Everton belatedly banked their first three points of the 2013-14 season with a hard-fought victory over highly-fancied Chelsea thanks to a goal in first-half injury time by a player who might not even have been on the pitch were it not for a training ground injury to Steven Pienaar.
Steven Naismith was on target the last time these two sides met back in May on the final day of last season and he was the only man in Blue to penetrate the Londoners' much-vaunted back line this time as well, connecting with Nikica Jelavic's impressive header to convert what proved to be the winner from close range.
Though Everton rode their luck at times and, uncharacteristically under Martinez's fledgling tenure, were forced to cede the bulk of the possession to their opponents as Jose Mourinho's men tried to make their superiority tell, a stubborn defensive performance from the home side preserved the slender advantage to the final whistle. Remarkably, another clean sheet was the Blues' seventh in succession at home, their best sequence in that regard for 25 years.
Based on the manageable list of opponents for his first three matches in charge, Martinez would surely have expected to have his first win on the board by the time Chelsea came to town but three draws – two of them frustratingly goalless affairs despite this team's league-leading dominance of possession – had led to some uneasiness among supporters who were hoping to avoid a long bedding-in period for the new manager and his methods.
And the Spaniard's task against an expensively-assembled team from the Capital looked even more daunting after Steven Pienaar – a scorer for Everton on both of Chelsea's previous visits to Goodison Park – suffered an injury in training that ruled him out, along with Arouna Kone who picked up a reported knee problem.
That meant Naismith playing on the right side of midfield and, with Romelu Lukaka ineligible to face his parent club — the Belgian was, somewhat bizarrely, paraded in front of the Goodison faithful with his permanent employers in attendance instead – Jelavic the automatic starter in attack despite his ongoing frustrations in front of goal. Gareth Barry made his debut in central midfield, however, in the slot vacated by Marouane Fellaini, while James McCarthy started on the bench.
The early going was mixed, with Everton lapsing into their now-familiar pattern of possession football across the back but, with few options ahead of him, Phil Jagielka resorting to a number of raking balls forward that cheaply handed possession to the visitors. And Chelsea's own debutant, Samuel Eto'o sounded the warning bell as early as the fifth minute when he headed Ramires's cross over the bar when he might have done better.
The Blues showed flashes of intent of their own on the first quarter of an hour, though; first, when Naismith collected Ross Barkley's inviting pass and his cross found Jelavic but, 10 yards from goal, he couldn't get enough power on his header to unduly trouble Peter Cech; and then when the Scot forced the 'keeper into batting the ball behind for a corner at his near post.
Overall, though, Everton weren't really able to find a consistent rhythm and, though Barry looked hugely impressive in his first appearance in a Blue jersey, Barkley appeared to be the more willing of the central midfielders to drop back and show for the pass from defence. Kevin Mirallas, playing wide on the left in Pienaar's absence, was once again a peripheral influence who looked wasted in Martinez's default system and his presence was seemingly limiting Leighton Baines's ability to raid forward, the left-back hardly crossing the halfway line in the first 45 minutes.
Nevertheless, it was so far, so good in the first half hour until a suicidal moment by Tim Howard nearly gifted Chelsea the lead. The American tried to find Sylvain Distin with an ill-advised pass to the left edge of the penalty area but the under-hit ball was easily intercepted by Andre Schurrle and he laid up Eto'o in the centre for what should have been a routine tap-in into the empty net. Barry came across superbly, though, and deflected the Cameroon international's shot over the crossbar.
After Naismith had knocked a first-time shot a yard wide under the attentions of David Luiz, Howard redeemed himself with an excellent two-handed save to push Ramires's goal-bound shot around the far post 10 minutes before the break. But profligacy with possession and poor decision-making in advanced areas from the likes of Leon Osman, Barkley and Naismith opened the defence up to unwanted pressure at times, Schurrle getting the chance to open the scoring when Ramires sprung the offside trap with only Baines scrambling back to hustle the Brazilian into an early shot that the German fired well over from 18 yards.
