VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Everton 2-1 Chelsea
From the disappointment of being denied a Wembley appearance in the League Cup Final two seasons ago and the agony of last year's FA Cup Final defeat to a 10-year stretch without victory over Chelsea in any competition in 10 years of trying, Everton have found Roman Abromovich's team to be a constant source of frustration over the past decade.
But tonight, under Goodison's famous lights and in front of a raucous crowd desperate for the Blues to redeem themselves for their dismal display at Anfield on Saturday, Everton finally beat Chelsea despite being without two of their best players in the form of Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini.
That they gifted the Premier League leaders an early advantage with a soft goal and then missed a penalty that would have given them a half-time lead made this victory all the more remarkable, but Louis Saha rose to David Moyes's pre-match challenge to prove he is worth the new contract he has signed with the Blues — and atoned for erring from the spot on the stroke of half time — by scoring the goals that turned this match on its head.
In the absence of the injured Fellaini and the suspended Pienaar, Mikel Arteta made his first start since returning from 11 months out with a ruptured ACL and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov came in from the cold of three consecutive matches spent warming the bench but both players matched the collective sluggishness with which Everton started this game.
For the first half hour it was Chelsea who looked overwhelmingly like the home side as they controlled possession and the tempo of proceedings and they had an early chance when Nicolas Anelka dummied Yuri Zhirkov's square pass and Frank Lampard belted a first-time shot wide from the edge of the box.
Everton by contrast had made a slow start. Just as was the case against Liverpool, when they did get forward, they let themselves down badly with the quality of the final ball or with terrible delivery from set-pieces. Cases in point were Arteta's poor free kick which was cleared only as far as Leon Osman but he was dispossessed all too easily, and an incident a couple of minutes later when Bilyaletdinov and Leighton Baines looked to link up down the left for the first time but the Russian's lay-off towards the byline was awful and the ball ran out for a goal kick.
So there was an awful feeling of deja vu after 16 minutes when a long punt from the visitors' defence was headed on by Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda got away from Phil Neville with ease. With just Tim Howard to beat, Malouda did well with a high bounce to steer the ball home and it was 1-0.
The crowd responded with growing disenchantment as the Londoners continued to hold the upper hand with Everton struggling to find any kind of rhythm. No one individual seemed able to put their foot on the ball and dictate things a little and in the absence of an enforcer in midfield to break up the play, Arteta was being forced to sit too deep to marshall much going forward.
To compound that, the Spaniard continued to look rusty from dead-ball situations, wasting a 22nd-minute corner that Tim Cahill had done well to win by failing to clear the first man. Bilyaletdinov did even worse from the next corner, scuffing it along the ground straight to a white shirt and the ball was cleared.
Moyes's side were starting to settle by this point, though, and managed to wrestle some control away from Chelsea just before the half-hour mark. Baines came roaring in to meet Bilyaletdinov's centre but Petr Cech saved as the defender tried to help the ball past him from about eight yards out. Then, Landon Donovan did well to compensate for the lack of support from Neville to win a corner on the right.
The American swung the corner in from the right, Saha got a head start on John .Terry as he arrived to meet it and with a superb striker's header, he planted the ball past Cech's despairing dive to put Everton back on level terms.
Naturally, the home crowd was now back in it and it made for an even finish to the first half. Osman sliced wide from 18 yards after nice hold-up play by Cahill and Anelka gave Evertonian hearts a scare when he fired wide from close range at the other end before Saha found himself behind the Chelsea defence on the left side of the box but Cech covered the angle and beat his shot away in the dying minutes of the half.
The real drama of the first period, however, was saved for the final minute when tenacious work by Osman ended with him finding Cahill who in turn fed Donovan a few yards outside the box. As the Everton no. 9 turned inside Ricardo Carvalho, the defender caught him and sent him tumbling to the turf. Alan Wiley, whose decisions had up to that point been mostly been favouring Chelsea, had no option but to point to th spot and Saha stepped up to attempt to give the Blues a half-time lead.
Unfortunately, the French striker sometimes has a tendency to put his penalties at the perfect height for goalkeepers and when Cech correctly guessed the direction of his kick, he was able to make a routine save and push the ball away to safety. A deflated Goodison no doubt felt that a gilt-edged opportunity, the like of which you rarely get against a side like Chelsea, had just slipped through the Blues' fingers.
If there was justification for criticism of Everton in parts of the first half, there was barely room for any in the second as Moyes's side were markedly better after the interval and it was they who had the upper hand for all but the last quarter hour of the second period.
Bilyaletdinov, Neville, Arteta and Osman in particular raised their games and earned their corn with some good work at both ends of the field and Donovan was again dazzling at times down the right. Bily now started to cause the Chelsea defence problems, first by despatching an awkward cross that Cech had to bat over his bar for a corner and then by taking Neville's cross down and brilliantly side-stepping his marker before seeing his shot blocked by another white jersey.
Little did he know it at the time but Saha had a dress rehearsal for his winning goal six minutes after the interval when Terry mis-judged the flight of a deep ball to the edge of Chelsea box and Saha took it down on his chest before firing goalwards with his left foot. On this occasion, Carvalho had come across superbly and got enough of a foot on the ball to force it just wide (though no corner was given) but the Portuguese international was not in attendance 15 minutes from time when the almost identical scenario unfolded: Distin pumped a long ball to edge of the area, Terry lost track of it and Saha did the rest, controlling with his chest before thumping a half-volley past Cech from 18 yards.
