Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Never mind Jose Mourinho’s young horses, it was the old guard that won Chelsea
three points and kept them at the top of the Premier League table. With
three minutes of stoppage time already elapsed, Frank Lampard swung in a
freekick which John Terry chased and, ahead of an obdurate Everton
backline, stabbed the ball home past Tim Howard for the game’s only goal.
It was a lesson in staying the course. For 90 minutes it had looked as if
Roberto Martinez’s shrewd tactics had negated all Chelsea’s usual strengths.
Everton had matched everything the home side could deliver. Eden Hazard was
marked into obscurity, Willian was ineffective, Oscar and Eto’o substituted.
But the old boys kept on pressing, kept on believing. And eventually got
The match had begun with disappointment. The Stamford Bridge crowd were
prevented from the sight of the tallest player in Premier League history
stepping out on the Stamford Bridge pitch as Everton’s 6’8” Lacina Traore
was injured in the warm-up. There was no truth in the rumour he putting his
back out trying to lean down to hear what Leon Osman was saying.
The first half was a stalemate. Not one without interest, even if it were one
largely without incident. Gareth Barry and James McCarthy were tasked with
keeping the vaunted trio of Oscar, Willian and Hazard quiet. And it largely
worked, Barry twice slamming into Hazard to wrest possession within the
space of five minutes.
For Everton, everything creative came down their left hand side. Leighton
Baines and Steven Pienaar exchanging quick, incisive passing before the
England man produced a swirling cross which Terry headed away as Seamus
Coleman arrived unnoticed. Osman too made Petr Cech stretch with a searing
shot from the edge of the area. He had another on the 57th minute which Cech
was obliged to dive low to turn round the post.
At half time Jose Mourinho brought on Ramires for Oscar, perhaps to counter
Everton’s muscular midfield presence. Chelsea began second half with more
insistent pressure. A couple of corner in quick succession were scrambled
away before Cahill was brought down on the edge of the area by Barry. As the
crowd chanted Lampard’s name, Willian stepped in and put the ball well over
Howard kept his side in the game with an astonishing double save from Hazard
and Ivanovic just before Mourinho brought Torres on for Willian. The
Spaniard’s principal contribution was playing the fall guy being haplessly
dummied by Baines’s delicious dragback. Certainly he would rather forget a
couple of shots which both went so far wide they were practically in Earl’s
Throughout the last ten minutes, Chelsea pounded away for a winner. Schurrle,
on as substitute for Eto’o put the ball over the bar, a Lampard freekick
came to nothing, Ramires drilled a promising shot just wide. But Everton’s
backline, bravely led by Phil Jagielka held out. Until, that is, the old
boys took control.
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