Everton 1 Chelsea 2
Frank Lampard produced a captain's performance netting a double to surely remind Roman Abramovich that he might have to re-think the club's policy of only giving one-year contract extensions to anyone over 30.
And Rafa Benitez seems to be doing everything right. Even the most blinkered of Chelsea fans can see how much we've improved under him. Let's not underpin the task for Chelsea yesterday - Everton away is no easy game. This was surely a test of Rafa and the Chelsea players to find out if we could be considered a title contenders. Indeed, it was a must win game if we were to retain any hope of being up there come what May, and it couldn't have got off to a worse start.
With only a minute played, Leon Osman brushed Hazard off the ball, and played it through to Jagielka who's cross was met by Anichebe at the back post. His header hit the post and Pienaar was on hand to smash the rebound past Cech. The Evertonians couldn't have wished for a better start.
But Chelsea are more solid under Benitez these days and after surviving Everton pressure for the first 25 odd minutes, the away team started to creep into the game. Chelsea had a chance with 27 minutes on the clock after fine work from Ramires. His barnstorming run through the centre left Heitinga chasing his shadow. Our athletic midfielder shot low but Howard saved it well and while still on the ground effectively stopped Mata's attempt to score from the rebound.
Six minutes later, a brilliant move from Chelsea with Mata the hub. He used space on the right by beating two men with a one-two with David Luiz (again handed a midfield role), then nudged it to Torres who turned it round the corner where Mata had got to the right byline. His cross darted right across goal, just eluding Hazard at the near post and missed Cole's outstretched boot at the back post by a gnat's pube.
It was turning into a very open game, and just three minutes later, Cech had to be at his best when Pienaar playing a glorious crossfield 40 yard pass straight into the run of Jelavic. He hit a sharp shot across Cech from left to right, the Czech keeper finger-tipped it behind.
Still 1-0 to Everton as the half matured, but Chelsea were to level just before the break when Torres (who was stupidly being booed by the home fans) used his tenacity on the right touchline where he chased a seemingly lost cause, stopped the ball going out, tapped it to Ramires who dug out his cross while falling backwards and Lampard leapt to steer it with his head past Howard in the Everton goal.
Half time - one a piece. Everton much the better side for the first 25-30 mins, but Chelsea were level going in to the dressing room for their cup of tea and orange segments.
Ross Turnbull skipped out for the second half after Cech was complaining on a niggle going down the tunnel after the first period, so Rafa made the switch to protect our no.1 keeper.
The second half didn't start with as much fizz as the first, but on 66 minutes, an excellent combination from Cole, having intercepted a pass to Naismith, and Hazard let the Belgian go on a mazy run up the field from the left before tapping it to Mata. He rolled it to back to Cole to give him the space whip in his cross, but Everton again cleared well from a good cross and an excellent build up. Moments later Torres worked an opening on his right with a half-turn and shimmy, clipping a shot the excellent Howard turned away.
Just after 3pm, with nearly 70 minutes played, Osman squirmed his way through the middle, spotted a gap between Cahill and Cole and rifled in a low shot that Turnbull parried away. Baines then chipped a glorious near-post cross that Jelavic arched his neck to head over Turnbull and … straight onto the bar. A close call, but still one apiece.
And then two minutes later, Super Frank was at the double when again (how many times have we said this in his career), he was in the right place at the right time. Good work from Mata set up a cross for Hazard to knock it back across goal and Lampard did the rest and stuck it high into the net. 2-1 Chelsea. Get in.
Chelsea had a chance to make it three when breaking three on two in the first minute of extra time. Torres shifted it to the right of the penalty area to shoot and Distin made a great tackle to thwart Torres of yet another goal this season.
Howard Webb then blew for full time and it was Chelsea who took a superb three points in what was an extremely difficult fixture.
Despite all the protests about Rafa, he really does seem to be turning things around doesn't he?
Everton: Howard, Jagielka, Heitinga, Distin, Baines, Naismith,
Osman, Hitzlsperger, Pienaar, Anichebe, Jelavic.
Subs: Mucha, Oviedo, Gueye, Barkley, Vellios, Duffy, Browning.
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole, Ramires,
Luiz, Lampard, Mata, Torres, Hazard.
Subs: Turnbull, Oscar, Moses, Ferreira, Marin, Piazon, Ake.
Win FREE pizza with Vital Football!
Select your team and get 50% off if they score twice.