Jose Mourinho has never lost a title race in which one of his teams has occupied top spot at the end of February. He has proven his expertise in the negotiation of the final straight, and our remaining 11 games will be an examination of his know-how as our “little horse” attempts to continue its charge to the title. Our 27th game of the season, however, turned out to be a close run thing.
It was an extremely significant match for Chelsea and Everton, with high aspirations occupying the respective minds of Jose and Roberto Martinez: the Premier League crown and the only remaining route into the Champions League. It was a match of extremely high stakes, concluded by John Terry’s injury-time poked finish.
It was a performance of future champions, having produced football of unsatisfactory quality for the majority of the 90 minutes. Everton unquestionably deserved better, but it is implanted in the DNA of champions to deliver cruelty upon opponents who had played well and defended stoutly.
It was a lacklustre display from the Blues in the first half. We struggled to get the ball to our potent three of Eden Hazard, Willian and Oscar and as a consequence, failed to create more than a few openings. Tim Howard wasn’t given a detailed examination, with our several potshots lacking the required power to test the American keeper. Kevin Mirallas should have scored, or at least worked Petr Cech, with a half-volley skewed horribly wide after having been supplied by Steven Naismith, our nemesis in August and a late inclusion in the Everton starting eleven. It made for a frustrating half of football as Stamford Bridge looked on, mystified.
The second half provided the Chelsea faithful with a better display as we began to assert our authority. Oscar, who was fairly poor in the first half, was replaced by Ramires at the interval and his tireless running provided us with some much needed energy. As our trio of attacking talent behind Samuel Eto’o found the ball at their feet more often, we were creating our fair share of opportunities. Hazard’s strike was thwarted well by Howard and into the path of Eto’o whose header at goal transformed into a beautifully-weighted lay-off for Branislav Ivanovic, who struck the ball sweetly. It would have arrowed into the net, were it not for Howard’s chest getting in the way.
Everton looked a danger on the counter-attack but they were well snuffed out by our defence, with Terry’s return from a muscle injury providing us with solid resistance alongside Gary Cahill, Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta on the left. Cech was also impressive with a couple of important stops mostly in the opening period.
Jose knew the significance a victory would hold, and made use of our remaining two substitutions, with Fernando Torres replacing Willian minutes before Eto’o departed the pitch for the introduction of Andre Schurrle. It was a shake-up of personnel in our attacking four, with Hazard, Ramires and Schurrle supporting Torres.
Martinez also targeted three points, with the substitutions of Ross Barkley, Gerard Deulofeu and Aiden McGeady stating his intent. It made for an intriguing finale, which ended in raptures of celebration for the home support.
Martinez claimed post-match that we made use of every trick in the book and that Ramires looked for the free-kick which led to Terry’s winner, but there is no truth in his comments which were borne out of frustration. Ramires was on a charge towards the penalty box and his progression cynically halted by Phil Jagielka, resulting in a justified set-piece. Terry, as he has so often done in the past, was on the end of a superb delivery from Lampard as the two of the old guard combined, or did they? There is much debate whether Terry made contact with the ball, as he stated after the game, or if Howard, under pressure, diverted the ball into his own net. After watching it back a few times, it’s still unclear. But does it matter? Certainly not. What is of greater importance is we’re still top of the league.
As Mourinho confirmed during his press conference on Friday, Terry returned to the starting line-up to replace David Luiz, who was ruled out due to injury. That aside, it was the usual 4-2-3-1 with Eto’o as the lone attacker and Lampard picked ahead of Ramires to accompany Nemanja Matic in the deep-lying midfield role and move second in the league appearances chart behind Ryan Giggs.
Starting XI: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Lampard, Matic, Willian, Oscar, Hazard, Eto’o.
Subs: Schwarzer, Cole, Ramires, Schurrle, Salah, Ba.
Laborious victory with champions written all over it.
Giddy-up, little horse! Only 11 more games to go!
Not sure if we were lacking lustre, or whether it was Everton who had an abundance of the stuff.
The game followed their recent run with results not matching their performances and one of the biggest dissapointments for me was Martinez whinging about nothing, instead of talking up their improvement under his stewardship. It seemed that they were allowed plenty of freedom to wrestle the midfield from us with some fairly robust tackling throughout, and particularly in the first half.
Fantastic three points though, and, for me at least, one of the best goals we’ve got all season.
It’s the sort of goal we’ve not been scoring and if it was an OG, then so much the better.
When our entire outfield are capable of finding the net from 20+ metres, there’s a tendency to only go for the spectacular, which is fine when they go in, but when keepers see the ball flying into the stands, and then they make a couple of decent saves, it just gives them confidence to go on and have a great game, which happens all too often to us.
On days like that, it’s intimidation and threat and pressure to force the ball home that wins matches, ala Frank and JT. Nothing fancy, just put yourself and the ball where it matters.
Any goal especially ones that win you games are great for me, even if the ball had ricocheted off 10 players and then the refs arse to go in, wouldn’t bother me.
I too was disappointed with Martinez and his remarks, not like him at all, considering our performance at Goodison earlier in the season when we also had done enough for the draw, saw us lose.
I suppose you could say over the two games a draw would have been a fair result for both teams, but as it panned out both teams are better off points wise so no complaints from me.
Yes, I’d forgotten Goodison.
Just shows, when they nick the points it’s a job well done or tough luck on us, but when we come away with the spoils, it’s almost a criminal offence.
In the first half we were lacking lustre, was watching that one from the East Tier row C. Actually Willian had the ball quite often but couldn’t do anything with it. The second half was completely different. However, it was John Terry who was our best striker at the end.
My webnet’s been playing up for a couple of days but seems to be OK now,
but has nobody comented on the Galatas job or is my dns still dodgy?
Seems to be working OK…
1-1 felt like a loss after our dominance through most of the match, but it’s last 16 of CL with an away score draw against an experienced manager, which we would probably jump at most days.
Sure we can do the bizz at the Bridge, but it’s just as well that they need to score, because things might have been much worse with Mancini in defensive mode, It’s bound to be a cagey affair though.
I have to say guys that I did mention a while back about administering the last rites to this blog.
I appreciate that people are busy, but surely 5 mins or so a couple of times a week to type their observations wouldn’t go amiss, especially from our esteemed contributors.
This blog has been the place to come to for all things Chelsea over the years, with insightful and intelligent comments, and also some funny non related football stuff. I would hate to think that like most things in life all good things come to end, I still feel there’s still some mileage left here.
It’s not a sermon or dig at anyone, just an observation, and I would love nothing more than to see more debate and life injected in.
Very good second half yesterday, and the Stoke result going our way as well, the Liverpool bandwagon is still giving me an uneasy feeling.
I like this blog but I feel that the whole point of a blog is currently being missed. In my opinion, it should be a platform for opinions. So I’d suggest fewer previews and straight forward reports (you can get these from the BBC or any other number of outlets) and more focus on opinion pieces after games by a variety of contributors. That might provide a bit more interest and provoke a bit more discussion. For example we could have had a piece after the Fulham game on why Schurlle should play centre forward for the rest of the season ……..
That’s a good suggestion, Ramone. I’ll try to do something like that in midweek (with all the internationals) and after Tottenham.
Here, here. I also feel that I am remiss in not making more comments than I do. Not that my opinions are of any particular value but it is an excellent blog on the whole and I too would be very sorry to see it waste away.
For what it’s worth, Disqus often freezes up my computer, sometimes for what seems like a few minutes. Would anyone know why that was?