New eras were well upon us in the mould of Roberto Martinez’s Everton and Jose Mourinho’s second coming as ‘the special one’ engaged life back in London as Chelsea manager. The two locked horns for the first time in this encounter at Goodison Park. There was a debut for deadline-day loan signing Gareth Barry for Everton and Samuel Eto’o started up front for Mourinho’s side, reuniting the pair from their Inter Milan days.
Chelsea started the brighter of the two sides, Ramires’ great ball just five minutes in found Eto’o but his header didn’t hit the target. Moments later, an Everton counter attack saw Steven Naismith do well to get in behind Ashley Cole, his cross found Nikica Jelavic but the big Croatian headed straight at Petr Cech. The game then became more open as young Ross Barkley skipped away from John Obi Mikel and Ramires in exquisite style but his through ball couldn’t find pacey Belgian winger Kevin Mirallas.
In what was then an incident that could have left Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard red-faced, the American stopper tried being too casual in his distribution on the floor and his careless pass for Sylvain Distin was intercepted by Andre Schurrle who squared to Eto’o, only for fellow debutant Gareth Barry to charge in and make a magnificent goal-saving tackle. A brief demonstration on exactly what Evertonians should come to expect from the on-loan Manchester City man.
Cameroon international Eto’o was having a quiet evening until he picked up the ball on the right-channel late in the first-half, his pass inside to Ramires allowed the Brazilian space to have a crack at goal, his effort was well-saved by Howard in the Everton goal. Soon after, the Brazilian again forcefully ran forward after a nice exchange and his persistence saw the ball fall to Schurrle who skied over, should have done much better.
On the stroke of half-time, Ross Barkley picked up the ball on the edge of the area, shimmying away from three on-rushing Chelsea players before stroking the ball into Leon Osman who floated a cross towards the towering Jelavic, he stretched to get himself to the header and put it across the box to Steven Naismith; the Scot obliged on his 27th birthday and nodded in with ease.
Everton 1-0 up at half-time, arguably not the better side but tenacious in their attempts to stop the creativity of Chelsea to flow into fruition in the form of a goal. Barry in particular impressive when assisting the back-four.
After the re-start, Chelsea created a chance almost instantaneously as Schurrle got in behind the Everton defence and chipped Howard, the American was beaten but luckily for the home support the ball hit the side-netting. Mourinho’s side then later had a penalty appeal turned down as Distin’s lunging tackle appeared to clip substitute Oscar as well as Osman trundling into him; it was debatable whether the first foul was outside the box but referee Howard Webb decided to let play go on.
Past the hour mark Mirallas’ free-kick drew a comfortable side from Cech and he later cut inside from the left to sting the hands of the Czech international. Eden Hazard had a similar opportunity up the other end, the rebound then fell to Chelsea newcomer Samuel Eto’o who’s left-footed effort was tame and well wide of the Everton goal. Chelsea were pressing but Everton were working well on the counter as well as defending courageously. Eccentric centre-half David Luiz was also lucky not to see red after pulling Kevin Mirallas down on half-way line, Mirallas’ pace, clearly about to get the better of the Brazilian. With a minute left on the clock, an exciting run forward from Barkley saw him win a free-kick after Mikel stopped him in his tracks. Leighton Baines stepped up to the free-kick, his curling effort hitting the very corner of the crossbar – very unlucky.
To Mourinho’s dismay, the final-whistle blew. As much as Chelsea pressed for the equaliser, the final ball was consistently lacking and when they had their chances in the first-half, the spurned them. Disappointing for the expectant Mourinho as his squad is littered with flair and guile to unlock defences, all of whom involved failed in their efforts today. Not to dis-credit Everton who defended excellently and managed to string together chances of their own. Overall, a greatly contested game resulting in Jose Mourinho’s first domestic loss back in English football and Roberto Martinez’s first win as Everton manager, the latter’s possession football finally delivering the goods for Toffees but the way in which his Everton side won the game was reminiscent of his predecessor’s work, an encouraging sign.
Watch the highlights here: