Harry Redknapp’s plucky Portsmouth brought Chelsea’s nine match winning streak to an end, taking a point from this fixture at Fratton Park. Jermain Defoe continued his run of scoring a goal on debut for every one of his new clubs, after Nicolas Anelka’s neatly taken goal had given Chelsea the lead.
Portsmouth’s former Director of Football Avram Grant, now Chelsea manager, made three changes to the side, all of them in defence. Ashley Cole was preferred to Wayne Bridge, as was Juliano Belletti to Paulo Ferreira, whilst Tal Ben-Haim came in for the suspended Ricardo Carvalho.
Pompey’s side consisted of the in-form David James, former Gunner Sol Campbell, debutants Milan Baroš and Jermaine Defoe up front, plus former Blue’s Glen Johnson and Lassana Diarra, the latter going on to have an outstanding match.
It was Chelsea, in the retina burning “electricity yellow” kit, who started off the brighter- pun clearly intended!- as Ballack and Joe Cole both had attempts at goal inside the first ten minutes. Ballack’s fizzed over after good lead up work from Malouda, whilst Cole’s effort flew wide, momentarily worrying James in goal.
Lassana Diarra, signed from Arsenal in a shrewd move by Harry Redknapp in the transfer window, was the first to test Petr Čech with a long range effort. The young Frenchman showed clear signs of his immense potential throughout, however his poor attitude saw that it would not be realised in Chelsea blue.
Malouda struck a free kick into the wall, however the rebound went out for a Chelsea corner. Belletti swung in another terrific ball, the German midfielder Ballack leaping highest, only for his header to be cleared off the line. The home side then had a penalty appeal turned down, as the ball seemed to strike the arm of Ben-Haim. From the corner that followed, Noe Pamarot’s brilliant header came back off the crossbar with Čech beaten.
In stoppage time, David James made a brilliant stop to deny Nicolas Anelka, only for Ashley Cole to fire horribly over with his right foot on the rebound. At half time, 0-0 was the score, though not for a lack of goalscoring opportunities.
Jermaine Defoe raced into the box in the 47th minute, but was denied by a lunging Wright-Phillips. The ball dropped kindly for Baroš, but his shot was saved by his countryman Čech, who stood tall.
Portsmouth had another penalty appeal turned down against the again imperious Makelélé, from which Chelsea broke away to open the scoring. Malouda raced clear down the left, and crossed to an unmarked Joe Cole at the back post. As the Portsmouth defence slid across to cover, the England winger cushioned the ball inside for the free Anelka, who perfectly placed the one touch finish past David James. It was poetic football from Chelsea, however the joy wasn’t to last.
Just after the hour, James’s long ball was helped on by Baroš. Belletti was lagging behind in defence and in doing so, played Defoe onside, the striker making no mistake in tucking the chance away to equalise.
James was to make two good saves, the first to deny Shaun Wright-Phillips from 25 yards, the second to deny Belletti from the edge of the six yard box, by contrast. On both occasions the would-be England goalkeeper showed all his class.
Pizarro was Chelsea’s only substitute to be used, as he replaced Malouda, the formation of choice again becoming 4-2-3-1. Chelsea stormed forward looking for a winner, however Defoe nearly got one for Pompey, but his chip beat the onrushing Čech but flew wide. The Chelsea goalkeeper did enough to put off the Englishman.
With the clock ticking down, Chelsea were still attacking, getting men into the box but to no avail. With a minute left, Defoe nearly stole the winner. Impressive attacking play from the impressive Diarra worked space on the left, before the French international crossed to Defoe on the edge of the area, only for the forward to fire over. It was to be the last opportunity of a lively encounter.
So the final whistle brought our winning streak to an end. However, we are still unbeaten since December 16, and in 24 encounters with Porstmouth. We also have not been defeated at Fratton Park since 1957. Manchester United’s draw with Tottenham keeps us in touch at the top of the table and still in the race for all four.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Johnson, Pamarot, Campbell (c), Hreidarsson; Davis (Mvuemba 67), Diarra, Hughes, Kranjcar; Defoe, Baroš.
Unused subs: Ashdown, Aubey, Lauren, Mendes.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Čech; Belletti, Ben-Haim, Alex, A Cole; Wright-Phillips, Makelélé (c), Ballack; J Cole, Anelka, Malouda (Pizarro 73).
Unused subs: Cudicini, Ferreira, Bridge, Sidwell.