Chelsea have already battered us at Stamford Bridge this season.
And yes they did batter us. 4-1 — and we were lucky to get the one
— a football lesson from that little maestro that is Zola.
Once again, though, Moyes showed his tactical acumen by rejigging the
team just days later to cause Ranieri's men no end of difficulties at
Goodison. Whilst the final score-line of 3-1 suggests a similar game
to the first, it wasn't. A very late third from a break that
appeared to be started when the referee ignored strong penalty claims
glossed over a second half in which we carried the game brilliantly to
them and completely shut Zola out of the game.
To get anything out of this one, we will again need to close Zola
down. In an attacking threat Zola is by far their main weapon.
While Gudjohnsen and Hasslebaink have failed to live up to their stunning
season of last year, Zola has reawakened memories of his brilliant arrival
on the Premiership scene.
It is, however, Chelsea's backline that has driven them to a Champions
League spot this season. Desailly and Gallas are both
world-class. Cudicini is an outstanding shot-stopper and Terry one
of England's best young players. Add to that Babayaro and the
annoying Le Saux and you have a excellent backline. Patrolling in
front of them is the industrious duo of Lampard and Petit.
Extreme pace on the flanks can be provided by Gronkjaer and Zenden.
Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri will check on the fitness of Jody Morris
(thigh), Jesper Gronkjaer (groin) and Mario Stanic (Achilles) before
finalising his side to face Everton.
The disastrous and debilitating derby will definitely have taken it out
of some Evertonian's legs. It would be very surprising to see the
same 11 start this game; surely Moyes must do something to bring life to
the midfield. Li Tie will probably start and Rooney may well be
benched with Radzinski getting the nod, if he is fit.
An industrious display will be needed. Coming on the heels of the
Derby loss, this is a very tough call for the lads and probably our
hardest game of the season. Weir, Stubbsy and Yobo will have to be
at their best.
With Rooney, Radz and Dunc we now always carry a threat but I'm worried
about this to be honest so will plump for a flat 0-0 but that's only
because I don't like predicting defeats!!
A yawning gulf in class
Two games; six crucial points. Given the state of the club's finances
and the calibre of players we have, we had absolutely no right to
hope to overhaul Liverpool and Chelsea in the space of two days
and put ourselves in the driving seat for an unlikely Champions
League place. But, on the basis of what has hitherto been a fantastic
season, the chance to jump into the money pot at the expense of
these two teams was there for the taking so why not go hell for
leather for it?
Why not, indeed.
Instead, the players we have been lauding for so much for their
performances for most of this campaign lost the plot at the crucial
juncture and having lost to that lot across the park on Saturday
they were well and truly spanked by Chelsea in London today. Conceding
their 11th goal to Claudio Ranieri's men this season and watching
the Champions League dream get blown away by a stiff dose of reality,
David Moyes's men might have been wondering where it all went wrong.
Having let the Goodison faithful down so badly in Saturday's derby,
Everton's players had plenty of incentive outside of the obvious
league and European aspect and they certainly began the game with
confidence and purpose. David Moyes had sensibly dropped Thomas
Gravesen and the case against his continuing presence in the Everton
squad was, you'd have thought, amply illustrated by tidy performances
by Scot Gemmill and Li Tie — curiously, the mad Dane was introduced
into the midfield at Unsworth's expense seven minutes into the second
The Toffees, chasing a third successive win in the all black third
strip, even had the first shot of the game when Alan Stubbs finished
off a nicely-worked free kick with a shot that appeared to have
been deflected high and over but the referee awarded Chelsea a goal
kick. The home side's intent was signalled by Eidar Gudjohsnen when
he stormed into the area in the fifth minute but Unsworth made a
well-timed challenge and the danger was cleared. De Lucas' tackle
on Wayne Rooney three minutes later was less accurate and he was
booked for his trouble.
Portents of disaster to come arrived in the form of a couple of
players losing their footing around the Everton area and Yobo making
two badly-placed clearances that placed unnecessary pressure on
the back line. And in the 25th minute, Chelsea took the lead. Weir
slipped at the absolute worst moment and Gudjohnsen collected a
cross unhindered before taking one touch and slamming the ball past
the helpless Richard Wright.
