Chelsea 1 - 0 Everton
Just two minutes, plus stoppage time, were all that lay between Everton and a hugely creditable point at Stamford Bridge. Had they been able to hang on, they would have registered a fourth successive clean sheet for the first time in almost six years and become only the second team to deprive Chelsea of maximum points at Stamford Bridge this season.
Instead, a focused and determined defensive stand buckled in the aftermath of the game's most controversial incident, one that saw Gareth Barry sent off for a second bookable offence and Branislav Ivanovic escape punishment altogether for his aggressive manhandling of James McCarthy right in front of referee Jon Moss.
The Serbian would remain on the pitch, despite conduct that might have seen him ordered for an early bath by a more competent or courageous referee, to win a header from the subsequent free kick that would lead to the winning goal from Willian with 88 minutes on the clock.
Ultimately, even though the contest had had an air of "only a matter time" about it for much of the evening, particularly as Chelsea ratcheted up the pressure in the final quarter of an hour, the result was decided by that fine a margin — an instinctive anticipatory reaction at one end by Peter Cech to brilliantly deny Romelu Lukaku; a crucial deflection off Steven Naismith's toe and a moment's hesitation by Tim Howard on an otherwise impressive return to the starting line-up at the other.
Viewed through the prism of a season that has yielded a paltry six wins from 24 matches coming into this midweek clash, this was a good performance from Everton and one that deserved a point that would have done little to enhance their Premier League standing but would have provided another shot in the arm in terms of morale ahead of the trip to Switzerland next week.
That they carved out the best chance of the match and actually edged their hosts in terms of possession in the first half was testament to the fact that the Blues hadn't simply come to park the bus. They had come with a gameplan predicated on defence for the first hour or so which transitioned to a slightly more adventurous posture in the last 20 minutes. But, Bryan Oviedo's superb centre for Lukaku in the 68th minute aside, Roberto Martinez's men were ultimately let down by their now familiar impotence going forward.
The manager had wisely elected to rest McCarthy by starting him on the bench after his 90-minute comeback in Saturday's Merseyside derby, giving Ross Barkley his first start in three games and handed Aaron Lennon his full debut at the expense of Kevin Mirallas wide on the right. In goal, Joel Robles was controversially dropped despite overseeing three consecutive clean sheets while Oviedo deputised again for the injured Leighton Baines.
Chelsea, with new signing Juan Cuadrado making his first start since arriving from Fiorentina, began in ominously energertic fashion and the first sign that this was going to be a long night of battling both the League leaders and one of the Premier League's least-admired referees arrived very early when Muhamed Besic was booked for his first offence. His challenge on Eden Hazard was clumsily late but lacked malice and the yellow card left the Bosnian walking a tightrope until half time when he was replaced by McCarthy for the second half.
Worse, after Willian had flashed a shot inches over the crossbar, Cech had denied Lukaku's 20-yard effort off his weaker foot with an extended leg and Howard had pawed a Lioc Remy header to safety, Barry joined his defensive midfield partner in the book when he brought dragged his man down having been easily beaten for pace.
Nevertheless, Besic made his usual adjustment from aggression to more measured covering and harrassing and Everton coped fairly well for the remainder of the first half, restricting the London side to a couple of shots dragged across the face of goal and a John Terry header that flew over the bar while Lukaku forced a routine stop from Cech after cutting in from the right.
On the whole, the second period was a more open affair but there were signs that even as Chelsea assumed greater control of the ball and later introduced Cesc Fabregas and Didier Drobga from the substitute's bench, they actually looked less and less like scoring. With Everton pulling white shirts behind the ball and working tirelessly to press the spaces and keep pressure on the man in possession, Jose Mourinho's side seemed to be running out of ideas. John Stones was magnificent at times, at one stage pulling off successive slide tackles to keep Hazard away from his goal, while Phil Jagielka and Oviedo worked in tandem to reduce the inroads available to Cuadrado and Willian from the right. Switching flanks, Hazard got through in the 61st minute after burning past a tired-looking Naismth but Howard was there to beat away the Belgian's shot.
