LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 16: Ross Turnbull of Chelsea looks skyward as he prays during the penalty shoot-out after the Barclays Premier Reserve League Play-Off Final between Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers at Stamford Bridge on May 16, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Let's get an important note out of the way. This is a preseason match, the players are rusty, and we shouldn't read anything into the performances of the team as a whole or the individuals. The important thing for today was to give as many people a run-out as possible without seeing anyone injured. Playing well would simply have been the icing on the cake.
That said, the cake that was Chelsea's friendly at Fratton Park was so icing-less that other cakes nearby were deprived of icing. The Blues played like they were in search of icing anti-matter, and Portsmouth couldn't do very much to make things interesting. Yes, Chelsea ended up winning 1-0, but they scored on a laughable Tal Ben Haim own goal and had a grand total of one other clear-cut chance in the match. Pompey were kept off the scoresheet despite a slew of defensive and goalkeeping errors as well as a second-half penalty, and a draw was probably the right result. But who cares? It's not like it counts for anything.
Portsmouth started the first half in possession and Chelsea struggled to get out of their own half in the opening stages. Billy Clifford and Yuri Zhirkov were unconvincing as a central midfield pair, the former looking more than a little rusty (unsurprisingly, giving his long layoff) and the latter giving in to his tendancy to drift over to the left wing. The first chance of the match fell to the hosts after Clifford gave the ball away in a silly position, but the resultant shot went straight at Turnbull and behind for a corner.
The only goal of the match came soon afterwards, and it was nothing short of farcical. Fernando Torres found himself on the right wing near the corner flag, and worked himself enough space to whip in a delivery towards the awaiting pair of centre halves and nobody else. So what happened? Well, first Greg Halford completely missed his kick, and then former Chelsea man Tal Ben Haim smashed a header past a bemused Stephen Henderson. Celebrations were understandably muted, as the goal was a thorough embarrassment to anyone who's ever touched a football.
Other than that, the first half was fairly quiet - there were a few amusing Turnbull mistakes, a few similarly amsuing Ivanovic errors and a chance for Fernando Torres on a corner that he headed weakly wide*. Chelsea did a fairly good job of holding possession, and the Cole-Zhirkov-Malouda trifecta were pretty effective on the left wing, but there was nothing in the way of impressive play on display.
*He should have scored, but I think he was surprised to get on the ball at all. Good run, very poor finish.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Henrique Hilario*; Patrick van Aanholt (Ryan Bertrand 72'), John Terry, Nathaniel Chalobah, Jose Bosingwa; Josh McEachran, Frank Lampard, Yossi Benayoun; Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou.
*Apparently Petr Cech is nursing a slight knock, which is why we were treated to Chelsea's Comedy Keeping Duo today. Please don't get injured during the actual season, Petr.
It was a bizarre second half for the Blues. With Benayoun playing well in possession and McEachran doing ok as well, the midfield was in total control of the game. Up front, Drogba looked angry and Kalou was in excellent form. Chalobah, Terry, and van Aanholt - later Bertrand - were all more than adequate. Yet Chelsea could get virtually no penetration and had a number of scares.
The first, and most dangerous, came when Hilario opted to bring down former Blackpool man Luke Varney as the ball was running away for a penalty. It looked like Portsmouth would have their equaliser, especially when Varney sent the spot kick hard towards the keeper's left-hand post. But Hilario was having none of that, pushing the ball onto the upright with an excellent diving save and keeping Chelsea's pre-season clean sheet streak intact.
There were also a series of bizarre incidents in which the defence attempted back headers towards the Portguese stopper only for Hilario to miss them entirely and forcing crazy scrambles in the box. In the first instance, Chalobah had to chase down his own (completely fine) header and clear under major pressure, and the second ended up with Terry clattering his centreback partner before kicking a standing Varney in the face. The result? A Chelsea free kick, naturally.
Two major concerns appeared in the second half - Bosingwa contrived to turn his right back position into something that apparently has no defensive responsibility whatsoever (what else is new?) and Frank Lampard was totally missing all game. It's one thing to make mistakes, but another entirely to not play at all, and Lampard did option number two. Benayoun had a good game, at least, pulling off a series of early tricks and putting in a good shift in all areas of the field.
Anyway, a pretty miserable performance from both sides today. It's preseason, though, so we shouldn't really have expected very much. And, as terrible as it was, it's still good to have football back. That's two wins from two games, with a 4-0 aggregate scoreline. Not a bad start - let's just get the play up to a good level before the season proper begins.