The tie of the Fourth Round, a clash of Premier League giants, a repeat of the 2009 FA Cup Final... and a stunningly poor crowd of little more than 28,000 perhaps something of a comment from the less faithful Evertonians staying away in protest at the imminent conclusion of yet another potless transfer window for David Moyes that has seen far from any new and much-needed talent coming in to liven up the team his squad depleted even further.
Despite such limitations, Moyes was able to select something approaching his strongest side with the resources that remains, minus Tim Cahill who plays for Australia in the Asia Cup final tonight in Qatar. Newly signed up Anichebe was out with a groin strain.
Everton started brightly enough, pushing the ball forward and showing some decent control for the first 15 mins without really getting close. The spell included a good cross from Bily that was headed back at the far post by Coleman to no-one following in. Rodwell looked to have clipped a throw-in back for Bily running in but his contact was poor at the near post when he should have done better.
Chelsea won their first corner and then a soft free kick out wide that led to another corner which was headed just over by Terry. Everton's first corner from Baines was deep. After a long spell of possession football and square passes hat went nowhere, Distin tried the Route One ball over everyone to Saha. Everyone, that is, except the last Chelsea defender, allowing the visitors to threaten again.
Some great work by Fellaini won the ball off Essien and a great through ball from Saha released Rodwell, who shot straight at Cech, a glorious chance squandered. Coleman the found Bily with a good cross but the Russian was called for a push as he headed wide of Cech. Chelsea broke off a foul by Neville and Anelka hit the post but he was offside.
Ramires then played in Anelka who forced a crucial saved from Howard, bundling the ball behind when Anelka would normally have scored from such a chance. Another dreadful giveaway by Fellaini put more pressure on the home side. Coleman then beat two defenders from the sideline and lashed the ball wildly at goal, missing the target.
Malouda was given too much space and powered a strong shot from distance that would have hit the post but Howard clawed it away. Everton had had lots of possession but too often allowed promising controlled football to be spoilt by a lazy or sloppy ball that conceded possession far too cheaply to the somewhat unimpressive Chelsea players. Fellaini shaped up to shoot in space but took a fraction too long and his effort was blocked. Arteta shot from distance but it was weak and wide when power and accuracy were required.
The half had needed better touches from the like of Bily and Rodwell, who's lack of precision had let Everton down at critical moments after what was otherwise a half-decent period of play from the Royal Blues.
Fellaini forced an early corner after the break but Cech gathered it too easily. Fellaini won the ball a little too aggressively on the Chelsea break that came to nothing Coleman's persistence won the ball well off the Chelsea defence and got the ball to Rodwell who was forced wide but crossed deep to the far post where Saha looked to make a tricky score but Malouda blocked it behind with an impossible interception.
Everton won a soft free-kick that Arteta swung in well and Fellaini powered his header at Cech. Arteta got another chance to shoot form distance but the execution was very poor. Coleman did well again to spring another Everton attack but Rodwell chose to play square rather than moving forward into space and the opportunity withered away in a swelter of more square passes and final desperate cross to no-one.
From another Everton corner, simple as you like, Saha at the far post, beat Terry, powerful header, goal. With Everton finally ahead, Bily tried an acrobatic kick that went high and wide. Cole was struggling to contain Coleman's exuberance down the right and should have been booked. A good spell of pressure saw possession coming back to Everton repeatedly but they failed to do anything with it as the clock ticked on.
Coleman won a free-kick in a good position, but Arteta, with the sun behind him, bashed it uselessly into the wall. Malouda made way for Kalou.
Everton pressed again,Coleman denied twice as he tried to power the ball home. The resulting corner allowed Chelsea to break and Kalou to run the length of the field too slot the ball far too easily past Howard for a thoroughly undeserved equalizer. Chelsea broke again from another Everton attack but Howard saved his shot.
Everton pressed, winning a couple of corners and pushing Chelsea back as they looked for the winner. Lampard, who had been thankfully ineffective, gave way for Mikkel with 5 mins left. Ramires drives the ball past Howard with a fearsome shot that smacks into the base of the post as Moyes makes his masterstroke, cunningly bringing on Beckford for the poor Rodwell and switching to 4-4-2 long after Chelsea had equalized.
Beckford got a fantastic chance when Ivanovic sliced his clearance and forced a crucial fingertip save from Cech. Everton kept pushing but the flow was broken by Drogba rolling around on the ground before he jumped up to take a corner that flew wide of the far post and that was it. Another incredible, unbelievable draw against a rather poor Chelsea side. A great opportunity to beat Chelsea was simply not taken.
Against the backdrop of mounting supporter frustration with the team's performances following the disappointing home draw with West Ham last weekend, Everton meet Chelsea in a re-match of the 2009 FA Cup Final, the closest David Moyes has come to winning a trophy in his nine-year tenure at Goodison Park.
That Wembley disappointment was illustrative of the gulf that existed between the two clubs and with the transfer deadline looming and nothing looking imminent in terms of new faces, Moyes is all too aware of the paucity of his resources when compared with Carlo Ancelotti.
Nevertheless, the Cup being the great leveller and with home field advantage, the Blues are approaching this Fourth Round all-Premier League clash with confidence.
The manager will likely be forced to make at least one change from the team that started against the Hammers after Victor Anichebe emerged as a major doubt with a groin strain.
Phil Jagielka is back in contention for a starting berth in central defence now that he is fully recovered from an injury of his own and though John Heitinga's display last weekend was a little chequered, it remains to be seen whether Moyes will switch things up as he plots how to keep the likes of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka quiet.
Then there's the question of what to do with a midfield that found it worryingly difficult to create chances last time out. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov restated his goal threat by scoring one of the equalisers against West Ham but his manager has been reluctant to start the Russian this season. He will get harder to ignore, though, while he keeps turning in impressive cameo performances as a substitute and Leon Osman keeps floating in and out of games in that left midfield role.
Up front, Louis Saha, the scorer of that superb early goal in the Cup Final, is likely to retake his place up front, but whether he finds himself alongside Jermaine Beckford, himself a scorer against Chelsea in the League at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, or Marouane Fellaini will be interesting to see.
This will clearly be a very difficult mission for Moyes's boys, particularly in front of a home crowd whose expectations have been cited as a reason for Everton's poor form at Goodison recently. Maybe a Cup atmosphere will provide the spur to help the Blues into the Fifth Round...
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2010-11 Reports Index|
|Rodwell (86' Beckford)|
|Subs not used|
|Cahill (international duty)|
|Lampard (85' Mikel)|
|Malouda (70' Kalou)|
|Subs not used|