At the other end, Lukaku managed to get in behind Kurt Zouma but the Frenchman used his pace to charge down his attempted cross. Though the resulting corner was initially cleared, the ball was worked back to Oviedo who drove a dangerous ball into the six-yard box where Lukaku was on hand to seemingly turn it past Cech from point-blank range. The Czech international had anticipated the direction of the ball, however, and was able to make a stunning save with his foot, leaving Lukaku incredulous.
Then, after Lennon had made way for Mirallas, Everton's tricky Belgian collected a pass from his compatriot Lukaku and ignored Coleman overlapping to his right in favour of a 20-yard effort that flew narrowly over.
If it felt like Everton had dodged the inevitably fatal bullet with five minutes remaining when Nemanja Matic's goal was ruled out for offside on Ivanovic, the back of their impressive display was broken on those defining two minutes at the end after Barry was whistled for a lazy trip on Willian and, after the ensuing handbags and cajoling from the likes of Terry, referee Moss flashed him a second yellow card.
Howard fisted away Ivanovic's header from the resulting free but only as far as Willian whose shot was diverted slightly off course by Naismith, leaving Howard rooted awkwardly and unconvincingly to the spot as the ball crept inside the post, seemingly within arm's reach of the American. And that was that.
Mourinho's admission that after the game that Everton posed "difficult" opposition was an acknowledgement of just how close-run a thing this match was. As the better team, it was not surprising that Chelsea would end up edging the possession and having more shots on goal but the Blues deserved a point for the manner in which they defended for virtually the entire match.
The conflict for the Evertonian comes when forced to consider the offensive side of our game which was again mostly impotent, despite some encouraging moments from Lennon, a better all-round performance by Lukaku and that one terrific chance served up for him by Oviedo. Granted, Chelsea away is not the game where you'd expect much from an attacking point of view but the fact remains that this is, on paper, a talented team going forward and, on the few occasions we really had a go at Mourinho's back line, we almost scored.
Unfortunately, those opportunities were few and far between thanks to poor decision-making or distribution when it mattered. Martinez's persistence with an unbalanced formation designed to accommodate both Naismith and Ross Barkley again stymied the team in the final third, with promising moves often breaking down in now-familiar fashion with both players.
As difficult as is to dwell on individuals, Barkley was again ineffective when we needed some inspiration and his dramatically waning star is painful to witness right now. Though better than against West Brom, the lad offered very little this evening and was predictably substituted with 20 minutes to go. How Martinez goes about rebuilding his confidence and drawing that abundance of talent out of him again could be one of the manager's biggest challenges but until the wins start coming, a passenger in such an important area of the team is a luxury we simply cannot afford.
Heart can be taken from such a spirited performance against the best side in the Premier League, the latest in a string of sound defensive displays since Stones resumed his partnership with Jagielka, and, in combination with the four-match unbeaten run that preceded tonight, it can provide a platform on which to build towards the work that must be done against Young Boys when the Europa League resumes. With just one goal scored in the last four games, however, a solution to our attacking problems needs to be found soon. In shoring up a leaky defence, the edge at the other end appears to have been blunted and neither cup success nor Premier League safety will be achievable without the manager rediscovering his offensive mojo.
Reader Comments (55)
Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer
1 Posted 12/02/2015 at 07:43:21
Agree also about Barkley. It is painful to watch even though he was safe enough last night. That's the issue: he goes always for safety because he is frightened to take the risks of his natural game. It looks a really deep- seated block and he needs skilled assistance and support to remove it.
2 Posted 12/02/2015 at 07:49:41
I can't believe how bad we are holding the ball up and messing up an easy pass when NOT under pressure.
Unless we score, we are never going to win. I think it's well past time that Kone comes in for Lukaku.
3 Posted 12/02/2015 at 08:12:16
4 Posted 12/02/2015 at 08:33:44
Our next match is dwarfed in importance by the one after it.
5 Posted 12/02/2015 at 09:24:28
That day he was playing as a central midfielder, he scored and although it was not some great game, we looked like a team. That was the last time we scored 3 goals and after that, we revert to playing with 2 or 3 defensive midfielders and we are awful going forward.
I am allergic to see 2 players just in front of back 4. We scored only 2 goals in last 6 games and during that time we created very, very little. Barkley's gone in other positions and Lukaku is not having any support up front. People are criticizing him, but he is 21-year-old player, who for the most of the time is trying to hold on the ball 40 meters from goal.
