It was perhaps fitting that after Fratton Park held one of the most moving remembrances for George Best, who had been a regular visitor due to his friendship with Milan Mandaric, it should then stage an exhibition of old-fashioned dribbling on Saturday night.
For all the early hype Joe Cole will never be another Best, nor would he presume to be, but with his quick feet and brave response to Portsmouth's equally old-fashioned attempts to stop him he produced a respectable homage.
His trickery, and another high-class demonstration of the finisher's art by Hernan Crespo, enabled Chelsea to cruise past a Portsmouth side desperately in need of fresh direction from the dug-out and fresh blood on the pitch. Their state of disintegration under Alain Perrin was emphasised when Lomana Lua Lua said: "It was a bit different playing 4-4-2 with everyone knowing what they were doing."
At Jose Mourinho's Chelsea everyone knows what they should be doing. Although the influential Claude Makelele was injured Michael Essien slipped so easily into his holding role, and Eidur Gudjohnsen into Essien's position, that he was not missed.
Crespo's goal, his fourth in as many matches for club and country, was an instinctive deflection after Paulo Ferreira attempted a speculative 25-yard shot. Like his goal against England, carefully steered in off his knee, it showcased a poacher at the peak of his form. The Argentinian then departed with a back injury. An unsympathetic home supporter yelled "earn your money, Crespo". He had.
LuaLua's shooting had previously hinted at a shock but the contest was now over. All that remained was for Cole to light up the chilly night. Time and again he was fouled and, eventually, Dejan Stefanovic did so in the area. Frank Lampard marked his record 160th consecutive Premiership appearance with the penalty. He should soon have been invited to repeat the punishment as Cole again ran at Stefanovic, skipped by, and was felled. Phil Dowd spotted the foul, but thought it outside the box.
Cole appeared to signal that it was no foul when he got up but he explained: "I'd gone by the fella and he definitely clipped me, but I didn't know if the referee would think that. I looked at him and I thought he was coming over to book me so the gesture was to say to him, 'Don't book me'.
"It was frustrating when I got accused of diving [by opponents and Portsmouth fans]. Sometimes you run at such speed that if you get clipped you go flying and it can look like a dive. Sometimes I watch myself on TV and feel that it looks like one even though I know it wasn't. But I'm not a diver."
Cole has edged ahead of Damien Duff, Arjen Robben and Shaun Wright-Phillips, all more typical wingers, in Mourinho's pecking order.
"I've been more or less in the team since I came here last December and scored as a substitute but I won't be going home saying that I've cracked it at Chelsea," he said.
"There are world-class players here who are sitting on the bench or not even travelling so I know I've got to keep performing.
"I feared for my life at times but I think I've shown I can't be kicked out of a game. I've never been the sort of player to pull out of tackles. That's why I've had four bookings this season. I enjoy the physical side of it and if you don't then you won't be able to play in the Premiership."
Goals: Crespo (27) 0-1; Lampard pen (67) 0-2.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): Ashdown; Priske, O'Brien, Stefanovic, Griffin; O'Neil, Diao, Hughes (Viafara, 78), Taylor; Silva (Todorov, 63), LuaLua. Substitutes not used: Westerveld (gk), Vukic, Vignal.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Paulo Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, Gallas; Lampard, Essien, Gudjohnsen; J Cole (Geremi, 83), Crespo (C Cole, 38), Duff (Wright-Phillips, 79). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Del Horno.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Portsmouth Diao, Hughes, Griffin, Stefanovic, Taylor; Chelsea C Cole.
Man of the match: J Cole.
* PREMIERSHIP (Consecutive appearances) 160 Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 2001-present
159 David James (Liverpool) 1994-98
140 Shay Given (Newcastle) 2001-04
113 Wayne Bridge (Southampton) 2000-03
109 Neil Sullivan (Wimbledon) 1997-2000
* FOOTBALL LEAGUE
401 Harold Bell (Tranmere) 1946-55
394 Dave Beasant (Wimbledon, Newcastle, Chelsea) 1981-90
366 Phil Neal (Liverpool) 1974-83
286 Matt Holland (Bournemouth, Ipswich) 1996-2003Reuse content