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WHERE once Chelsea were a let- down for their supporters on important cup occasions, they are now realising their true worth. A place in the Coca-Cola quarter- finals and an all-London tie with Crystal Palace was their reward last night for another performance oozing confidence and authority and able to withstand the loss of Gareth Hall, sent off in the second half for a dreadful challenge on Billy Kenny.
The full-back was late and high in the tackle and there was no arguing with referee Jim Borrett's decision to send him packing. It took the shine off another Chelsea victory but the sequence makes impressive reading and nine wins in their last 12 games is useful armoury in advance of Manchester United's visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
'If Vinny (Jones) is going to start another video that is one for it,' Howard Kendall said of the Hall lunge that prompted the Everton manager to applaud with heavy sarcasm the offender's exit down the tunnel. 'Obviously home supporters will be sympathetic when their player is sent off but for them to applaud him like that you have to begin to wonder.'
Andy Townsend's venomous swipe of the ball with his favoured left foot enabled Chelsea to follow form and expectation to victory and at last they are a team who look capable of getting among the silverware at the end of the season.
They possessed a vigour and sprightliness that Everton, struggling in a woeful trough of despondency and despair, could not contain. Even with a numerical advantage for the final 27 minutes Kendall's down-at-heel forces were unable to seriously threaten Chelsea's superiority although Paul Rideout had the home terraces pleading for the final whistle when he struck a post with only a minute to go.
'This was a big test for us and we came through really well,' the Chelsea manager, Ian Porterfield, said.
'After Gareth had gone we were forced to adjust and we proved resilient. But we are not getting carried away with our run and there is still a lot of water to flow under the bridge yet.'
Anticipation of Chelsea's success is not new but this time it seems the blue shirts are believers. They had Everton back-pedalling from the start, Neville Southall choosing to watch Andy Townsend's early effort sail just the wrong side of the post. If that was judgement par excellence Southall's work soon after lacked a certain touch. He completely missed his punch in the 14th minute, which only had the effect of increasing the Chelsea tempo and within another six minutes they had gained the lead.
The ball went via Robert Fleck and Dennis Wise to Graeme Le Saux who teed up Townsend for another ferocious statement of intent, the ball scything through Southall's attempt at a save.
So anaemic had Everton's efforts been before that it promised to decide the affair there and then. Chelsea should have gone further in front through Wise before the Merseysiders mobilised themselves into an effective response, Peter Beardsley producing a shot which Kevin Hitchcock needed two attempts at before making the ball safe.
As the prize drew nearer for Porterfield's team, tempers rose and Mel Donaghy and Le Saux went into the book in a two- minute spell for fouls.
The visitors Alan Harper and Barry Horne followed them. By now Everton were competing for real but where it mattered, in the penalty areas, they were short.
Chelsea: Hitchcock; Hall, Sinclair, Townsend, Lee, Donaghy, Stuart, Fleck, Le Saux, Newton, Wise. Substitutes not used: Burley, Spencer.
Everton: Southall; Harper (Jenkins, 73), Ablett, Horne, Watson, Keown, Warzycha (Barlow, 54), Beardsley, Rideout, Kenny, Beagrie.
Referee: J Borrett (Norfolk).Reuse content