Chelsea made to wait for Double glory
Preferisco la Coppa - "I prefer the Cup" - is the title of Carlo Ancelotti's autobiography and he was yet again able to look fondly upon a final as Chelsea won their first Double.
It was a tale of ifs, buts and maybes for Avram Grant's beleaguered club. They were completely outplayed in the first half but then spurned the chance to go in front from the penalty spot. And if the game was judged on supporters, it would have been a one-sided affair in Portsmouth's favour. But this was to be a day for the princes, not the paupers.
Such was the apathy among Chelsea fans that when they finally found their voices, 17 minutes into the game, it drew ironic cheers from the opposite end of the stadium. This should have been a Chelsea party to Pompey's wake. Instead it was the Portsmouth fans who brought the colour to the occasion, shaming those who had made the short journey around the A406. Outside the stadium pre-match, Pompey fans were dancing around singing "We are Championship". Relegation clearly has no stigma.
Even at the final whistle, with the Cup lost, Portsmouth still outshone their rivals. Their blue flags waved continually while Chelsea fans, with success accepted as a natural state of being, struggled to raise a song.
It was encapsulated during the presentation. Portsmouth fans gave David James, and especially Grant, a rapturous reception. But as John Terry prepared to lift the FA Cup, he had to encourage the Chelsea fans to make an effort. It was if they couldn't manage it on their own.
Yet For Carlo Ancelotti, the spectre of Jose Mourinho, an arch enemy in Milan and now a ghost in the corridors at Chelsea, still looms large and for all Chelsea's brilliance this season, Ancelotti can never be the man who brought the first Premier League title to Stamford Bridge. And for that reason he will have to take the next step, and win the Champions League, to truly emerge from Mourinho's "Special" shadow.
Chelsea, let us remember, have now won three of the four FA Cup finals played at the new Wembley. Success in this competition is not a novelty; it may almost be an expectation.
Yet Ancelotti has already changed the perception of Chelsea as a functional side. Now they can entertain too. A record 103 Premier League goals, and 140 goals in all competitions is testament to a change in philosophy. By comparison, Chelsea scored 72 Premier League goals in both their title seasons under Mourinho.
However, talk of Chelsea eclipsing Bury's 6-0 win over Derby County in the 1903 final at Crystal Palace turned out to be wide of the mark. In truth, they should have matched Bury's haul before half-time had arrived.
Frank Lampard was first to strike the post from long distance before Nicolas Anelka cut inside Steve Finnan and forced a smart save out of James. Drogba, a livewire throughout, then brought a double save from the England goalkeeper. For all Chelsea's dominance, Portsmouth may have held a lead at the break. Aruna Dindane had come to life on the right and picked out an unmarked Kevin-Prince Boateng in the area. His volley was going wide until Frederic Piquionne attempted to divert the ball home from just four yards out before Petr Cech produced one of the saves of the season to claw it over the bar.
Then came possibly one of the worst Wembley misses of all time. Ashley Cole, with a new lease of life as an attacking full back, got to the byline and cut back to an unmarked Salomon Kalou, standing just five yards out with an open goal in front of him. Somehow the Ivorian's effort managed to hit the bar and end up in the grateful arms of David James. The Chelsea fans in front of the press area were aghast.
Then it was John Terry's turn to hit the same part of the woodwork, his looping header from a Lampard free-kick leaving James helpless before the bar came to Pompey's aid.
Chelsea soon hit the woodwork for a fourth time as Drogba produced another of his thunderous free kicks. James got fingertips to push it onto the bar before it bounced on the line and back out again to visible relief and amazement from Pompey's 'keeper and his defenders.
By the 41st minute Chelsea must have been wondering what they might have to do to score as Drogba chested down a cross from Anelka and tried to guide the ball past James, only for the left-hand post to this time deny the holders.
Chelsea came out sluggishly after the restart and it was Portsmouth's turn to threaten, which led to the very apex of the game's eventual destiny. Full-back Finnan rolled back the years with a buccaneering run down the right to feed Dindane, who seemed to have left Belletti for dead only for the Brazilian to clearly hack the striker down in the box.
Up stepped Boateng to take the penalty but Cech saved with ease with his legs as the Ghanaian shot so tamely down the centre of goal. It was Portsmouth's chance to take a foothold in the game, to ask questions of Chelsea, and they did not take it.
Three minutes later and Chelsea were in front as Drogba curled home a free kick from 20 yards with wonderful precision. James threw himself full length to his left but the ball went in off the post - this time friend not foe. Boateng was inconsolable, the effect of the missed penalty and the Chelsea goal knocking the fight from him. He was substituted 15 minutes from time.
Chelsea dominated most of the remainder of the game, with Kalou and Drogba having opportunities to double the advantage, while Joe Cole looked rather too eager to impress Fabio Capello and win a place in the World Cup squad.
Portsmouth's best chance of parity came eight minutes from time when Nadir Belhadj's first-time pass across the face of goal was missed by Alex, and Didane failed to connect after the ball had deflected off Terry's shin.
Then Lampard, usually so reliable from the penalty spot, dragged a spot-kick wide of the post after he himself had been tripped by Michael Brown. But for all Portsmouth's heart and endeavour, Chelsea had been the better side and deserved to win by a bigger scoreline. For Pompey, for whom their cup run had ailed the ills of a trainwreck of 2009-10 season, the fairytale is finally over.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Didier Drogba The Ivory Coast striker scored the winner, hit the woodwork twice and was a constant menace. But if - a big if - Portsmouth had held out, then Aaron Mokoena, who did just about everything to block Chelsea's attacks, would have won the award.
CHELSEA VERDICT: Wave after wave of attack poured towards the Portsmouth goal throughout the match, proving their transformation from an obdurate machine to an attack-minded, entertaining outfit.
PORTSMOUTH VERDICT: Hopefully these passionate fans will not walk away from the club in what looks likely to be several years in the darkness with the administrator hoping to agree a five-year debt repayment plan. Most of these players will never play for the club again, but the fans will still be there.
WEMBLEY PITCH UPDATE: When Dindane slipped over after just a minute of this match there was a fear that the pitch-related problems of last month were back. Yet the surface seemed to play much better, while still looking patchwork in places. Prior to the game, a concerned Jamie O'Hara was doing his best impression of Geoffrey Boycott pre-match in trying to work out how hard the surface was.