The international break was behind us so it was off to L4 for the Chelsea game. The Room of Nonsense soon filled and the talk was of how Stones would react to playing against the team that tried to steal him and how the crowd would react to Jose? The answer would be 'superbly' on both counts. The teams appeared on personal mini screens and there was much talk regarding Besic. My guess was that he was to babysit Hazard. It was pleasing to see the new lad Mori on the bench and just maybe we would get a glimpse. Time for the walk up and the rain had gone off after it being quite heavy earlier on.
It was buzzing with Blues as fans were in good spirits and ready to get behind the lads. Spellow Lane and Goodison Road were chocker yet I could find no one handing out the free fanzine that had been advertised. I have missed the paper fanzines but, alas, today I am still missing them.
In for "Z-Cars" when the Blues received a tumultuous welcome and whilst the captains were sorting out the kick off John Stones was clapping to all four sides of the ground so now, perhaps, we are all friends again.
Kick off and the Blues made a bright start with Besic showing up well and moving at some pace and he was to have a big influence on the game but not in the manner he would have wished for. From a foray down our left Besic cut in and went down in a tackle and by his reaction he was in some trouble. Medical assistance was called and after treatment both on and off the pitch he did resume but, alas, only lasted another three minutes and in the ninth minute he was replaced by Naismith.
I wonder how many of you watching did not fully agree with the manager’s choice of sub? Go on, be honest. I won’t tell. I can also tell you not many within my earshot agreed either. However, as soon as he was up and running there was a sense of urgency about his play as though determined to show what both his club and country managers were missing by leaving him out.
We were now having a good spell with joined up footy. Even Lukaku had found his touch and Ross was not afraid to shoot from outside the box. He missed but the crowd were pleased he had shot. At the other end Galloway did well in the tackle but had to give away a corner which was only half cleared but their giant of a centre-back Zouma shot and missed the target. In our next attack we scored in true joined-up fashion when Barkley fed Naismith who swept out to Galloway near our left corner flag. Naismith ran into the box and was just in time to meet Galloway’s pin point cross and head home leaving their keeper helpless. Goodison exploded in a cacophony of sound, much hugging and kissing was in evidence.
1-0 up and tails up we were cutting through them and from a Coleman cross Kone got a great header in and looked to be going in until their keeper diving full stretch to his right clawed the ball away for a corner which was cleared. But McCarthy got onto it and fired a shot of venom that, again, the keeper turned away for another corner which was cleared. Then the odious Costa was pulled up for one of his sly fouls and he was roundly booed and called some unmentionable names.
The 20-minute mark arrived and we are on the attack, Barkley found Naismith outside the box and, after a short half pirouette to set himself, he fired a corker across the keeper and ball nestled in the corner of the net. Cue even wilder celebrations and the move executed at pace and finished with aplomb was just what we have been crying out for. This got Jose into his technical area and the crowd had a little word with him. He didn’t wave.
The game now changed a little as Everton wanted to protect the lead so we went a touch defensive and looked to break quickly. With Chelsea now almost in desperate mode they did pile pressure on us but with the excellent Barry filling gaps and directing operations and John Stones showing Chelsea that they were right to identify him as a must-have as he oozed class in all that he did. Barry got Kone away with an astute pass who moved swiftly and put in a timely cross for Lukaku to knock home one-on-one but he somehow missed the far post and hung his head in his hands.
Chelsea had a good spell from the 30th minute and we were stretched a little for the first time and didn’t really threaten their goal. However, with our dogged defending and all the players showing determination Chelsea didn’t look that clever in front of goal either.
10 minutes to the break and out of the blue Chelsea got a goal back as we seemed to have thwarted another attack. The ball went out to be picked up by Obi Mikel who fed Matic who struck a peach from some 22 yards into the left hand corner of our net leaving Howard totally beaten. I have to admit I clapped that one. Hell, normally you want them to shoot from that range!
