Chelsea earned a crucial 1-0 victory over Everton at Stamford Bridge in the early kick off on Saturday to maintain their position at the top of the Premier League table. Jose Mourinho’s men left it very late in the day after some exceptional defending from Everton’s back four kept them at bay for most of the game. In the end it well into injury time before John Terry – who returned after an injury lay-off – bundled in a Frank Lampard free kick, leaving the visitors dejected and pointless.
Despite Roberto Martinez’s men having the slight edge in terms of possession (53% to 47%), it was the home side who created the best chances in the match. Eden Hazard, Samuel Eto’o, Lampard and Branislav Ivanovic were all denied by the impressive Everton keeper, Tim Howard, and – in all fairness – the Blues were the better side over the 90 minutes.
That is not to say Everton didn’t perform well, with Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Leighton Baines looking solid for the vast majority of the match. But with Romelu Lukaku ineligible to play against his parent club despite having returned to fitness, Martinez had to rely on Steven Naismith to lead the line. The Scot is not a bad player, but he simply does not possess the ability, pace or power to get the better of Terry and Gary Cahill. As such Everton lacked that cutting edge in the final third and the home side were rarely threatened.
Chelsea were not overly impressive in the first period, with Oscar in particular looking out of sorts. The Brazilian was subbed for countryman Ramires at the break and Mourinho’s men looked all the more dangerous for the change.
The victory for the Pensioners moves them on to 60 points from their 27 games and extends their unbeaten home record in the league under Mourinho to an astounding 74 matches. For Everton, it was the fourth loss on the road to teams above them in the table (their one point when visiting a top five club came at Arsenal in December). It leaves the Toffees with a mountain to climb if they are to finish in the top four, with Liverpool and Spurs both above them and playing well.
The Blues face a potentially tricky trip to Istanbul to face Galatasaray in the Champions League in midweek, followed by league matches against Fulham then Spurs, and wins from those three will give Mourinho’s men a great deal of momentum as the season approaches its crescendo.
Chelsea have the best defensive record in the Premier League having conceded just 21 goals from their 27 games – six fewer than Arsenal. It is just as well they are tight at the back given the lack of potency up front. But with plenty of matches to go and Arsenal and Man City promising to challenge Chelsea all the way, it promises to be as exciting a title battle as we’ve seen in years!