Now that’s entertainment, but it raises the question of whether we want that or results. This was fantastic entertainment in the second half, but we dropped two points to fall six behind Arsenal at the top of the league. Both teams could have won this, but we had the better chances and Portsmouth had to rely on an appalling defensive breakdown to get their goal.
At times our attacking play was as good as I’ve seen in years, with our fullbacks storming forward to create a stream of balls into the box. At times, the midfield was a barren patch of ground as we threw everyone forward to try to win the game. That we didn’t was down to Pompey keeper James and some sloppy shooting.
The all-out attacking meant we were vulnerable to counter-attacks and Defoe had two good chances to grab the winner for Pompey. Even Makelele couldn’t cover the amount of ground we abandoned to push men forward.
The first half had been fairly tame with us relying on counter-attacks and neither goalie was particularly tested although Ballack had a header cleared off the line and only the post saved us when Pamarot glanced a header from a corner. We looked comfortable and you thought we would grab a second-half goal and snatch the three points as we have so often this season.
The script was going perfectly to plan when Anelka finished off a simply brilliant move, which saw us counter-attack at lightning speed. Malouda sent over a long cross to Joe Cole at the far post and he cushioned a volley to Anelka who magnificently hooked the ball past James.
Within 10 minutes we gave up one of the worst goals of the season. A long punt from James was nodded on by the woeful Milan Baros and suddenly debutant Defoe was left alone in front of goal to poke the ball past Cech. Replays showed Ben-Haim went to sleep to allow Defoe free and that Belletti must take some blame for playing Defoe onside.
A stirring game, but who else would have settled for a yawner and three points?
CECH – 7. Left totally exposed for the goal, but so he was on two other occasions when he blocked shots from Defoe and Baros.
BELLETTI – 6.5. Almost all his marks are for his wonderful attacking play.
But as we know he is not the best defensively and more than once he hung back to play attackers onside.
ALEX – 7. Continued his strong play of late and was a force at corner kicks. Has meant we really don’t miss John Terry much.
BEN-HAIM – 6. Thought he was excellent in the first half and was ready to say I was wrong about missing Carvalho. But he lost his concentration on their goal and left Defoe completely alone. His only excuse could be that he thought Defoe would be offside. But that didn’t take account of Belletti hanging back.
A.COLE – 7. Thought it was one of his best games for us. Maybe he should screw around more often. Was a huge attacking force and comfortable defensively.
MAKELELE – 7. Even he found it difficult to plug the holes in the second half as the game became very stretched. Safe to say that without him we would have lost.
BALLACK – 7. Not as dominant as in some of his recent games as we struggled to get hold of the midfield in the first half. Linked our play well in the second, spraying the ball wide to our ever-dangerous wingers.
MALOUDA – 5.5. Wonderful cross for our goal, but will be the first to go when our big players return. Far too tentative. We know Glen Johnson’s defensive weaknesses well from his time with us, but he looked a defensive tower up against Malouda, although to be fair Malouda occupied him enough to allow Ashley Cole to break through often enough.
WRIGHT-PHILLIPS – 6. The usual mix of skill and spill, but this time the bloopers outweighed the positives. Had a fantastic chance late when sent through on James, but he chipped the ball over the goalie and wide of the far post when he really should have scored.
J.COLE – 8. Seemed able to beat Pamarot at will and again always looked the most likely to create an opening. Superb, unselfish cushioned volley to Anelka for the goal.
ANELKA – 7.5. Very quiet first half in which his main contribution was exercising the linesman’s offside flag. Burst through late only to be foiled by James. In the second half, he seemed at the centre of most of our moves, often moving wide on the left to show Malouda how easy it is to beat Johnson. Took his goal very well because he had to reach awkwardly for the ball. Was six inches too close to the goal-line to put away a Belletti centre late on.
PIZARRO (for Malouda, 74 mins.) – 6. In his own lumpish way, kept the pressure on Pompey. Trundled around gamely and even won some 50-50 balls. Had one clear sight of goal and stubbed his shot.