Chelsea were left feeling the wrong shade of blue after slumping to their first defeat of 2012 with a opprobrious performance against an Everton side clearly still feeling content with their January dealings. Signings would have inevitably delighted Everton fans, and Steven Pineaar, who nearly joined Chelsea last year, opened the scoring just five minutes in. Chelsea failed to ever really pick up their game, and when Strasqualursi scored with twenty minutes to go, the away side looked lethargic and uninspired, with the Chelsea fans singing “you don’t know what you’re doing” to manager Andre Villas-Boas to round off a terrible afternoon up north for the Chelsea faithful.
Frank Lampard came back into the starting XI after recovering from injury, captaining the side with John Terry still out injured. Cahill was dropped to the bench in favour of a Ivanovic-Luiz partnership, with the much-maligned Bosingwa preferred in the line-up. Ashley Cole came back from suspension, which kept him out of last week’s epic 3-3 draw with Manchester United.
The opening encounters proved cagey, but when Everton had their first real chance, they took it. Lampard failed to do enough when clearing a high ball, and when it fell invitingly to Steven Pineaar, he raced into the box and lifted it over the top of Petr Cech. Bosingwa flapped his arms in frustration, though the Portuguese right-back ought to look at himself, as his slow reactions provoked Pineaar into making a run.
Chelsea could never really put a foot down in the first half an hour, with Cech being tested on separate occasions by Donovan and Strasqualursi, as the home side looked to double their lead. As the first half wore on, Chelsea started to up the tempo, though the progress was diminutive. Fernando Torres, desperately lacking in substance and needing goals to fend off his critics, had a legitimate penalty shout turned down, aptly rounding off the first half for Chelsea.
AVB thought not to change strategy for the second half, believing his starting XI would manage to turn the game around, but any sign of improvement was invisible. As the sixty-minute mark approached, tempers flared and frustrations grew. Fernando Torres tripped Pineaar from behind, and Chelsea’s third yellow card of the match was drawn out by the referee Mike Jones. Torres was clearly thinking it could be red, with him praying to Jones, though initial fears were subsided upon review of a slight clip.
With twenty minutes to go, AVB did decide a change was necessary. The initial relief that a substitution was going to be made – and a potential turn-around of the game’s fortunes – weakened with the news that it was Essien going off, for a lackadaisical Florent Malouda.
The attacking move backfired instantly. With the anchorman Essien off, Everton could double their lead, and they did so. Neville challenged Ashley Cole fairly but strongly, and Donovan found Strasqualursi, who casually slotted past a hapless Petr Cech.
A sign of desperation from AVB ensued, taking off Chelsea’s best performer all-season in Juan Mata for Lukaku. Initial Twitter reaction was that it ought to have been Torres going off after another poor display.
With Mata going off came a lack of spark for Chelsea. The final moments fizzed out and David Moyes and his home support could cherish three precious points. Chelsea, meanwhile, are in serious danger of not finishing inside the top four, with Arsenal edging past The Blues into fourth place with The King Thierry Henry scoring a last-gasp winner in the 90th minute. How Chelsea could do with a king of their own.
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