Ben-Haim Blunder Gifts Old Club Victory
Portsmouth 0 Chelsea 1 Tal Ben-Haim's own goal was enough for Chelsea to defeat Portsmouth at Fratton Park yesterday as Luke Varney had his penalty saved in what was an encouraging performance from the home side. Andres Villas-Boas decided to start with the likes of Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole and Fernando Torres as Pompey made a positive start to the match. However, they were undone in the 7th minute when Torres' cross was missed by Ricardo Rocha and then headed haplessly past Stephen Henderson into the net by Tal Ben-Haim. Torres of old would have doubled Chelsea's lead when he was gifted a free header in the box but instead he continued to fail to justify his £50 million transfer fee by heading the ball wide. If Pompey fans were wondering who might start the season in goal then they would have been given a clue when Henderson spilled John Obi-Mikel's direct free kick and was fortunate to be bailed out by Hermann Hreidarsson's last ditch clearance. That's not to say that Pompey were on the back foot, however. Luke Varney looked particularly threatening even if his first touch let him down occasionally and if the midfield could have passed the ball more accurately then more chances would have been created. Hopefully that will come as the players get sharper as pre-season continues. Villas-Boas changed the entire Chelsea team for the second half with the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba coming on. Ashdown replaced Henderson in Pompey's only half-time change and was given little to do as the defence in front of him were solid throughout the second half. And the hosts really should have equalised when Varney latched onto a nice through ball, ran into the box and rounded Hilario only for the Chelsea 'keeper to bring him down. Referee Keith Stroud gave him a yellow card for that offence but in a competitive match it surely would have been red. Varney looked to make Hilario pay for his error but unfortunately his spot kick was well saved as he dived low to his left hand side to get his hand to the ball. Chelsea's woeful defending presented Varney with a couple more half-opportunities but he couldn't turn the ball into the net under pressure from the opposition defenders who had to rush to clear the ball off the line in another instance late in the game. Dave Kitson also had a couple of chances but generally didn't do much during the game and simply highlighted the need for another striker if Pompey are to finish in a comfortable league position this season. The final whistle soon blew on what was a fairly entertaining friendly in which Pompey didn't deserve to lose on balance of play. Granted, Chelsea were nowhere near their best but for a Championship side to be competitive against one of the best sides in the world can only bode well for the future. There were plenty of positives to take from the game. The defence were generally solid no matter who played there. Jason Pearce and Sam Magri came on in the second half and coped well whilst Hermann, based on this showing, still has it in him for another year. Hayden Mullins was his usual reliable self but David Norris needs some time to sharpen up. I'm still unsure where Joel Ward is going to play this season as he seemed to be all over the place yesterday. Perhaps Steve Cotterill doesn't know where he will fit in either? Varney looked bright but I was also very impressed by Ryan Williams. The young Australian didn't look out of place in a team full of senior players (and Aaron Mokoena) and seems to have some quality about him. Hopefully we'll see more of him when Pompey jet off the USA for their pre-season tour. Pompey's next friendly is against Charleston Battery at 12:45am on Thursday, July 28th. (7:45pm on Wednesday, July 27th local time).
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