Everton lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system with Beckford coming in for Anichebe up front. Rodwell started in place of skipper Phil Neville who missed out with a mouth infection. Chelsea played in their accustomed 4-3-3 with Mikel anchoring midfield and Torres deployed through the middle as the main striker.
Baines has had great success against Chelsea this campaign but had a quieter afternoon in this fixture. The key tactical point here is that whilst Chelsea played 4-3-3 Essien was assigned the role to come across to the right side and press Baines when the ball was rolled out to him by Howard. This ploy did reduce Baines impact offensively with the newly crowned Player of the Year not making one successful cross all afternoon. This was a contributory factor to Howard opting for long kick outs too. Chelsea won 67% of the aerial duels, most of which coming from Howard’s long kicks up field.
Heitinga finishes season strongly
Whilst Jagielka and Distin took many of the plaudits for being rock solid – Distin in particular was terrific with a massive 11 clearances – Heitinga had arguably his best game of the season for the Blues. The fist waving Dutchman made a massive 7 interceptions and screened the back four really well. He also contributed 6 accurate long balls with the Ajax diagonal pass successfully deployed a couple of times.
A key point in the game was the Coleman red card – the referee appeared to be swayed by the despicable card waving antics of Ashley Cole (dismissing the long standing myth that this gross act is only committed by foreign players) It was a sad way for Coleman to end the season – he has been terrific defensively and offensively and his displays against Chelsea in particular have demonstrated this – providing width and beating his marker twice as well as tracking Ashley Cole up and down the pitch.
The Blues positional rigidity throughout had constricted Chelsea and although going down a man we maintained 2 holding midfielders to screen the back four. The sending off led to Chelsea having more of the play – they made 490 short passes which was double the total we posted, but the Blues where very solid through the middle and Chelsea often resorted to longer distance shooting as shown in the below diagram. (everton left in blue)
With Chelsea looking pretty blunt in the final third it appeared the game was drifting towards a 0-0 stalemate. Just as he did in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge though, Jermaine Beckford was to emerge as the Blue hero with a great solo strike. The forward’s display yesterday was quite erratic – as discussed on the blog earlier this season his game outside opposition 18 yard boxes is dubious with limited movement – but he does have great pace and a single minded attitude which is key for a striker. Having missed two 1 on 1 situations with Cech either side of the break Beckford made it third time lucky, running from the edge of our 18 yard box before hitting a sublime finish over Cech.
A great win for the Blues against another top ranking side. Tactically it was the Blues positional rigidity and play off the ball which won the day here, along with some heroic defending at times from Distin and Heitinga.
For those of you who are interested I will be doing a series of end of season posts this week – I will aim to have the first one up either tonight or tomorrow