Everton 2-0 Chelsea: Pensioners taken care of as Pienaar shines on Goodison return
Chelsea lost further ground in their slim bid to catch their Premier League title rivals as they suffered a 2-0 loss against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday
Chelsea lost further ground in their slim bid to catch their Premier League title rivals as they suffered a 2-0 loss against Everton at Goodison Park. Chelsea were caught off guard as Everton’s Steven Pienaar, on-loan from Blues’ rivals Tottenham Hotspur, gave the Toffee’s the lead inside five minutes. Chelsea showed little in the way of a response before another on-loan starlet made safe the points for the home side; Argentinian Denis Stracqualursi netting the second on 71 minutes.
Chelsea began the afternoon placed fourth in the Premier League, three points ahead of fifth placed Arsenal and seven points adrift of Spurs in third. A win would put pressure on Harry Redknapp’s side who were not scheduled to play until later that evening, and would keep their hopeful yet slim ambitions of winning the title afloat for another week.
Everton, who have experienced their yearly revival under David Moyes after a narrow 1-0 win over leaders Manchester City and having made various acquisitions in the transfer window, were optimistic going into this game despite a 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic last weekend. Everton had won their previous two home league games against the West-London Blues and have enjoyed relative success against them in recent years.
The home fans were clearly expectant of a similar result and their side mirrored their sense of excitement with an explosive start. Indeed it took only four minutes for Everton to open the scoring as their front man Stracqualursi supported by the dogged Tim Cahill put Chelsea’s back four under relentless pressure.
Jose Bosingwa, rather than clear the danger up the line, directed his throw-in infield which Pienaar – making his second home debut having left the Toffee’s for Spurs in last year’s window – flicked on. Frank Lampard – returning to the starting line up after recovering from injury – tried to amend for Bosingwa’s mistake but could not help the ball rebounding goal-wards and Pienaar burst through two men (and teammate Marouane Fellaini) to blast the loose ball into the roof of the net.
The South African stated upon his return to Merseyside that he might need to ask for some fan’s forgiveness having left last year, but I suspect there was not a single Evertonian still aggrieved with the midfielder as he wheeled away, expressing sheer delight to be back where he made his name in English football.
It was a deserved lead and Chelsea, having assumingly not heeded the warning of Roberto Mancini after his side left Goodison Park empty handed, should have expected the onslaught which had befallen them. Chelsea’s back-line were trying too hard to play it cool at times and surrendered possession in dangerous positions too often.
Petr Cech cut a lone figure as he did not know who the best option to pass to was, eventually giving the ball to Landon Donovan whose shot he saved comfortably. Ashley Cole also played a suicidal ball square to David Luiz in his own box which Stracqualursi pounced on. Chelsea were again lucky not to concede as the Argentinians shot was saved by Cech.
Whilst the visitors eventually found their feet and took control of possession, they failed to create the plentitude of chances that would get them on level terms. Juan Mata was once again Chelsea’s most creative outlet: finding pockets of space, popping up on the left, then the right and setting up both Daniel Sturridge and Lampard for their best chances of the game. Sturridge’s effort was deflected over, whilst Lampard should have done better with his left footed strike from 12-yards.
Fernando Torres went down under the challenge of Fellaini in the host’s area but the appeals from his team-mates were few and far between. Another ineffectual performance from the Spaniard might have started to grate not only on Chelsea fans but his team-mates also.
The second half did not get any better for the subdued away support. Whilst the majority of possession was indeed kept by the visiting Blues, Everton’s combination of the height and power of Sylvain Distin and the organisational prowess of both Johnny Heitinga and Phil Neville produced a rearguard of unmistakable security. Their deep line meant their was no space for Chelsea to do what they do best and the visitors were eventually resorted to a handful of long balls and crosses which the hosts dealt with comfortably.
Everton’s strike duo continued to harass the Chelsea defence and caused Branislav Ivanovich to almost lash out at Donovan who would not allow the Serb to shepherd the ball out of play easily. And it was this kind of harassment and commitment that led to Everton’s second. Neville anticipated Cole’s heavy touch just inside his own half and won the ball with a crunching sliding tackle. The ball fell to Donovan who skipped past Luiz before playing in Stracqualursi who coolly slotted past Cech.
Again, it was a much deserved form the hosts who played to their strengths. Whilst not every aspect of the Toffee’s play was pretty, it was sprinkled with flashes of pure inspiration, no less from Pienaar who resumed his partnership with Leighton Baines on Everton’s left flank.
As for Chelsea, the moment Mata (their only likely source of a goal) was substituted the contest was truly over. The Pensioners were poor from the first whistle to the last and they left Goodison Park without as much as having a sniff at Tim Howard’s goal.
Whilst certain players were mis-firing at one end, certain players in defence barley seemed to be present at the other. If Chelsea are to salvage anything from this so far dismal campaign, they must patch up what is without John Terry, a very leaky ship. Then they can start on the impossible equation that is: Fernando Torres.
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