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Venue: Stamford Bridge, London
Premier League
 Saturday 22 February; 12:45pm
CHELSEA
1 0
 EVERTON
Lampard (90' +2)
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 41,580
Fixture 26
Referee: Lee Probert

Match Report

Everton fell to their third consecutive away defeat to a rival for the Champions League qualification slots and, thanks to Manchester United's win at Crystal Palace, slipped out of the top six for the first time since November.

Like the narrow loss to Tottenham a fortnight ago, this 1-0 defeat to Chelsea was hugely disappointing and felt like something of a mugging given the level of effort and the performance put on by Roberto Martinez's side but, once again, it was starkly illustrative of the Blues' impotence in the final third. As at White Hart Lane, Everton were well positioned to pinch a victory in the late stages of the game but found no inspiration from the substitutes' bench and succumbed to a single second-half goal. That it came from an individual error by Tim Howard and not some brilliance from the opposition made it all the more galling.

Jose Mourinho's men may have been more deserving of the points than had Spurs, given that they steadily increased the pressure and at least forced Howard into a terrific double-save around the hour mark but Chelsea will nonetheless feel as though they got away with one when viewing the game as a whole.

Everton finished the game with the lion's share of possession, largely testament to an impressive first-half where, not for the first time on the home turf of better-endowed opposition, they took the game to the hosts but would count the cost of not fashioning enough chances or taking the few they did. Once again the match was the Blues' season in microcosm plenty of lovely football underpinning a good start but one ultimately undermined by a failure to score. Like a boxer who can hold his own for 12 rounds and soak up plenty of punishment but just doesn't possess that knockout punch to put his opponent away.

Though the Champions League looked a distinct possibility earlier in the campaign, once again our challenge started to come off the rails during the gruelling festive period as injuries began to mount and the pressure on what remains a small core squad mounted. Echoing last year's failure to strengthen sufficiently during the transfer window, the chance to bolster the chase for Europe passed on 31st January and given the sale of Nikica Jelavic, Lacina Traore's continuing injury problems and confirmation that neither Kevin Mirallas nor Steven Naismith have proved to be suitable replacements for a genuinely consistent goalscoring threat, Martinez's insistence that Everton would be stronger by the closure of the window than when it opened rings a little hollow.

Whatever the reasons for the Spaniard not bringing in another attacking option before the deadline when he knew he would be without Romelu Lukaku for a month, be they due to financial restrictions or a lack of quailty options being available, it effectively ended our hopes for the top four. It felt that way then and results since have borne that out, with the result being that Evertonians who clung to the hope that the new manager could somehow gatecrash the top four in his first season have had to adopt Martinez's long view.

In that context, this defeat at Stamford Bridge and the 20-year winless run it perpetuates was encouraging once you get past the frustrating manner in which it played out. For the second time this season, Martinez's Everton came to the home of the League leaders and showed that they have the ability and the confidence to match the best teams in terms of passing and ball-retention. They just need a cutting edge in attacking midfield and up front.

For long periods of the first half, the Blues were playing easily the better football and carrying the greater threat in the final third with Chelsea and their galaxy of jaw-droppingly expensive talent restricted to only one real dangerous moment when Samuel Eto'o managed to shake off Sylvain Distin's shackles and forced a parrying save from Tim Howard.

Though Mourinho's team had started purposefully, with Eden Hazard and Willian looking dangerous in the early going, they merely bookended the first 45 minutes with some tame efforts from the edge of the area that either went wide, were comfortably gathered by Howard or, in one instance, deflected over.

In between, it was Everton who were dictating the game and demonstrating the greater technique with the ball. Gareth Barry in particular was excellent in this period, Steven Pienaar was inventive and probing on the left side of the field and Steven Naismith a willing runner up front in the absence of Traore who felt his hamstring in the warm-up. But for all their impressive possession, the Blues created just three openings of note against the top-flight's stingiest defence.

Leon Osman, starting in place of Ross Barkley, had the best of them, ending a sumptuous passing move in the 12th minute with a drilled shot from Steven Naismith's lay-off that Petr Cech had to palm over the bar. Five minutes later, Kevin Mirallas had to wait for a bouncing ball to drop inside the Chelsea area but he got a half-volley off that deflected behind off Gary Cahill.

Mirallas had another good opportunity in first-half stoppage time when Osman flicked Pienaar's cross into his path but though the Belgian had plenty of time to set himself, he made an awful mess of his shot from 20 yards out. It more or less summed up Mirallas' afternoon reminscent of some of his early-season form, he was well below his best when the stage was set for him to really impress.

