Robben's all-round gifts put Chelsea in complete control

Chelsea 3 Portsmouth 0
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The Independent Football

With the wisdom of many years in the game Joe Jordan refuses to believe that the most competitive league in the world can find a champion by January. "I don't accept that it's all over yet," the Portsmouth coach said after Saturday's defeat at Stamford Bridge. So how do you play against a Chelsea team so well organised and talented that they were able to control the second half without breaking sweat? "A good question," said Chelsea's coach Steve Clark, "but not one I want to answer." It is there for others to work out. "You need to be spot on with everything," Jordan added.

With the wisdom of many years in the game Joe Jordan refuses to believe that the most competitive league in the world can find a champion by January. "I don't accept that it's all over yet," the Portsmouth coach said after Saturday's defeat at Stamford Bridge. So how do you play against a Chelsea team so well organised and talented that they were able to control the second half without breaking sweat? "A good question," said Chelsea's coach Steve Clark, "but not one I want to answer." It is there for others to work out. "You need to be spot on with everything," Jordan added.

Portsmouth made a game of it for 10 minutes, beginning brightly and forcing a save out of Petr Cech, but they were then overwhelmed by the admirable purpose of Chelsea's football and Arjen Robben's fluency. The gap Chelsea have now established looks awfully large despite Jose Mourinho's warning that they have won nothing yet. "If in a week or two we are only seven or eight points ahead, the important thing will be to stay cool."

Nothing is left to chance, right down to structured training sessions that ensure rest periods for the team's regulars. "Of course we prepare dossiers on all the teams we play," Clark added, "but it's essentially what we do ourselves." In other words, if Chelsea keep winning the others don't have a prayer.

In common with the majority of Chelsea's visitors Portsmouth flooded the midfield, but to no lasting effect. Once their early fire was doused they were overrun and then denied the ball in a second half Chelsea controlled with possession football. It was clinical stuff, encapsulated when Mourinho rose from his seat to signal the need to plug a gap when John Terry launched himself forward with Chelsea already three goals ahead. If complacency is the last threat to Chelsea's aspirations it is not countenanced in west London.

Robben, already being touted as Footballer of the Year, is blessed with the gift of being able to run with the ball at speed and the vision to pick out opportunities from both flanks. Here he was at his most breathtaking. After 15 minutes he proved that no matter what plans are laid to stifle him, he has the skill, movement and upper body strength to make them worthless.

There was no immediate threat to Portsmouth's goal when Robben received the ball wide on Chelsea's right in the 15th minute. But first he got past Matthew Taylor, then made a monkey out of David Unsworth. In all he maybe touched the ball three times before rolling it across for Didier Drogba to tap into an unguarded net.

The excellence of Robben's all-round contribution (only his defensive awareness needs to be sharpened up) is contained in the fact that this was his eighth assist of the season. His ninth goal followed six minutes later when he surged on to a measured side-foot pass from Frank Lampard and recovered after bouncing off the on-rushing goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown to score with a flick of his right foot.

With Robben and Damien Duff constantly switching wings and Claude Makelele organising progression from defence to attack, Portsmouth had little to raise their dwindling resolve until a rare mistake by Lampard put Ayegbeni Yakubu past Terry, only to shoot wide in the 35th minute.

Chelsea's response was immediate. Four minutes later Unsworth body-checked Robben just outside the penalty area. Drogba drove the free-kick with such force that Ashdown, despite getting his left hand to the ball, could not deflect it clear.

To say that Chelsea simply ambled through the second half would be to ignore the purpose behind their possession football. They controlled the game without risk to important players, emphasising the enormous gap between themselves and teams of Portsmouth's station. Strange things can happen in football, but a blip isn't likely to appear on Mourinho's radar screen.

Goals: Drogba (15) 1-0; Robben (21) 2-0; Drogba (39) 3-0.

Chelsea (4-1-2-3): Cech; Ferreira, Gallas, Terry, Bridge; Cole; Makelele, Lampard; Duff (Tiago, 67), Drogba (Gudjohnsen, 65), Robben (Kezman, 75). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Jarosik.

Portsmouth (4-5-1): Ashdown; Cissé, Primus, Stefanovic, Unsworth (Mezague, 54); Kamara, O'Neill, Berger, Hughes, Taylor; Yakubu (Fuller, 65). Substitutes not used: Hislop, De Zeeuw, Curtis.

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).

Man of the match: Robben.

Attendance: 42,267.

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