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Chelsea 0-0 Everton


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Chelsea F.C. 0 - 0 Everton

Wednesday 22nd April 2009, Premier League, Stamford Bridge, West London

Michael Ballack competes with Tim Cahill for possession of the ball.

Didier Drogba rattled the crossbar with seconds remaining as Everton left Stamford Bridge with a deserved point.

The result is a damaging one for Chelsea, whose title aspirations are now almost certainly over until next season. In the first home Premier League game under Guus Hiddink in which the Blues have not won, it was Everton who created the better chances, with on-loan striker Jo denied brilliantly by Petr Cech early on. Tim Cahill went close with a diving header that the Chelsea goalkeeper did well to hold, before Frank Lampard had a shot blocked by Joseph Yobo. Salomon Kalou headed over and John Terry saw a vicious strike clawed away by Howard, but it was Drogba who came the closest for the hosts; smashing Branislav Ivanovic's throw-in against the bar after a fabulous turn.

Now six points behind Manchester United having played a game more than their rivals, the Blues must now concentrate their attentions to the Champions League clash with Barcelona in six days, as well as look ahead to the rematch at Wembley between the two sides in what will be Chelsea's last game under Hiddink's reign.

Chelsea, who had reached the FA Cup final on Saturday after beating Arsenal 2-1, lined up with the same starting eleven that had beaten the Gunners, though Jacob Mellis was handed a place on the bench. Everton made a number of changes as Marouane Fellaini was rested after his endeavours on Sunday, and Phil Jagielka was relegated to the bench with Yobo replacing him. However, both teams appeared to be short on fitness and the first half was a somewhat tedious affair.

A late night-time kick-off, it was a warm Spring evening at Stamford Bridge as Everton came the closest during the opening exchanges; with Jo heading into the gloves of the much-maligned Petr Cech. Despite heavy recent criticism, the Czech international enjoyed a good game between the posts for the Blues and a good position meant that Jo's effort was easily smothered.

Michael Ballack headed wide after Didier Drogba had won a freekick; Lampard's delivery turned wide by the forehead of the German international. Moments before, Cech had done well to save Jo's shot brilliantly with his legs. Through one-on-one, the Brazilian's effort was stopped by the outstretched leg of the orange-jerseyed Chelsea goalkeeper; a clear response to the mass media disparagement.

Chelsea were clearly on top, dominating the midfield and controlling possession of the ball all over the pitch. Camped in Everton's half, the Blues were failing to create clear goalscoring chances, though Ballack did send a decent freekick a yard or so over Tim Howard's crossbar before Frank Lampard's swerving effort veered just wide of the upright from 30 yards.

With the first period edging closer to half-time, both teams could have scored the opening goal. Firstly Everton tested Cech as Cahill forced a fine stretching save out of the Chelsea custodian before a counter-attack saw Anelka waste the chance to set up Malouda as his cross from the right only found Howard's gloves after the Blues had found themselves two-on-two. Jo then slipped as he looked to pull the trigger as Chelsea's defence fell asleep. Half-time came and Chelsea were fortunate to be level - the visitors had been far more productive.

Chelsea spent the first fifteen minutes of the second half measuring up their opponents as they searched for a chink in the Everton armour; albeit to no avail. Anelka screwed a shot horribly wide after Drogba's flick had created a yard of space behind the imperious Leighton Baines, after Cahill had tested Cech's reactions with a diving header that the big keeper did well to hold on to with Pienaar lurking.

Michael Essien and the ineffective Anelka then went off to be replaced by John Mikel Obi and Salomon Kalou respectively. John Terry then forced Howard into his first meaningful save of the evening as his viciously-struck left-footed drive from 35 yards was pushed aside by the American goalkeeper. Had it have gone in, it would have been the goal of the season, but Howard's alert positioning kept the scores level. Malouda was then clumsily slapped by Yobo as the pair challenged for a high ball, but the incident was missed by the officials despite mass pleas from the Stamford Bridge faithful.

With twenty minutes remaining, Malouda was hauled off to a standing ovation after another strong performance, to be replaced by Franco di Santo. Moments beforehand, the French winger had clipped in a ball that was headed over by Kalou under pressure from Pienaar, and Lampard had an effort blocked by a combination of Joleon Lescott and Yobo. Tim Cahill hit the side netting at the other end from a tight angle, before Drogba's stoppage-time effort cannoned off the crossbar after a trademark turn to fashion the chance.

Two more points dropped at home mean the Premier League has been lost at Stamford Bridge this season. However, with two other competitions still to play for, it can still prove to be a very promising season for Chelsea Football Club.


The TalkChelsea.net Star Man award goes to...


John Terry, Chelsea F.C.

Imperious in defence, Terry led by example and drove Chelsea on with his trademark runs from deep.

Match fact - Petr Cech has not conceded a goal against Everton for 451 minutes, since James Vaughn netted in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry ©, A Cole; Ballack, Essien (Mikel); Anelka (Kalou), Lampard, Malouda (Di Santo); Drogba

Everton: Howard; Jacobsen (Jagielka), Yobo, Lescott, Baines; Osman (Rodwell), Neville ©, Castillo, Pienaar; Cahill; Jo (Saha).

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