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Sun 3 Feb 2008 07:50 AM

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Lampard return set to lift Blues

Chelsea slip to six points behind leaders Arsenal after a 1-1 draw at Portsmouth.

Chelsea manager Avram Grant is refusing to rule his side out of the Premier League title race despite witnessing them slip to six points behind leaders Arsenal after a 1-1 draw at Portsmouth.

Jermain Defoe scored a debut goal for his fourth successive club to cancel out Nicolas Anelka's first Premier League goal for Chelsea and deny Grant's quadruple-chasing team a club record tenth win in a row.

Chelsea now know they can ill-afford anything less than a win when Liverpool visit Stamford Bridge next Sunday but Grant, who expects to welcome Frank Lampard back from injury for that match, was defiant about his side's title prospects.

"When we aren't winning we are not so happy, especially after leading one nil and conceding a goal, which looked offside," he said. "It was disappointing."

"But of course the title is not lost. There is still a long way to go until the end of the season. There are a lot of points to be won and anything can happen."

"Last season we were nine points behind Manchester United and people said we had a chance and now it is only six so we still have a chance.

"We are in four trophies and had won nine games in a row before today. We have been playing attractive football and hopefully that will continue."

Germany midfielder Michael Ballack had already had a header cleared off the line when Anelka opened the scoring ten minutes into the second half.

Portsmouth felt they should have had a penalty when Claude Makelele appeared to handle Milan Baros's cross.

Referee Howard Webb angered home supporters and players alike by waving away their appeals and Florent Malouda launched a swift counter attack.

Malouda's left wing cross was headed across goal by Joe Cole for Anelka to finish neatly from six yards.

Portsmouth put their feelings of injustice behind them when Defoe took advantage of some unusually poor Chelsea defending to mark his seven-million-pound transfer deadline day arrival from Tottenham with a goal.

Goalkeeper David James played a hopeful long ball up field and Baros attracted Alex and Tal Ben Haim to the ball before heading for Defoe to find the bottom right corner of Petr Cech's goal from 12 yards.Chelsea could even have fallen to only the third defeat of Grant's Stamford Bridge reign had Defoe not chipped wide of the goal when one-on-one with Cech 11 minutes from the end.

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp agrees with Grant that the 2006 champions are still in contention to reclaim their crown, once Lampard and John Terry return from injury and Michael Essien, Didier Drogba and Saloman Kalou from the African Nations Cup.

Redknapp, celebrating a first point against Chelsea in ten Premier League games, said: "Chelsea have got five world class players out and still won nine on the spin."

"When all those players come back they can go on a run again. The Championship is nowhere near over."

"It was a great game and both teams were going for it. It could have gone either way."

"Jermain took his goal well and it was good for him. He had another couple of opportunities and given a few more games he may have tucked them away."

In a further boost for Chelsea, Grant revealed England midfielder Lampard should be back in contention for the Liverpool match and forthcoming Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup games after six weeks out with a knee problem.

Grant said: "Frank is better and might play against Liverpool."

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