Chelsea’s wonderful run in the FA Cup came to an end against Everton following a penalty shoot-out defeat. The Blues last lost in the competition in March 2008 so Saturday’s result was certainly a shock to the system, and it was a first exit on home soil in the competition since 2003. The game itself was an absorbing affair which took almost two and a half hours to complete before Phil Neville dispatched the winning penalty in front of the travelling Everton hordes.
Chelsea lined up with a surprising flat midfield four with Malouda on the left and Ramires on the right. The first half was a fairly slow affair notable for its robust challenges and limited quality. Chelsea’s best chance came midway through it when Jagielka flicked a free-kick on to his own post before a stretching John Terry could only thrash the ball over on the rebound. Lampard and Malouda both had good opportunities to beat Tim Howard in the Everton goal but were thwarted by the American. Branislav Ivanovic also saw a header blocked which seemed destined for the net. The half’s big talking point came near its conclusion when Ramires, who excelled again, latched onto a wonderful Kalou through ball and took it past Howard, subsequently falling over. It was either a penalty or a dive and referee Phil Dowd decided on the latter and booked the Brazilian, but replays proved inconclusive and seemed to show contact between the two.
Like the first game of this tie chances proved few and far between in the first half. The second period was a more open affair however with Chelsea in particular wasting a flurry of chances that came their way. A Drogba free-kick narrowly missed Kalou and from another set-piece Lampard might have done better than heading wide. Lampard was denied again by the leg of Howard following good work from Ramires and Kalou. From the resulting corner Ivanovic was this time foiled by the keeper. For Everton, Leon Osman was unfortunate that his header was straight at Petr Cech in a rare sight of the home goal for the Toffees.
Terry was the next to have a sight at goal but opted to pass back into the box rather than shoot himself and the opportunity was wasted. Lampard had another great chance when teed up by Malouda but opted for a delicate chip which was too high when power was the order of the day. Everton thought they had won it in the last minute but Fellaini was judged offside when turning in a rebound, and thus extra-time was needed.
It was now more than 270 minutes since Chelsea’s last goal but finally in the 104th minute they made a breakthrough. Nicolas Anelka, a substitute at the beginning of extra-time, did brilliantly on the right and crossed well. Drogba chested it down to Lampard to thump home from ten yards and the midfield finally had his goal.
The second period of extra-time was extremely well-negotiated by Chelsea who denied Everton any sort of meaningful possession. It seemed almost too comfortable, and so it proved. Ivanovic was culpable of a foolish push on Jagielka on the edge of the box and Everton had one last chance to extend this tie even further. Leighton Baines took it with aplomb and curled a wonderful free-kick into the top corner. If Chelsea needed one moment to know this was going to be their day, then this was it.
The horror of penalties arrived and once again the Blues failed, despite having the advantage after Cech saved Baines’ penalty. Anelka and Ashley Cole couldn’t find the net with theirs and Everton won 4-3 on penalties after 210 minutes of football couldn’t separate them. Chelsea are left to focus on the Champions League; doing well in it this year and trying to get into it for next year. Their love affair with the FA Cup is over, for the time being anyway.