Having made the observation before yesterday evening’s game, that matches against Everton were very rarely straightforward, and almost never easy, I feel ashamed at having allowed myself to think last night was going to be different, after we took an astonishing 2-0 lead within the first four minutes. Rather foolishly I assumed we would manage to kill the game, and see out the contest in typically dull Chelsea-fashion, what followed instead was an instant Premier League classic, a relentlessly open, fast paced encounter with more twists than an M. Night Shyamalan film.
Roberto Martinez’ team were utterly unable to cope with the intensity of our early play, as our first two attempts on goal both found the back of the net, though Branislav Ivanovic’s effort should’ve been ruled offside, it was a close call. Everton had some early luck from the linesman also. Tim Howard should’ve conceded a free kick and probably been sent off also, for catching the ball a foot outside of his area; Diego Costa was wrongly given offside also after he was clean through to score what would’ve been our third goal.
But for the last 15 minutes of the first half and for the first 20 or so of the second, Everton bossed the game. Kevin Mirallas grabbed one back before half time with a superb header, after Eden Hazard failed to pick up the run of Seamus Coleman on the right wing. But it was our Belgian attacker who ended the home side’s period of control, by forcing an own-goal from Coleman, totally against the run of play. Everton broke back immediately, with Steven Naismith finishing a sharp counter attack with his third in three games but the hosts then visibly tired, as they had done against Arsenal last week. The centre halves were far too slow to close down Nemanja Matic who scored what would be the winning goal from the edge of the area. Samuel Eto’o steered in a beautiful header to make it 4-3 before Ramires gave us our fourth and final two-goal lead of the night, with a trademark toe-poke finish after some nice interplay on the edge of the area. Muhamed Besic then came on to make his debut and rather embarrassingly gave the ball away on the halfway line, allowing Mikel to break away and assist Costa for his second, rounding up an incredible night’s action.
Mourinho will doubtlessly be frustrated by the nature of the goals we conceded, as well as our inability to control the tempo of the game, but this wasn’t an evening to linger on such concerns. This was a grippingly entertaining fixture in which we were worthy winners. A real treat of a game, to be savoured and remembered.
Thibaut Courtois – Hardly to blame for any of the three goals, which were all very well taken. The Belgian made a great save to deny Kevin Mirallas also when the score was 5-3. The only criticism would be that the young player perhaps allowed the hectic nature of the game to affect his distribution, which seemed rushed and ill-judged at times. 5/10.
Branislav Ivanovic – Another intrepid performance from the Chelsea-stalwart and maybe burgeoning Chelsea legend? The Serb has always been solid in defence and now, with two goals and two assists in three games, looks to have finally re-found some form going forwards. 7/10.
Gary Cahill – In a game somewhat lacking overall in expert defensive organisation, the Englishman’s penalty box defending skills came in handy as he made several of his trademark ‘last-ditch’ tackles, including one perfectly timed challenge to deny Romelu Lukaku a clean break through on goal. 7/10.
John Terry – Not a vintage performance for the captain or his defence, but in such a remarkably open contest, his experience and composure prevented it from being a lot worse, odds are, he won’t have to deal with many matches as frantic as this one for the remainder of the season. 6/10.
Cesar Azpilicueta – Was targeted throughout the game as Everton consistently switched to their right hand side coming forwards. The Spaniard did an excellent job against Coleman and Mirallas, with Hazard not providing as much cover as he might have done. Filipe Luis must surely be given his debut after the international break but so far predictably, Azpilicueta has done nothing to warrant demotion to the bench. 6/10.
Ramires – I’m not sure if a midfielder has ever recorded two assists and a goal in one game and yet still been as dreadful as Ramires was yesterday. Time after time, the Brazilian carelessly gave away possession and was caught out of position as Everton came forward. His lack of discipline and quality in the middle of the pitch was probably the biggest reason as to why we struggled to maintain any control on the midfield. 3/10.
Nemanja Matic – Not as his best either, but the Serb at least managed to supply some composure in an otherwise frantic game. His first league goal for Chelsea was very well taken, albeit afforded by some poor defending. 7/10.
Cesc Fabregas – The Spaniard wasn’t much use in helping to retrieve the ball during spells of heavy Everton pressure, but when we did win back possession, he was invariably well positioned to make sure our breaks forward were as smooth and as efficient as possible. His through ball to Costa for the opening goal was his fourth assist already in three matches. 5/10.
Willian – Making his first start of the season, the Brazilian provided plenty of energy in midfield and some invaluable defensive cover but was pretty ineffectual going forwards. All in all, a fairly typical Willian performance, the midfielder is a fine technical player, with an admirable work rate, but he should be more efficient in attacking positions. 6/10.
Eden Hazard – Not a great performance from the Belgian, who struggled to impact the game, surprisingly so, given how open it was for its duration. It was probably a mistake tasking Hazard with tracking Seamus Coleman, who proved too elusive in the build-up for Everton’s first goal, but with home side pushing hard for an equaliser, it was our #10 who turned the game back in our favour from a hopeless situation, with his trademark, lightening change of pace. This is what Hazard needs to do more often – impact games, even when he isn’t playing well. 5/10.
Diego Costa – If someone had never seen the Spanish forward play before, they’d have learned pretty much everything they needed to know about him in this 90 minutes. His two goals were extremely well taken but he also managed to make a fool of himself, behaving petulantly in a scrap with Seamus Coleman and pushing his luck with the referees trying to win cheap free kicks. Roberto Martinez was critical of the striker’s behaviour after the game; something tells me he won’t be the last manager to have disparaging words on the player before the season has ended. These antics are all part of Costa’s game however and it’s plain to see how he gets under the oppositions skin. His stats speak for themselves and with four goals in three games, his immediate impact is undeniable. As some eloquent Chelsea fan put it on twitter, ‘he might be a cunt, but he’s ours’. 8/10.
Our record against the top sides in English football has been impressive now for a long time. Many times over the past decade we’ve overpowered teams and outsmarted them also with shrewd counter attacking tactics. It’s been a while though since we won a big away game in the manner of yerterday evening. We didn’t try and bully Everton, we didn’t sit back and try and catch them out on the break. With full confidence in the quality of our team, we stood up and simply outplayed them. In what was effectively a 90 minute game of ‘we attack, you attack’, we attacked the best and in the end, made an extremely good, well organised team, look quite average from a defensive point of view.
The key statistic to take from this game was that from 12 attempts on goal, we managed to score half of them, compared to scoring none from 22 attempts in this fixture last season. Finally, we have a frontline which we can trust to take opportunities to score when presented. And that has to be a pretty ominous realisation for the rest of the league. There’s no doubt we have the happiest set of supporters heading into the international break now with three wins from three. And the fact that this new-look Chelsea attack, with Costa and Fabregas, is only three competitive games old, makes for some truly exciting contemplation about what is to come this season.