Everton 0 - 3 Chelsea
A trip out to the match is always welcome and after that dreadful day at West Ham Utd when all of them should have been locked up for impersonating footballers. We received team news at five-past-one that has us fretting for our credibility against such a Chelsea line-up and bench. Koeman had told us in his presser that the youngsters were not ready and here he was having to use three of them in our starting line-up and three more on the bench. Mind you, he also said we had no injury worries yet Schneiderlin was out injured, so it’s always difficult to believe a word you here regarding fan information even from the horse’s mouth.
The walk up was dominated by the opposing fans singing and chanting as they spilled out of hostelries but there seemed no malice in them. Evertonians were quietly contemplating the encounter and I do wonder if the thought that we have qualified for the knockout round of the Europa league sort of made it okay if the strong looking Chelsea team were indeed to prevail. Heaven forbid but if 7th was as high as many thought possible then the mood could be explained in the words ‘We have reached our goal’
Down Goodison Road which seemed the busiest of the season and into the ground in time for Z-Cars and the handshake. Our ref today was Jon Moss and he got the ball rolling as we attacked the Park End. We pressed early and Calvert-Lewin was thwarted in the box from our first meaningful attack but after a few minutes on our second attack the same player got into the box and had a shot that beat the keeper after a superb through ball from Barkley but not the post and the rebounding ball just evading Lukaku’s rather lame attempt to connect.
Although that was early doors it was our only real chance in a half that we competed well with Davies and Gana outstanding in keeping Hazzard quiet, Gana’s job, along with Davies breaking up play and in no way phased by the antics of Costa in the main as well as a few other prima donnas. Without creating a lot ourselves we did nullify most of Chelsea’s work but it was becoming clear that this mode would need to kept up all match just to get a draw as Chelsea demonstrated the art of good interpassing at pace in quick counters and fast one-twos in and around the box. Our back line was just about coping but clearances were hurried and merely gave the ball back to our visitors. When we did manage to put a few passes together, it usually ended without a final ball.
The half was progressing and I have to say more in Chelsea’s favour as we were stretched each time they produced a fast transition and when we did clear on too many occasions Barkley just lacked the craft, guile and precision to open a pathway and instead played a wayward pass that either put one of our players in trouble or returned the ball to Chelsea. It is so frustrating seeing Barkley play like this as going through my head is "He has so much more to offer"... yet I am still left waiting to see it. Quite perplexing.
Half-time: 0-0 and the chat is positive as were are still level and still in it. Us seeing it through and gaining a point was the view of most.
Second half started and it was clear that Chelsea had tweaked their formation and were more open and this was to have a bearing on the second half as with them interchanging positions at pace had us opening up as well when really we didn’t want to do that.
Chances came but mostly for them and a pattern was emerging. We were holding them out but their attacks were looking more dangerous than ours. We had a couple of marauding runs for Davies one of which he beat two men to the by-line but alas the ball left his control and went for a goal kick then a powerful run through their defence into the box before just toeing it to far forward and the chance was gone.
Jags aimed a back pass toward Stek but it lacked power and Stek had to charge out to smother at the feet of the in-rushing Costa. The two came together but the ref deemed Costa had fouled and booked him. A bit harsh but maybe the ref was just fed up with Costa’s play acting as every time he was tackled fairly or not he always ended up in a heap on the deck and not once did he require attention.
The half wore on and began to get quite feisty with fouls, bookings and staring with intent. Annoyingly our supposed red-hot duo of Lukaku and Barkley who both want action in the Champions League, played in a way that suggested the Eurovision Song Contest might be their best way in. Having witnessed the last five fixtures, including today, their performances have suggested they may find it a struggle to find clubs willing to pay the transfer fee and their requested wages. That is sad because those two fully focused and firing could do no end of damage to all our rivals and thrill us in the process.
The hour mark was reached and Chelsea were in our box and after a couple of attempts to progress they turned the ball out of the box and fed Pedro who went a few paces to his left and, just as Jags was sliding in, Pedro unleased a 25-yard rocket that completely beat Stekelenburg and they were one-up. Hard to blame anyone for that goal, just hold hands up and accept a superb strike, the Chelsea fans were in full voice now taunting Tottenham that they are coming to get them. Everton fans began the exodus on that goal.
Everton tried to rally with Davies leading the charge but Chelsea were now buoyed and Everton that tad slower. They say goals change games that one did as on 80mins Gana fouled Hazzard who took a low fast cross which rebounded off someone to power toward the startled Stekelenburg who reacted by instinct and got hands to ball but only succeeded in pushing it onto Cahill and the ball rebounded into the net. Drat I thought. Then with 4 to go Fabregas, on as a sub just seemed to stroll forward and such was our disarray he was able to look up and see Willian in acres so he weighted his cross and Willian joyously rammed it into the net. Cue more wild celebrations from our visiting fans and now a mass exodus from the old lady. The final whistle was welcome to those of us left in the ground.
MotM – Tom Davies
We haven’t had the best of run-ins and only Swansea, Watford and Arsenal for the players to show some fight but mainly classy joined-up footy. Let’s practice on the first two and then have a good go at the Emirates...
The manager, having fielded today’s team, is in a very good position to say to the owners and directors of football "Well, there you are v that’s what we have got to play top teams and get the Champions League that you say you would like via a league placing – we need big investment and some astute buying." I hope he gets it.
Swansea next. Always a nice trip out and will be even nicer if the players swap flip-flops for footy boots.
UP THE BLUES
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