Chelsea were well in control of the game as the first half drew to a close and Everton were relieved when Branislav Ivanovic despatched a free-header from Juan Mata's free kick over the bar. The home fans were already restless when Phil Jagielka elected not to follow suit and put the ball into the box from an Everton free kick in the other half, playing it short to Barry in midfield instead. But when that attack was snuffed out by Cech, the Blues capitalised on a slip by Ramires to win the ball back and set up the move that would send them into half-time a goal to the good.
Osman and Barkley exchanged passes on the edge of the box before the former whipped the ball to the far post to Jelavic who, craning his neck, diverted it back across Cech and onto the head of Naismith who couldn't miss from a couple of yards out. A goal from a partnership forged in Glasgow and one only given fleeting opportunity to be rekindled in the Premier League on Merseyside.
Chelsea were stung into action and they began the second half in determined and even more dominant fashion. The first 10 minutes were all Mourinho's men and the visiting fans thought they had scored a quick equaliser within a minute of the restart but Schurrle's clipped shot over Howard only found the side-netting.
Howard then did well to parry Hazard's stinging drive, Eto'o scuffing the inviting rebound wide, and the former Barcelona striker was foiled by the American a few minutes later when he planted a header into his arms.
Chelsea were griniding away with plenty of possession but they found Everton increasingly difficult to break down; had it not been for some disappointing choices by Barkley and Naismith in advanced areas, the Blues might have punished the Londoners at least once on the counter attack. Barkley, in particular, elected to hold onto the ball for too long and ran into a cul-de-sac with Blue shirts better placed ahead of him on two or three occasions but every game brings more experience and his decision-making will undoubtedly improve.
Everton's attacking threat increased and the game opened up, though, following Jelavic's removal in favour of McCarthy midway through the second half, a move that pushed Mirallas up front and gave Chelsea a lot more think about at the back. The Belgian was chopped down by his compatriot Hazard outside the box with 20 minutes left, Mirallas forcing Cech to push the resulting free kick away from the base of the post, and was then dragged down cynically by David Luiz on the halfway line to prevent a potential goalscoring opportunity later on. In between, Mirallas had cut in in familiar fashion and seen a driven shot beaten away by the 'keeper as Everton started to fight fire with fire a bit more. Baines would later whip a trademark free kick off the top of the bar after Seamus Coleman had been flattened by Hazard.
Though the visitors threw Fernando Torres and Oscar on in a desperate attempt to rescue the game late on, they had seemingly run out of ideas and the Blues' defence was standing firm, allowing Martinez to run the clock down in the final minutes with a couple of late substitutions and close out his first win in the Goodison hot-seat.
With Chelsea being so highly fancied for a tilt at the title under the returning Mourinho, this was an excellent result for Everton and should serve as a terrific shot in the arm to a Martinez side that has yet to see the introduction of Lukaku who will be in the frame for the visit to West Ham next week.
Credit should go to Naismith who was as important in preserving the three points at times as he was in winning them with tenacious tracking back, while Barry allowed for a seamless transition from Fellaini as a defensive midfielder and Osman had arguably his best game of what has thus far been a slightly disappointing start from his point of view.
Importantly, it was a victory earned with the kind of patient attacking play that carved out the goal as well as the defensive and midfield doggedness forged under the old regime. Yes, there was an element of fortune that should not be casually ignored – Chelsea had twice as many shots as Everton and Howard's moment of madness would surely have been punished had it not been for Barry's presence of mind – but the points and the way in which the defence appeared to get stronger and more impervious the longer the game went on are more important in the final reckoning.
The need to be quicker and more ruthless in attack is still there... but that will hopefully come as progress continues incrementally under the new management. The key was getting the first win on the board; the next step is to build on that with the two upcoming trips to the Capital.
Roberto Martinez surprised a few observes with a rather conservative-looking line-up, only Gareth Barry of his new acquisitions starting in a side that included the likes of Naismith, Osman and Jelavic — all rather ineffective thus far this season. Gibson and Alcaraz aren't yet fit, Lukaku is ineligible,and Kone and Pienaar are both missing from the squad. But at least Ross Barkley made his fourth start of the season, allowed to play with much more attacking intend under Martinez — according to Alan Stubbs!
Everton started in confident style, continuing the comfortable possession play and slow build-up from the back but nothing came of it and Chelsea were the first to mount far quicker and more dangerous attacks, winning the first corner, then Eto'o heading over when perhpas he should have scored.
