"I'M STILL not happy," complained the Chelsea fan on the Underground, having just watched his side run rings around Everton. "Don't get me wrong; it's all good, fancy stuff. It's just that we need to be more ruthless. We never take anyone to Sketchley's, y'know?"
Success may have spoiled some of Chelsea's supporters but if there was a small blot on an otherwise exceptional performance from the home side, it was a reluctance to take their chances. This was a mis-match in which Chelsea might have registered double figures, but in the end were grateful for Gianfranco Zola's superb late free-kick which secured the points.
"It was a very pleasing performance, quite outstanding," Gianluca Vialli, the Chelsea player-manager, said. Despite the mathematical permutations, the title, he agreed, was now off limits. "We will get there next season," he promised, reassuringly.
Zola and Gustavo Poyet were Everton's principal tormentors, with the Uruguayan quick to push forward at any opportunity. Yet Chelsea's approach play was at times as frustrating as it was breathtaking.
To describe Everton as poor in the first half would have been an injustice as they barely touched the ball, let alone had the opportunity to give it away. Often it seemed like their white-shirted players had vanished into the crowd soaking up the afternoon sun and Chelsea accepted the opportunity to create some dazzle of their own.
The visitors had begun with three centre-halves at the heart of a five- man defence. That Zola, at 5ft 6in the joint-smallest player (along with Dennis Wise) on the field, was able to rise unmarked to head home Chelsea's opening goal pretty much summed up the effectiveness of that strategy. It was a beautifully worked move, Poyet's one-two with Graeme Le Saux releasing the Englishman, whose cross dissected Craig Short and David Unsworth as Zola stole in.
Everton reverted to 4-4-2 but could find no antidote to the dominance of Wise and Jody Morris in midfield. That it took Chelsea an hour to score their second goal was the biggest surprise. Franck Leboeuf's drive was parried by Thomas Myhre but the rebound fell straight to Zola, whose centre was met by Dan Petrescu.
It was left to Francis Jeffers, Everton's one bright note on an otherwise grim afternoon, to briefly haul his side back into the match with a powerful low shot which caught everyone off guard, not least Ed De Goey in the Chelsea goal.
Danny Cadamarteri came on to bolster the Everton attack and, with the score at 2-1, the home side had to endure a nervous 10 minutes before Zola's free-kick settled matters.
Goals: Zola (25) 1-0; Petrescu (60) 2-0; Jeffers (69) 2-1; Zola (80) 3-1.
Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; Ferrer, Desailly, Leboeuf (Lambourde, 71), Le Saux; Petrescu (Goldbaek, 61), Wise, Morris (Babayaro, 82), Poyet; Zola, Forssell. Substitutes not used: Flo, Hitchcock (gk).
Everton (5-3-2): Myhre; Dunne (Degn, h-t), Weir, Short, Unsworth, Ball; Hutchison, Ward (Cadamarteri, 71) Barmby; Campbell, Jeffers. Substitutes not used: Bakayoko, Phelan, Gerrard (gk).
Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).
Bookings: Everton: Ward, Short, Hutchison,
Man of the match: Zola.
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