At this stage it was rough justice on Everton. While the Londoners
clearly possessed more class, Everton were at least matching their
opponents in spirit and competition. Having said that, Moyes's side
never really looked like scoring. When the likes of Unsworth, Weir
and particularly Yobo weren't resorting to the long, fruitless hoof
up the pitch, Rooney was well shackled by the home defence and Campbell,
often playing too deep, was totally ineffective.
Chelsea, by comparison, were fluid in midfield and attack and they
were almost two goals up 10 minutes before half time when Hasselbaink
latched onto a cross on the right side of the area but fired into
the side netting. At the other end, a half chance for Everton made
possible by a good move by Gemmill resulted in Rooney heading back
Lee Carsley's cross but the danger was snuffed out by Chelsea.
Having gone into the interval 1-0 down to a highly fortuitous goal,
Everton might have fancied their chances of grinding out a point
in the second half, but such hopes were in tatters within two minutes
of the restart. Yobo was badly caught out on the left by Jesper
Gronkjaer and his cross found Hasselbaink whose unorthodox looping
heading arced over Wright and into the far corner to make it 2-0.
Moyes, probably through desperation and fear at the sight of his
side's Champions League challenge coming off the rails, threw on
Tony Hibbert for Yobo and Gravesen for Unsworth. However, his team
was 3-0 down within minutes.
On the hour mark, Everton were exposed for the sloppy, inattentive,
frustrating side that they so often are. John Terry floated a free
kick from midway inside his own half that everybody in black stood
and watched while Gronkjaer raced through to collect the ball and
beat the advancing Wright with ease to make it 3-0. The pretentions
of Moyes's side of Champions League football were made a mockery
by that single moment and it would have been laughable had it not
represented so emphatically the death knell for our Champions League
Well cushioned by a 3-0 lead, Chelsea eased off the accelerator
considerably and invited Everton to take the initiative, but the
visitors were embarrassing in their complete inability to cause
Carlo Cudicini any trouble in the Chelsea goal. Rooney, by far the
most industrious and creative player in black, was resorting to
dropping deep in order to see the ball while Campbell, as the possessor
of the height, was letting the side down by inexplicably pulling
out of aerial challenges for crosses.
Then, with 13 minutes left, it all came together for one small
moment that reminded the travelling supporters how on earth Everton
are in the top six at this stage of the season in the first place.
Gemmill picked up the ball 10 yards from the area, picked out Carsley's
run across the Chelsea defence with a slide-rule pass and the Irishman
tucked his shot into the far corner off the post to make it 3-1.
Which begged the question: if they could unlock the home defence
so tidily with the ball on the deck, why had they resorted to 75
minutes of route one tedium?
Duncan Ferguson entered the game straight afterwards, with Li Tie
making way, but the former Goodison icon was a spectator for the
most part and it was Carsley who almost found the net again, connecting
with Gravesen's chip into the area but the Everton number 26's shot
flew just wide. It was almost the last word but the day would not
have been complete without another stark illustration of the gulf
in class between the two sides as well as Everton's leaden-footed
defence. With the last attack of the game, substitute Gianfranco
Zola chased a long raking ball down the left channel that he really
had no right to expect to catch, but catch it he did, and with a
masterful lob with the outside of his boot he beat Wright to make
As it was in December when Everton stumbled their way through a
comprehensive defeat by the same scoreline to exit the Worthington
Cup, this was the embodiment of Chelsea's financial and footballing
superiority and the glaring deficiencies that Everton possess in
both regards. Moyes has to be congratulated for his cognizance of
the need for change in the midfield and making that change by removing
Gravesen from the equation. [Introduced later in the proceedings,
the Dane didn't do too badly and he was almost rewarded for that
deft chip that Carsley came within a couple of feet of converting.]
However, the manager must now take action on the defence where Yobo
has shown he can't play right back, the central pairing of Weir
and Stubbs is possibly the slowest in the division, and that David
Unsworth's distribution is reaching embarrassing levels. He also
has some hard decisions to make up front, where Campbell's usefulness
appears to have all but dried up.
With two defeats on the bounce, Everton's challenge for a place
in Europe is in grave danger if they don't take maximum points from
Aston Villa and Fulham. They certainly won't want to go into another
potential men-against-boys lesson in top class football at the hands
of Manchester United needinng points to stay above Blackburn and
preserve the last remaining goal for this season: UEFA Cup football