I am absolutely sure that we would be excellent, by playing in 4-4-2 formation with only one def. midfielder (McCarthy or Besic or Gibson), Barkley in central midfield, with Lennon and Atsu or McGeady on the wings. You would than see passing, creative team, with danger coming from all over the pitch (two strikers, two wingers, central midfielder, plus active full and left back).
6 Posted 12/02/2015 at 08:57:26
1] we came for a point and set up accordingly Â– pretty much as West Brom did to us at Goodison recently. This style invites opposition pressure and nowadays virtually guarantees bookings for the two DMs Â– which duly arrived for all three.
2] Lukaku worked very hard Â– with little or no support Â– but a Premier League striker really should have taken at least one of those chances, particularly the second one.
3] Ross looked lost. He and Naismith together plainly doesn't work.
4] Lennon did well in providing extra defensive cover. Difficult to assess his attacking threat on this performance.
5] I thought we looked better (= more secure) in the second half with McCarthy on.
6] Probably Howard's best performance of the season (maybe he realises Joel poses a real threat to his place and feels under pressure to perform?).
7] Our stand-out performers ... Jags and Stones.
I asked the Chelsea season ticket holders around me if they thought any of our players would improve their side. Quite a few reckon their central defence isn't that great and worry what will happen when "JT" retires. They really like the look of John Stones and admitted to being seriously impressed by his performance last night. Interestingly most consider Ross to be ordinary "massively overrated like that crap Wilshere at the Gooners" seemed to be the general consensus.
8] From my seat ... had a great view of the back of both managers. I can confirm that Roberto is developing a bald spot but Jose isn't.
(Hope I haven't stolen any of Ken Buckley's thunder with this summary!)
7 Posted 12/02/2015 at 09:31:20
To use nearly all our transfer money on that useless lump is beyond belief. He has no control, nearly always comes out second best against defenders, is lazy, and is constantly offside.
The Chelsea defenders had an easy night last night as have many other teams in the last few games. Unfortunately we are stuck with Lukaku because Martinez won't admit he has signed a dope.
8 Posted 12/02/2015 at 09:24:14
It is frustrating how the big decisions always favour the 'big' clubs Â– the others seem to be in the league to simply make up the numbers and provide entertainment for the 'drop zone'. One shudders to think how much worse it could get when the new TV bonanza kicks in.
Can anyone imagine the situation of Borussia Dortmund (recent Bundesliga winners and Champions Cup finalists Â– now at the bottom of the League table) happening in the Premier League? I don't think so... If it were Chelsea, Liverpool or Man Utd at the bottom of the table, quiet words would be had with the referees on how it would be bad for the PL if they were to finish outside the Top 4 and a wink and a pat on the shoulder would ensure that the 'right' results are obtained.
9 Posted 12/02/2015 at 09:59:46
10 Posted 12/02/2015 at 09:55:49
How did that thug Ivanovic stay on the field? ItÂs so tediously repetitive that refs favour certain teams. IÂm surprised the ref didnÂt join in their goal celebrations.
11 Posted 12/02/2015 at 10:04:39
On the whole, Lukaku showed signs of improvement yesterday, seemed to work a bit harder than of late and wasn't caught offside on more than one or two occasions. I'd still like to see him stay on the defender's shoulder even more aggressively, and go on more diagonal runs, which does seem to work quite well.
12 Posted 12/02/2015 at 10:22:11
13 Posted 12/02/2015 at 10:29:02
As I said on another post, say what you want about Lukaku, but heÂll get you 15 to 20 goals every season and how many times have asked for a striker who can do that?
Plus heÂs only 21 and will get better, give the guy a chance!
14 Posted 12/02/2015 at 10:25:58
The big worry now is how the EL away game may affect our chances of winning the all-important Leicester game next weekend. I’d give some of the youngsters and fringe players (Browning, Garbutt, Gibson, Kone) a run-out in Switzerland, and rest the likes of Oviedo, Barkley, Lukaku and possibly Stones.
15 Posted 12/02/2015 at 10:21:26
16 Posted 12/02/2015 at 10:32:03
In the coming games I think Lennon should start and, if Mirallas is up for it, so should he meaning it's a straight choice between Barkley and Naismith for the No 10 role. Also surely now RM must start both Besic and McCarthy for a prolonged period.
