Villas-Boas faces familiar problems

Portsmouth 0 Chelsea 1: Chelsea's first outing under Portuguese coach gives little insight into the new regime's thinking but while Terry impresses, Torres does not

Three thousand Chelsea supporters had their first look at Andre Villas-Boas yesterday but gleaned few clues as to what he regards as his first-choice team. Chelsea began with perhaps five of them, then changed the whole side at half-time and eventually used 23 players.

Their former defender Tal Ben Haim headed an early own goal from a cross by Fernando Torres, who once again bore no obvious resemblance to a £50 million footballer. In the second half Henrique Hilario saved a penalty from Luke Varney as Portsmouth, 16th in the Championship last season and under new ownership again, demonstrated commendable spirit and caused problems for the visiting defence without managing the equaliser they deserved.

In circumstances in which it was difficult to assess individual performances, the 45-minute stints by John Terry and Josh McEachran stood out. But Torres, that one cross aside, was anonymous and after one goal in 18 games last season, he must find some form on the Asian tour starting this week or risk losing both his confidence and his place. The one consolation for him yesterday was that Didier Drogba, his replacement in the second half, did not much better. Torres or Drogba? Villas-Boas's first crucial decision could be one that Carlo Ancelotti opted out of making until it was too late.

"It's too early to pretend it's a big, big drama," the new man said. "For a striker, confidence is decisive. As soon as Fernando finds the net, he'll grow in confidence." But how long can he afford to wait? For the rest, Villas-Boas felt there were "some positive signs and some negative".

As usual in the wake of a supposedly failed campaign, resulting in the manager's sacking, there have been predictions of a mass clear-out of personnel, yet all the usual faces were on show here and no new ones have arrived. If Tottenham's chairman Daniel Levy keeps his nerve and his promise in the face of ever increasing bids (now approaching £30m), then Luka Modric will not be one of them; indeed the most urgent need following Michael Essien's serious knee injury would appear to be for a defensive midfielder either to challenge or occasionally play alongside John Obi Mikel. West Ham's Scott Parker, who may be secured on a season's loan, fits that bill better than Modric. "We might have to move in the market and we have a couple of targets identified," Villas-Boas said. "There's plenty of time."

The impression he has already made has confirmed all we had been led to expect: this is an intelligent and confident young man who has made the most of every opportunity presented in his short career, whether saving the lowly Portugese club Academica from relegation or winning a treble, including the Europa Cup, amid an unbeaten league campaign with his hometown team Porto.

Getting the better of the two Manchester clubs this season will be more difficult than overhauling Lisbon's giants, Benfica and Sporting, but for a 33-year-old (the same age as Frank Lampard and Drogba), his credentials are remarkable. Of course, the CV does not compare yet to that of his mentor Jose Mourinho, with whom comparisons are inevitable, however much he protests that they are different in beliefs and personality.

After failing to lure Turkey's coach Guus Hiddink back to Stamford Bridge in any capacity, Chelsea have settled for a conventional structure of manager plus two assistants in their former midfielder Roberto Di Matteo and Steve Holland, who has worked with the academy and reserves and therefore brings a welcome element of continuity.

Di Matteo has doubtless taken much ribbing already in the dressing-room about his West Bromwich Albion team's 6-0 defeat in the opening game of last season by Chelsea, who followed it up with an identical scoreline at Wigan. The Italian would be entitled to remind the players about the rest of their season; after leading the table until the end of November they never did so again, and finished fully nine points behind Manchester United, who also beat them twice in the Champions' League quarter-final.

Villas-Boas will be under no illusions, for he knows the bottom line: "I must be successful". That is the iron law of management, applying equallyto Steve Cotterill at Portsmouth, a club who change owners even more often than Chelsea replace managers. A pair of London-based Russians under the banner of CSI are the latest incumbents – the fifth in two years.

Portsmouth (4-4-1-1): Henderson (Ashdown, h-t); Ben Haim, Halford (Pearce, 52), Rocha (Williams, 60), Hreidarsson (Magri, 67); Ward, Mokoena, Mullins, Varney; Norris; Kitson (Stockford, 76).

Chelsea (4-3-3): First half: Turnbull; Ferreira, Kalas, Ivanovic, Cole; Clifford, Mikel, Zhirkov; Sturridge, Torres, Malouda. Second half Hilario; Bosingwa, Chlobah, Terry, Van Aanholt (Bertrand, 67); Benayoun, Lampard, McEachran; Anelka, Drogba, Kalou.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot