Chelsea poised for Ba talks
Sun, 30 Dec 2012 17:47:00
Frank Lampard scored twice as Chelsea came back from a goal down to beat Everton 2-1 at Goodison Park.
Steven Pienaar had given the home side a second-minute lead but Lampard found the equaliser just before the interval and was on the spot to net the winner with 20 minutes to go.
Everton had started the game feverishly as they pressed Chelsea high up the field and had their reward after just 63 seconds.
Pienaar played in Phil Jagielka down the right flank and when Victor Anichebe headed the subsequent cross against the bar, there was the South African again to fire the rebound past Petr Cech.
The Toffees nearly doubled their lead shortly afterwards when Nikica Jelavic curled a free-kick against the post as David Moyes' side continued to swarm all over the visitors.
Cech also saved brilliantly from Jelavic later in the half but by that point Chelsea were edging their way back into the contest and found an equaliser just before the break.
Fernando Torres found Ramires on the right and his left-footed cross reached Lampard just outside the six-yard box with the 34-year-old measuring his header into the bottom corner of the net.
If Chelsea were fortunate to go in level at the interval then they were even luckier when Jelavic saw a brilliant header come back off the crossbar in the second half.
But Rafa Benitez's side showed plenty of resolve and took the lead after 72 minutes - thanks to that man Lampard.
Juan Mata started the move and looked to have finished it when he drilled a shot on goal but Howard saved well only for Lampard to shovel home the winning goal from close range.
Everton threw everything at Chelsea in the latter stages in a desperate attempt to maintain their unbeaten home record but the visitors defended brilliantly to see out the win and go third.
The point extended Caley Thistle's unbeaten run to nine games and left them six points off Scottish Premier League leaders Celtic.
Only the champions and Motherwell have beaten Inverness, who have cup ties against Hearts and Kilmarnock to look forward to in the opening weeks of next year.
Inverness last failed to find the net in a draw against Dunfermline in May, which secured their SPL status.
The Highlanders will have no such relegation worries this season and Butcher was happy with the way his side battled for a point despite seeing their goalscoring record come to a halt after a game where both sides cancelled each other out despite plenty of effort going forward.
Butcher, whose side face Ross County away on Wednesday, said: "It keeps us in second place and after 26 matches we have only lost three games. That's incredible in itself.
"If you had said that in July I would have said 'no chance'. This is all beyond our wildest dreams.
"Someone said the treble is still on. I said 'fine, whatever you are drinking, I'll have a bucketload of that'.
"I just think it's a good point for us. We also got a clean sheet and it's a hard-fought point.
"We haven't played with the fluency we can do because we weren't allowed to - St Johnstone got in our faces and made it difficult for us.
"They are a strong side, a big side and they play some decent football.
"They got through us on quite a few occasions in the second half but the back four held firm.
"Matthew Cooper is only 18 and I thought he had an excellent game. We put on two 18-year-olds, Conor Pepper and Phil Roberts, and Nick Ross, who hasn't played for four months.
"It's been a tremendous squad effort to get to where we are and we are there and fighting tooth and nail to stay there and enjoy it as well."
Inverness did not look like losing their goals record in the opening stages when Billy McKay and Andrew Shinnie both had one-on-ones, although neither were straightforward.
McKay curled just wide from a tight angle and Shinnie was quickly closed down by Alan Mannus after taking the ball past two players.
Gregory Tade had a similar chance saved for the hosts, who also saw David McCracken's header cleared off the line.
St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas was happy to end Caley Thistle's goalscoring record but demanded his side start Wednesday's visit of Dundee in more competent fashion.
Lomas said: "We didn't start great and Inverness nearly took advantage, it was a great save from Mannus.
"We spoke about that before the game, that we needed to start quicker than we did against Hearts and Dundee United and unfortunately we didn't do.
"The next game is huge for us, we want to sign off with a home win before the break.
"We have to recover right and look at the players, we were looking tired in the last 10-15 minutes."
The striker has been linked with a number of clubs in recent weeks including Sheffield United and appeared to wave goodbye to the home supporters at full-time in the 2-2 draw with Kilmarnock.
Motherwell battled back from two goals down to earn a deserved share of the spoils.
Borja Perez opened the scoring after 12 minutes when he spun before slamming the ball beyond Darren Randolph.
Paul Heffernan doubled Kilmarnock's lead against the run of play on 63 minutes, however Motherwell came storming back and goals from Murphy and Henrik Ojamaa put the hosts back on level-terms.
At full-time manager Stuart McCall embraced Murphy and encouraged the fans to give him what looked to be a farewell applause.
"In the last few seasons it's been a pleasure to play with Jamie," said Lasley
"If he goes it will be with the blessing of the squad, the club and the fans - he's a given the fans some memorable moments and I'm sure he will go on to bigger and better things.
"Jamie loves the club and it's here where he was given his big chance - I don't think he would have a bad word to say about Motherwell."
Both sets of supporters rose to their feet on the 10th minute as a tribute to former Motherwell captain Phil O'Donnell who tragically died after collapsing during a fixture with Dundee United exactly five years to the day.
Lasley was touched by the tribute to his former captain and felt the 'Well comeback was fitting of the occasion.
"It was an emotional moment, I have spoken before about how much of a pleasure it was to be able to play alongside and be a friend of Phil," added the 33-year-old.
"We knew there was going to be a tribute and it was a nice touch from the fans - hopefully our comeback was a fitting tribute as well."
Kenny Shiels hopes his Kilmarnock side can push on in 2013.
The Ayrshire club grabbed Scottish Communities League Cup glory by defeating Celtic in the final earlier in the year and ended 2012 by stretching their unbeaten run in the league to four matches.
"We're doing okay. We've got a point at Fir Park, which I think is a good achievement, having visited there under strength," said Shiels.
"We've had a good December and a good 2012.
"It's been a great year for Kilmarnock, let's kick on and see if we can improve on that."
Ba has a ?7.5million release clause in his contract which becomes active in January when the transfer window re-opens.
The striker has shown some excellent form this season and already has 13 goals to his name this term.
This has seen a host of clubs linked with a possible move, including Arsenal, Tottenham, QPR and French giants Paris Saint-Germain.
Now Chelsea are reported to have moved into pole position after Sky Sports sources confirmed talks were due to take place between Ba's representatives and the European champions.
Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez insisted he knew nothing of reports suggesting Newcastle striker Demba Ba was set for talks with Blues officials.
Asked after Chelsea's 2-1 win over Everton if he knew anything about the reports, Benitez said: "No, because we don't talk about this business, we had a very important game today."