involved in.
Prior to kick off Harry Redknapp said that he thought that Pompey would turn us over. Now I have no idea what particular substance he was on when he made that peculiar statement, but it must be bloody potent stuff. Much as I admire Harry, he must really have lost the plot if he feels that his current side are anything other than relegation fodder.
The team selection deserves some mention. Claudio’s decision to drop the Rock, who lets be honest, has been more like a pebble of late, suggests that maybe even he has realised who our first choice centre backs should be.
This really was the proverbial game of two halves. The first 45 deserve little comment and are best marked down as a very bad dream. The second were memorable for an invigorated Chelsea side and three stunning goals.
It wasn’t just because Pompey insisted on doing little more than 10 men behind the ball in the first half. We have come to expect that from these little provincial sides, it was more a tale of our players trying to outdo each other as to who could put in the most inept performance. The winner in the end was undoubtedly Jesper who, on the few occasions he actually took a player on, seemed incapable of putting in what could even be described as a half decent ball. He was not alone of course. Geremi again did his best to make us wonder why we had spent the best part of two seasons chasing him and even the normally solid Makelele seemed unable to find a blue shirt. Just the one point of interest in reality. A real belter of an effort from Lumpy that nearly broke the post in two. The ball then hit the keeper but instead of going into the empty net it rolled to safety.
Pompey could have taken the lead after just two minutes of the second half when Steve Stone had a shot that was heading in at the near post until Sullivan managed to claw it wide.
We were gradually improving all of the time, and the increased effort we had put in since the break finally paid dividends after 65 minutes. Wayne Bridge, who had been the victim of some real abuse for his previous life at the south coasts real premier league side, chested the ball down and drifted past a couple of defenders before rifling the ball past the Pompey keeper. He then bombed across to the East Stand to where the Pompey fans were sat to offer them the chance to get involved in his celebration. For some strange reason they declined. What a strange lot!
8 minutes later and it was game over. Some good work from the ever-industrious Mutu ended with man of the match Lampard receiving the ball and smashing it past the keeper for a goal he thoroughly deserved.
With 82 minutes gone we were treated to one of those rare goals that even the away supporters have to recognise as a sublime effort. Geremi received the ball some distance out and hit a volley that fairly flew into the net and was, in truth, worth the admission money alone. If you were not at the game, beg steal or borrow a tape of it as even the Pompey fans stood and applauded it.
Not the kind of performance we were hoping for, but the result is all that matters in our quest for silverware. The only downside was that we did not get to see Teddy Sheringham on the pitch so that we could abuse him one last time. Shame on Harry for that!
Dave McCrossen – 28/12/2003 18:18:48