Set-piece blues put Cech on back foot

Chelsea 3 Everton 3
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The Independent Football

The boos rang round Stamford Bridge as referee Phil Dowd signalled the end of Chelsea's 100 per cent home record. Not enough to be called a chorus, but enough to leave some Chelsea players amazed that the memories of some supporters could be so short.

This was the first time Chelsea had dropped points at Stamford Bridge all season, after all. And two-and-a-half hours later, after Manchester United had lost to Aston Villa, Chelsea's lead over United had in fact been extended to three points. The booing was too much for the goalkeeper Petr Cech, who chose his words carefully.

"I was surprised because this was the first draw at home this season," Cech said. "If you look at the games we played here in the cups, in the Champions League, in the Premier League, all with clean sheets, all with a lot of goals scored. We have beaten Liverpool here, we have beaten Man United here, Tottenham when they were second, we beat them all. So I was really surprised to hear that. I was really surprised, which means I didn't understand it, because the performance of the team was very good."

In truth it was a chaotic afternoon for Chelsea, and the booing was probably more an expression of frustration that a game had been thrown away than genuine disgust at the team's endeavours. Chelsea, inspired in attack by another irrepressible performance from Didier Drogba, scored three wonderful goals, but they were guilty of procrastination at the back, which handed a patched-up Everton team a draw.

Cech admitted his error a week ago when Chelsea lost 2-1 at Manchester City. Here, however, he refused to accept responsibility for the chaos that allowed Everton into the game. "We were very unlucky not to win because we played well, we controlled the game, we scored three brilliant goals and we were really unlucky to concede goals. So this is one of those days," he said.

There was certainly a large chunk of fluke about Everton's first and third goals, but that cannot mask the remarkable level of panic in the Chelsea box every time the visitors had a set piece. The flawless delivery of Leighton Baines for both those goals provoked the uncertainty, and Chelsea's defenders did the rest.

Cech scored an own goal to start things off, when Louis Saha's header rebounded first from John Terry's shoulder, hit the post, and then struck the Chelsea goalkeeper's back before rolling in. Chelsea responded like potential champions and were level six minutes later, when Didier Drogba found the top corner from Lampard's cushioned pass. Nicolas Anelka then put Chelsea ahead when Saha failed to clear a corner.

The match looked to be over before half-time, but that was not reckoning on Chelsea's defensive shambles. Terry and Ricardo Carvalho failed to deal with an Everton throw-in and substitute Aiyegbeni Yakubu scored in first-half stoppage time. Drogba's sweet volley put Chelsea ahead again on the hour but another Baines free-kick created havoc and Drogba's defensive header hit Saha and looped over a stranded Cech to make it four games without a win for Chelsea.

Cech denied the team have a problem defending free-kicks. The goalkeeper said: "I think it has been a long time since we conceded goals from set plays. Against Arsenal, and Man City, and if you count all the other games before, there were so many set plays and we dealt with all these. We were really unlucky because the first goal deflected off the post, goes back to me and it goes in. You know, this is something you can't control. This is something that can always happen.

"The second goal, we had three chances to clear it. And Didier's clearance is not an own goal, but what is the chance it hits the opponent standing a few yards in front of you and then goes over the goalkeeper and the defenders standing on the line? This is unlucky. This was an exceptional thing when you basically scored two own goals in the same game. When you concede one goal at home throughout the season [before Saturday], it would be really strange if you lose your confidence. We just have to make sure on Wednesday we get back to having a clean sheet and getting three points."

The Everton manager, David Moyes, made goalkeeper Tim Howard captain and was delighted with his leadership. "He has taken a bit of ownership of the team. We like that at Everton, it helps you get better results," Moyes said.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, has the chance to make amends against the bottom club Portsmouth on Wednesday. "If you maintain this performance in the next game, you will win," Ancelotti told his team. They had better. The last time Chelsea went four games without a win was September 2007, when Jose Mourinho was sacked as manager and replaced by Avram Grant, who returns to the Bridge with Portsmouth.

Chelsea (4-1-2-1-2): Cech; Ivanovic, Carvalho (Belletti, 86), Terry, A Cole; Mikel (Borini, 88); Ballack, Lampard; J Cole (Malouda, 76); Anelka, Drogba. Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Zhirkov, Ferreira, Matic.

Everton (4-4-2): Howard; Hibbert, Neill, Heitinga, Baines; Pienaar, Rodwell, Fellaini, Bilyaletdinov; Jo (Yakubu, 45), Saha (Agard, 90). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Coleman, Duffy, Akpan, Mustafi.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Booked: Everton Heitinga.

Man of the match: Drogba.

Attendance: 41,579.