In recent years it seems Everton have always done better in the latter half of the season, after starting their campaign poorly. Some fans even claim that their season only starts on the 1st of January and, with a victory over moneybags Manchester City two weeks ago, the team will have gone into this fixture hoping that this mantra once again proves true.
Chelsea on the other hand have continued to perform badly under manager Andre Villas-Boas. The Blues have only won two of their last ten Premiership games. Owner Roman Abramovich has spent the past week surveying his team’s training sessions and met with Villas-Boas before the game. The Portuguese manager insisted the meeting was routine, but with his team’s recent poor form and the Russian’s impatience with underperformance, Villas-Boas must be feeling fairly tense right now. Chelsea started the game sitting in 4th, the lowest position they have been in while under the ownership of Abramovich.
Everton started the game full of confidence with Leighton Baines dominating the left wing powerfully, preventing the visitors getting hold of the ball. In the 4th minute a ball from Cahill deflected off Frank Lampard and fell to Pienaar in the Chelsea box. The South African controlled the ball beautifully with his chest and slotted it past Petr Cech.
From the rest of the first half Chelsea controlled possession but rarely tested Everton’s keeper. Torres was routinely muscled off the ball by the power of Slvain Distin and the visitors created few chances going forward.
Unsurprisingly the most creative player in Chelsea’s team was Mata. The Spaniard often found himself in space on the right. In the 26th minute he received the ball and crossed it to Sturridge but the Englishman’s shot was deflected over the bar. Two minutes later Sturridge found Mata in a similar position. The Spaniard then pulled the ball back to Frank Lampard, who was on the edge of the box in acres of space. It was Chelsea’s best chance of the game but Lampard shot wide.
In the second half Chelsea lacked urgency and enthusiasm. They were careless in defence and their offensive crossing was poor. Everton took advantage of their enervated opponents and punished them in the 71st minute. After Phil Neville won a crunching 50/50 challenge with Ashley Cole (which would result in the Chelsea player limping off the pitch minutes later), the ball fell to Landon Donovan. The American then drove at the Chelsea defence before setting up Stracqualursi. Cech managed to get a hand to the Argentinian’s shot but could not prevent it ending up in the back of the net.
Chelsea had a chance late on in the game when substitute Lukaku almost bundled in a shot but Howard bravely snatched the ball from his feet.
The result sees Everton move up to 10th in the League. Meanwhile Arsenal move above Chelsea to take 4th place. And the Blues could slip to 6th if Newcastle beat Tottenham in the late kick-off.