LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 08: Ramires of Chelsea takes on Liam Lawrence of Portmouth during the FA Cup sponsored by Budweiser Third Round match between Chelsea and Portsmouth at Stamford Bridge on January 8, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
It's pretty rare that you see an unconvincing performance coinciding with a 4-0 win, but Chelsea managed it today against Portsmouth at Stamford Bridge. Unfortunately, the game wasn't televised, so the majority of us were forced to rely on the radio, which isn't exactly the recipe for an in-depth match report. We'll give it our best shot anyway.
Anyone expecting Andre Villas-Boas to rest some of his senior players to deploy the likes of Josh McEachran and Ryan Bertrand was in for a surprise, as Chelsea fielded a more or less full-strength team against Pompey. It was a move that looks like it was designed to get the Blues on the board early and often, and it backfired quite spectacularly when the two teams promptly sat around and did virtually nothing for the entire first half. An early chance by Dave Kitson was Portsmouth's only attack of note, and all Chelsea did was force Stephen Henderson into a flying save thanks to a Fernando Torres header.
It was frustrating stuff (all the more so because we couldn't actually see it), so most of us were screaming for substitutions at halftime. We didn't get any, but we did get a goal instead which was pretty neat. Florent Malouda, who'd been worse than anonymous for the bulk of the match, suddenly burst into life and began pinging crosses into Henderson's box. The first was cleared, but minutes later Malouda went low and found the left foot of Juan Mata, who volleyed home for his sixth goal of the season.
Bizarre, Chelsea then opted to play more defensively and were nearly forced to pay when David Luiz got about a billion times too cute as the last man and was robbed of the ball while performing a set of stepovers, forcing Petr Cech into two crucial saves and John Terry into a painful, heroic goalline clearance that saw the captain hurt himself. That's the David Luiz moment we're going to remember from the match, and it really ruined his otherwise flawless day. He's really got to stop pulling that sort of nonsense.
After that scare, things returned to the status quo until Villas-Boas removed Malouda and sent on Oriol Romeu in his place. That freed up Ramires to attack, and suddenly the Blues were running riot, with the Brazilian midfielder notching two goals within minutes (both assists coming from Torres, incidentally). A goal from Frank Lampard in injury time sealed the deal, but the scoreline really does flatter the Blues.
it might seem churlish to complain about a 4-0 win, but it wasn't a particularly good performance from Chelsea until the last few minutes, and we'll be hoping to do better against Sunderland in the league on Saturday. Still, we advanced to the fourth round, which is better than what holders City have managed, so hey, it was a pretty decent day.