That left us 10 minutes to the break and with it now being all Chelsea I said to my mate, we need to keep this until the break; another goal conceded now could ruin all our earlier work. With nerves jangling a bit we saw Chelsea gain about four corners and we gave away a few fouls that saw crosses coming in but stood firm and on the half time whistle we gave our lads a tremendous ovation.
H/T and the chat was typical of us Blues as we fretted about a Chelsea come-back and discussed possible subs but, in truth, no-one had played badly so my ten penneth was leave well enough alone.
The second half started as it would go on. Chelsea trying to dominate possession and us ready to attack at the drop of a hat. Chelsea had a few more corners and we responded with a few of our own and from one of these Stones climbed highest but put the ball higher than the bar. Barkley was getting on the ball and trying to commit defenders to get someone free and the game settled into a close affair. Jose blinked first and on 55 minutes Obi Mikel was replaced by Kenedy. Barry was still prominent in defence and with some probing passes further forward and from one of these he got Lukaku in on the keeper but shall we say his shot was disappointing as it was at the keeper. At the other end the new man Kenedy had a shot but he missed the target.
The hour mark came and went. Lukaku missed the target again albeit from a tight angle this time from a neat ball from Kone. Naismith was still working his socks off and set up Kone but his strong shot was saved.
Chelsea now had a spell and Galloway was booked for fouling. The youngster was having a good solid game, though, and it seems to me to be growing into life with the first team. Chelsea continued to come at us and as Stones broke up one move it was worth the admission money to see the way he glided out of trouble and with an astute pass set us on our way again.
Being only a goal in front that sort of thing scares you but it just seemed second nature to him. The game now end to end as both teams gain corners. At the 70-minute mark both teams made a sub. Chelsea swapped Pedro for Falcao and Everton swapped Kone for Lennon who got a good welcome home. Just another 3 minutes elapsed before Jose went for broke bringing on his final sub Willian for Fabregas, for some reason a section of our fans booed Fabregas off?
Coleman made one of his trademark speedy runs down the right, cut in and then wellied a left-footer high and wide. Then the game was stopped as Coleman was on the deck. He resumed after treatment but lasted only 2 minutes and then had to be replaced by Funes Mori. It looked like a hammy for Coleman. We now had five centre-backs in front of Howard. Mori to the left of Jags and Stones to the right of Jags and Galloway remained as he was. Were we playing three at the back with wingbacks or indeed five at the back? A bit of both I reckon.
Up until the 80th minute it had been a bit of a stalemate with both teams attacking and defending for their lives in one Chelsea attack Jags made a terrific block that drew applause. Stones again showed his ice-cold side as he strode out of defence. Barkley was having one of his better games and always showing for the ball and trying to be constructive. I instantly liked Mori and his short cameo suggested to me we may have a good one. He showed a coolness in playing out of defence, a determination when running at their defence and a no nonsense approach to clearances into row Z when under pressure in the box. I hope I am right but time will tell.
10 minutes to go and prayer beads had been spotted but they would not be needed as Stones combined with Lennon down the right and the ball was shuttled to Barkley who fed a peach through to Naismith who from what looked like an impossible angle smashed the ball passed keeper and into the net. Pandemonium as Goodison rocked. Wow it was all over, we knew it the players knew it in fact the whole world knew it.
Oh, those last minutes were played out to a succession of fouls and a bit of poor sportsmanship from the Chelsea players but that didn’t stop the faithful basking in the glory of sinking the good ship Jose. We sang to him informing him he was being sacked in the morning as well as asking him to go away in jerky movements. The sun was shining we had won 3-1 and on the whistle ‘If yer know yer ‘Istery’ rang out loud and clear.
All told, a good day out. It was as good a display as I have witnessed for some time. It wasn’t an easy game like Southampton away but we stood toe to toe with them and in the end I believe the victory was merited. The injuries were a bit of a worry but we seem to have a decent bench and I can see the makings of a tidy team taking shape.
If we can show consistency then that will really improve us and maybe we can start to impose ourselves on the so called lesser teams who park the bus and break when we overcommit.
Swansea next and that will be a good tester. Another three points please, lads.
UP THE BLUES