Chelsea 1 – 1 Everton

Match reports

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “Delivering exciting football, as Avram Grant is discovering, is a splendid idea as long as you make sure your team win the game too. Chelsea’s excitement factor was waning considerably yesterday when Tim Cahill’s overhead kick levelled the score in the last minute and made the home side wish they could have been boring and victorious instead.”

The Times, Martin Samuel: “These days Grant will be commiserated on his bad luck by a benign employer who is also a friend; two months ago, this would have formed part of the case for the prosecution, not least because Chelsea appeared to settle for three points from a single goal scored by Didier Drogba in the 75th minute. Failing to press for a more convincing margin of victory was a criticism often levelled at Mourinho.”

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Everton’s 89th-minute equaliser was hit with acrobatic force by Tim Cahill and it would take a dreary soul to reproach Chelsea too much. Avram Grant’s side produced bright football and were on the verge, as well, of a sixth consecutive clean sheet in the Premier League.”

Daily Telegraph, John Ley: “Two Tims from either side of the planet blunted Chelsea’s attempt to edge closer to the Premier League zenith, with an American goalkeeper and an Australian midfielder dampening blue spirits on a frustrating afternoon.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “Despite controlling the game and taking the lead through Didier Drogba, Chelsea let a victory slip in the dying minutes when concentration dropped and Tim Cahill was on hand to punish us for it.”

The goals

71′ Drogba 1-0
90′ Cahill 1-1

The good

Once again we are struck low by the Chelsea “disease” from the pre-Jose Mourinho days of falling asleep for the last 10 minutes of a game we dominated. Here goes anyway…

  1. The result from Fratton Park. A 0-0 means neither Portsmouth nor Manchester City go above us in the league.
  2. Mikel Jon Obi or Obi Jon Mikel or Jon Obi Mikel… whatever his bloody name is. Absolutely outstanding, and even managed some great tackling. I’ve liked him from day one, but if he continues to improve then he’s going to be one hell of a player.
  3. Joe Cole. Simply sensational at times. He just drifted past Everton’s defence with the ball seemingly glued to his foot. But, he does need more goals and frankly a player with his talent should be rattling in 15 a season. To my mind he has all the ball playing skills that Wayne Rooney has but the flaw is his constant unselfishness in trying to play people in when he could have a crack himself.
  4. Carlo Cudicini. Commanded his penalty area with some fine catches and his confidence seemed to infect the back four who until the last 10 minutes looked unbreachable.
  5. Didier Drogba. The big friendly Ivorian ran himself into the ground and even after his goal he was having to urge the midfield to play further up the park and not sit back too deeply. They ignored him with predictable results.
  6. The “London Calling” accompaniment to the feel good Chelsea goals video played before the game. A great track, and some great goals which always seem to get the crowd going.
  7. Tim Howard. Another superhero performance from another usually mediocre goalkeeper. Made two saves from Frank Lampard, the second a slight touch to divert a wonder lob that was a certain goal. Don’t you just hate these ‘keepers who suddenly find themselves endowed with super vision and reflexes? But for him we would have been three up by half time.

The bad

  1. The last 10 minutes. After we had scored we slipped back into an old Chelsea ailment, that of falling asleep and giving the ball away cheaply through unforced errors. I always felt that under Mourinho we might be risking a late equaliser, but truth be told over time I gained the same level of confidence in our players to strangle the life from a game and get the 3 points. I don’t feel like this any more and I know it sounds a bit “benefit of hindsight” but I said to the bloke next to me that I could see Everton getting one back. Drogba’s furious gesturing to Essien and Mikel to come forward spoke volumes and I just wonder if this sitting back mentality is a hangover from the Mourinho days. If you can sit back by holding the ball then fine, but if you’re going to transform yourselves from slick passers and ball controllers into a bunch of leaden footed misfits then what else do you expect. Don’t blame tiredness from our travels to Europe either… Everton played two nights after us and at the end looked the fitter team.
  2. Shaun Wright-Phillips’ crossing. Don’t shudder… but do you remember Jesper Gronkjaer? Well meet his protégé, Shaun Wright-Phillips. How frustrating it was for us to watch him skin Phil Neville constantly, look the real deal for large parts of the game, with pace, determination, verve and trickery, only to find that someone had tied a 60 degree lob wedge to the top of his boot so that every cross went high and long. Patently, by the look on his face, it was frustrating for him too. It’s like one of those smart bombs in reverse with Wright-Phillips, instead of finding its target of a Chelsea player, it goes out of its way to avoid any by a country mile. Sort it Wright-Phillips or go elsewhere because it’s no good to us, or I doubt anyone else.
  3. Michael Essien. Hear that clumping noise? It’s either the sound of the nouveau Chelsea evangelists’ jaws dropping at the very suggestion that the great Essien is out of sorts, or it’s the sound of Essien’s attempts to tackle or pass today. Take your pick. Aside from one or two games this season he has looked a long way from the master we had last year. Today he looked grumpy, disinterested and clueless at times.
  4. Phil Neville. The word that springs to mind rhymes with hunt, punt and shunt. Which is OK, because that’s what he is – a dirty, slow and useless grunt.
  5. The early injury to Ricardo Carvalho. Twenty-six minutes in and the calmest defender in the world is kicked up in the air and lands awkwardly. 38,000 Chelsea fans draw breath as we watch him hobble off, and then back on. For 7 more minutes he avoided every jump, every tackle and every pass. Stevie Wonder could have been sat next me and even he would have seen the blindingly obvious that the Chelsea bench ignored. Carvalho was hurt and couldn’t play on. Let’s keep our fingers crossed it is only a tweak.
  6. Drogba’s miss at the end of the first half. Laughable if it wasn’t so costly. I am not joking but my 25 stone mate could have reached that – it was a tap in and he should be bloody embarrassed.

