Portsmouth 1 Chelsea 1: Redknapp admits: 'I nearly quit' over Grant

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Not only did Harry Redknapp reveal that he thought about quitting when Avram Grant was foisted on him at Portsmouth – but he added that he had fully expected the Israeli to eventually replace Jose Mourinho when he then moved to Chelsea last summer.

As if this pulsating match – with Jermain Defoe's goal-scoring Pompey debut, a large dose of controversy and one of the most outstanding performances ever seen in the Premier League by the former Chelsea midfielder Lassana Diarra – did not offer enough.

Redknapp's admission again highlighted the intriguing way in which Grant made his entry into English football. A long-standing pallyness with the agent Pini Zahavi, a blossoming friendship with Roman Abramovich – a route facilitated by the Russian billionaire's association with Portsmouth owner Sasha Gaydamak – and suddenly a relatively obscure coach had landed.

Of Grant's appointment as director of football at Fratton Park, Redknapp said: "When I was first told I reacted in the normal way I do when people do that to me and that's to [want to] walk away or whatever. But I didn't. When he came here I quickly realised he was a nice man and he wasn't here to take my job or anything else."

No, that target was Mourinho and the Special One could be forgiven if he had a little chuckle when this result came through to his home in Setubal. The draw at least prevented Grant from breaking the Chelsea record of nine straight victories in all competitions which was first set by the Portuguese.

Mourinho did not react well either when Grant was "put on" him and the rest, of course, is now history.

"When he went there," Redknapp said of Grant's departure to Chelsea, "I had a feeling that he might be taking the job." Mourinho had that feeling also which makes the whole scenario of such a lugubrious, publicly down-beat character as Grant being in charge of such a highly-charged football club all the more fascinating.

Less colourful manager, more colourful football is the edict and certainly after a snoozy first 30 minutes this contest exploded into life and turned into one of those classic Fratton encounters in which the old stadium rocked and the football rolled. After Niko Kranjcar cleared a header from the impressive Michael Ballack off the line Portsmouth should have had a penalty as Juliano Belletti handled. Instead they were awarded a corner and from it Noe Pamarot's header crashed against a post.

It prompted both sides to go for it. Portsmouth attacked, claiming another hand-ball and penalty, this time by Claude Makelele, but they were caught by a rapid break which ended with Nicolas Anelka crisply volleying in after being teed up by Joe Cole. But Portsmouth hit back when Belletti played Defoe onside from Milan Baros's flick and he neatly tucked away his chance to, once again, score on his debut.

Defoe wasted other chances but David James also brilliantly thwarted Anelka and Alex while Diarra ran the midfield – which was nothing short of outstanding given how well Ballack played. At the end, however, the visitors slipped six points behind Arsenal.

Goals: Anelka (55) 0-1; Defoe (64) 1-1.

Portsmouth (4-3-1-2): James; Johnson, Campbell, Pamarot, Hreidarsson; Davis (Mvuemba, 68), Diarra, Hughes; Kranjcar; Baros, Defoe. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Aubey, Lauren, Pedro Mendes.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Belletti, Ben-Haim, Alex, A Cole; Wright-Phillips, Makelele, Ballack; J Cole, Anelka, Malouda (Pizarro, 74). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Sidwell, Bridge, Ferreira.

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).

Booked: Portsmouth Davis, Pamarot.

Man of the match: Diarra.

Attendance: 20,488.