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Mucha-Kalou about nothing - keeper gaffe costs Toffees


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0,,10268~10136617,00.jpgEverton 1-2 Chelsea

Goalkeeper gaffe gifts Blues Merseyside triumph

Ten-man Chelsea progressed to the quarter-finals of the League Cup thanks to strikes from Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge - but their victory was indebted to a brace of goalkeepers through a combination of howlers and heroics.

Ivorian forward Kalou gave Chelsea the lead in the 38th minute when, after a promising team move, his aimless floated cross was spilled into his own net by Everton's stand-in goalkeeper Jan Mucha - and the Toffees stopper did little to help his side later on when in the dying moments of extra time, he pushed Florent Malouda's raking drive straight into the path of Daniel Sturridge, who pounced for the late winner.

Sandwiched in between those two shocking blunders was one of the best double-saves in recent memory as Petr Cech entered the fray as a substitute on the hour mark. Expecting the evening off, the Czech custodian barely had time to warm up as he came on for Belgian starlet Romelu Lukaku after Ross Turnbull's red card had meant the Blues were a man shy of a full contingent.

But Cech did the seemingly impossible with his first and second touches of the football; first beating away a poorly-directed penalty by Leighton Baines before racing out to smother the Everton star's effort on the rebound. It was a case study in world-class goalkeeping and an indication of the side's indomitable spirit and belief.

Though Cech was powerless to prevent Louis Saha scoring his customary goal against the Blues in the 83rd minute to set up a tense additional half-hour, the Blues number 1 also made an instinctive point-blank save from Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to give his side a fighting chance whilst under the cosh. It was goalkeeping brilliance at one end and a couple of embarrassing blunders which were responsible for Chelsea's ultimately-deserved progression.

The result will no doubt please Andre Villas-Boas, especially after the controversy of the weekend's defeat at QPR thanks to a multitude of refereeing blunders from Everton supporter Chris Foy. The fact this Chelsea victory was largely thanks to the Toffees pressing the self-destruct button will hopefully make the defeat even tougher for Foy to swallow.

In the end, Chelsea were worthy winners after a display of class and determination. It would have been easy for the team to lose their composure after Turnbull's dismissal - especially after the game could have already been over with as a contest had Nicolas Anelka not spurned an opportunity from the penalty spot, after Josh McEachran was felled inside the penalty area by a late tackle from John Heitinga.

Spinning on two key incidents; Cech's penalty-saving heroics and the later sending off of Royston Drenthe to reduce the tie to ten-versus-ten, the game was a classic example of the ever-increasing reputation of the League Cup. Despite Villas-Boas making ten changes to his Chelsea side as per his policy of rotation, the game was a hotly-contested and passionate affair backed by a vociferous support inside Goodison Park - with particular credit going to the particularly vocal travelling support from West London.

Sendings off, penalties, crunching challenges, spurned chances and mistakes ensure this game is entered under the clichéd category of 'classic cup-tie,' but what was most pleasing for Chelsea supporters was the sense of determination and team spirit evident amongst each of the Blues players, especially after being reduced to ten men. It may 'only' be the League Cup, but the Blues can take great comfort from this battling victory ahead of Saturday's visit of Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

David Luiz was the only player who featured from the start against Queens' Park Rangers to retain his place as Villas-Boas offered valuable game time to a selection of youngsters and more experienced professionals, who have had little game time so far this season. The insurance policy was obvious - a bench featuring Frank Lampard, Paulo Ferreira, Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and eventual substitutes Cech, Sturridge and John Mikel Obi ensured there was plenty of firepower and defensive grit to call upon under strenuous circumstances.

Romelu Lukaku was particularly impressive and it was he who had the game's first chance; firing into the side netting after impressively brushing aside an Everton defender with his inhuman strength to chase Florent Malouda's through-ball. At the other end, Ross Turnbull made a smart low save to turn a shot from Saha around his near post, before fisting away a second effort from the Frenchman.

Then came two incidents involving Nicolas Anelka; a penalty miss, and what woudl surely have been a red card in the world of Chris Foy. First, Josh McEachran burst forward into the box and after being fouled just inside the area, referee Lee Mason awarded a Chelsea spot-kick. Whether he was distracted by the presence of a green laser being flashed from somewhere in the crowd or not, Anelka's effort was poor and he sliced his effort wide of the upright.

