A side that grind out a result even when they are not playing well is often the sign of a potential premiership winning team. That was the story of Chelsea against Everton at Stamford Bridge.
Jose Mourinho talked about ‘spirit’ and ‘resilience’ in his post-match interview and Chelsea needed these qualities, and more to triumph 1 – 0 in this dogged affair.
This was an important win for Chelsea which saw them maintain their seven point lead at the top of the premiership as Man City won 4 – 1 away at Stoke.
In this war of attrition marked by two outstanding goalkeeping performances from Tim Howard and Petr Cech, a late Willian volley sealed a dramatic victory for Chelsea in the 89th minute. This was an altogether different game from when these two teams last met in a 9-goal thriller (Everton 3-6 Chelsea).
Everton started well and their first attack of the match almost produced a goal. Former Chelsea player Lukaku shot from the edge of the area and forced a brilliant improvised save from Cech with his feet.
Lukaku was proving to be a bit of a thorn in the Chelsea side as he struck again from about 20 yards on the 28th minute but the effort was well held by the Czech keeper.
Two minutes later it was Tim Howards turn to pull off a fine save from a well-hit low driving shot from Hazard. It was a scrappy first half that saw Gareth Barry earn himself a yellow card for a lunging tackle on Cuadrado.
In the second half Everton decided to try and bolster their midfield by replacing Besic with Irish International James McCarthy just after the restart.
The first real chance of the half fell to Hazard who drifted into the box and walloped one at Howard who once again batted it away excellently. Minutes later, it was Matic’s turn to test Howard from a free kick but once again, the American keeper was equal to the task.
On the 68th minute, it was Cech’s turn to shine as he pulled off another amazing save with his foot from a Lukaku shot from only six yards out.
With five minutes left on the clock Matic appeared to have finally broken the deadlock but the goal was disallowed as his shot was judged to have deflected off Ivanovic who was in an offside position.
Minutes later Gareth Barry was sent off for a second bookable offence when he tripped Willian. From the resulting free kick, Howard punched the ball clear only for it to drop to Willian who drove it from 22 yards and it skimmed beautifully into the Everton net to break the deadlock.
Chelsea will be delighted with these hard fought three points in a game where the opposition had plenty of goal scoring opportunities.
After the game there appeared to be more drama as it transpired there was an accusation that Branislav Ivanovic may have bitten James McCarthy in the chaos that followed the Gareth Barry sending off. As of yet the footage is inconclusive but there is no doubt the FA will be looking into this in the coming days.
Despite this allegation, Mourinho will take heart from the fact that his team showed great character to grind out this important result and maintain their lead over rivals Man City. These are the types of games that Chelsea must keep winning if they are to lift the premiership trophy at the end of the season.