A classic performance from Steven Pienaar sparked Everton into life as the Toffees sent Chelsea home on Saturday with a 2-0 loss, their third consecutive in the league at Goodison Park.
The scoring opened surprisingly early for Everton, as Pienaar pounced on lazy throw-in from Jose Bosingwa, heading it to Tim Cahill. Frank Lampard blocked Cahill’s attempted pass, which fell to Pienaar, who chested the ball down and fired past Petr Cech into the roof of the net.
Since Saturday was not the first time that Everton have scored an early goal against Chelsea, Everton fans prepared for the inevitable Chelsea revival. Strangely, though, Chelsea’s revival never really materialized.
Chelsea did have some good moments in the first half, mainly involving Chelsea’s resident Hobbit (Juan Mata). Mata set up Daniel Sturridge for a blast that went just over Tim Howard’s crossbar and also played a fine pass to Frank Lampard at the edge of the box that Lampard fired wide of the post.
On the defensive end, Chelsea invited pressure by giving balls away in their half, creating chances for Landon Donovan and Denis Stracqualursi. Everton’s plan on Saturday was to pressure a makeshift Chelsea defense into making mistakes and the Chelsea defense obliged over and over again.
The second half continued in the same vein. The Chelsea team looked devoid of ideas going forward and their body language showed a team that did not fancy a dogfight against a determined opponent. Everton were comfortable and a second goal always looked likely.
That goal came in the 71st minute when Phil Neville crushed Ashley Cole at the halfway line. The ball came to Landon Donovan, who charged at the Chelsea defense, eventually releasing Denis Stracqualursi with a perfectly weighted pass. Big Denis did the rest, beating Cech’s outstretched hand to put Everton two to the good.
Steven Pienaar’s Return: Steven has fit back into the Everton team seamlessly. Leon Osman played the Pienaar role well at the end of last season but we’ve struggled to find anyone to fill his creative role this season. Pienaar was everywhere on Saturday. His presence gave us so many more options in the midfield. He opened up the midfield for Fellaini and Gibson, kept Tim Cahill from having to dribble and pass, freed Landon Donovan to go at Ashley Cole and, together with Leighton Baines, sparked a rout down the Chelsea right against part-time defender Jose Bosingwa. What a day for Steven Pienaar, there’s no way he’s going back to Spurs.
Hard-nosed Play: Like many of the classic Everton performances under David Moyes, the defeat of Chelsea at Goodison was built on a foundation of physicality and defensive organization. Chelsea wanted to play free-flowing football and, much like Manchester City, did not like being closed-down and out-muscled. Phil Neville capped off the dominating performance with an old-fashioned challenge on Ashley Cole to set up the second goal, extending Cole’s streak of going off injured against Landon Donovan at Goodison Park to two matches.
No Passengers: If you think about Saturday’s performance, it’s hard to find a single Everton player that did not have a strong performance. Even the much-maligned Phil Neville picked up his game in the second half (and destroyed Ashley Cole). This is further evidence that David Moyes performed magic at the end of January. He got rid of two of our worst underperformers and brought in at least three players that could contribute immediately. Moyes’ magic paid dividends again on Saturday.
Chelsea’s Team is Expensive, but…: That was the worst performance I’ve ever seen from a Chelsea team. They gave the ball away, they lacked energy and generally looked like they would rather be anywhere else. Their team was the picture of frustration. Getting to watch an expensively assembled team combust at Goodison like Chelsea did on Saturday is one of my favorite things about being an Evertonian. Whether it was Fernando Torres whinging at the referee at half time (apparently he was angry about being a waste of money), Raul Meireles following Mike Jones around complaining about his barber, or Branislav Ivanovich charging like a bull after Landon Donovan, Chelsea’s performance on Saturday was another example of the old adage ‘money don’t buy class.’
Man of the Match: Steven Pienaar, obviously. Stunning dreadlocks.
Next up for Everton is Blackpool in the FA Cup at Goodison Park on Saturday. It should be the perfect occasion for the home debut of Nikica Jelavic if he can sort his abdominal strain in time. As you will recall from their sojourn to Goodison last year in the league, Blackpool doesn’t really play defense. Should be entertaining.
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