Player ratings

  • Carlo Cudicini: Didn’t have a lot to do but was great on crosses. Had no chance with the goal – 7/10.
  • Juliano Belletti: Jumped off the Del Horno express to Bhoularouzville and had a much better game today. Not quite back to what I’ve come to expect, but apparently his performance against Schalke was down to him suffering from a condition called “the trots” which wasn’t cleared up before the game. No wonder his mind was elsewhere… I can hardly imagine any worse place to be without a very good and reliable cork! – 7/10.
  • Alex: Much, much better than Tuesday and made one utterly incredible tackle which should be held up as a model of how to tackle hard but fair – 7/10.
  • Wayne Bridge: Getting back there and improves with every game – 7/10.
  • Ricardo Carvalho: Had to go off and one can only hope it isn’t a bad injury. Does anybody else ever wonder if we’ll see him and John Terry partnered again? – 6/10.
  • Frank Lampard: Another good show from the reluctant captain (I have my insiders!). Will wonder how he never scored and after the showboating of the other week he produced a chip which had “goal!” tattooed across it until super-bloody-Tim touched it away with his fingertips – 7/10.
  • Shaun Wright-Phillips: Bloody frustrating – 6/10.
  • Joe Cole: Had a great game… but please Joe, we need more goals from you – 8/10.
  • Didier Drogba: Ran his proverbial backside off, but by the end looked frankly knackered. A well taken goal by a man without whom we’d be battling for a place above West Ham – 7/10.
  • Michael Essien: I have no idea what is going on here. He seems really out of sorts and his good games have been the exception this year as opposed to the rule in his previous two years. Get him a shrink someone, or find him a really hot girl! Something needs sorting here – 5/10.
  • Jon Obi Mikel: His best performance of the season. Looked calm on the ball, tackled well (yes, really!), seemed hungry and eager and deserves to take a bow – 8/10.
  • Salomon Kalou (sub): Did nothing bad, but didn’t do much good either but to be fair could have been bought on earlier – 6/10.
  • Tal Ben Haim (sub): A collective groan rang around Stamford Bridge when he came on, but to be fair he didn’t do anything wrong today, but he also didn’t have a great deal to do – 6/10.
  • Overall team performance: A better performance than on Tuesday, but it could hardly have been worse could it? At times the football was “arse off the chair” stuff but then fell very flat at the end – 7/10.

Man of the Match

Joe Cole. Back to his brilliant best and Everton had no answer for him. Just edges it over Mikel Obi Jon.

Final thoughts

To be honest this felt like a defeat, despite the apparent upside of it being our 69th unbeaten game in the league at Stamford Bridge. The mood after Tim Cahill scored dropped and one could sense that a lot of us felt it had been coming for the last 10 minutes. The exodus towards the exits was pretty damning at that point. It was a sloppy finish to a game we should have been romping away with.

I am perplexed as to why Avram Grant didn’t bring on Andriy Shevchenko or Claudio Pizarro after the goal and remove Essien or the obviously knackered Drogba. Everton were on the ropes a bit at that point and we should have been driving on. I just wonder whether deep down he has the tactical acumen to make the changes that would have helped us increase our lead.

That’s the difference between us and Manchester United and Arsenal, when either of those goes a goal up, they get confidence from it and try to up the pressure even more to increase their leads. I know we can do it, because two weeks ago we did, but it does seem to me that a “fear factor” rears its head and the players are unsure as to how to cope with the first goal. A Mourinho hangover perhaps?

As far as the Premier League goes we now lie fourth, 6 5 points behind Manchester United, a point ahead of Liverpool who have a game in hand, but most ominously 2 points adrift of Arsenal who have 2 games in hand. I personally think the title is gone already as I just can’t see both teams slipping up. Manchester City will slide back and Liverpool’s form is hit and miss as well. I think we just need to make sure a Champions League place is the target and maybe the FA Cup again. Of course I would also settle for the Champions League, but we will need a higher level of finishing than today and no small amount of luck.

Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!

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