A resurgent Chelsea welcomed a resurgent Everton in a match which constituted of two teams with lopsided balance. Both the teams were in brilliant attacking form but lacked defensive steel and it all ended up making a classic Premier League encounter between the Blue duo.
Chelsea lined up with Courtois as the keeper, a standard back four of Azpilicueta, Terry, Zouma and Ivanovic while Mikel and Matic shielded them. In attack, there were Pedro and Willian on the flanks while Fabregas played in the centre trying to find striker Diego Costa.
Everton meanwhile had Howards in goal as Baines, Jagielka, Stones and Oviedo protected him. Barry and Besic were the midfield harassers as Mirallas, Lennon and Barkley led the charge in attack. Lukaku was the target man for the Toffees.
Chelsea and Everton entered the match practising caution. Everton who had been tearing apart defences were playing a limp possession game and surrendered the ball easily in such scenarios. Meanwhile, the fact that Fabregas was playing ahead and Mikel coupled with Matic held the deeper positions made for a disappointing viewing for Chelsea as they pulled back Pedro and Willian to play passes no longer than 10 yards during the half.
Chelsea were not pressing very actively while Everton themselves were happy with letting Chelsea hit them the hardest they could. All Everton wanted were counters where their ultra-mobile midfield could get past Mikel and Matic. That’s when they were at their dangerous best, targeting Ivanovic who should be dropped from the Chelsea squad in fairness.
Chelsea meanwhile were trying their best to penetrate via the wings and then either cross for Costa or look for Fabregas as Costa pulled defences away. It almost worked a few times as Fabregas had more than a couple of moments when he was unmarked right in front of the D but couldn’t find Costa due to the brilliant Jagielka.
In the second half, Everton adopted a no nonsense, kamikaze approach as they usually do and let Baines have a swing at Ivanovic. With Willian struggling, it was an easy decision and it soon yielded results as Baines tore apart on the left and delivered the ball which led to Terry’s unlucky own goal.
The second was a moment of brilliance from Mirallas as he controlled the ball expertly and placed an impressive half volley right in the corner.
Chelsea responded with taking off the shackles themselves and let Fabregas come deep and dictate play. This move by Hiddink was facilitated by the removal of Matic for Oscar and it paid dividends two times over in 5 minutes as Chelsea scored and then annulled Everton’s lead with spectacular play from Fabregas and Costa.
The first goal came from an inch perfect ball over the top which Costa controlled ahead of Jagielka and then proceeded to nutmeg Howard and ran the ball into the goal. The second goal was a brilliant team move from Chelsea as the utilised horizontal movement from the wing on to Fabregas, immediately releasing the ball to Costa who did the same with a backheel. A deflection off Stones later, Chelsea were level.
With Costa pumped up and Fabregas finding him with alarming regularity, it was Chelsea’s match to lose. Oscar, Kenedy and Willian were the tireless pressers and Everton were pinned back in their D, trying hard to release pressure but the fact that they were overly ambitious and looked to play out from the back meant that the Brazilian trio for Chelsea had easy pickings with turnovers in the Toffees’ half.
Everton then proceeded to take the lead when Deulofeu’s impressive corner was retuned back to him and he came up with a delightful lob that evaded all the Chelsea defenders and found Mori at the far post. A tap in later, Everton led at the final minute of normal time against Chelsea with 7 extra minutes left to be played.
Chelsea came back strongly and parked all the players taller than 6 feet into the Everton D and pinged long ball after another in search of an unlikely equalizer.
One such ball met the head of Zouma. Then Oscar and then the heel of Terry and at the very final minute of the game, the ball was again in the back of the net. Chelsea had again come from behind and managed to claw back a point from the Everton side.
It marked the end of a classic and the fact that all six goals were resultant of tactics and not overly dependent on luck or individual brilliance makes for an impressive reading. Both the teams have an amazing attack and have a questionable defence. It would be imperative that they play to their strengths unlike how they did in the first half as they both simply cannot fall into a pit larger than the one they currently lie in.
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