Moyes sees sense after reviewing Beattie's dismissal

Everton 0 Chelsea 1

It might, in an ultimately dismal sort of way, be fitting if this indeed proves to be the decisive step in Chelsea's pursuit of the Premiership in a season when some form of cheating has never been off the agenda. Chelsea's Joe Cole said it was "massive". But then what was the bigger: the victory or the lie?

It might, in an ultimately dismal sort of way, be fitting if this indeed proves to be the decisive step in Chelsea's pursuit of the Premiership in a season when some form of cheating has never been off the agenda. Chelsea's Joe Cole said it was "massive". But then what was the bigger: the victory or the lie?

Everton's David Moyes, maybe inevitably, saw defeat as the bitter fruit of a huge injustice with the dismissal of James Beattie after just seven minutes. The rest of us could, once again, only cringe at the flawed vision of English football, where it seems every evil is judged not on its weight but what colour shirt it happens to be wearing.

An impartial eye was committed to what it saw, which was Beattie butting William Gallas as the Chelsea central defender blocked his rival's pursuit of a ball running out of play.

The body language of a butt is not ambiguous and if the degree of contact, and effect, was not so certain, the referee Mike Riley appeared to render the only possible verdict.

However, Moyes believed that his player was badly treated. He would not be delivering the usual fine of two weeks' wages when a player puts himself out of action for three matches - in Beattie's case, the huge Cup tie with Manchester United and Premiership games against Aston Villa and Blackburn - but simply restating his disgust at football's cheating tendency. Moyes thought Gallas made a banquet of a morsel of body contact, and the Everton fans howled every time the Chelsea man subsequently touched the ball, which was frequently as he and John Terry sealed the middle of defence against the efforts of their depleted opponents.

Moyes said: "I played centre-half and in matches I have had 30 incidents like that without going down. I thought you had to be bigger and tougher than that."

Or perhaps more naïve. After a minute or so it became clear Gallas would not be rushed to the nearest neurological ward. He got up and played flawlessly, which rather supported Moyes' belief that his reaction had been grossly exaggerated. But then, what's new?

Beattie, like Moyes, proceeded to explain how it was that we had mistaken a thoroughly innocent pursuit of the ball for something as malevolent as a Glasgow Kiss. "He blocked me off and I thought I would get my head down and chase the ball. If I had gone to do it properly, he would probably have stayed down a little longer."

For Cole, who had one of his livelier performances without ever beginning to match the relevance and the sustained danger presented by his team-mate Damien Duff, the Beattie-Gallas episode was something to be buried deep into the margins of Chelsea's resumption of the three-point habit after last week's slip against Manchester City. "People looked at us without [Arjen] Robben and [Didier] Drogba and probably doubted us but we came to perform," Cole said. "This was a big win, as important as the ones at Spurs and Liverpool. You looked around the dressing-room afterwards and you could see how determined everyone had been not to give Manchester United and Arsenal anything to bite on. Wherever we go to play, Manchester, Barcelona or Timbuktu, it doesn't matter to us. We feel we can win every match we play."

That confidence was, however, not exactly on a flood tide until Eidur Gudjohnsen scored in the 69th minute, when he picked up the rebound after Gallas had sent a cross from Paulo Ferreira against the crossbar. Chelsea might have had another goal when Frank Lampard, for the second time in two games, was denied by a special save, this time when Nigel Martyn turned a close-range shot around the post, but it was a slim return on the 83 minutes of their one-man advantage.

Duff ran, as always, with stag-like stride and unflagging persistence. Gudjohnson, was, typically, pleasing on the eye with his deft touches, but you could only mourn the imbalance of what might have been a much more intriguing collision if Beattie had not so egregiously applied for an afternoon off. One likelihood: the race has not lost all of its potential drama.

With Robben injured, Chelsea lose more than a brilliant winger. They are missing a constant outlet from the most solid of defence - and a supreme cutting edge. In the end you had to say 10-man Everton might easily have had a draw.

Moyes was faced with disbelief when he pleaded Beattie's innocence, but he was emphatic. "I'm telling you what I saw and why I won't be punishing my player." A few weeks ago he paid an Everton record, £6m, for Beattie, and perhaps such a huge purchase, in a team overachieving so wildly beyond the club resources, creates a slightly separate vision of reality.

Beattie said he was probably obliged to apologise to his team-mates, his fans, and the club, but that was before his manager had denied the existence of a Glasgow Kiss. Yes, possibly, Chelsea may just have marched on beyond recall. Meanwhile, the evasive language of so much of English football, it was only too plain, was standing still.

Goals : Gudjohnsen (69) 0-1.

Everton (4-5-1): Martyn; Pistone, Weir, Stubbs, Naysmith (Ferguson, 74); Carsley (Arteta, 85), Yobo, Cahill, Bent, Kilbane; Beattie. Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Plessis, Gerrard.

Chelsea: (4-3-3) Cech; Ferreira, Gallas, Terry, Bridge; Tiago (Johnson, 90) Lampard, Makele; Duff (Carvalho, 90) Gudjohnsen, Cole (Jarosik, 72). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Smertin.

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire)

Booked: Everton Cahill; Chelsea Terry, Jarosik.

Sent off: Beattie (7).

Man of the match: Duff.

Attendance: 40,270.

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