Defoe delight as Portsmouth hold Chelsea

By MALCOLM FOLLEY

Last updated at 21:14 02 February 2008


Jermain Defoe created an instant impression on an afternoon when Harry Redknapp gave the discarded England striker what he most craved — a game of football.

At £9 million, Defoe has been

brought from the shadowlands of Tottenham's

squad to provide a cutting

edge at Portsmouth. And during an

exciting, unpredictable second half at

Fratton Park, he claimed a 64thminute

equaliser against a Chelsea

team heavily involved on four fronts,

domestically and in Europe.

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He also went excruciatingly close

on three other occasions late in the

game as Redknapp proved himself

once more adroit at making the

market work for him. On this performance,

Defoe will not be languishing

on the bench in his new environment.

His future as an integral cog in the

team is assured. Unlike that of Benjani

Mwaruwari.

Until Thursday, he had been luxuriating

in the position of Portsmouth's

leading scorer with 12 Premier

League goals. Without warning, he

suddenly found himself demoted

from first-choice striker to a pawn in

Redknapp's world of wheeler-dealing.

He was invited to take himself to

Manchester City's Eastlands to

finalise a £7.6m transfer to offset the

cost of Defoe.

But yesterday, due to an array of

circumstances — involving missed

flights, stories of a failed medical and

conflicting reports that the paperwork

had failed to be registered in

time to beat Thursday's midnight

transfer deadline — Benjani was living

in a footballer's no-man's land.

The promise is that all will be

revealed next week but for the

moment Benjani is unwanted by

Portsmouth and without a contract at

Manchester City. Redknapp used the

arrival of Defoe to deploy Niko Kranjcar

in a role behind his strikers. It is

the Croat's preferred position and he

rivalled Lassana Diarra, playing

against his former club, as the most

influential player in the first half.

Diarra, small in stature but huge in

authority, was sold by Chelsea to

Arsenal, then brought to Portsmouth

for £5.5m two weeks ago. Yesterday, he

patrolled midfield with huge purpose.

Kranjcar, meanwhile, fulfilled his

defensive responsibilities as well as

acting as a probing force in support

of Defoe and Milan Baros. In the 35th

minute, stationed on the back post,

the Croat headed Michael Ballack's

header off the goalline after Alex had

flicked Juliano Belletti's corner into

the German's path. A couple of

minutes later, Portsmouth appealed

for a penalty after Baros struck the

ball against Belletti's arm as he cleverly

turned into the Chelsea area.

From Kranjcar's corner, Noe

Pamarot delivered a thunderous

header against a Chelsea post. Just

before half-time, Portsmouth goalkeeper

David James needed to be

alert to deny Nicolas Anelka, advancing

from his goal to make a critical

block. But Anelka was not to be

denied in the 55th minute.

He benefited from a classic counterattack

as Chelsea sprung out of their

own area into Portsmouth's with

three passes. First, Claude Makelele

won the ball and moved it upfield to

Shaun Wright-Phillips. The England

winger swiftly put Florent Malouda

in possession over the halfway line

and he gained ground before finding

Joe Cole in Portsmouth's penalty area

with a 40-yard crossfield pass.

Cole took the pace out of the ball

with a delightful volleyed pass to

Anelka. And the Frenchman, twisting

to deal with a ball, beat James with a

skilful first-time volley.

But Portsmouth deserved to draw

level in a manner that Redknapp

envisaged when he captured Defoe's

signature. The goal came down route

one but was no less aesthetic for that.

When Baros won an aerial duel to

reach a downfield punt from James,

Defoe anticipated the path of the ball

and although alone against Petr Cech,

arguably the best goalkeeper in the

Premier League, he won the instant

approval of Portsmouth fans with a

cool finish in the bottom corner.

Later James had to make a superb

close-range save from Belletti and

Defoe had a fabulous chance but

Cech's presence encouraged the

striker to place a snap-shot wide.

Rightly, the game ended all square

but the day belonged to Defoe.

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