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Blues thwarted at the death by resilient Toffees


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Chelsea 1-1 Everton

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Saturday 4 December 2010, Premier League, Stamford Bridge

Another insipid Chelsea display saw Everton score a late equaliser to deny the Blues victory at Stamford Bridge.

It was an ultimately deserved point for David Moyes' side, who showed the greater effort and commitment throughout. Having earned the Toffees a share of the spoils with an 86th minute strike, former Chelsea youth player Jermaine Beckford will no doubt be a new hero on Merseyside, and his team incidentally had the chances to win the match following the former Leeds man's late leveller.

Their performance - full of character, resilience and vigour - was the polar opposite of yet another lackadaisical Chelsea team display, with the Blues leaving the field to a chorus of boos from the home faithful following the disappointments of a fourth Premier League match without victory. The Blues have taken a mere five points from their last six matches, which happens to be no better than the three teams occupying the relegation zone.

If Chelsea are to turn this rot around and at least put up some sort of fight in the defence of their Premier League crown, much work must be done on the training ground and an entire reversal in fortune is needed also. On the pitch, players are putting in woeful performances where inspiration is needed, and Carlo Ancelotti's plight has not been aided by goings-on at boardroom level at the club.

Even the return of captain John Terry and influential midfielder Michael Essien could do little to prevent the Chelsea slump from continuing - though it must be noted that Ancelotti's men have a clear case of injustice after a myriad of questionable decisions from referee Lee Probert. The official might have awarded Chelsea penalties for a Sylvain Distin handball early on and a blatant challenge on Ashley Cole by full-back Coleman, but the Blues simply did not deserve to win the game.

For the one penalty that was awarded to the Blues - a challenge worthy of a rugby match by Tim Howard on Nicolas Anelka - the referee should surely have sent off the goalkeeper for a professional foul as he had denied a goalscoring opportunity.

That being said, Chelsea were themselves massively fortunate to have eleven men on the field at the end of the game because of a flailing arm by Florent Malouda that caught Tim Cahill, and there was also an injury scare to goalkeeper Petr Cech after a collision between the Czech and Cahill left the Blues custodian requiring stitches to a cut above the eye. Cech will now no doubt be an injury concern ahead of a midweek trip to Marseille.

And with consecutive matches against Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and in-form Bolton coming up for the Blues, their current position of third might soon seem a satisfactory achievement considering the possibility of more disappointing results that seem destined to come unless Ancelotti can instil confidence and belief into his team once again. Chelsea's problem stems from a lack of energy and commitment to the cause, and the shock dismissal of Ray Wilkins has clearly affected the mindset of the previously-imperious West London outfit.

But whilst Chelsea can scratch their heads after another below-par showing, Everton will rightfully be lauded with deserved praise after a magnificent second half performance that continues their excellent form away from Goodison Park - the Toffees are unbeaten on the road since August and might have taken all three points against a shell-shocked Chelsea side who were second-best for large periods.

Indications of how difficult the day would be came early on as Louis Saha forced a smart save from Petr Cech inside the first minute, whilst the excellent Leighton Baines fired over after a marauding run from deep. Chelsea's response was to go equally close - first Phil Jagielka showed his defensive steel to block an Anelka effort before John Terry's intelligent effort came back off the crossbar. The Chelsea captain had seen his first effort blocked by the magnificent Dystin - who, minutes earlier, had escaped what would have been a harsh penalty after handling inside the box - before turning his second effort against the visitors' woodwork.

Chelsea continued to turn the screw and Kalou went close when he headed across the face of goal from Florent Malouda's corner kick, but the Blues were finding clear-cut opportunities few and far-between.

Either side of half-time it was a tale of two back-passes as first Nicolas Anelka latched on to Phil Neville's shockingly-underhit pass to Tim Howard and won a penalty after being hurled to the ground by the American. Up stepped Drogba to score his first goal in six games and give the Blues what was perhaps a lead deserved on the balance of attacking play, but Everton rallied and ensured Chelsea ensured a torrid climax following the interval.

The second woeful back-pass of the afternoon came from the boot of John Mikel Obi, who saw Jermaine Beckford try and beat Cech from 45 yards - it was the right idea from the former Chelsea youngster but the execution was lacking. Meanwhile, news of a second Arsenal goal against Fulham - giving them a 2-1 lead - filtered through and was met by a wave of grumbles across all four stands of the ground.

Everton came desperately close to a levelling goal when Jack Rodwell's header beat Cech but came off the inside of the goalkeeper's left post before being cleared by Branislav Ivanovic, whilst the same player was inches away from connecting to a Jagielka flick-on as Baines' left-footed deliveries continued to cause problems for the Chelsea backline.

Cahill and Cech then collided as the Blues keeper bravely collected the ball at the Australian's feet only to be met by a facefull of studs, leaving the Chelsea goalkeeper with a cut above the eye. Stitches were required but the Czech Republic number one showed no ill-effects of the challenge as he kept out a glanced effort from Beckford; the ex-Leeds man keen to prove a point against the team that had not offered him a professional contract in 2003.

Then came a moment the game seemed to pivot on, as Ashley Cole was brutally hacked down inside the area by Seamus Coleman. Paulo Ferreira - a late substitute - had burst forward and crossed into the six yard box for Cole to tap home, only to see the England international blatantly chopped down. No penalty was rewarded and a snapshot by Malouda was saved by Howard seconds later as Everton survived what would have been a game-winning goalscoring opportunity.

Kalou was then guilty of dithering inside the area and allowing Everton to clear, and it would prove costly. It came as no surprise that any route back into the game from a Toffees' perspective would come from Leighton Baines, and it saw the Englishman cross to Cahill who in turned knocked the ball down to Beckford who duly converted. It was the inevitable Everton equaliser that was absolutely deserved for their second half showing, who, to a man, had been absolutely brilliant and their performance had warranted a reward.

Even seven minutes of injury time was inadequate time for the Blues to fashion what would have been a cruel winner. Full-time was met by a chorus of boos from a host of supporters inside Stamford Bridge as another woeful Blues performance had cost them points in the title race. Arsenal now top the table and are two points clear of Chelsea in third - but the gap will be four points should Manchester United win their rearranged fixture at Blackpool.

Defeat at Spurs next weekend, coupled with wins for Manchester City and Manchester United, will see Chelsea drop down to fourth place - a previously incomprehensible situation for the defending Premier League champions, but one that now looks increasingly likely. Chelsea supporters may not have much to cheer on a football front this Christmas.

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Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa (Ferreira 64), Ivanovic, Terry ©, Cole; Essien, Mikel (Sturridge 87), Malouda; Anelka (Ramires 77), Drogba, Kalou

Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Neville ©, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Coleman, Fellaini, Rodwell, Pienaar (Bilyaletdinov 86); Cahill, Saha (Beckford 57)

The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match was Everton's number 15, Sylvain Distin

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