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Everton 0-1 Chelsea


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Everton 0 - 1 Chelsea F.C.

April 17 2008, Premier League, Goodison Park, Merseyside

Everton_8_569628.jpg

Michael Essien's first half strike was enough for Chelsea to claim three points against Everton.


The game was fiercely contested from the first to the final whistle, with the home side valiantly defending wave after wave of Chelsea attacks. Yet the Blues' quality was too much to be denied, and Everton's plucky resistance was thwarted by the brilliance of the Essien's one-two with Wright-Phillips on the edge of the area, before the Ghanaian lofted the ball beyond Tim Howard from eight yards.

Nicolas Anelka retained his position in the starting eleven due to Didier Drogba failing a fitness test, whilst Frank Lampard's continued absence meant John Obi Mikel, Essien and Shaun Wright-Phillips featured in a three-man midfield. Joe Cole was drafted into the starting eleven, whilst both Paulo Ferreira and Ashley Cole were reinstated after missing out on Monday's 1-1 draw with Wigan.

The three points means that Manchester United will have no room for error when they take on Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Saturday, with their lead at the top of the Premier League table now reduced to merely two points. And following Chelsea's disappointment against northern opposition early in the week, this hard-fought victory will surely offer the team much confidence as they prepare for next week's crunch Champions League game at Anfield with Liverpool.

Chelsea began the game the more dominant of the two sides in possession, but they were looking fruitless without the figure of Ivorian Didier Drogba leading the line. With both Lampard and Michael Ballack missing, Chelsea's strike force was becoming isolated and attacking moves often broke down due to lack of support from a defensive-minded Chelsea midfield. Nicolas Anelka - without a goal in 12 matches - was offered the first chance of a dull yet intriguing opening twenty minutes, but the Frenchman's lack of form was typified as he weakly shot wide of Tim Howard's near post.

Everton, however, would not succumb under pressure from the yellow-clad Chelsea side, and Joleon Lescott's marauding runs down the Everton left were leaving Paulo Ferreira and the mysteriously anonymous Joe Cole for dead. Their only opportunity of the half fell to Manuel Fernandes, whose dipping free-kick forced Cech into a smart save as the ball skid across the Goodison Park surface towards the goal.

Yet it was Chelsea who took the lead minutes before the half-time interval, and it was Essien on the score sheet for the second time in four days. Whilst Chelsea were trying to imitate the passing movements of Arsenal around the Everton area, Essien's simple give-and-go with Shaun Wright-Phillips unlocked the Toffees' defence, as the diminutive figure returned the ball into the path of Essien, albeit thanks to a wicked deflection off Jagielka. Essien finished with much aplomb, but the Blues did not over-celebrate their half-time advantage.

The second half was keenly contested by both sides but the ball was often bogged down in midfield as Mikel and Essien looked to stamp their authority on the game. The former went close to giving Chelsea an even more commanding lead, but the Nigerian midfielder's 30-yard strike was tipped over by Howard. Chelsea were being limited to chances from distance, but Everton's play was limited in an attacking sense as they looked to hold the visitors at bay.

The only noteworthy attempt in the final quarter of the game for Everton fell to Fernandes. The Everton player had caused problems for Chelsea with previous set-pieces, and his devilishly whipped free kick was inches away from drawing the home side level. From 20 yards, Fernandes beat Cech but failed to find the net as Chelsea breathed a huge sigh of relief. Their lead was still intact - but only just.

The same player had a decent chance with 13 minutes remaining, but his volleyed effort was well wide of Cech's goal. Michael Essien went close for Chelsea, his dipping effort from 35 yards inches away from putting Chelsea 2-0 up. Chelsea survived a last-minute Everton storm thanks to magnificent defending by John Terry and the brilliant Ricardo Carvalho, and went on to claim the three points.
___________________________________________________________________

Match Fact : Chelsea are unbeaten since November 2006 in the league when they have scored the first goal.

Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Neville, Carsley, Fernandes, Pienaar (Anichebe 63), Johnson (Gravesen 62), Yakubu

Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Wright-Phillips (Makelele 81), Obi, Essien, Joe Cole (Malouda 76), Anelka, Kalou

Attendance: 37,112

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Man of the Match : 6. Carvalho

ricardo_carvalho.jpg


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