Chelsea fail to counter Saha’s strength as striker runs riot
Everton 2 Chelsea 1
Thursday 11 February 2010
As the tidal flood of abuse against him gave way to intermittent waves, the best crack Merseyside could dredge up for John Terry last night was "same old Terry, always cheating."
By the end of the night that is precisely what he was reduced to – desperately blocking Louis Saha from racing into a counter attack which would have sealed his misery and Chelsea's. Not for the first time in the past two weeks, it was a French connection which proved his ruination.
Chelsea always knew they had something to fear in Saha, a player who now has two more goals against Chelsea to go with the fastest strike in an FA Cup final last summer and the finish which ruined Carlo Ancelotti's 100 per cent home record in December – a game in which his contribution was immense. But rarely in the course of his Chelsea career has Terry been pulled this way and that quite like this.
The winning goal was only a part of it – Terry misjudging the flight of Sylvain Distin's left-footed strike out of defence which sailed over his head. One neat piece of chest control later the Frenchman was crashing a swerving shot just beyond Cech's right hand. There was also the ghostly omen of all this, a mirror image first-half miscalculation which set Saha free in the box and required Ricardo Carvalho to tidy up. And then the vacant air which allowed Saha to step up ahead of him and calmly head home Landon Donovan's first half corner. By the end of the night Terry wore the same red face you feel has accompanied him through some of his recent private reflections, only this time it was the one pinched by the bitter cold and the sheer, relentless effort of chasing shadows.
In fairness, he was only part of Chelsea's struggles. The side really do not care much for North-west England – their season's two league defeats have occurred here – and the same malaise which affected them at Wigan and Manchester City contributed to the sense that they really are fallible outside of west London. Ancelotti's side have won only once away from home since November in the league but this failure was the most curious of all, considering the smooth sublimity of the first 20 minutes in which they looked on a different level. The 33rd minute goal was one of basic ingredients; a long punt from Petr Cech which Drogba escaped Mike Arteta to nod on for Florent Malouda who raced ahead of Phil Neville to finish impressively and left footed to Tim Howard's left. But the general impression Chelsea offered was of a side capable of the neat and "positive philosophy" in their football which Arsène Wenger has suggested is Arsenal's preserve.
Predictability was the attribute Michael Ballack found in Arsenal last Sunday, much to Wenger's indignation, but it is a pejorative term equally appropriate for Chelsea's record at set pieces and Saha's first goal bore that out. As the goal punctured Chelsea, so it inflated Everton. Or as Moyes so memorably put it later: "When we got to one-each everybody in the ground grew."
The analysis applied most to Donovan. With his side level, he immediately clipped in a ball which Saha might have buried had not his heavy first touch allowed Cech to save with his left foot. Carvalho's own left foot was less trusty as the Californian took a Tim Cahill pass and cut inside him seconds later, inviting the faintest clip. Saha's left footed penalty was at a comfortable height for Cech.
Moyes admitted later that there was a slighted haunted air on the Everton bench as they mused on what the opportunity the might have spurned but his analysis of that late first half period was accurate, too. "We smothered them."
Chelsea's haunted look was never to leave them in the face of Everton's invention after the interval. Cech touched over the bar a ball Diniyar Bilyaletdinov floated from the left and the sense of siege intensified when Terry appeared to have handled a ball Donovan lifted towards the Chelsea box on the counter attack. It actually hit the defender's face. Desperate for more momentum, Ancelotti threw on Ballack, rather than a defender, when Cole injured his ankle in a challenge with Donovan and limped off.
Chelsea responded immediately after the decisive second goal came – Lampard's corner reached Drogba who thumped a header against the bar – but Terry placed the rebound high and wide, which seemed to be a metaphor for his night. The welcome Everton had for him here included a prescient advert in the match programme for local sexual health clinics ("love is infectious") which many fans chuckled over last night. There was no fun for Terry. He needs that weekend off and has another good reason to put France from his mind.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Neville, Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Donovan, Arteta (Rodwell, 74), Osman, Bilyaletdinov (Gosling, 86); Cahill; Saha (Senderos, 90). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Vaughan, Yakubu, Coleman
Chelsea (4-1-3-2) Cech; Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole (Ballack, 57); Mikel; Lampard, Malouda, Zhirkov; Anelka (Kalou, 67), Drogba. Substitutes not used: Hilario, Ferreira, Sturridge, Matic, Bruma
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire)
Booked: Everton Donovan; Chelsea Mikel, Malouda.
Man of the match: Donovan.
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