Chelsea 2 – 1 Everton

Match reports

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “After Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ayegbeni Yakubu had exchanged fine goals, this semi-final first leg appeared destined for a draw. But under pressure from the outstanding Wright-Phillips, Lescott headed into his own net and Chelsea, who had lost John Obi Mikel to a red card, celebrated as if they had won the trophy again.”

The Times, Matt Hughes: “Both clubs were desperate to win for different reasons, with Everton’s desire to reach their first cup final for 12 years heightened by their FA Cup third-round defeat by Oldham Athletic on Saturday and Chelsea eager to defend a trophy they regard as their own to ensure a positive start to the Grant era. One of the legacies José Mourinho has bequeathed to Grant is a winning mentality that means exiting from any competition – at any stage – is seen as an unceremonious failure.”

The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “David Moyes’ side must conjure a first victory over the Londoners since 2000 in the second leg. That would have been required regardless but Chelsea will be a potent threat on the break. A spiteful contest, littered with cards, has left the Merseysiders deflated. Wembley remains cruelly out of reach.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “Someone must have had to explain to Fabio Capello exactly what this strange Carling Cup competition was all about but when it came to the performance of Shaun Wright-Phillips, no such explanation was necessary. As the new England manager watched, Chelsea’s English nearly-man delivered his performance of the season to give Avram Grant’s 10-man team a dramatic last-minute win.”

Official Chelsea FC Website, Christian Collison: “Even though the game came close to mirroring the draw that Everton secured when we last met them at Stamford Bridge in November, this match was another story. Tonight Stamford Bridge witnessed a game of epic proportions which had everything, including a Chelsea victory.”

The goals

26′ Wright-Phillips 1-0
64′ Yakubu 1-1
90′ Lescott (og) 2-1

The good

  1. The result. On the balance of play – and we played some good stuff at times – we deserved the win. For around an hour the best thing about Everton was their fans – the players hardly tested Hilario at all and it took a mistake from our third-choice keeper to let them back in the game. I did fear that we’d struggle to hold on for a draw after that, what with us being down to ten men, but we showed great resilience and relentlessness and got our reward in injury time. A compelling cup tie, particularly in the second half.
  2. Shaun Wright-Phillips. All action, all over the pitch performance from the wee winger who seemed to prefer the more central role. Great goal in the first half and great work to force Joleon Lescott, Everton’s best player, into the mistake. Man of the Match.
  3. Ricardo Carvalho, Juliano Belletti and Wayne Bridge. Give Carvalho a lucrative new contract; he’s by some considerable distance our best defender and close to being the best in the league. The talk of him leaving in the summer is utter madness. I can’t say enough good things about Belletti; it’s just a shame he’s not a few years younger. And I don’t recall Bridge putting in anything less than a decent performance every time he’s played this season. Another player who needs to remain at Stamford Bridge.
  4. Hilario’s brave save at the feet of Lescott in the dying seconds. Made up for his role in Everton’s equaliser.

The bad

  1. John Mikel Obi. While it was a bit harsh, Obi’s red card was just about deserved. There was no malice in it, but it was late and reckless and in the current climate, where referees can’t get red cards out of their pockets quickly enough, a tad foolish. Thankfully it didn’t cost us. He’s going to be a great player once he rids his game of this tendency to rashly jump into tackles. He won’t have to serve any ban as he’s off to the African Nations Cup.
  2. Claudio Pizarro. Described as “gummy” in the Guardian match report, which is pretty apt. He tried his hardest and ran around like a headless chicken for much of the first half. But what lets him down most is his sluggishness on the ball. And quite often his first touch. He’s gummy all right. I guess Nicolas Anelka is ineligible for the second leg?
  3. Steve Sidwell. Hmm… Would do better if he made more effort to pass the ball forward. He was brought on to shore up the midfield but didn’t really do that and seems to lack confidence in his ability – I’m sure he had ability when he played for Reading. He’s the type of player we usually offload to Newcastle United: good but not good enough for a team of our calibre. I wonder if we’ll sign another midfielder in this transfer window?

Man of the Match

Shaun Wright-Phillips. He put on quite a show for England’s new head coach Fabio Capello, who was in the stands.

Final thoughts

A 2-1 lead and the prospect of a couple of additions to the squad (assuming they’re not Cup-tied) in time for the second leg mean we’re strong favourites to reach our third League Cup final in four years. It could even be a repeat of last year’s game against Arsenal.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; Everton are sure to put up a fight in a fortnight’s time, though they haven’t beaten us at Goodison Park since a 2-1 win in the Premiership back in 2000.

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