The Leicester game is massive now and must win with 2 more away games after but if we show the same effort I'm confident of 3 points.
17 Posted 12/02/2015 at 10:44:15
Eventually we'll have to move on and start to play to win without the massive risks we were taking before but getting the defence right is most important.
18 Posted 12/02/2015 at 10:55:39
Last season, he produced some great moments but, like most of the team, he's lacking in confidence and struggling for form. I keep wanting him to come good but I just can't see it happening in an Everton shirt.
19 Posted 12/02/2015 at 10:30:14
Having said that, Barry deserved to go - he's too slow and in frustration lashes out with stupid fouls. Pity he's not suspended for more games Â– RM would be forced to make a few decisions. I thought Barkley and Naismith looked slow last night. And I was very critical at KO regarding Howard's selection but he was outstanding.
20 Posted 12/02/2015 at 11:19:31
It was clear last season that he was given licence to take risks and make mistakes. I can only assume that someone has told him not to take risks in case he loses possession. I thought the whole point of having two DMs was to allow the attacking players to try things in the knowledge that others would tidy up. Now it seems that we are playing all of these defensive players and our forward thinking players have been told not to take risks.
I feel for the lad. After his breakthrough season last season, he should be pushing on. But instead he's playing as if he's scared stiff of making a mistake.
21 Posted 12/02/2015 at 11:34:30
I state this on every thread, but Ross isn't an inside forward (old term) or a No 10 (new trendy term) Â– he's a CM and either Martinez plays him there till he gets his confidence back, or continues to shift him around left mid, right mid, No 10.
He looked like a different player vs QPR, where he could do the Keane/Ballack job of surging forward and at least he's got (in theory) at least 4/5 players in front of him.
It's not going to happen but let's have a look at 4-3-3, with Ross flanked by McCarthy & Besic, with Lennon, Mirallas & Lukaku up top.
22 Posted 12/02/2015 at 11:58:51
23 Posted 12/02/2015 at 12:19:06
Ross, who once heard the seats banging as the crowd stood in expectation upon receiving the ball, now hears murmurs and groans as he puts his studs on the ball and plays yet another sideways (safe) pass.
His confidence is completely gone and the surging runs have gone. Is he a one-season wonder? I say no. He has shown us enough times that he is a class act. If RM shows faith in him and plays him as the CM play-maker that he is, then I think it'll be like a new signing. He will still make some mistakes but at least he will show some creativity too.
Sadly, I don't foresee our formation changing.
24 Posted 12/02/2015 at 12:39:50
25 Posted 12/02/2015 at 12:40:58
26 Posted 12/02/2015 at 13:03:28
27 Posted 12/02/2015 at 12:50:51
But we pose little or no threat going forward, and yes Lukaku had a great chance to score but our attacks were as rare as hens teeth. RM seems reluctant to give Kone any game time despite saying that he could fill the Eto'o role, well Eto'o got a lot more game time than Kone.
Also, the enigma that is Ross Barkley: sadly, the lad is going backwards at a rapid rate of knots. I don't know if the manager can't get the best out of him or that he flattered to deceive last season. I think the lad has talent but all the hype that our own manager said about him hasn't helped.
28 Posted 12/02/2015 at 12:46:10
The defensive duties required from the "attacking" midfield players means they have to be able to get up and down the pitch at speed, which neither Barkley or Naismith can do, hence the lack of forward pass options when we do turn the ball over because they have both finally got back into their defensive shape just as we are going in the opposite direction and the huge gap behind them when we give the ball away on the oppositions 18-yd box because they have only just reached their forward positions.
Add to that Barry's lack of pace which is getting exposed more and more, Besic whilst tenacious and good tactically is not particularly quick, which leaves McCarthy as the only midfield player who can get up and down at pace. We very seldom pick up loose balls coming out of either box because of these issues which usually means the opposition keep pressure on our defence.
29 Posted 12/02/2015 at 13:31:32
It may have not been the result we deserved or wanted but we must take heart from a terrific defensive performance. It was as good as any we had under Moyes and no-one switched off for the whole duration of the game.
