Let’s start with the other score, which was just as important: Everton Fans 1, Chelsea Fans 3. Now that is what I call a good day out. This was an amazing match, with a number of firsts.
The first was the scale of the singing by the Chelsea fans before the match. I have no doubt that our support made a difference. We cheered them all, singled out Carlo, Jimmy, Lumpy, William, Marcel, the two Marios and, of course, he who is our King. The second first was, wait for it, the Chelsea fans starting a chant of “Ranieri’s blue army”. As a fan of this man, I was delighted for him.
The last first was that every player came over to applaud us after the match. This is, of course, the way it should be, and reminded me of my lowest ebb at an away match — Newcastle away, Vialli’s last match in charge, nil-nil, drab football, we were up in the highest point of the stands a million miles from the pitch and not one Chelsea player ran over to applaud our commitment. How things have changed.
The players have a fire in their bellies now and they want to win. That result yesterday would never have happened two or three years ago. We would have lost 3-2 after the constant pressure from a very committed Everton side, determined to avenge their defeat by us the previous Wednesday.
Our first goal, from Stanic, came as a result of weak defending. Our second was a poacher’s pounce from Jimmy, after poor goalkeeping from Wright. But for pressure, we deserved to go in at half-time 2-1 up; we had all the power and were hardly out of their half.
The second half was much different. Everton, buzzed up by Moyes — surely the best new manager at any club in years — hammered us constantly. Soxy headed off the line and Campbell hit the bar when it would have been easier to score. But we had the incomparable Cudicini, Gallas and Lampard like a line of steel from goal through defence to midfield. All three were magnificent. Leboeuf may be the most stylish defender I have ever seen at Chelsea, and he was certainly the best passer of the ball out of defence, but Gallas is a better natural defender and hardly ever makes mistakes.
Zola had a relatively quiet game, but still showed all the class and set up Gronkjaer for the final nail in Everton’s coffin. Only moments before, he had been involved in a serious tussle with Unsworth, who was sent off. Having seen it all again on television, I think that the referee got it right — Gronkjaer was booked for fouling Unsworth, Unsworth was dismissed for taking it far further and having to be restrained by Moyes. I bet that any appeal will fail.
So how good are we? I think that we now have the third best squad in the Premiership, after Arsenal and Man United, with the latter able to regain Beckham and Keane soon. Now that we have added determination, I am starting to believe that we could end up in the top three.
Chelsea line-up: Cudicini — Melchiot, Gallas, Desailly, Le Saux — Lampard, Stanic (Gronkjaer, 60), Petit, de Lucas (Terry, 76) — Hasselbaink (Gudjohnsen, 84), Zola
Subs not used: de Goey, Morris