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Page last updated at 21:40 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Portsmouth 0-1 Chelsea

By Phil Dawkes

Didier Drogba
Drogba scored his fifth goal of the season to earn Chelsea the win

Didier Drogba struck late on to earn title-chasing Chelsea a vital win against Portsmouth in horrendous weather conditions.

The striker hit a crisp shot into the bottom corner from a Jose Bosingwa cross with 12 minutes remaining.

Drogba had earlier narrowly failed to connect with an Ashley Cole driven cross as Chelsea dominated possession.

Relegation-threatened Pompey were kept at bay by Blues keeper Petr Cech, who saved from Sean Davis and David Nugent.

Both clubs had shown their ruthless side in sacking their respective managers within 24 hours of each other back in early February.

However, neither could replicate such a merciless approach on the pitch for much of this match at a cold, rain-lashed Fratton Park.

With the more expensive, explosive arsenal at their disposal Chelsea looked the more dangerous from the start but this served only to further highlight their wastefulness.

Hiddink delighted with 'hard-working' win

Drogba, enjoying top-billing again up front for the visitors in the absence of top-scorer Nicolas Anelka, first narrowly failed to connect with a driven ball across the face of goal from Cole and then had a shot well saved by David James.

James, making his 100th appearance in Pompey colours, flirted between triumph and disaster throughout the half.

Such adverse conditions are tailor-made to embarrass goalkeepers, especially occasionally error-prone ones of James's ilk.

The England keeper spilled a Florent Malouda cross and then similarly failed to hold on to a Frank Lampard shot, but on both occasions a Pompey defender was on hand to hammer clear unchallenged.

Such instances were in stark contrast to James' later contributions when he was on hand to tip over a Michael Ballack header and then palm away a daisy-cutting free-kick from Alex.


At the other end, to the detriment of his body temperature Cech was largely inactive.

One of the hallmarks of class though is the ability to employ talent when required and Cech did so to save one-handed from a 30-yard Davis thunderbolt midway through the half.

Cech was again called upon to rescue Chelsea in the first meaningful action of the second half as a rare John Terry mistake allowed Nugent to run clear and force the Czech keeper into an excellent two-handed save.

In search of inspiration Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink introduced Quaresma and it almost paid instant dividends as his tantalising right-wing cross found Drogba, but his header was misdirected owing to the presence of Pompey defender Herman Hreidarsson.

Chelsea's increasing desperation resulted in a dangerously cavalier approach and Portsmouth almost took advantage when Crouch ran clear and crossed for the onrushing Nico Kranjcar but he tamely poked wide.

Pompey boss confident of survival

So often this season Drogba has had to be content with a substitute role, a position he has been visibly frustrated by.

However, in this, his 200th appearance for the club, he thrust himself back into the limelight with the game's decisive act.

Quaresma's cross eluded the swinging right-foot of Ballack and ricocheted off Sol Campbell before falling at the feet of the Ivorian striker, who placed a crisp, composed, side-foot shot into the bottom left corner.

The visitors endured a nervy final 10 minutes but held on to preserve Hiddink's 100% record as temporary boss and consign Portsmouth manager Paul Hart to the first defeat of his tenure.

Portsmouth caretaker manager Paul Hart:

"It is definitely a disappointing result but I thought it was a tremendous performance.

"We had a strategy and the boys kept to it. We created chances on the back of that but against the top teams you have to stick them away.

"I think we could have won but two saves by Cech were outstanding. I thought we deserved at least a point.

"There are a lot of disappointed players in the dressing room but they know they put in a performance that merited a little bit more.

"It is how we respond to that now. We have a difficult period of the season to come. We can take heart from the way we played."

Portsmouth: James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson, Pennant (Utaka 70), Mullins, Davis, Kranjcar, Crouch, Nugent.
Subs Not Used: Begovic, Kanu, Kaboul, Pamarot, Basinas, Belhadj.

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, Ashley Cole, Mikel (Belletti 56), Ballack (Mancienne 90), Lampard, Kalou (Quaresma 60), Drogba, Malouda.
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Ivanovic, Di Santo, Ferreira.

Goals: Drogba 79.

Att: 20,326

Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Chelsea's Petr Cech 7.48 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Liverpool & Chelsea in title vow
04 Mar 09 |  Premier League
Hart to stay at Pompey for season
03 Mar 09 |  Portsmouth
Tuesday's football photos
03 Mar 09 |  Football
Premier League as it happened
03 Mar 09 |  Premier League

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