Everton went to another much-lauded London club, performed really well in most aspects of the match – indeed embarrassed their hosts at times – but ultimately came away with zip for their efforts.
In the words of Morrisey: ‘Stop me’, etc.
Lacina Traore was the surprise inclusion in Roberto Martinez’s starting line-up, only for the gargantuan goal-getter to pull out with an injury sustained during the warm-up. The assumption was that he must have bashed his head on something, but apparently it was a hamstring injury – presumably a recurrence of the troublesome titanic tendon that delayed his first appearance in an Everton shirt.
So Steven Naismith stepped in and, once again, acquitted himself well as Everton total dominated the first half with an almost pass-perfect replication of the display they put on at the Emirates earlier in the season.
Whereas in the past we would have tried to park the bus, to use Jose Mourinho’s phrase, this time we took charge of the double decker and drove it off for a summer holiday, just like Cliff and Una. Chelsea, for their part, were reduced to the role of the girl from the special school wearing My Little Pony rollerblades, standing up front and trying to cop off with the cool driver who sports a pair of ‘Oakleys’ from the market.
The home side simply couldn’t cope with Everton’s cleverness, especially in midfield, as the Toffees did that ‘Champions League away leg’ thing of starving the over-eager home side of the ball, thus making them think twice and become risk averse whenever they had possession, for fear that a gamble might leave them chasing shadows again. And we’ve seen it several times now, that the top players at clubs like Chelsea can sometimes find it hard to bring themselves to play the stooge to those they deem inferior. They’re just not used to doing so much thankless work, especially at home.
Petr Cech did brilliantly to tip a Leon Osman drive over after a great passing move down the left, Gary Cahill made a desperate block from Kevin Mirallas and then, just before the break, everything opened up for the Belgian but he scuffed his shot from the edge of the box. He actually connected so poorly that the ball almost fell for Naismith but, somewhat inevitably, it struck the Scot’s heel and ended up bouncing away to safety.
Considering the opposition – one of the real contenders for the Premier and Champions League – it was a brilliant first half, but you know that you need to convert the possession into goals against any opposition, never mind the likes of these.
Chelsea were a bit better in the second half then, despite the introduction of the hormonal Fernando Torres whose every action has the stink of ‘it’s not fair, I hate you, you’re not my real Dad’ about it. He is one bad weirdo him.
Tim Howard had to make a brilliant double save, first from the subdued little Lego-head, Eden Hazard, and then unfeasibly Sunday League-looking Branislav Ivanovic. That’s not in terms of his play, clearly, as he’s very good, but his general appearance is that of the lad who plays centre-forward every week because no one has the arsehole to tell him he’s dropped. And he clearly fucking reeks of Lynx Africa.
Despite the home side’s modest revival Cech still had to make another good save of his own, diving low to his left when Osman’s sweeping effort clipped the heel of Mirallas and looked bound for the bottom corner.
Going back to Chelsea’s subs, Mourinho also threw on André Schurrle. Has anyone else noticed that he is the absolute spit of the arl fella off Outnumbered?
Anyway, undeterred by Mourinho’s changes, Martinez attempted to wrest the initiative back from the home side by throwing on some youthful legs, but if anything it had the opposite effect. Ross Barkley clearly has physical advantages over a fading Leon Osman, but the youngster hasn’t a fraction of the veteran’s awareness and appreciation of space. In fact, he looked like he’d had half a tablet on the train up to match.
So, with Gerard Deulofeu on too and Chelsea pressing forward it seemed in theory that Everton were set up to catch them on the break. However, Osman’s the best player we have for instigating that transition from defence to attack – he drifts into the space in midfield, gets his head up and picks out runners. With him and Steven Pienaar off the field and Barkley wandering round looking bemused, Chelsea were finally able to get a bit of momentum going. Still, it looked like we had done more than enough to take a point as the game edged into injury time. In fact, as we anticipated the final whistle there was a creeping sense of disappointment that we hadn’t in fact done more, as it was the best opportunity to win a league game at ‘the Bridge’ than we have enjoyed in some time.
And that was when Ramires went over Phil Jagielka’s half a challenge. Frank Lampard fired the free kick into the area known in coaching circles as the ‘jigger of jitters’, John Terry slid in and under pressure Howard appeared to slap the ball into his own net.
For fuck’s sake.
Gutting, clearly, and more than Chelsea really deserved.
Martinez was upset with the referee afterwards, because as you always get at places like Chelsea with a team full of massive snides they were throwing themselves everywhere and doing the handball Haka whenever the ball struck an Everton player anywhere above the knee.
As for the actual free kick that they scored from, there’s not even any point discussing those individual decisions any more because the whole issue of what is and isn’t a foul has become its own branch of philosophical quantum mechanics and the conversations just become embarrassing.
It was certainly ‘debatable’ at the very least but you see them given all the time, because diving has now been accepted as a legitimate part of the game, and Chelsea got the benefit of it because they were the ones doing the attacking by that point.
Once again, we reluctantly accept the mantle of gallant losers and watch horrified as Manchester United overtake us in the league.
All we can do is keep on doing what we’re doing though, as there’s really not a lot wrong with the way we play – and at the very highest level – that a handful of £30 million players wouldn’t put right.
Until they arrive we just pick ourselves up and go again.