Saturday 12 March 2016 – Everton 2 Chelsea 0
In our season defining week, where we saw our Premier League ambitions for a chance of 4th place dealt a severe blow with a capitulated draw against Stoke. And during the week, after a promising start against PSG, we gave up on our Champions League campaign. So, the third instalment of the week and a big trip to Everton in the quarter final of the FA Cup, and with almost 6,000 of us heading north west, it was a golden opportunity for a trophy. Oh dear.
In goal, the ever present Courtois, with Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic and Kenedy across the back, just in front both Mikel and Matic, with Willian, Fabregas and Pedro supporting a recovered Costa up front. On the bench the ever present Begovic, Baba Rahman, Loftus-Cheek, Oscar, Traore, Remy and good to see the return of JT. No place for Eden Hazard.
The crowd were certainly up for the game. The away fans in good voice, vocal chords already well lubricated in the many Liverpudlian hostelries. And a lively start on the pitch too, Kenedy in an early one-two with Pedro, only for his shot to fly over the target.
But the majority of the early play was in a tightly packed midfield, passes and tackles going awry and it was after just 10 minutes that El Fuego Costa got himself in the wars with Gareth Barry as first Costa was upended and then Barry receiving reciprocal treatment moments later, our man the sole beneficiary of a yellow card. And it wasn’t long before Costa was fouled again, this time by Funes Mori. Pedro was also a recipient of rough tactics, Coleman with the challenge that saw his studs in our man’s ankle once the ball was dealt with.
It was fast and furious in that midfield, and not for the faint hearted, tackles continuing to go in on both sides, but no clear cut goal chances being created. As the half wore on we retained a lot more of the possession, holding the ball for long periods inside the final third, just that final ball into the back of the net eluding us.
Just before half time another late challenge went it, this time Jagielka on Fabregas, resulting in a free kick just outside the box, one for Willian to have a good look at. And it was a decent strike over the wall, the ball dipping and requiring a helping hand over the crossbar from Robles. Unfortunately, the resulting corner was punched away by the keeper.
No goals at the break, a scrappy half, very feisty, but essentially not much by way of goalmouth action.
No changes for the start of the second half and a very quiet first few minutes of the period, but which soon picked up in terms of tempo. But as we approached the hour played a real chance to pinch the lead when Fabregas fed Costa a lovely weighted ball into the box, where he slipped past defender and keeper and with an open goal facing him he rolled the ball towards the line but he just wasn’t able to get a swerve on the tight angle. So close! And it was all guns blazing for a few moments as we tried to capitalise on the chance, but to no avail.
That chance seemed to be the catalyst to get the game going, but it was Everton who seemed to make the most of the heightened pace of the game, Lukaku and the mincing Lennon looking dangerous. But overall the quality on the ball was missing from both sides and for us Pedro especially running like a man possessed but not able to make things happen even if he was fortunate enough to retain the ball.
With just under 20 minutes left to play Oscar came on for Willian, our player of the season elect not as influential on this game, maybe he could be forgiven for being a tad jaded after carrying the team for most of the season.
With 15 minutes to play it could have been anybody’s game but a wayward pass from Mikel allowed Barkley to put Lukaku through with the ball but despite close attention from our defenders he managed to charge his way through all of them before firing the ball into the bottom corner of the net from just outside the 6 yard box. Our defence was powerless to stop him.
With time now slipping away it was a second change, Remy on for Matic with less than 10 minutes left on the clock. No sooner had the switch been made before Lukaku and Everton had doubled their lead, the Chelsea reject firing a shot through Courtois’s long legs and into the back of the net.
But as if our trip couldn’t have got any worse, the fiery one got himself all hot under the collar again, reacting to a challenge from Barry, his anger at the day’s events no doubt getting the better of him as he made his feelings known in retaliation, the media wallowing in the delight of ‘bitegate’ until Gareth Barry confirmed it was merely a love bite. A yellow card for both players, but crucially a second for Costa as he was given his marching orders. And Barry was to get his own sending off a couple of minutes later, a petulant kick out at Fabregas earning him a second yellow card from referee Michael Oliver.
Meanwhile I hadn’t even noticed JT coming on to make his momentous 700th appearance for us amongst the melee, Kenedy being sacrificed for our club captain to try and rescue our afternoon, our FA Cup campaign, and our season.
But it wasn’t to be our day, our wretched week complete. And while our players capitulated once again on the pitch, and the Everton boys played like they wanted it more, our fans were superb, always in good voice and out singing the home fans throughout – they only sing when their winning. And we even gifted them our giveaway scarves, many fans donating them as mementos of their special victory to the home fans below!
So, back to the drawing board for Guus Hiddink and Co, no doubt the enquiry will continue, and let’s see what the FA have to throw at Costa this time. And back to concentrate on what’s left of the League.
DISCLAIMER: All articles written for the Chelsea Supporters Group 2005 (CSG) are those of the author and do not represent the views of the CSG. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited in the article. The CSG do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.