Chelsea 1 Everton 0: Three talking points
Chelsea 1 Everton 0: Three talking points as the Blues net a dramatic winner in injury time at Stamford Bridge
Holding midfielders an important foundation
Set up in 4-2-3-1 formations, both Chelsea and Everton rely heavily on their holding midfielders as much as their attacking players. For the hosts, Nemanja Matic was industrious, breaking up play and striding forward to join in attack. His burly size and height doesn’t defy his pace, and Everton struggled to manage the Serbian. Next to him, Frank Lampard’s footballing brain was typically switched on, and the veteran England man often dropped deep to help out in defence to jump-start his side’s attacks. Similarly for Everton, Gareth Barry and James McCarthy played the link between defence and attack, and posed a tough wall to break down, often forcing Chelsea out wide. The packed midfield was a battleground that yielded very little for either side, and it took a set piece to break the stalemate.
Both sides counting the loss of Lukaku
Sent on loan by Chelsea, welcomed and revered by Evertonians, Romelu Lukaku – unable to play due to terms in his loan agreement – had split loyalties for this game, but both sides would have loved to have been able to call on the Belgian frontman. Lukaku has been recovering from an ankle injury that has kept him out for close to a month, and Everton’s lament over the loss of their top scorer was compounded further when last weekend’s two-goal hero Lacina Traore was injured in the warm-up at Stamford Bridge. Steven Naismith, twice the bane of Chelsea in recent months was drafted in to lead the attack for the Toffees, but offered a much more diminutive and anonymous performance than the dominant Traore. Chelsea meanwhile, have well-documented profligacy from their strikers, and once again relied on a non-striker to clinch the winner. Neither Fernando Torres nor Samuel Eto’o could turn the ball home for the hosts, with Eto’o guilty of missing a pair of gilt-edged chances early into the second half. Ironically, both sides will be hoping Lukaku continues his pre-injury form into the climax of the season, as Everton’s top four hopes rest on the man who could provide the answer to Chelsea’s striking deficiencies next season.
Chelsea’s title hopes boosted by old talisman
It looked like it was going to be a frustrating afternoon for the Stamford Bridge faithful. Everton more than held their own for 90 odd minutes against a recently rampant Chelsea side who have rocketed to the summit of the table. Of course, Mourinho teams fight to the very last, and it seems appropriate that a man rejuvenated under the Special One should secure three points which could tilt the title in his side’s favour. A contentious freekick won by Ramires lead to two of Chelsea’s stalwarts combining for the umpteenth time. Lampard fired in the freekick with injury time already ticking over, and John Terry lunged at the backpost to bounce the ball past Tim Howard in the Everton goal. Playing in his sixteenth season for the Blues, Terry has rolled back the years after a tough time last season to give Mourinho a lot to be happy about. His captain, and Chelsea’s talisman, has significantly boosted Chelsea’s title chase on a hard-fought afternoon in West London with both fearless defending and tireless attacking prowess.