Saturday’s tea time kick off pitted Jose’s men against Roberto Martinez’s Everton with both sides unbeaten. Chelsea were joint top on six points and The Toffees had two after surrendering leads against both Leicester and Arsenal. It weighed heavily on most Chelsea minds that they have often left Goodison Park empty handed in recent seasons, so question marks against in-form Diego Costa’s fitness and many felt that the results might hinge on his involvement alone.
As usual,both sides started with the 4-2-3-1 system. Sky cameras followed former blue Romelu Lukaku around as the players emerged from the tunnel. The club record signing led the line from McGeady and Mirallas on the wings with Naismith in behind. Mourinho’s big change was the inclusion of Ramires. He joined Willian as replacements for Schurrle and Oscar, who was not even included in the 18. I feel that represents the quality of the squad this season rather than being an indication of an impending exit for the Brazilian.
Chelsea started at one hundred miles an hour. Fabregas slipped Costa in and the lead was taken before most on the field had even touched the ball. Celebrations had died down, Everton kicked off again and with four minutes on the clock The Blues were celebrating again. Graham Poll said this morning that it was the “worst officiated game he’d ever seen”. Which is quite a statement from somebody that had overseen many stinkers of his own in his time as a Premiership referee. Chelsea’s second goal was the first example he was referring to. Ramires’ tidy through ball clearly caught Ivanovic half a yard offside before he buried a right footed effort into the bottom left corner of the net. Of the decisions Jonathan Moss got wrong, this was by far the most excusable.
Everton were rattled and needed to match Chelsea’s tempo and high pressing quickly. The game however could have been effectively over had the officials spotted Tim Howard clearly handling the ball outside of his area to prevent a Chelsea attack. You would have thought at 2-0 a red card to the home side’s influential goalkeeper would have given Martinez’s men too much to do. With the incident missed, The Toffees instead grew in stature and became the dominant force in the game. The warning signs were there when Distin had a goal disallowed towards the end of the half. Shortly after and just before the break Mirallas bagged a quality header from a Seamus Coleman cross.
The second half promised great entertainment as despite Chelsea’s fantastic start, you always felt that Everton would score again. The home side continued to dominate possession as Chelsea sat very deep and simply looked to counter. Neither side were defending particularly well and Costa should have capitalised on sixty seven minutes. Cutting in from the left he sent Howard the wrong way but the American managed a fantastic save with his legs. Make no mistake, Costa should have scored and it felt like such a big miss might cost the visitors.
It became apparent that Chelsea were targeting Everton’s right side as Hazard and co repeatedly approached Coleman’s flank. The dazzling Belgian showed an absurdly good burst of pace to leave the defender for dead and drilled a cross that flashed past Howard via Coleman’s right leg. Howard took exception to apparent post-goal goading by Costa and both were carded after a bit of pushing and shoving. Martinez had post-match criticism for Chelsea’s thirty two million pound man for showing a lack of respect.
From that point onwards the match turned into something that resembled Baskteball. A dazzling Mirallas run enabled Naismith to cap a smart Everton move and smash past Courtois. Matic restored Chelsea’s two goal advantage with a deflected drive from distance. On came another former Blue in old man Eto’o and he of course reduced the deficit with a placed header which so happened to be his first touch of the ball after his substitution.
You could not take your eyes off it as from the restart Chelsea went at it again, despite Mourinho seemingly trying to shut the game down by swapping Mikel for Willian. An attack down the right saw Ramires one on one with Howard. The Brazilian finished with aplomb and the game finally appeared to be up. Further enforcements arrived in the shape of Filipe Luis for Hazard but Jose’s final act was to introduce Drogba to partner Costa upfront at the expense of Fabregas. Lo and behold, the big man teed up Costa who secured his brace and reeled off to the jubilant visiting support in the Bullens Road.