Drogba double makes point for leaky leaders
Chelsea 3 Everton 3: Everton cash in as Chelsea offer little defence from set-pieces and Cech's nightmare spell continues
Sunday 13 December 2009
Roman Abramovich wanted more entertainment, but this was surely not quite what he had in mind. The blue meanies who went 10 home games without conceding a goal have suddenly become blue Santas, surrendering five in two games at Stamford Bridge and 10 in four overall.
None of those matches have been won, which offered Manchester United the chance to draw level on points at the top of the Premier League last night, only for them to blow the chance against Aston Villa.
The other significant statistic is the number of goals being conceded from set-pieces, which has reached ridiculous proportions: well over 80 per cent in the League this season. Yesterday, Everton's severely depleted side scored from two free-kicks and a throw-in from the five chances they created all afternoon. David Moyes claimed not to have targeted Chelsea in that area, which raised the question of what would have happened if he had. Everton's manager preferred to dwell on the "great resilience and endeavour" that had earned "a great draw", and the outstanding performance of his centre-forward Louis Saha.
Carlo Ancelotti was surprisingly relaxed, claiming his team were unlucky and that he had not lost trust in players he had earlier said were in the last-chance saloon. "I don't think we are in a crisis," he insisted, blaming the set-piece calamities on defenders dropping too deep and hindering Petr Cech – a classic symptom of not trusting a goalkeeper to come and claim the ball.
"We had the same problem against Aston Villa and worked on it and improved, and we must do the same again," Ancelotti said. "We have the same possibility to win the title. It will be a long race."
For those who had been at the Champions' League game against Apoel Nicosia on Tuesday, it was déjà vu all over again. Once more the visitors started unexpectedly well and scored an early goal, only for Chelsea to negate it and then go ahead themselves with only a quarter of the game played. Again, the defending was inadequate to protect the lead; where it took the Cypriot champions until the final knockings to draw level, Everton did so right at the end of an eventful first half, with the substitute Yakubu Aiyegbeni's first touch. The twist was that even after moving in front once more, Chelsea could stay there for no longer than four minutes.
Every time the ball went in the air, they looked likely to concede. Leighton Baines' free-kicks were a particular source of danger, which made it all the more foolish to keep conceding them. After 12 minutes, Saha headed on, the ball bouncing on to a post and then into the net off Cech, who is enduring a horrible run. Ricardo Carvalho burst forward to set up the equaliser within six minutes. He forced the ball to Frank Lampard, whose deft touch allowed Didier Drogba to hammer past Tim Howard.
Six minutes more and it was Everton caught out at a set-piece. Saha, back defending, miskicked at a corner and Branislav Ivanovic found Nicolas Anelka lurking just beyond the far post for a smart chip into the top of the net.
A minute from the interval Everton, already without the suspended Tim Cahill and nearly a dozen others, lost the Brazilian striker Jo, forced off with a hip injury. His replacement, Yakubu, was barely on the pitch when they won a throw deep on the left that Marouane Fellaini flicked on for John Terry to miskick, the ball striking Carvalho and falling to Yakubu's feet for a tap-in.
For the second half there were enough black shirts protecting Everton's goal for a 1930s rally. Yet they were penetrated within quarter of an hour, Ivanovic crossing for Drogba to volley his 18th goal of the season. Within a few minutes there was another shambolic response to a free-kick. John Heitinga hoisted it over and Drogba's header out hit Saha and looped back over the stranded Cech, who berated his team-mate for not giving him sufficient room. It was Everton's only threat of the half, but they smothered Chelsea for the remaining half an hour until Michael Ballack, given an opportunity in added time, drove wide.
Ancelotti had thrown on three substitutes, removing Joe Cole, who was again unable to offer incontrovertible evidence that he should be the man to play in his favoured position just behind the strikers. Drogba and Anelka – 25 goals between them so far – must be wondering how many they need to score to ensure a victory. Others drinking in Ancelotti's last-chance saloon were staggering away from Stamford Bridge with an uncertain gait yesterday evening.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the match: Drogba
Match rating: 7/10
World Beard and Moustache Championships held last week
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