VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Everton were in reach of the Fifth Round and an impressive scalp on a possible road to Wembley but were caught cold by a quick Chelsea counter-attack with 14 minutes left that saw Soloman Kalou slide home the equaliser that forced a replay at Stamford Bridge next month.
After a fairly even first half, the Blues dominated their supposedly superior opposition after the break and, not only made the breakthrough with a Louis Saha header just after the hour mark but threatened to bury the FA Cup holders by grabbing a crucial second soon afterwards.
That they didn't owed much to some superb last-ditch defending by Ramires and Michael Essien and some typically impressive goalkeeping by Peter Chech but having gone ahead, Everton will feel as though they let a golden opportunity slip through their grasp.
With the success of the two-striker line-up faltering against West Ham last weekend, David Moyes reverted to a five-man midfield with Saha reclaiming his starting berth and Jermaine Beckford dropping back to the bench. In a somewhat surprising move, he deployed Jack Rodwell behind the striker and though the young midfielder didn't set the world on fire in the role, his presence firmed Everton up in the centre and helped almost completely nullify Frank Lampard's ability to dictate the game in midfield.
Indeed, the England star was kept very quiet by the tenacity of Marouane Fellaini and Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti's side was made to look very ordinary by their spirited hosts.
The two teams seemed to cancel each other out in the early going, with neither side able to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, who grabbed the opportunity of a full 90 minutes with both hands by putting in a solid shift in left midfield, almost sneaked onto Rodwell's flick on after 12 minutes but couldn't get enough on the ball to poke it past Cech before John Terry headed a corner inches over at the other end four minutes later.
Everton were seeing plenty of the ball but so many of their attacks petered out into that all-too familiar crab-like movement of the ball along the outside of the opposition area. Saha was spending far too much time outside of the box ? always an issue for a team that rarely pushes enough men forward at the best of times ? and the absence of a Steven Pienaar-esque link man to accept the ball from defence and bring the forwards into the game again seemed to be a problem.
The first real chance of the half was created by Fellaini's dogged determination as he muscled Lampard off the ball midway inside the Chelsea half, allowing Saha to it through to Rodwell but he was foiled by Cech who had raced off his line to close him down.
Five minutes later, in a moment that foretold how the Blues would be undone in the second half, the home defence was caught flat-footed when Ramires put Nicolas Anelka into the clear but Tim Howard made an excellent stop, the ball deflecting off the underside of his body and behind for a corner.
And the American was on hand shortly afterwards to dive away to his right and push Florent Malouda's effort away for a corner that Terry looped into the Gwladys Street before Arteta raked the last shot of the half narrowly wide from 30 yards.
Whatever Moyes said to his charges at half time seem to galvanise them as they came out in dominant mood and for periods reduced Chelsea to an error-strewn mess in defence. One such moment seven minutes after the restart saw Seamus Coleman intercept an awful pass by Terry and feed Rodwell's run into the box. Rodwell surged to the byline and clipped a beautiful ball to the back post which Saha met with an acrobatic volley that was surely destined for the back of the net had Ramires not blocked his effort on the line.
A couple of minutes later, after Coleman had been tripped by Ashley Cole, Fellaini met Arteta's free kick with a powerful header from close range that Cech reflexively fisted over and the home faithful were getting the feeling that the Blues would just need one goal to nick the tie and progress to the next round.
That goal arrived in the 62nd minute from one of the few corners to actually threaten the Chelsea defence. Leighton Baines whipped the ball in towards the six-yard line where Saha, having ghosted away from Terry, rose to meet it with an unstoppable header. The Frenchman had scored more goals against Chelsea than any other team before today and he added to his tally against the Londoners with a crucial goal.
Importantly, Moyes's team didn't sit back on their lead and went for the killer second, Bilyaletdinov rushing the Blues's next chance when he chested down a deep cross with time to bring it down and advance, choosing instead to try an ambitious overhead kick that flew wide.
But it was in the 74th minute that Chelsea's defence saved their bacon and allowed them to fight their way back into the tie. Baines's lofted cross to the back post didn't seem to be troubling anyone until Coleman attacked it with purpose, leaping above Cole and forcing Cech into a low, one-handed save. The tenacious Irishman weas onto the rebound in a flash, though, to stab a shot goalwards that he must have thought was going to bulge the net but Essien's lunge did enough to deflect the ball past the other post for a corner.
Two minutes later, the visitors were level. Another Everton attack broke down, this time with Baines over-elaborating a little in the Chelsea area, and when the ball was cleared to Anelka he in turn fed the substitute Kalou who carried it into the area and shot through Distin's legs, the ball bouncing off the inside of Howard's post and into the goal. It was Chelsea's first shot on target in the second half and they scored with it, underscoring the value of pace and world-class quality in attack.
