Saturday, 22 February 2014

Chelsea vs Everton - Analysis + Review:

Early kick-off: Chelsea hosted Everton in the first EPL match of the weekend

This match was played at a sunny Stamford Bridge, with top of the table Chelsea hosting 6th placed Everton at home in an interesting game between the title contenders and European qualification contenders in the first match of the weekend. 

Chelsea had the chance to go 4 points ahead of rivals Arsenal in 2nd and 5 ahead of City in 3rd place with a win against Everton, who have been in good form so far this season.

The team news going into the match was that the hosts made a few alterations to the line-up that lost to City in the FA Cup last weekend with Lampard, Oscar and Terry all returning to the squad for Chelsea.

Meanwhile their visitors Everton were desperate to get a decent result against Chelsea because of their lacklustre form in the last 5 EPL matches, scoring less and conceding late on.
A late change after loanee striker Lacina Traore was injured (hamstring strain) in the warm-up before the match, with Scottish striker Steven Naismith coming in as his replacement. 

Late change: Traore was set to start for Everton, but was injured in the warm-up
Barkley, Deulofeu and McGeady were among the substitutes on a strong Everton bench - just in-case things were not going their way. 

Team Line-ups going into the match (players shaded in yellow/red have been carded):

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Tery, Azpilicueta, Lampard, Matic, Willian, Oscar, Hazard and Eto'o.

Subs: Schwarzer, Cole, Ramires, Schurrle, Salah, Ba and Torres. 

Everton: Howard, Baines, Distin, Jagielka, Coleman, Barry, McCarthy, Pienaar, Osman, Mirallas and Naismith. 

Subs: J Robles, Hibbert, McGeady, Deulofeu, Barkley, Stones and Garbutt. 
Master tacticians: Martinez and Mourinho (left and right) are pictured watching their respective sides in the first-half

And it was the hosts who were brightest from the kick-off, with Hazard and Willian combining well to test the Everton defence regularly in the first 5 minutes of play. However, The Toffees stayed strong at the back with solid defending from Jagielka and Coleman, as well as fast and efficient tracking back from Barry and McCarthy whenever Chelsea were on the counter attack to break up play. 

Both sides had half-chances to score early on in the first-half, with Osman having a power strike parried over the bar by the safe hands of Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech while Lampard and Eto'o came closest to breaking the deadlock for the hosts but were denied by good defending and composed saves from Tim Howard. 

FACT: Only Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny has more clean sheets than Howard this season.

The score was still goal-less at half-time, with the visitors being the happier of the two sides despite having a few chances to score - being denied by good saves from Cech. They defended very well and looked dangerous going forward, but couldn't break down the Chelsea defence effectively unless they were on the counter.

There was one substitution at half-time, with Oscar being replaced by Ramires (already on a yellow card, precaution) in a bid to add more pacy and attacking intent to get the opener soon after the restart.

And they were close to that, pressing constantly with balls whipped into the box but a brilliant double save from Howard to deny Hazard and then Ivanovic soon afterwards in the 60th minute forced the managers to show their hand with their substitutions.

Chest and out: Howard does well to save Ivanovic's powerful hit. 
Torres replaced Willian to help Eto'o upront, while young startlet Barkley replaced Osman in attacking changes for both teams. 

Schurrle replaced a lethargic and quiet Eto'o in Chelsea's last substitution of the match - and unsurprisingly an attacking sub, switching wings with Hazard to make Torres the lone striker with just over 20 minutes to play. You could tell that Mourinho was desperate not to settle for just a point at home, because whenever Chelsea had the ball they looked to push everyone forward. 

The home crowd started to get slightly frustrated after a good through ball from Ivanovic found Ramires in the box with a half-chance to test Howard once more, but the Brazillian lost his footing after some good tracking back by Coleman and Everton cleared the danger away.

Mirallas was replaced by Deulofeu with 15 minutes to play in a signal of intent from Martinez that he also wanted to win the match, Deulofeu and Barkley two attacking-minded players who are under-rated match-winners..

Hazard did well to drive forward into the Everton box, before Torres got ahead of the Belgian, took the ball off his team-mate and had a spinning strike towards goal deflected by Hazard in the 76th minute, which summed up the game for Chelsea.

Beyond belief: Torres grimaces in frustration after coming off the bench, not playing well.
Everton's new signing Aiden McGeady came off the bench to replace Pienaar in the 80th minute - with around 10 minutes or so plus stoppage time to make an impact in the match.

Midfield tussle: Chelsea midfielder Matic and Everton winger Pienaar battle for possession

Barry was booked after "taking one for the team", tracking the run of Ivanovic who burst into midfield on the counter attack looking for Hazard and Torres to feed the ball to, before the English defensive-midfielder clattered into the Serbian's leg and the referee Lee Probert gave him a yellow card in the 81st minute. 

FACT: That was Barry's 8th yellow card of the season.

Schurrle came close for Chelsea with a swerving low strike towards goal in the 83rd minute, but his hit flew into the side netting, not troubling Howard.

The Blues kept up the pressure, with Ivanovic crossing the ball into the back post for Schurrle whose resulting shot flew over the bar.

Terry made a good tackle to deny Barkley from cutting inside the box, before the referee stopped play after Naismith fell on the floor in agony after an aerial clash, where he tweaked his foot. The physio came on, and treated Naismith swiftly so he was able to continue in the final stages of the match.

When the match restarted after the small break in play, Chelsea continued to put pressure on their visitors, with the supporters singing loud in voice to try and encourage their side to score a late winner. 

Ramires came close with a thumping effort from 20 yards out towards Howard in the 89th minute, but his shot was just wide after he weaved his way past an Everton defender to strike.

The fourth official signalled for 5 minutes of stoppage time to be played, as Chelsea drove forward trying to break the deadlock late on. Good defensive clearing from Jagielka and Coleman to deny Schurrle and Ramires' advances before Jagielka was booked for a late trip on Ramires, who was galloping forward on the counter in the 2nd minute of stoppage time.

The resulting free-kick was whipped deep into the box by Lampard, whose delivery fell to the feet of defender John Terry who poked the ball out of the reach of Howard into the bottom corner of the net to score a late opener in the 90+3rd minute of time. The Chelsea supporters went wild as their team broke the deadlock with just a minute or so to play.

Close range: Terry pokes the ball past Howard into the net to send Stamford Bridge wild

Vital goal: Terry celebrates his 3rd goal of the season, an important one against Everton
The hosts stayed firm at the back to defend against Everton's late advances, to give them a vital 3 points in the title race. 

Everton were unlucky to lose because they defended well throughout the match and played well overall, being denied by Cech's solid saves on a number of occasions - but in the end they were punished late on from a goal which was inevitably going to come sooner or later for either side, and they were the team to concede the goal. 

Chelsea move 4 points ahead of Arsenal who host Sunderland in the afternoon kick-off's, while Everton fail to close the gap on 5th place Tottenham Hotspur who will be the favourites to beat Norwich on Sunday afternoon. 

Manchester United could go level on points with The Toffees if they beat Crystal Palace in the evening match - and the top 4 finish is looking less and less likely now.
Hard work and no reward is the story for Everton, who will feel hard done by but have to look up to the next match and hope they can at least qualify for the Europa League next season, which could either help them or hinder their progress in the EPL in 2015. 

Thank you for reading my blog post today, I will have more football content for you all to read later on in the next couple of days!