Chelsea 2 Portsmouth 1: Patience pays off for Shevchenko

High-profile summer signings come good for Chelsea with goals that bring down Pompey

They were singing in the rain down the Fulham Road yesterday, the anthems serenading not just a steadily improving run of form but in particular the two celebrity summer signings who had previously been struggling to make a significant contribution to it. Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack, recruited at enormous cost after the World Cup amid a desire to bring some superstar glitz to Chelsea, scored the goals that broke Portsmouth's resistance early in the second half, enabling their team to return to the top of the table ahead of Manchester United's home game with Liverpool today.

Portsmouth, briefly on top of the pile themselves not long ago, dragged themselves back into the game with a goal from Benjani Mwaruwari, but would not have deserved to have taken anything more than pride from it, having failed to capitalise on a promising beginning. Jose Mourinho, shrewd as ever, had highlighted the start and finish of the game as dangerous periods for his team, drained by the victory over Barcelona in midweek. They survived each period without undue alarm, though he admitted: "Many times after big matches in midweek, you lose points, so I'm happy we didn't. Early on we had no pace, no intensity and Portsmouth controlled it. Then at 2-1 we could feel the pressure again."

The visitors' defensive triumvirate of David James, Sol Campbell and Linvoy Primus, all in exceptional form this season, must have expected to be kept particularly busy, and they were not disappointed. But for James, Portsmouth would have let in more goals in 90 minutes than the three conceded in eight previous League games. Lacking both regular full-backs, Dejan Stefanovic and Glen Johnson, Harry Redknapp had a seriously weak link on the right in Noé Pamarot. The former Tottenham man was embarrassingly outpaced throughout by Arjen Robben, which is hardly unusual but on this occasion cost his team heavily. The Dutchman tantalised him throughout the first half and then laid on both goals early in the second.

The signs were ominous from the eighth minute, when Robben simply pushed the ball past his marker and sprinted after it, pulling his cross back a fraction behind Didier Drogba, who could only hook it into the crowd. On three more occasions before half-time, Robben decided he was well enough placed to shoot after being played through by Frank Lampard, twice, and Ashley Cole. Each time, however, James was equal to the challenge.

From one of the subsequent corners, James denied Shevchenko and from another he was beaten by John Terry's header but reprieved by Mark Clattenburg ruling Drogba had fouled him. James also saved well from Shevchenko, who then beat him but was offside.

Yet despite all this, Portsmouth had begun brightly enough to have Mourinho prowling his technical area as Nwankwo Kanu headed Gary O'Neil's cross wide. By half-time the visitors' defence, blessed by good fortune and excellent goalkeeping, remained unbeaten, but Redknapp was sufficiently concerned to send on an extra midfielder, Sean Davis, for Kanu, leaving Mwaruwari alone in attack.

O'Neil, the visiting captain, was torn between breaking down the right and sitting back to help Pamarot, and Chelsea continued to threaten that area. The dam had to burst and soon did so twice in quick succession, though the scorers could hardly have been guessed at. First it was Shevchenko, at last, after nine games without a goal. Robben pulled the tempting cross back for him and the Ukrainian swept it in with his left foot.

In the next attack, Robben drilled a longer cross that Drogba nodded back as Matthew Taylor failed to clear, allowing Ballack to head his first Premiership goal. Both scorers were so excited that they rushed to celebrate with the front row of the crowd, and were punished by a yellow card from the over-zealous Clattenburg. It would have been three goals in five minutes had Drogba not moved a fraction too quickly before putting a rebound from another James save into the net. His delight was curtailed by a raised flag.

Chelsea were in celebratory mood but suddenly, and unexpectedly, Portsmouth were back in the game with 21 minutes to play. Mwaruwari kept a cool head as the ball pinged around the box. It was Portsmouth's first goal in seven Premiership meetings with Chelsea and prevented the third-choice goalkeeper, Henrique Hilario, completing a second clean sheet of the week. But he collected another win bonus, and rightly so.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt

The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game