Anticipation may be half the pleasure; but Andriy Shevchenko knew how to keep his followers waiting. It was the 55th minute of his seventh home appearance before the £30m striker finally scored the goal that caused the stadium to erupt with the fervour reserved for a select few Chelsea forwards over the years. Just when it seemed David James' goal was protected by an invisible wall, the Ukrainian converted a chance, fashioned by the admirable Arjen Robben, that, presented to a lesser man, could have been squandered.
Indeed, it required the foot of Sol Campbell to deflect the ball sufficiently to elude the hitherto magnificent Pompey goalkeeper. "It was nice for Sheva, and a very important goal for us," reflected his manager, Jose Mourinho. "Before that it was 'unlucky, great save, unlucky, great save'. You get the feeling that a goal is never coming. Finally, he scores and it will give him confidence." The Portuguese paused, then continued to laughter: "And now I can put him on the bench."
It was his little joke. It is an act that Mourinho had adamantly refused to carry out, despite suggestions that Shevchenko, at 30, had peaked, that Milan had seen the best of him, and he was in pre-retirement mode. The Chelsea manager, searching for more positives, added: "He has two goals now. That's not far from Didier [Drogba] and Kanu [the League's leading scorers] and others. At the end of the season, he will be among those people with a lot of goals."
None would deny Shev-chenko his moment, although referee Mark Clattenburg did his utmost to mar the occasion. The scorer, whose only previous League goal this season had been at Middlesbrough in the summer, disappeared into the crowd and was cautioned. The official looked embarrassed at having to carry out themandatory punishment for over-celebration, a feeling that was intensified when he duplicated that disciplinary process after Michael Ballack had followed up with Chelsea's second goal.
"The referee should explain why Robin van Persie can do it [at Charlton three weeks ago] and why Chelsea players can't," said Mourinho. It was the German international's first Premiership goal, a reward for his team that had not been promised by their early exhibition. Chelsea had started sluggishly, like late-night revellers appearing groggily for breakfast, still wiping sleep from their eyes, due to the rigours of Barcelona on Wednesday night it has to be presumed. Twenty minutes of Pompey pressure, and a few frights, mostly the creation of the decidedly wide awake Nwankwo Kanu, had the effect of an Alka-Seltzer.
Before the game Kanu had opined that Chelsea were a one-man strike-force. However, Drogba had been determined to support his partner. "Sheva should not be overly criticised for his performances at Chelsea," said the Ivorian. "He is a human being and has to be given time to adapt and to impose himself."
As Robben began to give Noé Pamarot a real chasing on the left flank, it appeared that fortune was continuing to desert Shevchenko. Harry Redknapp's men had arrived boasting the meanest defensive record in the Premiership; yet here they frequently depended on James' still-nimble reflexes. When the Ukranian burst clear of the visitors' rearguard, offside was flagged as the Pompey backline held firm. As play resumed, there was a lone burst of applause from Tony Adams. Now Pompey coach, he remains the expert on constructing an offside trap.
Shevchenko was frustrated again when he rose to connect with Robben's corner but the header was scooped away by James who before the half was out would see Shevchenko tuck the ball home only to be adjudged offside. One began to wonder: would the elusive goal materialise? Ten minutes after the break, Shevchenko's stature as one of the world's finest strikers was restored as he answered that question emphatically.Reuse content