CHELSEA (4) vs PORTSMOUTH (0)
Indifferent league form won’t stop Blues targetting FA Cup success, says Di Matteo
CHELSEA assistant manager Roberto Di Matteo insists the FA Cup remains a top priority at Stamford Bridge after a near full-strength side overcame Portsmouth yesterday following a four-goal second half demolition.
Portsmouth, 2008 FA Cup winners but currently languishing in the lower reaches of the Championship, proved obdurate opponents until Juan Mata broke the deadlock in this third round tie two minutes after the re-start.
Still, it took Chelsea until the closing stages to make their superiority count with the increasingly influential Ramires collecting a late brace and Frank Lampard pouncing in injury-time.
With indifferent league form threatening their participation in next season’s Champions League, manager Andre Villas-Boas might have considered rotating his squad against moderate opposition, but Di Matteo claimed yesterday’s team selection underlined the club’s determination to progress in the competition.
“I don’t think we ever said we weren’t going to play a strong team so it shouldn’t really have been a surprise. This is a competition that we would like to win and after the result we have gone a step further towards that target,” said the Italian, who scored in two FA Cup final victories during his playing career in west London.
“I thought today was a very good performance – Portsmouth made it hard in the first half and it’s always very difficult to break down an opponent when the defence is so deep.”
Despite Di Matteo’s positive assessment, a convincing win hardly looked within Chelsea’s compass following a flat first half display. A Fernando Torres header, expertly repelled by Stephen Henderson, aside, Chelsea carried little threat.
Indeed, it was Portsmouth who missed the clearest opportunity in the opening period and Dave Kitson was made to pay for his profligacy two minutes after the re-start when Mata turned in Florent Malouda’s low centre from inside the six yard box.
John Terry was forced into a heroic goalline clearance after an error by David Luiz, and with Portsmouth pouring forward in search of an equaliser Chelsea took advantage.
Ramires poached his first in the 85th minute following Mata’s cross and two minutes later he scampered onto Torres’s pass and underlined his confidence in front of goal with a delicate finish with the outside of his right foot. That scoreline was harsh on Pompey but there was still time for Lampard (inset) to give it an even more flattering slant with a precise low shot on the turn.
Evra faces Anfield return after FA Cup draw pairs Liverpool with rivals United
THE DRAW for the fourth round of the FA Cup has thrown up several intriguing all-Premier League ties with Manchester United’s visit to Anfield the undoubted highlight.
The fierce rivalry between the two clubs has been exacerbated in recent months after a complaint of racial abuse from United’s Patrice Evra led to Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, who will not be available for the tie, being handed an eight-game ban by the Football Association.
The two clubs last met in the FA Cup at Anfield back in 2006 with Peter Crouch’s header proving decisive, but the game was marred by fans who attacked an ambulance carrying United’s Alan Smith to hospital after he sustained a broken leg
Elsewhere, England and Chelsea skipper John Terry could return to Loftus Road to face Queens Park Rangers – if they overcome MK Dons in a replay – just days before he is due to appear in court over allegations that he racially abused R’s defender Anton Ferdinand during their match in October.
Spurs face Watford in a London derby, while Arsenal will meet Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium if they beat Leeds tonight and Fulham have been drawn away at Everton.
FA CUP FOURTH ROUND DRAW
Brighton or Wrexham v Newcastle Sunderland v Middlesbrough
Dagenham or Millwall v Southampton
Hull v Crawley
MK Dons or QPR v Chelsea
West Brom v Norwich
Blackpool v Sheffield Wednesday
Arsenal or Leeds v Aston Villa
Stevenage v Notts County
Watford v Tottenham
Liverpool v Manchester Utd
Derby v Stoke
Everton v Fulham
Macclesfield or Bolton v Swansea
Sheffield Utd v Birmingham or Wolves
Notts Forest or Leicester v Swindon
* Ties to be played on weekend of January 28/29.