Chelsea took no prisoners as they moved to within a point of Manchester United at the top of the Premier League with a bruising victory. They left two Portsmouth players nursing nasty facial injuries and Daniel Sturridge was fortunate not to be sent off as their mean streak came to the fore.
Yet Carlo Ancelotti's faltering side needed a disastrous mistake by David James to set them on their way. The goalkeeper missed an attempted clearance in the 32nd minute that allowed Didier Drogba to open the scoring and ease Chelsea's nerves. Another goal from Drogba, two from Florent Malouda and a late header from Frank Lampard put Chelsea on the same goal difference as United, one point behind the champions with a trip to Old Trafford to come on Easter Saturday.
Chelsea's commitment has been questioned as they dropped points in recent weeks, and against a determined Portsmouth side they went to the other extreme. Two Pompey players – Ricardo Rocha and Tommy Smith – had to leave the pitch with serious facial injuries, with their team-mates claiming they had been elbowed by their opponents just before halftime. Rocha suffered a suspected fractured cheekbone after he was caught by Malouda, who was booked by referee Lee Mason. The Portuguese defender hit his head on the turf, and had to be taken off on a stretcher, with an oxygen mask strapped to his face before going to hospital.
Smith soon joined Rocha on the receiving end when he left the pitch looking groggy and nursing a broken nose from a challenge by Sturridge, who should have been sent off but went unpunished. There could well be further punishment for the young striker as the off-the-ball incident was not seen by the referee. Chelsea attempted to play down both incidents. Ancelotti said: "I was very close. I saw what the referee saw. It was a challenge with two heads. Malouda did not mean to hurt him. I didn't see the other challenge."
Ancelotti said he would not agree that his team was over their slump until he has seen them beat Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on Saturday: "We have to wait until Saturday, because that's a very important test for us."
Portsmouth, who before kick-off were granted permission to sell players outside the transfer windows, had held their own for the first 30 minutes until James committed one of the howlers that have littered his career. He totally missed the ball with his attempt at clearing a Deco header, and presented Drogba with the simplest goal he will score. In mitigation, the ball took a bad bounce at the crucial moment, which was a sad way for groundsman Bob Jones to bow out after 20 years at the club.
Portsmouth reorganised when Angelos Basinas and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie came on to replace Rocha and Smith respectively, but Chelsea quickly made the most of Portsmouth's difficulties by putting the victory beyond doubt with two goals in 11 minutes. Malouda, who has been probably Chelsea's best player during their wobbles of recent weeks, scored from a tight angle and then added a second after James parried Lampard's shot.
Drogba got a fourth with 13 minutes left, when he latched onto a ball from John Obi Mikel and beat James inside the near post for a trademark goal, his 30th of what is becoming his finest season.
Lampard scored a fifth when Drogba's mis-timed header bounced back off the ground and the England midfielder applied the finishing touch with his forehead.
Portsmouth (4-5-1): James; Mullins, Rocha (Basinas, 45), Hreidarsson, Finnan; Smith( Owusu-Abeyie, h-t), Mokoena (Kanu, 71), Wilson, Hughes, O'Hara; Piquionne. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Brown, Vanden Borre, Webber.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ferreira, Terry, Carvalho (Alex, 36), Zhirkov (Van Aanholt, 71); Mikel, Lampard; Sturridge (J Cole, 55), Deco, Malouda; Drogba. Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), J Kalou, Anelka, Bruma.
Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).
Bookings: Portsmouth: Hughes. Chelsea: Malouda, Mikel.
Man of the match: Drogba.
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