But it was Naismith who broke well down the right and picked out Jelavic but the lack of pace on the ball meant an easy save for Peter Cech. More good work by Naismith won a corner but the ball was played all the way back to Howard!
Osman squandered simple possession but Barry was there to mop up, the City loanee settling in instantly and showing some much needed composure in the middle. Everton were doing more than holding their own, playing well in the centre of the park, but as ever, creating that final threat on goal was not really happening, with Jelavic lacking the strength and guile to evade his marker.
Playing it across the back (PIATB) with Distin, Howard produce an unbelievable error, gifting the ball to Hazard, and Barry saved Everton blushes with a brilliant block to incredibly prevent Eto'o scoring an easy open goal.
Mirallas switched over to the right combined woth Coleman and Naismith, making a great play and picking out Naismith whose shot should have been better, under pressure from Luiz.
An absolutely brilliant save by Howard off Ramires saved another seemingly certain goal, Naismith then breaking quickly but halting and making the most dreadful of passes to ruin what should have been an incisive counter, putting the Everton goal under more pressure again.
More danger, as Schrurle scooped an easy goal shot well over the bar after Baines had stalled. A good free-kick opportunity was then wasted with an awful pass from Osman, and again, more pressure with a free-kick for Chelsea, Barry fouling again. Ivanovic glanced the delivery over the Everton bar, a Chelsea goal only a matter of time...
Everton had played quite well in the first half, but with precious little in the way of threat on the Chelsea goal; possession only pays if you actually hold onto the ball and Osman was perhaps the worst culprit, putting Everton under increasingly heavy pressure approaching the break, Howard's goal leading a charmed life under some serious Chelsea chances.
But, in the added minute before the half-time whistle, the patient passing approach finally paid off after a good interception by Naismith. A neat move with some concise passing was fittingly finished off by Naismith after a superb cross from Osman to Jelavic, heading back over Cech from the far post, set up a lovely easy header from 2 yards for the other half of the ex-rangers pairing to put the Blues into the lead at the break.
No changes at for the second half, with Moruinho delaying his players' return to the pitch for a couple of minutes. Baines this time gave the ball away and Schulre seemed to have clipped his shot easily over Hoard but thankfully into the side-netting.
Some shocking sloppy stuff at the back saw Distin roill the ball needlessly out of play, Mourinho's mind-games having seemingly done the trick with Everton looking simply terrible, Eto'o getting in a shot that Howard blocked well, and thankfully no-one following up. Everton were pinned back for 5 mins before they briefly got the ball forward, such was Chelsea's pressure and dominance.
Naismith got into a great position to set something up but his scooped chip for Jelavic was all wrong. Then Jelavic had a chance in plenty of space off a great ball from Barry but the Croatian's header was very poor. Everton were having to work very hard in defence and Mourinho made a couple of early chances, one being Everton's nemesis Lampard.
Barkley had been quiet but he did get free down the left, however his forward ball was given just too much weight. He had a chance to carry the ball forward through the midfield but again his decision-making was wrong, losing possession instead of making the pass. And yet again, trying to be too clever, and ending up fouling Mikel. James McCarthy then came on for his debut in place of Jelavic, with Mirallas moving up front.
A final change for Chelsea, with Torres on, Jose throwing the kitchen sink at Everton to try and get back into this game with 20-odd minutes left, an excellent contest in prospect.
Hazard blocked Mirallas, and a great free-kick opportunity had the crowd well up for something from Baines but it was a low strike by Mirallas, saved at the post by Cech, and a handful of Everton corners followed, but no chance developed.
Osman agian gave up possession cheaply in tthe danger area but McCarthy and Naismith rescued him. However, Chelsea were piling it on thick. Barkley seemed to have space for a shot but he could not dig one out and the ball was right back in Howard's area, as the pace and intensity of the game accelerated even more.
A tremendous cross by Eto'o and Howard having to pull out all the stops. Barkley and Mirallas forced the pace down the left, the Belgian putting in a fearsome shot that Cech blocked away.
