Terry sees red as Chelsea miss chance for top spot

Everton 0 Chelsea 0
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The Independent Football

At least Avram Grant condescended to march up four flights of Goodison stairs to throw a tantrum. His response to a challenging period in the perennially challenging job of managing Chelsea, eight months ago, was to sit before the press here and refuse to talk.

Luiz Felipe Scolari failed to materialise at all last night, letting it be known through his head of media, Steve Atkins, that he would not be speaking as he had "a number of issues with a number of the decisions throughout the game." The entire Chelsea management team, Atkins declared, "feel it better that they don't say anything rather than cause trouble."

The prime point of contention was the 35th-minute dismissal of Scolari's captain, John Terry, and though resisting temptation to publicly criticise referee Phil Dowd is what the Respect campaign is supposed to be about, the peremptory way the club refused to enter any discussion on another tame display – this latest failure to take over at the top of the table means their points tally is now six in five games – pretty much reflected the way Chelsea had conducted themselves all night.

Terry's dismissal came out of the blue, at a time when Chelsea seemed to have shown the temperament to maintain poise among some fairly rudimentary challenges from Phil Neville and Tim Cahill. But his tackle was a dire one, he and Leon Osman thundering towards each other to contest a ball near the halfway line on 35 minutes and Terry lunging in with his right boot. He caught the Everton midfielder at shin height and left him crumpled on the pitch with an ankle injury which makes him a doubt for the trip to Middlesbrough on Boxing Day. Dowd delayed, first taking directions from his linesman, but Terry's fate was in little doubt from the moment he made the challenge. "I've not seen the sending off yet, but my first reaction was [that] it was reckless," said Moyes, who was a few yards away when the tackle was made. "In my day [you] would have enjoyed a tackle like that but you [can't] now."

The sending off, the third of Terry's career, asks more questions of the temperament of an individual who does not conduct himself like an England captain on occasions and was considerably worse than the straight red, later rescinded on appeal, which he earned at Manchester City on 13 September. The club had not decided whether to appeal it last night and Terry looks likely to miss the games against West Bromwich, Fulham and Southend. But if and when Scolari comes around from his sense of bitter indignation it should his players' response to the dismissal which alarms him most.

The initial protestations were long and loud, the indignation all the greater when Cahill jumped with his arms up into a challenge on Michael Ballack two minutes after Terry's departure. When Dowd correctly desisted from booking Cahill, then awarded the Australian a soft free kick for Alex's challenge on the edge of the Chelsea box, all hell let loose. First Frank Lampard, then Ashley Cole were booked for their unsavoury protests. Michael Ballack later joined them in the book, demanding of the referee that an Everton wall move back. Dowd marched out the ten paces to prove his point. Chelsea might have left Merseyside playing the high and mighty but Dowd had a good night.

Of course, all concerned might have reacted differently had Chelsea looked anything but a dislocated side. Their only win in the last six was against West Bromwich and they were unable to put Everton keeper Tim Howard under any pressure in the second half. Scolari looked like a man shuffling his pack and not finding any aces, starting the match with Nicolas Anelka, swapping to Didier Drogba at half-time and finding one as undynamic as the other.

Everton's resources could barely have been lesser. Moyes currently has no fit strikers to speak of at all. He started with Cahill up front for a second week and it showed. Even by Moyes' own admission, Everton's routes through to goal were limited. "We tried to go around them because we couldn't go through the middle of the park," he said. "We got a lot of crosses in from the edge of the box. If anything we should have got to the byline more."

The two accurate crosses Osman put up in the first half found tame headers from Cahill and the abundant mop of Marouane Fellaini and bore Moyes' modesty out.

Chelsea offered minimal threat of their own, though. Their best chance was their first, Ashley Cole unleashing a punishing 20-yard shot only two minutes in after Hibbert allowed him a fraction too much time, which Tim Howard pushed over his bar. Everton lost Joseph Yobo to a hamstring injury, which makes him a doubt for Boxing Day too, but as the evening wore on Goodison justifiably sensed an upset.

Two Hibbert crosses had brought the best from Cech when seven minutes from time Fellaini crossed and Pienaar, who had stepped over the ball to allow Osman to shoot, followed the effort in to squeeze the ball home. He was offside and Cech had both hands on the ball when he forced it in the net and Dowd rightly called in Chelsea's favour. It was with a mild sense of relief that Chelsea left the field, still one point behind Liverpool in the title race that no-one appears to want to lead.

Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Hibbert, Yobo (Baines, 61), Jagielka, Lescott; Osman, Neville, Arteta, Pienaar; Fellaini; Cahill. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Van der Meyde, Rodwell, Jutkiewicz, Gosling, Kissock.

Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, A Cole; Mikel; J Cole (Ivanovic, h-t), Ballack, Lampard, Deco (Bridge, 87); Anelka (Drogba, h-t). Substitutes not used: Malouda, Kalou, Cudicini (gk), Belletti.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Booked: Chelsea Lampard, A Cole, Ballack.

Sent off: Chelsea Terry (35).

Man of the match: Hibbert.

Attendance: 35,655.