Everton’s top turvy season took yet another twist as the Blues defeated cup holders Chelsea on penalties to setup a fifth round clash with Reading…
Everton made 3 expected changes from last weeks horror show at Bolton, with Beckford replacing Anichebe, Osman coming in for Billy on the left flank and Jagielka starting at centre half in place of Heitinga in a 4-4-1-1 setup. Chelsea played their usual 4-3-3 system with Kalou and Malouda providing the narrow support either side of Drogba although often Malouda dropped in behind Kalou and Drogba to provide the creative spark.
Chelsea narrow and Blues wide man prosper
In contrast to his record against some of the other top clubs, David Moyes has a very impressive record against Chelsea in recent years and this was the fifth unbeaten game on the spin the Blues have thwarted the West Londoners. One of the key tactical reasons for this has been that Chelsea’s 4-3-3 system can often be quite narrow which gives Everton’s wide players room on the flanks to exploit. This was the key factor in our comeback at the Bridge earlier this season when Pienaar tucked inside giving Baines the freedom of the left side, almost playing as an additional midfielder when we had the ball. The first half followed this path, with Osman like Pienaar tucking in a lot. A typically devilish cross by Baines was almost converted by Beckford in what was our closest call in a lively first half in which Chelsea carved out the more clear cut chances.
On the other flank, Seamus Coleman as referenced on the blog last week tends to play further forward in away games to utilise his pace in behind, and this was again the case today. In the game at the Bridge in December Coleman’s role was more focused on restricting Ashley Cole’s forward runs, but today he caused the England fullback much more problems from an attacking perspective and along with Baines was our most dangerous threat in the first half.
Chelsea turn up heat in second half
The second period was more problematic for the Blues as Chelsea enjoyed more of the ball and pushed Everton back for long periods. With Mikel replaced by Essien the Cup holders were providing more forward traction to their passing and Howard had to be on top form to thwart Malouda & Lampard.
Everton were looking less potent down the flanks and with Cahill & Beckford replaced by Billy & Anichebe the personnel remaining on the pitch didn’t really look like penetrating the Chelsea backline. Everton were still pressing well and defended very compact but it was looking increasingly like a 0-0 and penalties was going to be our best shot at going through.
Extra Time Breakthrough
With Cahill off the field Osman was playing off Anichebe as the main creative link, but just after the start of extra time Heitinga replaced him and we began to drop increasingly deep and invited Chelsea pressure. Our old scourge Frank Lampard once again struck; capitalising on some shaky defending from the blues after Anelka was able to profit from hesitancy from Distin and Baines. It is with great credit that a battle weary Everton showed the determination to continue to fight and take Chelsea on right til the death and we were duly rewarded when Phil Jagielka, who has been pushed forward for a greater aerial presence, was upended by Ivanovic and from the free kick Baines whipped a 25 yard left footed strike into the roof of the Chelsea net. Baines is having an absolute stormer of a season and has now bagged 10 assists and 4 goals from defence – some achievement. With the game going to penalties, Everton held their nerve better and Ashley Cole’s ballooned effort gave Neville the chance to slot us through to the next round for which he duly obliged.
A great outcome for the Blues who showed real grit and determination throughout. This wasn’t a free flowing expansive display by the Blues by any means and Chelsea had the better chances today but I would say over the 2 games we edged it and came out worthy winners.