Barry should have been taken off after his first card as this looked like a car crash about to happen. Why Besic keeps on being taken off, I donÂt know Â– he is possibly our best player at the moment. With the back four we had and Besic and McCarthy in defensive midfield, we have the making of a very good side; we just have to suss out how we score goals as our finishing in the last third is pretty dire.
Our most creative players are all injured and without them we do struggle to set up goals and break defences down. We do miss players like Pienaar and Osman who can inject that pace and create goals. Rom needs to get back to the form he had whilst under loan with us and WBA; at the moment he looks like a 㾶M striker at best Â– not a 㿈M striker.
We urgently need to sort out those 4 forward players and get some pace and stability back into the side to achieve our most optimum strikeforce Â– even if it means leaving some of our better players on the bench. I donÂt know what Barkley was doing but he seems to have had the shit knocked out of him and needs his hard drive wiped and re-programmed to allow him to find himself again. I canÂt remember the last time I saw such a talented but ineffective player.
Let’s take heart for next season and hope we have learnt the importance of pre-season training. If we can find that right system that works and which the players can buy into, we can return to the success we had last season. Hopefully we have the defence now to stay clear of the relegation scrap.
30 Posted 12/02/2015 at 13:41:57
Its Mr mature, the sage pro, the experienced professional that get sent off in Barry.
Plus don't get me started on Howard getting beat near post for that goal Â— he just watches it go in.
31 Posted 12/02/2015 at 13:56:25
32 Posted 12/02/2015 at 14:16:24
However, 28 million pound waste, that is what you pay for to take the limited chances. It was a cold night, even worse coming home, that's my last away game, until we do change our DNA.
Garath Barry by the way needs to look at himself, WAC.
Wake me up from this depression that has been set over Goodison... Don't count any chickens with Martinez.
We should beat Leicester but don't count on it. I'm going back to bed.
33 Posted 12/02/2015 at 14:19:53
The goal was down to Howard; he should’ve attempted to catch the cross instead of punching it out straight to their player. Then getting beaten near post from 25 yards is a disgrace. If you drop an in-form keeper for a blunder machine that Howard now is then the inevitable will happen and it did?
Barry has been trying his best to get sent off for weeks and he was nailed on to go red in this game after weeks of close shaves. Martinez caused this defeat with his team selection and poor game management. We could all see it coming and, regardless of the plucky display, we still lost a winnable game. Besic must be doing his nut along with Garbutt.
Let’s not forget either, Boro took these apart at the Bridge last week in the cup and Chelsea have been out of form. Martinez is becoming more like Moyes with each passing week...
34 Posted 12/02/2015 at 15:15:00
35 Posted 12/02/2015 at 14:28:47
On last nightÂs match, it had an air of inevitability about it. Yes we had bad luck, and we seem to be having a lot of bad luck this season. But thatÂs what happens when you are struggling. The bad luck is highlighted even more. This season has been poor, for many reasons, and you can not always blame luck. Good teams make their own luck. Someone said that Lukaku will score Everton 15-20 goals a season. And I believe that. But he needs to start scoring match winning goals. Goals that make a difference. And on Ross Barkley, I would cash in on him now, he is not doing it under this manager. Get a few players in, who will make a difference. Can Everton afford to carry a passenger? Or will Barkley come good? I donÂt think so. Not with Everton. And what has happened to Coleman? And Naismith has reverted to the rubbish he was a few seasons ago. And why is Oviedo not a regular. And why does Kone not get a start.. Some very strange decisions from our manager. I half expect Alcaraz to be drafted back in, just so Martinez can show that he can rotate.
Anyhow, nearly a well earned point last night, but not to be. At least that game is now out of the way. Lets just for once get everything spot on , and beat a very poor Foxes team. Heres hoping that we do not leave our game out in Switzerland. Premier league survival first.
Last comments, I have not called for Martinez to be sacked. The reason being, is that it is pointless. He will be at Everton next season. But I really do hope and pray that this is a learning curve for him. He needs to look at his coaching staff. Are his Wigan cohorts up to the challenge.? Is G. Jones a worthy assistant ? WhoÂs coaching Barkley, Lukaku and the rest of the youngsters? Are these coaches up to the task. (club legends, or not). And can Martinez manage at this level, can he be flexible?, can he be defensive ? Can he learn from this season? I want to hear that he has spent the pre-season arranging games, and bringing in meaningful players to help the Everton cause. Not talking bollocks on some obscure football match.