Moments later, trying to make amends, he was knocked off the ball by Sylvain Distin in a classic case of six-of-one, half-a-dozen-of-the-other. It was a moment that wasn't too dissimilar to Jose Bosingwa's sending off at Rangers on Sunday; where is Chris Foy when you need him? Sitting in the stands cheering the Toffees on, one would expect. To his credit, at least Lee Mason was able to keep on top of the game and got the key decisions correct, demonstrating the sort of consistency you would expect from a top-flight official.

Lukaku then bullied the Everton defence once more before unleashing a shot just wide of the base of Mucha's far post, before the opening goal came in calamitous circumstances. After a near passing move, a Chelse attack seemed to have broken down when Kalou teased in a woeful dink that was far too close to the goalkeeper - but in an example of exactly how not to deal with crosses, Mucha simply spooned the ball into his own net. Advantage Chelsea; although it was one born out of embarrassment!

Everton should have levelled when, with Chelsea a man light with the impressive Oriol receiving treatment, Distin headed a presentable chance wide after escaping the attentions of Luiz at the far post. A golden chance had been wasted, ensuring Chelsea would have the lead at the interval.

Anelka was equally wasteful at the same end after the half-time break. Captain for the night Florent Malouda pounced on the ball to win back Chelsea possession, and he threaded a weighted pass to his compatriot. Instead of cutting back to the unmarked Lukaku, Anelka selfishly went for goal and shot tamely at Mucha, who, this time, managed to hold on. Great scoring opportunities were few and far-between, and that guilt-edged miss would later be punished by Saha's timely leveller.

Between that Anelka miss and Saha's 83rd-minute equaliser, drama struck. David Luiz failed to cut out a high ball, allowing Saha to steal into the area before being chopped down by Turnbull, who was left with no alternative but to get the ball or bring the man down. One red card later saw Lukaku sacrificed so that Cech could enter the fray - and Turnbull's gamble paid off as Cech made amends for his goalkeeping colleague with a magnificent double-save to first stop Baines' penalty and then smothering the follow-up. Simply world class.

Two minutes later he was called into action again as Bilyaletdinov headed on goal only for the big Czech to turn it away instinctively, but he was left stranded as Drenthe's excellent free-kick wrong-footed the goalkeeper and clipped the top of the bar as it floated narrowly over the target. Cech then had to be on his toes to prevent Distin's header from looping in, whilst Saha flashed two late efforts wide of the mark as he looked to continue his one-man goalscoring crusade against the Blues.

Chelsea had managed to hold on thanks to their substitute goalkeeper, but Everton, having laid siege to the Chelsea goal towards the end of normal time, seemed to be running on empty. Chelsea's superior fitness had ensured that the home side's one-man advantage was not as chasmic a divide as it could have been, and when Drenthe was shown a second yellow card for hacking down the marauding Ryan Bertrand, the Blues were able to turn the screw.

Daniel Sturridge had emerged as a late participant and it would be he who would have the final say in this enthralling contest - only after Anelka, who was enduring a torrid time of things, saw a superb volley kept out on the line in incredible fashion by Leighton Baines, who just about managed to turn the ball onto the post with his knee. It was simply not happening for the Frenchman, but it so nearly did for Branislav Ivanovic, whose raking effort was denied by a top-drawer save from Mucha.

Malouda was the next to try his luck. Everton stood off him, allowing him to fizz his effort on target, and though Mucha did well to parry the ball out, it fell straight to Sturridge who made no mistake in converting his fifth of the season and fourth goal in as many games to complete a turnaround in fortunes for the West Londoners and secure what was a merited victory. Chelsea's attentions are now directed towards the visit of in-form Arsenal...


Everton (4-1-4-1): Mucha; Neville © (Hibbert 46), Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Fellaini; Drenthe, Cahill, Rodwell (Stracqualursi 78), Bilyaletdinov (Coleman 80); Saha.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Turnbull; Ivanovic, Alex, Luiz, Bertrand; McEachran (Mikel 63), Romeu, Malouda ©; Anelka, Lukaku (Cech 59), Kalou (Sturridge 85).

The TalkChelsea.net MAN OF THE MATCH award goes to Chelsea's number 1: PETR CECH

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I do love irony : David Moyes in hisafter match interview commented that the turning point of the game was the sending off of Drenthe...I wonder if he was thinking of penalties and Anelka taking all of ours while we put Kalou in goal

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Great report as always. My fav part:

The result will no doubt please Andre Villas-Boas, especially after the controversy of the weekend's defeat at QPR thanks to a multitude of refereeing blunders from Everton supporter Chris Foy. The fact this Chelsea victory was largely thanks to the Toffees pressing the self-destruct button will hopefully make the defeat even tougher for Foy to swallow.

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