In a year of underdogs and giant-killings this was a cup tie that emphasised the gap between Premiership and Nationwide. Portsmouth had not lost in nine matches but they never extended a Chelsea side which had won one in five.
Portsmouth started brightly but could not find their way past a Chelsea defence superbly marshalled by Frank Leboeuf. The only blots on Chelsea's day were groin injuries to Leboeuf and Grodas. Leboeuf had created Chelsea's first, picking out Mark Hughes to volley dramatically past Alan Knight after 25 minutes. Steve Clarke added a second after 44 and Gianfranco Zola settled the game with a third 10 minutes after the break. Deon Burton did thump a consolation with seven minutes to go but Dennis Wise quelled any thoughts of a revival with an 86th-minute fourth.
"We played extremely well," said Ruud Gullit. "Our players are playing better every week which pleases me as a coach. I knew it would be physical. If you play well they try to kick you."
Mark Hughes received particularly harsh treatment and Gullit added: "Every week I ask him: `What did you do 10 years ago? Why do they always want to punish you?' He has big calves but that does not mean you can keep kicking them."
As at Derby the day before, Portsmouth had stoked the cup atmosphere by playing Doris Day's version of Que Sera Sera and welcoming an ageing cup hero - in this case Tommy Rowe, who had played a sterling role in their 1939 FA Cup win over Wolves.
Day's song seemed appropriate, as well as being a football anthem it came from the Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much, a role which had been predicted for Terry Venables, in his guise as chairman and managerial mentor of Portsmouth.
Portsmouth's tactical innovation was to play Paul Hall just behind the front two in the hope that he would trouble Chelsea's three-defender system. It did initially but Portsmouth could not take advantage. Within 20 minutes, Chelsea's numerical superiority in midfield had been translated into a dominance they never relinquished. Knight had already made an excellent save from Zola when Mark Hughes scored.
Then the Welshman won a free-kick. As Portsmouth awaited the shot Zola chipped the ball deep to Clarke, Knight could only parry and Clarke and Wise bundled the ball in. Clarke, without a goal for five years, intends to claim it.
The interval failed to disrupt Chelsea's control with Roberto Di Matteo quickly curling a ball past the far post following a sweeping move. Then Andy Awford misjudged a clearance, Mark Hughes capitalised and Zola scored after Di Matteo had touched on his cross.
Game over. After 70 minutes Grodas finally had to dive for a save, clutching Andy Thomsen's header. To be fair, both Leboeuf and Sinclair had already made several good blocks and, with Chelsea easing up, Portsmouth finally scored the goal their spirit deserved. Hall reached the byline and Burton thrashed his cut-back in.
Chelsea's response was immediate with Zola hitting the post and Knight making a brave double-save from Craig Burley and Paul Hughes. With the keeper nursing an arm injury, a minute later he mis-hit a clearance to Wise. The midfielder traded passes with Burley and scored with the same contemptuous ease Chelsea had shown all afternoon.
Goals: M Hughes (25) 0-1; Wise (44) 0-2; Zola (55) 0-3; Burton (83) 1-3; Wise (86) 1-4.
Portsmouth (3-4-3): Knight; Thomson, Awford, Perrett; Pethick, Hillier, McLoughlin, Simpson (Igoe, 71); Bradbury, Hall, Svensson (Burton, 60). Substitute not used: Dobson.
Chelsea (3-5-2): Grodas; Sinclair, Leboeuf (Johnsen, 76), Clarke; Petrescu, Wise, Di Matteo (Burley, 61), P Hughes, Minto; Zola, M Hughes. Substitute not used: Vialli.
Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).
Booking: Portsmouth: Perrett.
Man of the match: Leboeuf.
Attendance: 15,701.Reuse content