Both sides could have won it in the closing stages. Chelsea came heart-stoppingly close when Ramires smashed a shot off the outside of the post in the 86th minute and Beckford, who'd only been on the pitch a couple of minutes (and probably should have been introduced as soon as the equaliser went in), almost scored a stunning winner but, after capitalising on a sliced clearance by Ivanovic and lashing a half-volley goalwards, he was denied by Cech who parried his effort over.
Ancelloti and Chelsea will feel like they escaped by the skin of their teeth and Everton will rue that one moment of weakness that allowed them back into the game to force a replay that tips the tie in the Londoners' favour. Moyes's men could count themselves as very unlucky, actually, and if they adopt the same attitude at Stamford Bridge as they did here in the second half then they have every chance of staging an upset.
The well-worn criticism that they're not creating enough chances and that they still lack someone to consistently unlock a defence were as valid as they have been all season but the Blues certainly did enough to win this match on the day. There were committed and laudible performances all over the pitch and there wasn't a player in Blue who didn't earn their corn. Despite a few glaringly misplaced passes, Fellaini was immense in midfield and was probably the pick of the bunch, while Arteta was decent enough though still operating well below what we've come to expect.
With Moyes bluntly telling his post-match interviewer that he doesn't expect any business to be done before the closure of the transfer window, it looks as though he'll be forced to muddle through to the end of the season with the personnel he currently has at his disposal. This performance will give him hope that it'll be enough to tread water but, having pushed Chelsea onto the ropes, he'll worry that he didn't have the depth of quality to really pyt them away.
Player Ratings: Howard 7, Neville 8, Heitinga 8, Distin 8, Baines 7, Coleman 8, Arteta 7, Fellaini 8*, Bilyaletdinov 7, Rodwell 7 (Beckford 7), Saha 7
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1 Posted 30/01/2011 at 08:31:55
2 Posted 30/01/2011 at 09:27:45
Really disappointed that the Chelsea manager said we put them under pressure with long balls?? Or do corners count as long balls?
I thought we completely outpassed them and out pressured them. Their full backs were not able to advance & Lampard was given no possession due to Feli & Arteta.
Excellent write up.
Is it Toffeeweb editorial policy for Lyndon to write a well balanced review with Kenrick trying to inflame a response & 'debate' by simply refusing to give credit where credit is due?
Or do you now have to apologise for being a Moyes apoligist when you think Everton play well? If so, I apologise.
3 Posted 30/01/2011 at 10:02:46
4 Posted 30/01/2011 at 11:43:24
For example: This weeks coaching plan, how to break from defence, from a opposition corner in 10 seconds... instead, as you said Lyndon, crab-like passes.
5 Posted 30/01/2011 at 12:12:33
Bily looked like he did at the start of his career in Blue and should be kept in the side and King Louis was again showing why Moyes didn't cash in.
Only annoyance for me was Howard's positioning for the goal. If someone aims for the bottom corner, he should be able to at least dive for the ball rather than fall on his ass.
Oh and Arteta is slowly getting his form back.
6 Posted 30/01/2011 at 13:14:15
7 Posted 30/01/2011 at 13:59:57
I don't buy that Everton were not bold enough, in fact, our own failing is that lack of a cutting edge which means we fail to turn possession and dominance into goals. I also don't buy that Chelsea were poor but our ability to compete, with controlled aggression and no little skill, certainly upset their rythym.
Yes, it's frustrating not to have come away with the win we deserved but again, it goes to show, against the bigger teams, when we have more room to compete, we can give a good account of ourselves; as we all know, it's the lesser teams we struggle to break down ? not the big boys. If we come unstuck against Blackpool, then sure, criticism will hit this website... but I don't think too much can be directed at the team from this weekend.
My big worry is that the depressing news that no business is likely in the transfer window and so we end up in January minus 2 players from the squad we started with. A truly depressing stat considering we did not start with a massive pool of players in August. God pray we can go the remainder of the season without too many injuries.
8 Posted 30/01/2011 at 15:42:59
9 Posted 30/01/2011 at 15:47:11
Moyes interviewed after the game stated that nobody will be coming in and that's an absolute disgrace. I hope we don't pay the price because it's no coincidence that other teams have been desparatly recruiting during this transfer window. This is the most dangerously competitive league I've witnessed since the start of the PL. Good teams will go down and I still think you will need 45 points to be safe from relegation this year.
10 Posted 30/01/2011 at 16:42:16
The team played well and I really liked the team selection and lineup.
My only concern is we lack the killer "Yak" type which can guarantee you goals as I feel Saha does most of his work outside the box (excellent header yesterday aside).
However, with our current owners we will never see a Torres or Berbatov, so I guess we'll have to rely on Lady Luck, which we must be due a bit of now.
11 Posted 30/01/2011 at 17:09:21
12 Posted 30/01/2011 at 20:17:34
We need to up the tempo of our passing, improve the movement off the ball, and have players willing to get further forward or else we are going to continually look like a team that is unlucky not to win.
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