After a long break, Chelsea returned back to playing as a large crowd greeted them at Fratton Park in their first friendly in public eye, with the Blues securing a 1-0 win.
This was also the first chance for the Chelsea fans to see the new boss, André Villas-Boas, in action after the first match against Wycombe Wanderers was played behind doors.
On a day when three different Chelsea sides were playing, this group of players were probably the most under-prepared after returning to training just ten days earlier.
Villas-Boas had a large group of players to select from for this one, while Portsmouth had contrasting fortunes after naming only five players on the bench, which included three youngsters who have had almost no first-team experience.
Considering the resources at hand, two different eleven’s were selected for each half, and both had a mixture of experience and youngsters as the management looked to try out where the youngsters stand when it comes to the first-team.
The first-half eleven started with a 4-3-3 formation, something which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone as Villas-Boas has always played with this formation during his short managerial career till date.
The only senior players missing from the squad were Petr Cech, who reportedly had a knock, and Alex, whose absence provided with more questions than answers as there was no official line for his non-involvement, but since then the matter has been cleared after a recent injury was declared by the club.
Fernando Torres, Florent Malouda and Daniel Sturridge formed the front three, with Kalas getting another run-out at centre of defence after starting against Wycombe in midweek. Another youngster who started was Billy Clifford, someone who had a terrific last year, although he did not play at his usual position of right-back, but on the right side of a midfield three.
The first chance of the game fell to Portsmouth after Kitson and Norris had combined well, but it was cleared by Cole, before Varney could do anything about it.
However, Chelsea were soon in the lead thanks to a horrific own-goal from former blue, Tal Ben-Haim. Fernando Torres had crossed in from the right, but it was misjudged by Halford inside his own box, and it went straight to Ben-Haim, who instinctively tried to clear it, but instead put it into his own net and gave Henderson no chance in goal.
The game was played like a proper friendly with no side being able to stamp their authority on the match and didn’t have many clear cut chances. There were still half-chances for the Blues. Firstly, Fernando Torres went close from a Zhirkov corner, and then Sturridge troubled the keeper from a ferocious free-kick from 30yards out.
The second-half started with a whole new eleven, as Villas-Boas made full use of his squad, but stuck with the same formation, which no doubt we will start the season with as well.
Second part of the game followed almost the same pattern as the first, with the new Chelsea line-up, now full of experienced personnel, showing rustiness in their game.
Nathaniel Chalobah was again thrust into first-team action at his tender age of 16, after being first brought into the limelight in a last season friendly; no doubt the club’s expectations from this talented lad are still as high as last year.
The chances were few and far between as one may expect, but Portsmouth did open up the Chelsea defence with Varney straight on goal, but was brought down by Hilario and a penalty was given. The ensuing penalty was then saved by the experienced Portuguese stopper with a low diving save.
The penalty further highlighted the uncertainty in Chelsea’s defence, which often showed some suicidal behaviour, something which isn’t expected of the Blues even if this was only a friendly.
Didier Drogba, McEachran and Anelka all had their shots saved, but to call them anything more than half-chances just wouldn’t be fair.
Portsmouth may not have the largest of squads, but they still do possess some quality in their first eleven, with many of them having past Premiership experience, and rightly gave the Blues a good game.
A draw probably would have a fair result on the day, although the huge number of Chelsea fans that traveled down South probably deserved this result.
These are still early days and to dwell too much on the performance or the result would be just naivety.
André Villas-Boas was largely satisfied with the performance, but admitted there’s still work to be done, he said; ‘There are some positive signs and negative signs but mostly positive,’ said Villas-Boas after the game.
‘It’s one of the most difficult grounds to visit and Portsmouth always put in a good challenge. We were happy to come across just three days after the Wycombe game and overall we’re pretty pleased.
He also indicated about as to who will be travelling during the Asia tour, he continued; ‘Bear in mind we used two teams, one in the first-half and one in the second-half. This is most likely the players who will come to Asia, along with [Slobodan] Rajkovic, Alex and Petr Cech.’
‘So most of the boys were out and it is good for us to have this kind of challenge that Portsmouth always gives us.’
Chelsea first half (4-3-3): Turnbull; Ferreira (c), Kalas, Ivanovic, Cole; B Clifford, Mikel, Zhirkov; Sturridge, Torres, Malouda.
Chelsea second half (4-3-3): Hilario; Van Aanholt (Bertrand 69), Terry (c), Chalobah, Bosingwa; Benayoun, McEachran, Lampard; Anelka, Drogba, Kalou.
Goal: Tal Ben-Haim (own goal 6’)