Chelsea got a crucial late goal against Everton, to win 1-0 and keep their 7-point lead atop the Premier League. The Blues dominated the proceedings all night; however, they did not break through until the 89th minute, with Everton keeper Tim Howard doing a great job to keep out many goof Chelsea chances. On a day when Manchester City also won, Chelsea needed this result to stay atop the table.
Everton clearly had a strategy of both attacking on the counter attack and keeping their numbers back in defense, because the first half was completely dominated by Chelsea. Romelu Lukaku had one very good chance on the counter attack, but Petr Cech got his foot to it first to keep the score level. Outside of that one Lukaku strike, all the first half chances came from the home side as they dominated possession and had several good chances.
New signing Juan Cuadrado got his first start for Chelsea, and was in sync with his fellow attackers Willian and Eden Hazard right off the bat. That line of attackers behind Loic Remy does a great job of both seamlessly changing positions, and also taking turns initiating the attacks. In the first half, all of the Chelsea attackers had good chances with Hazard and Remy was demonstrating good efforts which were saved by Everton keeper Tim Howard. Remy was the replacement for Diego Costa, who is currently serving a three match ban, and the Frenchman looked lively and fit well in the flow of the Chelsea attack. Even though they dominated possession and had many more chances, the Blues were not able to turn any of those chances into goals and the two clubs entered halftime scoreless.
In the second half, the game plan for both clubs seemed to be the same; Chelsea attacked and Everton sat back and defended, only really applying any pressure on the counter. Everton’s defense did grow more confident as the half wore on, and it almost seemed at one point later on that Chelsea were out of ideas on how to break them down. Tim Howard was terrific all night; he kept many good Blues scoring chances out of the net, including a great save on a Nemanja Matic free kick mid way through the second half.
Until the only score of the game, Everton might have had the best chance on the night, as Petr Cech had to make an incredibly quick save on a Lukaku shot. The striker was right in front of the net, got behind the defenders and got a near perfect cross that he barely needed to touch to put on net. However; Cech was quick to react, and kept the shot out with his foot keeping his clean sheet in tact.
Chelsea thought they had the breakthrough in about the 85th minute, when a long-range effort from Matic was deflected a few times and found the back of the net. However, the goal ended up being called off due to Ivanovic being in an offside position. A rash tackle followed this courtesy of Everton’s Gareth Barry, who was already on a yellow card, and ended up getting his second which resulted in his send off. Only moments after Barry’s sending off, Chelsea were finally able to get past Tim Howard (this occurred when Willian found the net through a very crowded 18-yard box.) Howard punched out a cross that found the Brazilian’s foot, and his low driven volley got a slight deflection before getting into the bottom corner of the net.
Chelsea came into this match with a seven-point lead atop the league, and held onto that margin with this late victory. Manchester City also got a win over Stoke; therefore, a home draw to Everton would have resulted in the Blues having dropped points, this at a crucial point in the season when they really need to assert their dominance and extend their lead.
Chelsea’s late winner over Everton gave them three crucial points, leading to the team getting to keep their seven-point lead atop the Barclays Premier League. Next, the Blues have a very important match against Paris Saint-Germain, in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 matchup.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius
Photo Courtesy of Ben Sutherland – Flickr License