FOX Soccer Exclusive
Terry rescues lackluster Chelsea
Chelsea pulled out a late 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge thanks to a stoppage-time winner from John Terry to open up the gap atop the Premier League table. It was a cruel result for Everton after a superb first-half effort that saw them out-pass, out-play and out-think a lethargic Chelsea side that for long patches were simply not good enough today up top.
The winner game two minutes into stoppage, with Frank Lampard sending in a free kick from the far left edge of the area after Phil Jagielka was carded for a foul on Ramires. Lampard sent in his attempt, Terry raced past Sylvain Distin and Howard was helpless to stop the goal from close-range.
However, there was some confusion over the goal, and it is likely to be reviewed by the league’s Dubious Goals panel, who may decide it was an own goal by Everton keeper Tim Howard.
It was another miraculous escape for Mourinho’s men, a gaggle that in truth looked nothing like a championship side today in the London sunshine. Instead, they looked tired and lacking in sharpness, and as the game rolled on their increasingly agitated manager looked on helplessly. It seems that his outbursts over the past two weeks have been a distraction, and with good reason: some of his key players are fading down the stretch.
But, with the result, Chelsea were able to open up the gap and heap more pressure on London rivals Arsenal. The race at the top remains critically tight with Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and the Blues within seven points of one another.
Everton roared out of the gates, playing a smart-passing, smooth possession game that seemed to catch Chelsea by surprise. If they were overconfident – and given that the Toffees hadn’t won here in 20 years, they had reason to be – they were swiftly dissuaded that this would be a stroll by a series of sharp tackles from Phil Jagielka and Gareth Barry to snatch control of the midfield.
Chelsea clearly wanted all the action to flow through Hazard, and early on it looked like he might be linking up well with Oscar and Samuel Eto’o. But the young Brazilian faded after just 15 minutes and a dreadful miscue from Eto’o, spraying a shot behind him, quickly dampened spirits. Oscar, who has been on the slide for weeks now, would be ruthlessly yanked at halftime for Ramires.
At the other end, with Leighton Baines pumping in crosses, Everton continued to ask questions, and enjoyed the first real attempt of the game when Naismith laid off the back’s service to Leon Osman, who cracked a shot on frame that Petr Cech was forced to get up and tap over.
Crucially, Barry and James McCarthy kept up a solid front for much of the half, denying Frank Lampard any opportunity to influence the match and starving Eto’o for service. As the game wore on, Jose Mourniho became visibly agitated, matching a number of his players, who seemed unable to get a hold of the ball or the game. When Phil Jagielka used a scorpion kick to insouciantly hammer away a searching cross from his own penalty area, Mourinho threw up his hands in disgust.
Lampard would come close just after the break when Hazard found him all alone in the area after the break, but his attempt was well-stopped by Tom Howard and then cleared by Sylvain Distin. Howard would then be called into action on the hour-mark with a brilliant double-save to deny Hazard down low, then Ivanovic on a snap-shot. Howard didn’t seem to know much about it, but somehow he hacked it clear.
At the other end, Osman nearly made Chelsea pay when his low shot took a big cut off Mirallas and nearly sneaked in at the post. Only a sprawling effort from Cech was enough to keep it out, and for Chelsea to stay level.
And it looked as that was to be how it ended until a moment of brilliance from Chelsea’s captain. The roar from the North End when the goal went in was as much borne of relief as anything else, and it was a sour coda for Roberto Martinez again: he saw his side put in a fantastic performance, but he remains winless in his visits to Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho felt Everton would have deserved a point, but insisted Chelsea were hard to resist in the closing stages.
He said: "We are not a team that scores a lot of goals. In normal conditions, we are not able to score two goals and win the game. I felt if they scored first, we were in trouble. They were dominant in the first half, but the final 15, and the five of extra time, we were strong, we dominated.
"Of course you can speak about lucky, but the reality is the boys chased a lot. I feel sorry for Everton, a point for them is fair maybe, it’s a good performance, but we were the team that was trying to win, which is our responsibility. A point for them is good, but a point for us is not good. I never thought we would score so late, but we did.
"Of course it is a good feeling to win, but the better thing is that the players did everything and wanted to win. We have some limitations, but they tried everything.
"We know where we are in the table. Every draw or defeat we lose points and position. We are the team working together for just a few months but I think we have a long way to go."
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