2-1 to the Blues and belief now that this could finally be the defeat we've owed Chelsea for so long... but not before the inevitable onslaught which saw wave after wave of attacks from Ancelotti's men. Drogba's shove on Cahill in the box as he rose to meet a corner went unpunished but, thankfully, his header bounced off the bar, and while Everton made it more difficult that it needed to be by consistently failing to belt the ball clear, Howard was equal to Lampard's shot and palmed it away at full stretch as the game moved into the final 10 minutes.
Save for an effort by Soloman Kalou that was deflected behind by substitute Jack Rodwell, though, Everton stood firm and restricted the visitors to no further chances. Even when referee Wiley somehow found five minutes of injury time to add, the Blues managed to keep the ball out of danger and wind the clock down by the corner before Goodison erupted in elation at the final whistle.
From the depths of despair and frustration on Saturday to the champagne high of a first win over Chelsea in 10 years, Evertonian emotions have run the gamut this week and in many ways that rollercoaster was encapsulated in a game that at one point had Blues supporters fearing yet another defeat at the hands of the Sky Four.
Instead, the Blues beat one of those much-vaunted four clubs for the first time in 25 matches and reignited hopes that another top five or six finish is not just a pipe dream. Certainly it will fill the fans and players with beilef as the twin tests against Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United, both also at Goodison, loom.
Moyes will be justifiably proud in his players who recovered from a cold start and the potential hammer blow of losing the opening goal to turn this game on its head with two great goals by top scorer, Louis Saha. It was the first time the Blues have come from behind to win since
doing it twice against West Ham last season the home game with Wigan back in August and such a demonstration of spirit so soon after the derby debacle was pleasing to see.
Howard 8, Neville 7, Distin 7, Heitinga 8, Baines 8, Arteta 7, Osman 7, Bilyaletdinov 7, Donovan 9, Cahill 8, Saha 9*; Subs: Rodwell 6, Gosling, Senderos (not on long enough)
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1 Posted 11/02/2010 at 06:52:44
I guess I still stand by that in general, but last night the world got turned on its head and, despite missing two of our quality players, we raised the game and took advantage of two superb strikes by Saha,
Following a poor and sluggish start, after 20 mins, I thought we were ambling towards another defeat but the beast woke up and served up a treat.
Landon surely has grown in stature every game, the experience he has had will be invaluable to him when he leaves having played his part in the world's top league against the some of the best players in the world. He will surely be missed for he has taken to EFC like a local, he is enjoying it and you can see it.
The quality of his control and delivery is exceptional, making Baines, Bily and Arteta look poor. He tore both sides of the Chelsea back line apart, delivered a quality corner for the first goal and won a penalty with his quick feet.
It was just simply quality. On a night when Saha looked every inch a world class striker it made up for our deficiencies elsewhere.
It did the heart good to win such a game, its a shame that the papers and pundits look at it and look to the deficiencies of Terry being to blame rather than the skills of Saha.
We have played much better football at different times but rarely has a win had such satisfaction. We had 5 attempts on goal including a penalty, We had quality finishing that has not always been evident. Yes, Saha is a hot and cold player but when he is hot, Christ what a finisher.
Well done to the team and yes the manager too, it's the glimmer of hope we see when the boys play this way, if only we could see it more often.
Anyone up for Man U?
2 Posted 11/02/2010 at 09:12:43
Absolutely sick of the treatment we always get even when we play well and fully deserve the win. I suppose I should be used to it, but I still hate it.
3 Posted 11/02/2010 at 09:26:30
4 Posted 11/02/2010 at 09:28:03
5 Posted 11/02/2010 at 10:37:04
5 live gave us credit for playing well this morning — so there’s a turn-up for the books. When Alan Green says something good about us, we will have won the league!
6 Posted 11/02/2010 at 12:15:22
7 Posted 11/02/2010 at 17:26:02
This season has been first half disgraceful and second half going great so far. We took 19 points from our first 18 games, and I feel sure we would have lost at Eastlands if that game had been played earlier in the season (we still might too). We’ve nearly matched that already with 16 points from 7, and 4 straight home wins, making it 7 unbeaten at Goodison in the league.
Our best under Moyes is 6 straight wins in 05-06 and 8 unbeaten both in 02-03 & in 08-09 which, in my opinion, and despite how much I rate him, is poor. Now is his chance to put those records right.
Manchester United will be tough, but confidence must be sky high after last night, and the list of Hull, Bolton, West Ham, Fulham & Portsmouth absolutely must be looked at with 15 points in mind by all concerned.
I hope the derby was a blip, though with Everton you just never know. Onwards and upwards is what I say.
8 Posted 11/02/2010 at 22:13:44
I have been a fan of the Big Fella since we signed him, and it has been delightful to see Steven take on so much more responsibility in Mikel’s absence. But there we were, without them — and we won.
Perhaps the first half-hour can be best understood because those two were missing. After that we took a hold of midfield, and were comfortable for most of the game from then on. But how did we do it? Terry’s ’mistakes’. Far from it.
Think about Arteta’s return — a few of us said he gave ’composure’ last night. No fireworks or magic tricks, but just calm, reliable solid skill. It probably took the rest about half an hour to get the hang of it. And we were back in the game.
Lucky it was Chelsea perhaps. The shite would have tried to break his leg, Rafael Benitez being, of course, a master tactician.
9 Posted 11/02/2010 at 23:18:39
As for it being down to Terry’s mistakes — what rubbish. Journo’s will always look for the most "interesting" angle and for some reason, they think that JT getting his end away is big news and so they were always going to try and make him the headline act. The simple fact is that — after he mis-judged Distin’s punt forward — there are very few players in the league who would / could have done what King Louis did from that position. Pure class!
10 Posted 14/02/2010 at 10:56:31
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