So... a Thursday night at Goodison Park... traditional home of football on a very untraditional weeknight. Yobo comes in for Baines, otherwise, it's as you were, with the impotent 4-4-2 formation lead by AJ aAnd Yakubu, who are both firing blanks. Arteta and Osman are both out so Pienaar and Fernandes start in midfield.
Chelsea soon settled to playing the ball around but the Everton players were sufficiently fired up to snip and snap, winning the ball... only to soon lose it again as a result of poor passing, poor first-time control, or the dreaded aimless hoof up-field.
Everton got a decent free-kick after 15 mins that Fernandes delivered well over the wall, bouncing awkwardly in front of Cech but he pushed it away. And things started to look better for Everton, although the final ball was still lacking. At the other end, Anelka's shot was wide.
A much better sweep of one-touch passing ended when Carvaliho upended Lescott for the first yellow card of the game but the free-kick lead to a bout of typically pointless head-tennis in the Chelsea area. Chelsea pushed a little harder and Jagielka had to be alert to hook the ball away off Anelka's foot.
Some great interplay on the ground between Lescott and Pienaar but the centre-half dawdled on the ball with space in the Chelsea area and the chance was gone by the time he tried to pick out Carsley.
Jagielka saved Everton again, stealing the ball off SWP as he was about to pull the trigger when Chelsea broke through the solid Everton defence on 35 mins. Neville, however, continued to be Everton's biggest problem, continually putting his fellow Blues under pressure with the most abysmal display of bad passing imaginable.
Chelsea, though, eventually waltzed through the stalwart Everton defence with some fairly smart inter-passing of their own, and the luck of the bounce, for Essien to chip the ball over Howard into the Everton net. That was followed by a ferocious shot from Mikel that was fortunately within Howard's reach and he tipped it over the bar.
A good spell before the break saw Yakubu lash poorly at a high bouncing ball that was blocked away by Mikel's body. On the next attack, the ball was pushed wide to Pienaar whose shot lacked pace and direction, was easily saved by Cech.
Everton tried in the second half but were simply being outclassed, a good ball forward for Johnson being neutralized by an amazing transverse lunge form Carvaliho that whipped the ball off his laces. On another strange decision for Everton, Pienaar won a free-kick and Ferrari went into the book but Fernandes smacked a dangerous free-kick harmlessly into the wall, an opportunity wasted.
Howard then had to claim an awkward ball headed back by Jagielka. The clocked ticked onto the hour and David Moyes was stung into action, making an almost unprecedented double substitution, Gravesen and Anichebe on for Pienaar and Johnson.
Yakubu cleverly won a free-kick on the edge of the area and Fernandes did far better, finally getting the ball up over the wall, but whizzing it fractionally the wrong side of the post with Cech beaten.
Gravesen, his legs apparently gone (!?!) lost the ball needlessly to SWP in the Chelsea half, who galloped off up field... only to be chased down by the Mad Dog Dane, who incredibly won the ball off him in front of Howard!
The momentum swung Everton's way for a while, but they couldn't get the ball into the Chelsea area to create any meaningful chances. Gravesen finally got it right after a few bad touches, feeding a hard cross in to Fernandes but his snapshot was wide. Essien collapsed in a heap off the ball and looked to have been poleaxed.
Everton seemed to have shot their load by the 80th minute, as Chelsea started to come back into it. The Blues did get forward again once or twice and Neville even excelled himself, pulling off a pearler, shanking the ball high wide and horribly unhandsome from wide left, just when a decent cross was required. A moment that seemed to sum up the match. Laughable really... if it wasn't so sad and pathetic.
Confidence is a precious commodity and it's been clear since the Uefa Cup exit at the hands of Fiorentina that, for this Everton side, confidence is in depressingly short supply. Echoes, of course, 2005 when the Blues crashed out of three cup competitions in short order and their League form collapsed as a result.
The talk of another top-four finish, the long-awaited attention from the media, and the strong belief that the Blues had finally turned the elusive corner seem like a lifetime ago now. In a few short weeks, David Moyes's side have gone from Champions League hopefuls to a team in very real danger of having to settle for the relative ignominy of the Intertoto Cup.
Not the best time to be facing a Chelsea side still chasing the possibility of winning the Premier League Title but the challenge of achieving a first victory over the so-called "big four" at least jump-started Everton into patches of the form that elevated them into this position in the first place.
No real surprise that it coincided with a return to something approaching sharpness of Steven Pienaar. The South African, still awaiting the resolution of the negotiations over his permanent move from Borussia Dortmund, was at the heart of the home side's best moments in the first half.
There were a few times during a good spell mid-way through the first half when some rapid movement and slick passing threatened a breakthrough but, as has been the case for the last few games, everything broke down in the final third of the field. Andy Johnson and Yakubu spent far too much of the time chasing shadows; not really surprising, therefore, that the Blues only looked like scoring from free kicks.
15 minutes in, after Chelsea had controlled the opening stages but without really threatening themselves, Manuel Fernandes planted a direct free kick in front of Peter Cech which the 'keeper did well to push over the bar for a corner. The Portuguese midfielder also ended a good spell in the 32nd minute with a shot that drifted wide and drove disappointingly straight at Cech in first-half injury time.
By that point, though, the damage had been done. Just as was the case here in the Carling Cup semi-final second leg, Chelsea would only need to score once to win and they made the all-important breakthrough in the 41st minute. And a crystallizing moment that encapsulated the gulf in quality between the two sides it was too. A slick move carved the Everton defence wide open, Michael Essien profited from a lucky bounce off his chest before beating Tim Howard with aplomb.
The second half offered hope of an Everton comeback but that all but evaporated when Pienaar was once again withdrawn not long after the hour mark. In the last two games the assumption was that he was lacking fitness but this time it just looked like a tactical error on Moyes's part. By substituting Johnson and Pienaar, most of the pace and movement in the side was lost at a stroke.
It didn't help that Gravesen was absolutely atrocious (again, not for the first time) and that Victor Anichebe spent his time leaping around for aimless long balls and mis-placed passes. In short, apart from another Fernandes free kick that flew inches wide of the post with 23 minutes left, and a left-footed volley by the same player that didn't go quite as close, Everton were impotent in the agonising extreme and the game just tailed off to an inevitable conclusion.
The result means that Portsmouth can pull within a point of us and Aston Villa within a three with victories this weekend. More worryingly, it piles further pressure on a team that doesn't currently look capable of winning any of its remaining three games. It's going to be a very uncomfortable ride between now and the end of the campaign.
Man of the Match: Manuel Fernandes
Wooden Spoon Award: Thomas Gravesen
Everton and Chelsea go head-to-head in an unorthodox Thursday night kick off — proof positive of the power wielded by the great god Sky — with both sides' ideal goals somewhat further out of reach than either would like.
Everton effectively ceded fourth place to Liverpool last weekend when they failed to hold onto victory at Birmingham while the Dark Side comfortably beat Blackburn. Chelsea, meanwhile, saw their hopes of edging Manchester United to the Title diminish considerably when they could only draw with Wigan Athletic.
But where there's a possibility there's hope and Everton, of course, have plenty of work to do to cement a fifth-place finish that would guarantee Uefa Cup football next season. Portsmouth and Aston Villa are breathing down the Blues' necks as David Moyes's side's faltering form threatens to undermine the good work that got them into a position of challenging for fourth in the first place.
Mikel Arteta and Leon Osman are both expected to miss out again but Moyes doesn't expect to have any more injury concerns than those with which he had to contend last weekend. Tim Cahill and James Vaughan are, of course, ruled out for the remainder of the campaign.
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