Chelsea continued their preparations for the new season with a 1-0 win over Portsmouth in Villas-Boas first game in charge in front of the Chelsea faithful, at Fratton Park in front of just over 19,000. In what could hardly have been described as a classic, a fairly low-key, lacklustre performance, in which fitness and preparation was key, was enough to see Chelsea prevail. The 1-0 victory that included saving a Portsmouth penalty was reminiscent of our last meeting with the south coast club, the 2010 F.A. Cup Final, although it was conducted in extremely different circumstances and did at times lead us into thinking there is still work to be done if we are to achieve the feats of that great season once more.
The Chelsea faithful were in full voice throughout; a great day out for the football-starved supporters, including copious amounts of bouncing and celery throwing, somewhat made up for a fairly dull action in front of us. A heart-warming rendition of “There’s Only One Di Matteo” welcomed our former Midfield hero into his new assistant role.
Chelsea lined up in the 4-3-3 formation that has served them so well in the past, and stuck with similar tactics in both halves, despite changing the whole team at half time. Portsmouth had the first chance of the game with David Norris coming close but Chelsea dominated most of the early stages and indeed took the least after just seven minutes when former blue Tal Ben Haim did what he never managed whilst at the club and scored for us. His header, from a Fernando Torres cross, rendered Pompey keeper Henderson helpless and put Chelsea one nil to the good, a score line that would not change.
Afterwards, Danny Sturridge, who looked fairly lively throughout the first half, had an Alex-style free-kick smashed into the wall, portraying a player that is rumoured to be leaving the club and was indeed worryingly nowhere to be seen today. Other first half chances included Ivanovic hitting a header just wide and a Sturridge shot being deflected, whilst at the other end Turnbull thwarted Pompey new boy Varneys attempts to get on the score sheet. Worryingly, youngster Billy Clifford took a knock, but got up soon after. He put in a fairly solid display, as did fellow youngster Tomas Kalas at centre back. Ivanovic seemed to enjoy being in his more favoured central role, although Ferreira again looked dodgy at times at right back. Torres seemed to be shrugged off the ball too easy at times and still seems like he needs to recapture his form, despite scoring against Wycombe in the week.
At half time, the arrival of Terry, Lampard, Drogba et al to warm up was greeted with mass hysteria from the fans and the majority of first team regulars came on to make up an extremely strong second half line up, whilst in contrast Portsmouth only had five available on the bench. Chelsea started the second half well, although still failed to make any clear cut chances. Kalou felt he maybe should have had a penalty after being seemingly manhandled in the box by Rocha, and continued to make some good runs, later just missing from an Anelka pass. At the other end, Hilario saved from a Hreidarsson free kick and dived low to the left to save a Varney penalty, after bringing down the former Blackpool man.
J.T. was at his usual commanding best, although he looked to have hurt Varney at one stage with an almost ku-fung style kick that upset many among the Pompey ranks following a mix up between Nat Chalobah, a 16 year old bright prospect, and Hilario. Bosingwa, who was sloppy and for me was one of our worst performers, was also involved in a mix up, in which in he nearly scored an own goal. I wonder whether he’ll still be with us come the end of August.
The main positives of the second half were the performances of Yossi Benayoun and Josh McEachran, who fresh from signing a new 5 year deal, did all the simple things well as always with some immaculate touches and passes. The performance continued to still feel very much like last season, whilst Andre didn’t seem too animated on the bench; although it’s too early to read too much into it and whilst there were both positivites and negatives to take from the game, we must remember the players have only been back in training just over a week. It will take time for them to regain their fitness and for Andre’s methods to impact upon them. No need for worry or mass hysteria yet, as the players fly off to Asia, where they will be further tested.
Other news today included a 6-1 defeat for our reserve side at Crawley Town and confirmation of Chelsea’s first signing of the summer, 19 year-old goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois from Genk, for a fee believed to be around £7.9m. Let’s hope he can be our next Petr Cech! We are left to wonder whether any more additions will be forthcoming, whilst the Modric saga drags on.
Keep the faith.