Truth be told, the half-time interval seemed to kill Everton's momentum because they simply lacked any attacking intensity or fluidity in the second half. The first few minutes after the restart were disjointed from their perspective and Chelsea began to increase the pressure on Howard's goal, starting in the 50th minute when he had to block Frank Lampard's shot and Distin had to be similarly alert to get in the way of the rebound.

Osman was visibly fading as the game approached the hour mark, perhaps summed up by the ease with which he was caught and then out-muscled by Nemanja Matic in a foot-race for a throughball towards the Chelsea area. Nevertheless, the diminutive midfielder almost broke the deadlock a minute later when his shot deflected off Mirallas' heel but Cech was alive to it and turned the ball around the post before it could sneak in.

At the other end, Howard then made that excellent double-save that looked for so long as though it had preserved a point, stopping Hazard's low shot with a firm one-handed save and then racing across his line to fling himself at Branislav Ivanovich's powerful half-volley at the back post.

With the game still level with 63 minutes gone and Martinez's gameplan still intact, the manager made his first offensive moves aimed at winning the match with Barkley coming on to replace Osman. Gerard Deulofeu would follow 12 minutes later but neither player's youthful exuberance made any difference. On the contrary; both were guilty of running straight into trouble and giving up precious possession in the Chelsea half and, in particular, Barkley, offering further evidence that his form has gone to pieces since his foot injury in January, was just dreadful.

By the time Pienaar was withdrawn in favour of Aiden McGeady with 10 minutes left, the Blues' had visibly lost their shape and cohesion in midfield and with the ball coming back on the defence more and more often, the number of niggly, unnecessary and (naturally) erroneously awarded fouls in dangerous areas near their penalty box increased.

Still, with Mourinho's own substitute Fernando Torres again making a mockery of his 50m price tag with some terrible finishing and Chelsea still relying mostly on longer-range efforts Ramires did go close with a well-struck effort that flashed past Howard's right-hand opst in the 90th minute it looked as though another draw was the cards.

Unfortunately, there would be a cruel twist in injury time from another one of those annoying infringements in a dangerous area in Everton terrirory. Phil Jagielka, otherwise so impressive, was adjudged to have clipped Ramires on the Chelsea left which set up a set-piece opportunity for Lampard to swing a wicked ball into the six-yard box in front of Howard. With more single-mindedness and bravery, it should have been a routine save for the American but, perhaps with too much attention paid to John Terry lunging in in front of him, he took his eye off the ball which ricocheted off his arm and into the net.

1-0 Chelsea and a potentially vital goal in terms of the Premier League championship race. For Everton, surely the death knell for their Champions League hopes this season, although that already looked like a tall order and a point from this game, no matter how well deserved and how psychologically important, was not going to alter that fact very much; they needed all three. The FA Cup takes precedence now, though, as does getting Lukaku back fit and among the goals.

Martinez will, no doubt, view this performance and defeat as another learning moment for his team as they continue their development under this leadership and methods which, it's sometimes easy to forget, have only been in place for nine months. His challenge apart from scouting that missing 20-a-season striker and a reliable, match-winning attacking midfielder is to knit together the things his team does so well into a succession of games and across 90 minutes.

So often, his Everton are impressive in one half but go off the boil in the second and lack the intensity, urgency and punch to drive home a result against the teams above them in the table. So often they lack enough bodies going forward or the confidence to play a pass through a defence rather than around it, electing to go sideways as opposed to driving forwards. That will hopefully come as he continues to mold and shape his squad and he will be helped by the fact that the remainder of the Blues' schedule is fairly kind which offers plenty of scope to pile on some points and at least put pressure on the teams above them in the push for Europe.

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Updates

A hamstring problem forced Lacina Traore to be withdrawn from the starting line-up selected by Roberto Martinez after he announced a side that featured one change, with Leon Osman in for Ross Barkley. Naismith stepped in to replace the stricken Ivorian.

Chelsea started off with a couple of early corners after Jagielka was mugged trying to play out from the back. But Everton took the ball forward, first on their left, then the right where Coleman won a free kick that was swung in to no effect by Baines. Chelsea then threatened with Oscar firing wide.

Baines did get behind the Chelsea defence and crossed for Coleman waiting in the area but Azpilicueta intercepted. Another Chelsea corner threatened but it was defended away and Oscar then took out Naismith and got a very early yellow card.

Some super football saw Naismith lay off a nice opportunity that Osman lashed goalward first time, forcing a good reaction save from Cech but the corners came to nothing a reflection of the Martinez way?

