Drogba fires to resurrect Chelsea title ambitions

Portsmouth 0 Chelsea 1

Another case of deadly Didier and golden Guus, a double-act that is turning into a beautiful friendship. The moodiest striker at Chelsea has now rescued his new manager twice in the space of a week and last night Drogba kept alive any fading hopes his club might have of the title.

Not only that, but he keeps intact Hiddink's impressive start at Chelsea, a record that is four games, four wins and a revival that has kept the club in touch with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League. In the mud and rain of a Tuesday night at Fratton Park there were times when you had to wonder whether this was where Chelsea's challenge was going to end, but they had just enough resolve to win a crucial game.

Or rather they had a match-winner in Drogba, whose goal meant that the gap to United at the top is four points, although the champions have two games in hand. You could not help thinking that Sir Alex Ferguson's team would not have left it until the 78th minute to beat Portsmouth last night. Neither do United look as pedestrian and predictable as Chelsea do at times, but with Drogba on this form it looks like they will always have a chance.

Hiddink (below) is just about hanging in there and he knows it. "I have to face the facts that we had two difficult games," he said. "I haven't shut my eyes to [problems] in the Wigan game as well, but we must improve. What is good in this team is that they react when there are difficulties. This team is not happy when things are not going well. Then you see they get rewards."

The Chelsea coach is not so daft that he is calling it on with United, but he is keen on reminding Ferguson that his side have not given up. "[A gap of] four points means there is more pressure on them, but they still have two games in hand," Hiddink said. "They're an experienced team. But it's good, for everyone in this championship to have the pressure on the side at the top."

Hiddink called it right when he brought on the Portuguese winger Ricardo Quaresma for the final stages, he was lively and contributed to the pressure that led to the goal. The problem for Hiddink is that there are just so few options available. Salomon Kalou and Florent Malouda's contribution was negligible but with Nicolas Anelka out with a bruised toe there was little else he could do. He praised his team's reaction to adversity, their imagination was less impressive.

Petr Cech kept them in the match when he saved from Sean Davis and David Nugent, but come the end of the game there was some desperate defending. Peter Crouch had broken free on 69 minutes and crossed for Niko Kranjcar who got his touch wrong and put the ball wide. Pompey had their chances, but Chelsea are at last running into a bit of luck.

Portsmouth announced after the match that Paul Hart will be coach until the end of the season and last night you could see why he has the board's confidence. They look much more disciplined under Hart and Brian Kidd and, despite being 16th, there are definitely signs of life. David James was excellent again, and Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin solid, but for the one moment they let Drogba in.

Hart said: "I'm very pleased to be here until the end of the season. It's good for the club and players that there's been a decision made. You don't want to speak too soon – it's been three games, but in those matches the players have shown magnificent determination and a response to what we've asked. If we maintain that spirit, we'll be a difficult side to beat. We deserved to get a point, and we could have won."

This was James's 538th Premier League appearance and he clearly still lives for evenings like these in the rainwith, as Pompey have found of late, backs against the wall. James saved brilliantly from Alex's free-kick at the end of the first half. But when Drogba got the ball from Jose Bosingwa's cross, the ball was past James before he could react.

In the period at the start of the second half, when Nugent and Kranjcar should have scored, Pompey were on top. If they could have supported Crouch more they might have won. At the end Drogba even threw his shirt into the crowd. There was a time when it might have come straight back at him but things are different now.

Goals: Drogba (78) 0-1.

Portsmouth (4-4-1-1): James; Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson; Pennant (Utaka, 70), Mullins, Davis, Nugent; Kranjcar; Crouch. Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Kaboul, Pamarot, Kanu, Basinas, Belhadj.

Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Terry, Alex, A Cole; Mikel (Belletti, 56); Kalou (Quaresma, 60), Ballack (Mancienne, 90), Lampard, Malouda; Drogba. Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Ivanovic, Di Santo, Ferreira.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Man of the match: Drogba.

Attendance: 20, 326.

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions