Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous, although on this occasion I think it should be the ridiculous to the sublime. A team that looked like relegation fodder on Saturday against a side that has struggled all season suddenly took on the look of champions against an outfit who have been enjoying their best run for several years. Even Pedro De Lucas looked a reasonable prospect at times during this fixture, although maybe I am getting a little too carried away with the euphoria of finally sneaking above Newcastle into that all important third place.
Maybe it was the weather – about a million degrees warmer than Villa Park on Saturday – maybe it was because it was Everton who have decided to make themselves our puppy dogs this season, maybe it was as simple as the players realising that the effort they put in on Saturday – or more importantly the lack of it – was just not good enough. Whatever it was that managed to turn things around in those 48 hours needs to be bottled and sold as a cure for all the worlds ills.
Much criticised because of his, at times, frustrating performances, Jesper Gronkjaer was the inspiration behind this victory and at the centre of everything until he was subbed 6 minutes from the end. He is his own worst enemy as when we see him put on a show like this there is bound to be a rise in expectation. But, at last, he showed us his pace. He showed his ability to take on, and beat with ease, the opposition players and – most importantly – he showed that he can really put the ball into the penalty area in a spot that causes harm to the opposition. I just hope that he keeps this up for the last three games of the season and does not revert back to type.
We were treated to – what looked at the time – four good goals. The first came when Weir lost his footing to let in Eidur, who controlled first time and beat Wright with a comprehensive finish. That was the only goal of the first half which was scant reward for the possession and inventiveness that we had shown. It took though only two minutes after the break for us to add the second. The Gronk left the Everton right back for dead before crossing well for Hasselbaink to float a header over Wright into the top corner. Wright was injured after nearly destroying the post in his effort to stop the ball – but was able to carry on after treatment. It was only after the game that JFH admitted he had completely mis-headed the ball, saying that if he had caught it properly the keeper would probably have saved it!
On the hour a simple long ball from JT was superbly controlled by the Gronk and in a flash was nesting in the back of the Scousers net. At 3-0 that should have been game over but being Chelsea – and liking to do things the hard way – we somehow managed to take our foot off the pedal which almost allowed Everton back into it.
Poor defensive play saw Carsley shoot past Carlo to make it 3-1, and had he repeated the trick a few minutes later it might well have been a different game. Thankfully he didn’t, and apart from a poor header from Campbell we once more regained the initiative.
The best was saved for last thanks to Referee Riley who – from somewhere – added four minutes of time. Another long ball from the back – this time from Willie Gallas – and Zola, heading towards the corner flag hit a first time lob over Wright which proved to be inch perfect leaving the scoreline looking a much fairer reflection of the afternoons performance, and a repeat of the Worthless Cup game earlier this season.
Leaving the ground you could not help but be frustrated by a performance like this. Had we done this every week we would be heading the League rather than scrapping for a place in the Champions League. But then, I guess, this is one of the traits that make supporting the blues such a roller coaster of emotion. Lets just hope that we come somewhere close to repeating this show on Saturday, we can then look forward to sending West Ham down to the Nationwide a week later. Who said this was going to be a poor season?
TEAM; Cudicini – Melchiot, Desailly, Terry, Gallas – Gronkjaer (Le Saux 87), Petit, Lampard, De Lucas – Gudjohnsen (Cole 84), Hasselbaink (Zola 81).
Subs not used: de Goey, Stanic.