Chelsea moved back to within one point of the top after an emphatic 5-0 drubbing of bottom club Portsmouth, midfielder Florent Malouda and striker Didier Drogba each scoring twice.
AFP - France midfielder Florent Malouda escaped what seemed a certain red card to score twice as Chelsea got their Premier League title bid back on track with a resounding 5-0 win at bottom club Portsmouth here on Wednesday.
Carlo Ancelotti's side were leading through the first of Didier Drogba's two goals at Fratton Park when Malouda was let off with a caution after elbowing Portsmouth defender Ricardo Rocha, leaving the Portuguese international with a suspected fractured cheekbone.
Malouda took full advantage of his reprieve by netting two goals in the space of ten second half minutes as Chelsea reduced Manchester United's lead at the top of the table to a single point.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had demanded a response from his team after last week's Champions League exit at the hands of Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan and subsequent 1-1 draw at Blackburn.
Despite making a lethargic start Chelsea, boosted by goalkeeper Peter Cech's return, never looked in any danger of succumbing to a side 11 points adrift at the bottom of the table.
Frank Lampard thought he had opened the scoring as early as the tenth minute only to be denied by a superb flying save from England team-mate David James.
The goalkeeper needed all of his 6ft 6in frame to fling himself to his right to turn Lampard's fiercely struck 25-yard shot behind for a corner.
But veteran James was not so impressive as he gifted Chelsea just after the half-hour mark.
There seemed little danger when James came out to meet Deco's flick on but the ball bobbled under his foot as he attempted to clear, allowing Drogba to race through and tap the ball into an unguarded net for the easiest of his 24 Premier League goals this season.
Chelsea, who lost defender Ricardo Carvalho to an ankle injury shortly after Drogba's opener, were fortunate to avoid being reduced to ten men in the 40th minute.
Referee Lee Mason's decision to let off Malouda with only a yellow card as Rocha was leaving the field on a stretcher was met with fury by the home fans and Pompey manager Avram Grant.
The Israeli's rage intensified five minutes into the second half when Malouda doubled Chelsea's lead to all but secure victory.
Malouda raced beyond Portsmouth's makeshift right back Hayden Mullins before planting an unstoppable shot across James and into the top left corner from an acute angle.
Six of Chelsea's starting line-up were in the Chelsea side Grant led to the brink of lifting the European Cup in 2008 but the Londoners were in no mood to go easy on their old boss as they looked to claw back United's superior goal difference.
James produced another brilliant save to deny substitute Joe Cole only his second Premier League goal of the season.
Cole looked certain to score when he found himself one-on-one with James on the edge of the six-yard box but the 39-year-old made himself big to palm his right-foot pile-driver wide of the left hand post.
James though was powerless to prevent Malouda extending Chelsea's lead on the hour mark.
Lampard's ferocious long range shot was beaten away by James only for Malouda to slam the rebound into the roof of his net.
Drogba claimed his 30th goal in all competitions this season in the 77th minute, latching onto John Obi Mikel's pass before outpacing Steve Finnan and drilling past James at his near post.
The Ivory Coast striker then turned provider as Lampard tapped in Chelsea's fifth in stoppage time after Drogba had flicked on Cole's cross.
Date created : 2010-03-25