What looked at first like a clear penalty but Coleman was adjudged to have been fouled by Hazard fractionally outside the Chelsea area but Baines powered the cross way tooo far to the back post, with 10 mins left.
Luiz, dragged Mirallas back, but it was in the middle of the field and Howard only gave a yellow, with Goodison howling for the red card this disgustingly cynical foul by Chelsea. Naismith then fouled but it was no threat and Barkley looked to break but yet again he played it wrong, showing too much to the Chelsea defender.
Barkley again got a chance to run forward, so tired, but he drew the foul in a wonderful position. Naismith was then withdrawn for Stones as Baines lined up the free-kick and clipped it off the top of the Chelsea angle! Chelsea were quickly back the other end but into added time and still Everton resisted with tremendous passion and commitment. Mirallas won an excellent handball off Luiz, and Mirallas was then swapped out for a cameo from Deulofeu (why so late?!?!)
Everton kept playing up as they could, running down the seconds of added time, Osman getting a great chance but his shot was awful, spooned over. The last Chelsea attack petered out and Goodison Park erupted with joy and relief in equal measure — an excellent first win for Roberto Martinez.
With the first international break of the new season out of the way, Everton's quest for a first Premier League win under Roberto Martinez returns to Goodison Park for a date with title-contenders Chelsea.
The Blues' first game in front of the home faithful ended as frustratingly as the following game in Cardiff a fortnight ago with no goals and big question marks over the ability of the team to create and convert chances.
In between, the closure of the transfer window and Martinez's deadline-day activity has seen Marouane Fellaini depart for Manchester United but the midfield bolstered by the arrival of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy and the addition of a genuine goalscoring threat in Romelu Lukaku.
Goodison will have to wait until the last day of the month before it will get it's first look at the Belgian striker in Everton colours as he is ineligible to face his parent club. With Darron Gibson unlikely to be fit enough to start in the next two weeks, both Barry and McCarthy will be in contention for starting berths in the intervening two games, though, as the Spaniard explores his new midfield options.
One of them, most likely Barry, will automatically take Fellaini's place in the midfield holding role, while one of the Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar or Ross Barkley would have to make for McCarthy in the more advanced role.
Osman's lack of impact in the opening three games would make him the obvious candidate but both Martinez and his predecessor have shown plenty of confidence in his experience and ability so it's hard to guess what he will do.
There is an equally vexing question up front where Nikica Jelavic has struggled to pose a threat and Arouna Kone has exhibited a distinct lack of sharpness as Martinez has brought him in gradually this season. Certainly, the team looked more potent once the Ivorian had come on to replace the Croatian at Cardiff last time out and that alone may tip the manager in Kone's direction for the visit of Jose Mourinho's men.
Like the Blues, Chelsea are unbeaten so far this season but they have two wins on the board, both earned at home, and are sitting in second place, four points better off coming into the weekend.
In many ways, this game could be instructive in demonstrating where Everton are heading under Martinez. Though Lukaku will not be playing – it would be folly to depend entirely on him in any case – how the team approaches a fixture that has produced some stirring, determined dispays by the Blues in recent years will show whether they've lost any of the fire and drive that a home game against one of the Sky Four used to prompt under the old regime.A win would certainly provide a catalyst to the slow start under Martinez, though, and set them up for the two upcoming trips to the Capital in the League and Cup.
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2013-14 Reports Index|
|Naismith (89' Stones)|
|Mirallas (90+2' Deulofeu)|
|Jelavic (66' McCarthy)|
|Subs not used|
|Subs: Robles, , ,, ,.|
|Cole (69' Cole)|
|Mata (57' Oscar)|
|Schurrle (57' Lampard)|
|Subs not used|
|Premier League Scores|
|Aston Villa||1 - 2||Newcastle|
|Everton||1 - 0||Chelsea|
|Fulham||1 - 1||West Brom|
|Hull City||1 - 1||Cardiff|
|Man United||2 - 0||C Palace|
|Stoke||0 - 0||Man City|
|Sunderland||1 - 3||Arsenal|
|Tottenham||2 - 0||Norwich|
|So'hampton||0 - 0||West Ham|
|Swansea||2 - 2||Liverpool|
|10||West Ham United||5|
|19||West Bromwich Albion||2|