Chelsea and Portsmouth played out a scrappy, yet engaging match at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s 1-0 win their 65th consecutive match at home without defeat. John Terry made his 300th start for the Blues, whilst Claudio Pizarro replaced Salomon Kalou in attack, the only change to the side that drew with Liverpool last weekend. Thus, Michael Essien continued at right back, with new signing Juliano Belletti on the substitute’s bench.
It was the home side that started the more brightly, the Peruvian forward Pizarro flashing a shot wide in the opening minute. A half time sub against Liverpool, Pizarro was keen to impress having regained his spot in the starting line up. He was involved in the attack ten minutes later, sliding in Florent Malouda, whose shot found the side netting. Not long after, Malouda and Pizarro were involved again, the former’s free kick finding the latter, only for Pizarro to squander the headed chance at goal.
Portsmouth were under pressure, but on 20 minutes came within an inch of taking the lead. Good work by our former nemesis Kanu saw the Nigerian forward pick out Matthew Taylor in the penalty box, his right footed effort taking a deflection off Tal Ben-Haim and almost grazing the post as it went out of the play. The resulting corner was easily cleared by Chelsea.
Half an hour had been played, when Chelsea took the lead. Èech’s long ball forward was brilliantly won by the incredible strength of Drogba up front, who managed to flick the ball on to the onrushing Lampard despite copping a blow to the head. Lampard, who scored for England against Germany at Wembley in midweek, blasted the ball low and hard at goal from 20 yards. Although it may have taken a slight deflection of Hermann Hreidarsson, the recalled England goalkeeper David James should have got a hand to the strike that otherwise flew under him and into the back of the net. For Frank Lampard, it was his third goal in a week.
James was called into action two minutes later when Wright-Phillips was able to strike at goal, the Pompey keeper gathering at the second attempt. James was also involved in the final piece of goalmouth action in the half, fumbling Lampard’s quickly taken long range free kick before bringing the ball under his control. At half time, Èech hadn’t had to make a save as the Blues went in 1-0 up.
The second stanza started with Chelsea again on top; however James wasn’t forced into a save as Chelsea’s shooting was wayward. Portsmouth had a golden opportunity on the hour, when Sean Davis shot over the crossbar after more good work from Kanu. Our rivals from the south coast were beginning to look more threatening.
This threat reached its peak on 59 minutes, when Muntari sent Gary O’Neil through, however the midfielder shot wide. Almost immediately, he was replaced by Benjani. Kalou replaced Pizarro who had noticeably faded, whilst Juliano Belletti received a warm welcome on his début, replacing the quiet Jon Obi Mikel, with Essien moving into midfield.
Muntari was at it again, winning possession from his compatriot Essien and setting up Benjani, but the substitute was squeezed out of room. Joe Cole replaced Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right side of the midfield, with Harry Redknapp’s last throw of the dice the introduction of Pamarot and Nugent, in place of Lauren and the quietly threatening Matthew Taylor.
Very late on, an on target shot from Nugent was blocked by Essien, the rebound falling to Hreidarsson who headed goalwards, only for Ashley Cole to clear off the line. It was a scare for Chelsea and the closest they came to conceding on a hot summer’s day in SW6. Referee Wiley blew full time after 3 minutes of stoppage time, Chelsea deserved winners against Porstmouth, who haven’t beaten the Blues since their promotion back in 2003.
Chelsea’s first clean sheet of the season and Lampard’s third goal in a week saw Chelsea return to the top of the English Premier League, after just three games of the new season. With Michael Ballack, Andriy Shevchenko, Wayne Bridge and Ricardo Carvalho to return after injury, plus the new signings still finding their feet and the welcome news of Manchester United being in the relegation zone, Chelsea have hit the top of the Premiership early, but with plenty more in the tank