Chelsea 3-3 Everton
I knew it would be a strange day when I considered how it was possible to to reach Fulham Broadway quicker than the Emirates metro stop for an away game considering our same starting point. Later I would have more considering to do after a bizarre ending to a game.
The teams came through and changes were expected after Wednesday and most were satisfied with those made with perhaps the Oviedo inclusion at right back causing most comment.
Kick off and in the first ten minutes we saw a Barkley burst to within shooting distance but alas he produced a poor shot. Mirallas showed his pace but was tackled and we gained a corner. The half then settled down into a contest where both teams were respecting each other and was a bit of a stalemate.
Up to the 20th minute it went like this: Baines marauding toward the area was chopped down but the ref saw no foul. Strange, it looked nailed on. Chelsea got a quick break and the impressive Willian got in the box and shot but Howard had narrowed the angle and the ball hit him and flew over for a corner. Barkley had another surge and his run culminated in him putting Mirallas in who netted but he was ruled offside. The lino saw that one eh?
Lennon then skipped inside from out and fed Barkley who shot but not well and the ball rebounded to Oviedo on his right foot and his shot was wide. A good chance that. Chelsea had a move broken up but Stones had our hearts in mouths as he dribbled and dribbled in a very dangerous area but he got away with it. All in a day’s work to him I reckon.
The half continued in this vein with the Blues of Everton looking the better bet for a goal yet not really carving much out. The best of the rest of the half was another powerful run by Barkley and he did produce a killer ball but it caught Mirallas on his heels and ran out for a goal kick. Mirallas almost made up for that with a superb turn that left Zouma out of the game but alas a corner was his only reward. Chelsea were finishing the half the stronger but they had to be wary of Barkley with his surges as he was our best bet for setting something up but on the whistle it was still 0-0
I thought we played well enough without creating any clear cut chances as indeed did our opponent. I was pleased to see Baines looking like he is back to his best
No changes at the break so off we go again. We start on the front foot and look to attack with Baines marauding and well involved and as five minutes comes up he is definitely involved as Lukaku charges in from the right like a bull, he goes past three players and finds Barkley. He moves it on to Baines who puts in a super cross across the six yard box and the ball enters the net. The Everton fans in the corner go ballistic as it is confirmed a Terry own goal. We don’t care who scores them as long as they count.
One up and tails up. Our next foray forward of note sees Barry pick out Barkley with a peach of a pass and he is in on goal, beats the keeper with a rasper but hits the post. Oh the groans. Hiddink had seen enough and promptly took off Matic in favour of Oscar to make a more attacking formation.
But only minutes passed when Barkley ran at their defence and played in the overlapping Baines he looked up and put in a perfect cross to Mirallas who seemed to be surrounded but the Belgian put in the most exquisite of turns leaving defenders out of the game and with one sublime movement found the corner of the net with a left footed shot that was met with delight from the players and travelling faithful. 2-0 and his own song was ringing out along with all the songs you have ever heard. 2-0 up away at Chelsea has to be celebrated.
Just over half hour left and for some reason we went deeper while Chelsea, with nothing to lose, threw everything at us. The hour mark was soon reached and we were under the cosh but last-second blocks, tackles and luck thwart Chelsea with Jags, Barry, Besic and Baines in the thick of things which rubbed off on others, especially Barkley who realised he had to come back and help out.
Just as I was thinking we may have drawn their sting disaster happened. Less than ten minutes after we went 2-0 up a long ball over the top saw Jags race back with Costa. Our skipper let the ball bounce and give Costa a slight advantage but there was Howard racing out to meet the incoming players and ball. He went to ground and slid taking Jags completely out and both of them in a tangle on the ground as Costa merely moved to the side and walked the ball home. Talk about Keystone cops– this was 10-year-old playground footy.
It is taken as fact that a two goal lead is a precarious one and needs looking after but when the deficit is cut to one within ten minutes then the impetus shifts and that is exactly what happened today because just two minutes later Chelsea, with tails up and Costa playing like the man they thought they had bought, were level. They just poured forward and filled our box. We seemed all at sea and from a loose ball Fabregas shot with the ball hitting Besic and Howard picked it out of the net. Very little sound from the away end was emanating except for descriptive expletives. So much good work thrown away in ten minutes.
Chelsea attacked again and we repelled that one but at great cost as Oviedo was seen laying on the turf. Medics came on and gave lengthy treatment and then called for a stretcher and the lad was lifted aboard and strapped in with tubes and bottles and other paraphernalia visible. All feared the worst for a man who has already suffered so much. He had a good round of applause. Later we heard he was okay and it was just a precaution – what a hell of a precaution that was! Funes Mori came on with Stones to right back as per Etihad.
Injury then struck Chelsea with Costa going down and having treatment. He returned but went down again and had lengthy treatment but was taken off and replaced by Remy. These long breaks seemed to have re-set the game and it was now an end-to-end humdinger with both teams flat out for a winner. Our present manager swapped Barkley and Lennon for Deulofeu and Pienaar with the clock ticking down and emotions rising and falling, such was the state of the game.
Mikel had a power drive just wide then Stones got down the right wing and crossed and just out of reach of Lukaku. Drat, hissed the faithful. We are just on 90 mins when we attacked and get a corner, Deulofeu took it but a Chelsea head was there first but only back to the Spaniard. He put in a delightful high dipping cross to the back post evading the keeper and there were Funes Mori and Lukaku it was a case of if the first one doesn’t get you the second one will and it was the first one who from a mid-air position rifled home causing Bournemouth-like scenes to take place, without the pitch invasion.
Such was the celebration that only later did someone say 7 minutes added. The game was going again and we seemed to be at panic stations around our own box rather than trying to see the game out with some order and plan. Chelsea were throwing everything at us now and we were just heading and kicking to nowhere in particular so the ball kept coming straight back. The time must be up I thought as another ball is pumped into our box but only half clearances seem to be taking place and from one scramble a mighty roar goes up and Chelsea players are in the crowd. I didn’t need telling what had happened and then to here later the scorer was a yard offside was crippling.
Final score in quite a match 3-3. Normally that score away to Chelsea would have been celebrated but today I heard some liken it to a death in the family!
The after-game reactions from manager, players and fans was of a case of robbery. Everyone was to blame, the ref, the linesman, the manager, the players, El Nino and that Cat but really from my seat it was all about a problem we have had all season. We are playing some of the best joined-up footy I have seen for many a year and have some of the most coveted young players in the league, which is a complement to our present manager.
But on the flip side we are unable to handle high pressure moments to see games out. Our rich promise and cultured football goes out of the window to be replaced by uncoordinated uncertainty. We badly need a plan that everyone knows how to handle these situations and if it is we have got one it needs changing. It's heartbreaking for fans to witness such fine football that puts us in front being usurped by panic stricken defending when we know we have the class and strength to look after this side of things. I hope manager and players take this serious matter on board and don’t just talk about it – do something about it.
A week to work on things and Swansea at home. Roberto, the eyes of the faithful will be on proceedings.
UP THE BLUES