Everton created another opportunity from some good play, Mirallas fluffing his shot but forcing another corner that came to nothing. But the visitors were making a good fist of it, pressing Chelsea well, and working hard for the ball, drawing Chelsea fouls. But it was tending toward good possession with no pace as an Everton attack stalled in a free-kick that Baines swung to the far post during a really good spell from Everton.

Chelsea were starting to get a little frustrated watching Everton pas the ball around them but finally mounted something of an attack but Barry stopped it as an intriguing midfield battle started to dominate.

Chelsea did force their way forward on the half-hour and finally got a shot away after some very well organized defending by Everton. Naismith was being a real terrier up front, but was denied a corner in a poor decision by Probert that allowed Chelsea to push Everton back again although it came to nothing and Everton broke well down the right, Coleman crossing and Osman forcing a defensive corner that was taken short, swung in to Jagielka by Pienaar but it was just behind him and glanced wide.

More defending was required until Eto'o dug out a shot that Howard saved well, and Everton were on the attack again, winning a couple more corners. Mirallas took the next one and it was much better, for Jagielka at the near post, but Chelsea got lucky, went up the other end and won a corner themselves off Willian's deflected shot, but it was headed wide by Terry.

Pienaar gave away a needless foul but it and the follow-up was again defended superbly by Everton. A nice-looking break down the middle led by McCarthy appeared to be the breakthrough but somehow they contrived to lose the opportunity. However, in the next attack, the ball sat up perfectly for Mirallas but his execution was disgraceful, when he had time to pick his shot and drove it horribly off target. A late free-kick came to nothing, bringing the half to a close goalless.

Ramires replaced Oscar at the break and started to get in it with Pienaar on the ground, much to Osman's annoyance. But Probert only gave a drop ball. Lampard got behind the Everton line and had couple of bites of the cherry and then won a corner after demanding a penalty. A couple of good Chelsea corners caused some panic, and Barry was then rather harshly penalized for his challenge but Willian did nothing with a very well-placed free-kick.

Chelsea were making a stronger fist of it since the break; would Martinez wait until the hour-mark to make some changes?Osman was fading, Matic batting him aside with ease. But it was Osman who fired one in that was deflected by Mirallas and forced a good save by Cech at the near post; however, Distin got himself offside following the corner.

Hazard and then Ivanovich forced good saves from Howard, but Everton could not break as Mourinho made another change, Torres replacing Willian... while Martinez finally decided to swap in Barkley with 25 mins left as Chelsea continued to force the pace,

The urgency for Chelsea was palpable as Everton stumped them and played it forward but a great move was stalled by Pienaar, much to Barkley's frustration, while Mirallas was having one of those days where the ball just would not run or play for him.

The game became a little scrappy for a while as neither team played with much fluidity until all the changes had settled in, with Martinez finally looking to Deulofeu to replace Mirallas who had an awful game.

Distin had been superb in defence for Everton, denying Chelsea at crucial moments. Everton tried to get Deulofeu and Barkley to link up but they had only 10 minutes to change this so far all too predictable (if admirable) performance, as McGeady replaced the a very frustrating Pienaar, who had slowed down far too many promising moves but why so late?

Barkley did brilliantly to challenge for the ball on the Chelsea byeline but his ball to Deulofeu was lacking. Barry got a yellow as he had to block Lampard. Still time for Everton to nick one but Barkley went down too easily for a penalty, tripping on the ball. Naismith landed awkwardly and may have damaged his ankle as the game entered the final 5 mins.

Torres got a soft free-kick from contact by Baines that upset the Everton players but it was defended away as Chelsea pushed for the winner and Everton were reduced to hoofing when Barkley very poorly misplaced a crucial pass to Coleman. Ramires came close with a superb strike from nothing.

Barkley then ran the ball out under pressure, while Deulofeu could not get a touch, with 5 mins of added time on the board. Jagielka was booked for a poor block on Ramires, giving up a very dangerous free-kick that was powered in by Terry whose energy and determination startled Howard, forcing the Everton keeper to put the ball in his own net and win the game for Chelsea. An galling reward for greater intention shown by the Chelsea captain when the ball should have been Howard's.

A late free kick swung in by Baines and the follow-up won a late corner, driven in far too low. and the Everton attack came to nothing. A cruel but all too predictable end to an ultimately crucial defeat that probably ends any hopes of a league finish in the European slots for an ultimately dejected Everton side.

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

If Roberto Martinez's rhetoric towards the end of January was any indication, the Blues' manager had clearly been eyeing the last 10 matches of the season as being vital to his team's chances of finishing in the top four.

