Classy Mata removes thorn in Chelsea's side
Chelsea 3 Everton 1: Spaniard excels as Blues beat Everton at home for first time in five years
Sunday 16 October 2011
Chelsea may be facing a disagreement with some of their own pitch owners over the future of Stamford Bridge, but on the playing surface itself all continues to go smoothly. Their fourth win out of four home games in the Premier League allowed them to keep pace with Manchester City, the leaders, and close to within a point of second-placed Manchester United, who had drawn with Liverpool at lunchtime.
Perhaps significantly, they beat opponents who have been a thorn in their side here recently. This was Chelsea's first home three-point haul against Everton since April 2006, and ended a run of six League matches between the clubs without a Chelsea win – Chelsea's longest run without a victory against another Premier League club since Roman Abramovich bought them in 2003.
After a quiet opening, Juan Mata turned the match in Chelsea's favour and engineered the opening goal, scored by Daniel Sturridge. Strikes by John Terry, on his 350th Premier League appearance for the club, and Ramires made the game safe, though Chelsea will be frustrated to be denied their first clean sheet since the opening day of the season by Apostolos Vellios's late strike.
Chelsea were without Fernando Torres, who was serving the second match of a three-game suspension, and rested David Luiz after the defender had played two matches for Brazil during the international week. Raul Meireles, who had previously started every League game sincejoining Chelsea from Liverpool late in the summer transfer window,was benched.
Tim Cahill had shaken off an ankle injury that forced his withdrawal from the Australia squad and kept his place in an unchanged Everton side.
The normally prolific Cahill was in search of his first Everton goal of 2011, and had called for the Toffees to show fighting spirit after losing to Manchester City and Liverpool. They began in enterprising fashion, with Seamus Coleman pushing up on Ashley Cole, twice catching him in possession. Then Louis Saha cut inside Jose Bosingwa on the left and hit an angled shot that Petr Cech clutched at the second attempt.
Chelsea also had their moments early on but there was precious little in the way of goalmouth action in the first 25 minutes. Phil Jakielka got away with a nudge on Didier Drogba after the Ivory Coast forward had turned him 20 yards out, and Tony Hibbert almost presented Frank Lampard with a shooting chance after losing the flight of a dropping ball.
So far, Chelsea had not exactly picked up the gauntlet flung down earlier by Manchester City in their 4-1 beating of Aston Villa. They needed some inspiration and urgency, and the promise of it began to appear as Mata started to move inside and get more involved.
The promise was fulfilled when Mata spotted Ashley Cole's run down the left channel. The Spain winger's chipped pass over the defence was perfectly timed as Cole sprinted clear of Coleman and Hibbert, the England left-back half-volleying the ball across goal for Sturridge to head home his fourth League goal of the season.
If that goal was beautifully worked, Chelsea's second, in first-half injury time, was basic training-ground stuff that must have infuriated David Moyes, the Everton manager. Coleman fouled Cole, Lampard curled his free-kick in from the left and Terry rose to get a decisive touch in front of Tim Howard, the ball going in off the goalkeeper's fists.
Having scored only once away from home all season, Everton must have known that they faced the steepest of uphill struggles. They needed a quick reply and it almost came in the opening seconds of the second half, Leon Osman's curling first-time shot clipping the outside of the post.
But instead of forcing Chelsea back, Everton began to give ground and the home side claimed the majority of the possession. It did not seem good enough for Andre Villas-Boas, the Chelsea manager, whose body language expressed extravagant disgust and displeasure at times, but the Stamford Bridge crowd enjoyed it, and after 61 minutes they had another goal to cheer. Drogba began it, receiving the ball in the centre circle and setting off towards goal. He strode forward before feeding Mata on the left. His low cross was met by Ramires, who showed far more determination to reach the ball than either Sylvain Distin or Leighton Baines and was rewarded with his third goal of the campaign.
The substitute Vellios pulled a goal back with his first touch after 81 minutes, sliding home Royston Drenthe's low cross to become their first playerto score more than once this season. Therein lies Everton's problem.
Chelsea (4-1-2-3): Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Mikel (Romeu, 76); Ramires (Malouda, 65), Lampard; Sturridge,Drogba, Mata (Anelka, 76).
Everton (4-2-3-1): Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Fellaini, Rodwell; Coleman (Drenthe, 60), Cahill (Neville, 72), Osman; Saha (Vellios, 80).
Referee: Mike Jones.
Man of the match: Mata (Chelsea)
Match rating: 6/10
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