Just wish that I could fast forward to the end of the season, And Everton were sitting nice and safe with 50 points. And maybe even still in the Europa League. We have all heard of the longest day. This is the longest season. And football is supposed to be enjoyable!
36 Posted 12/02/2015 at 15:19:11
Lennon for me is and always has been useless , I hope he proves me wrong.
I maintain we need a creative midfielder to unlock tight games.
37 Posted 12/02/2015 at 15:33:46
James Newcombe #31
I thought it would be Anfield.... but what is more worrying is WHY did you put "gobshites" into Google Maps....
38 Posted 12/02/2015 at 15:41:29
39 Posted 12/02/2015 at 15:30:14
Cheisea served up exactly to type - couldnÂt score easily so start cheating and abusing refs etc. How the cock-a-nees loved it. Quick translation of Ivanovic into English- cheating, snide coward.
If we had passed it quicker on the break, we win the game. Barry... silly boy. McCarthy, THE pass of the week to Oviedo.
It’s gonna get nervy everyone!!!!!!
40 Posted 12/02/2015 at 15:50:22
41 Posted 12/02/2015 at 16:17:33
42 Posted 12/02/2015 at 16:21:02
43 Posted 12/02/2015 at 16:20:20
As for the Ivanovic incident, why didn't some one put the twat to kip? All this moaning about Chelsea players surrounding refs and influencing officials has gone on for years. Liverpool and Man Utd won titles on it. Pity we don't do the same but we are just too nice. Our players don't even go down in the box when fouled.
44 Posted 12/02/2015 at 17:21:05
45 Posted 12/02/2015 at 17:31:38
46 Posted 12/02/2015 at 17:34:23
Special mention to seriously hard looking the blue in his summer wardrobe (replica shirt and summer shorts) while the rest of us still in winter gear.
47 Posted 12/02/2015 at 17:49:09
48 Posted 12/02/2015 at 20:16:35
49 Posted 12/02/2015 at 20:35:56
Howard is 6'-4" does cage fighting in his spare time so dead macho, but when was the last time you saw him put his body on the line to pluck a ball out of the air through a ruck of bodies... think hard now.
50 Posted 12/02/2015 at 19:51:57
Always backwards never forwards Â– he made these passes regardless of whether he was closely marked or not. He knew before he'd received the ball that he was going to play it safe at all cost. You're looking at a player who, for whatever reason, is terrified of being accused of giving the ball away. When he moved slightly further forward last night he slipped through a few astutely creative passes that we have been lacking for some time.
The problem seems to lie with his fear of breaking up a that move, which is in the process of building, by doing something overtly selfish or reckless. It seems to me that Martinez must take immediate action by either telling him he should always turn and look to move or pass forward and that if he loses the ball Â– so be it. We have watched him for a while now lose all sense of adventure and daring.
He should be made to understand that there is, otherwise, so little creativity in the team that we will all be prepared to live with mistakes in the creative/attacking area of the pitch.. I know this has apparently been said by the Manager but clearly we are not a party to exactly how this particular lesson was passed on. And regardless of the how Â– he clearly doesn't believe it or hasn't understood it.
If, for him to believe and adopt this policy, he has to move further forward to where he can comfortably switch to attack mode rather than cautious mode then so be it. But if he continues to play the same sort of balls he did for most of the early part of the games last night (and for most of his recent appearances) he might as well be replaced by a pinball pin.
My personal view, and I'm not knocking RM here (since I thought defensively after an initial iffy period we were excellent last night and RM must take a lot of the credit) is that Barkley seems to have adopted the possession football philosophy, at this the most impressionable stage of his development, to an unhealthy degree.
Whether I'm right or wrong Â– someone on the coaching staff needs to get a grip of Ross and re-wire his thinking before he morphs more permanently into the shadow of the player we all believed he would become!
53 Posted 13/02/2015 at 00:25:56
You canÂt have it both ways, either support Ross and his natural ability, which means he will make mistakes, or carry on being critical no matter what he does.
54 Posted 13/02/2015 at 09:57:39
ItÂs gonna get nervy everyone!
Add Your Comments
In order to post a comment, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.
Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and Talking Points submissions across the site.