The recent disappointments at Anfield and White Hart Lane will surely have put a major dent in that strategy which means that Everton will need to pick up maximum points from the games they won't be expected to win if there is to be any chance of them achieving Champions League qualification this time around.

This weekend's trip to Stamford Bridge for the lunchtime Saturday kick-off, the Blues' last away fixture against the seven sides battling it out for those coveted top-four places, is clearly in that category. Win and anything is possible; lose, and there is every possibility that the gap between us and fourth place could be as wide as 11 points come Sunday afternoon.

The task facing Martinez and Everton could not be bigger – Chelsea have hit their stride, are the current League leaders and haven't lost at home in the Premier League with Jose Mourinho at the helm in over 70 matches.

They're not infallible, though, and, as West Bromwich Albion found out in November, if you get at them and cause them problems you can muscle your way into a position where you can win at Stamford Bridge as they surely would have done were it not a scandalously gutless decision by Andre Marriner to award Chelsea a late penalty that salvaged a 2-2 draw.

A revived Crystal Palace also ran Mourhino's men close in a 2-1 defeat in December, as did Swansea on Boxing Day, while West Ham frustrated them to a goalless draw at the end of last month.

With Romelu Lukaku ineligible to play against his parent club – it's unlikely he would have been rushed back into the starting XI so soon after recovering from an ankle injury even if he could figure – it's scoring goals that could again be the Blues' biggest problem. Lacina Traore got off the mark against Swansea last Sunday but struggled to impose himself in his first game in a foreign League. Still, he could be given the nod in this marquee match to see what he can do against the best that England's top flight has to offer.

Steven Naismith's crucial intervention in the cup last weekend will give Martinez plenty to contemplate, though, as will his scoring record against Chelsea. The Scot scored an impressively accomplished goal in this fixture last season and headed the winner for the Blues at Goodison Park in September and has four goals in his last five games. He has proved to be more effective coming off the bench this season, though, and that could be the deciding factor for his manager.

With no new injury concerns, Martinez just has to decide over whether or not to start with Ross Barkley again in midfield over Leon Osman. The veteran is another player who has been more effective as a substitute and Barkley is still feeling his way back following his foot injury but his Martinez may opt for his precocious unpredictability as he looks to spring a surprise on Mourinho.

With nothing much to lose and everything to gain, Everton just need to go for broke in this one and try to unsettle Chelsea early and keep them ruffled. They will expecting to have things their own way in this fixture as they have so often since the Blues' last win here in 1996 but, like any side, they can lose their discipline and composure and become susceptiple to being turned over by a team with the right approach and attitude. Hopefully that is what Martinez will be instilling in his troops ahead of this one.

Lyndon Lloyd

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Match Preview
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Match Report
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CHELSEA (4-4-2)
  Cech
  Ivanovic
  Azpilicueta
  Terry
  Cahill
  Matic
  Oscar booked (Ramires 46')
  Lampard
  Willian (Torres 62')
  Hazard
  Eto'o (Schurrle 69')
  Subs not used
  Cole
  Salah
  Ba
  Schwarzer

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Howard
  Coleman
  Jagielka booked
  Distin
  Baines
  Barry booked
  McCarthy
  Pienaar (McGeady 80')
  Osman (Barkley 63')
  Mirallas (Deulofeu 75')
  Naismith
  Subs not used
  Robles
  Hibbert
  Stones
  Garbutt
  Unavailable
  Gibson (injured)
  Kone (injured)
  Lukaku (ineligible)
  Oviedo (injured)
  Traore (injured)
  Duffy (loan)
  Kennedy (loan)
  Junior (loan)
  Lundstram (loan)

Premier League Scores
Saturday
Arsenal 4-1 Sunderland
Cardiff 0-4 Hull City
Chelsea 1-0 Everton
C Palace 0-2 Man United
Man City 1-0 Stoke City
West Brom 1-1 Fulham
West Ham 3-1 So'hampton
Sunday
Liverpool 4-3 Swansea
Newcastle 1-0 Aston Villa
Norwich 1-0 Tottenham

Team Pts
1 Chelsea 60
2 Arsenal 59
3 Manchester City 57
4 Liverpool 56
5 Tottenham Hotspur 50
6 Manchester United 45
7 Everton 45
8 Newcastle United 40
9 Southampton 39
10 West Ham United 31
11 Hull City 30
12 Swansea City 28
13 Aston Villa 28
14 Norwich City 28
15 Stoke City 27
16 Crystal Palace 26
17 West Bromwich Albion 25
18 Sunderland 24
19 Cardiff City 22
20 Fulham 21

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