Chelsea 3 – 3 Everton
By Phil Dawkes
League leaders Chelsea twice let a one-goal lead slip as Everton clinched a deserved point at Stamford Bridge.
Everton took a fortuitous lead when a goalbound effort struck the post and deflected in off keeper Petr Cech.
Neat finishes from Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka turned the tables in Chelsea’s favour before substitute Yakubu levelled from close range.
Drogba volleyed the home side ahead again but Louis Saha’s deflected header rewarded the visitors for their effort.
Chelsea have now gone four games without a win and whilst this can not be considered a major blip, it will add credence to those tempering their early season assertion that the Blues were destined for Premier League glory.
Whilst Carlo Ancelotti’s side showed plenty of attacking edge, they also demonstrated a fallibility in defence that could, unless addressed, seriously undermine their title challenge.
All three of Everton’s goals were preventable, and it will be of particular concern to Ancelotti that two of them resulted from set-pieces; something of an Achilles heel for the Blues.
Whilst Chelsea’s failings will dominate the post-match assessment, Everton’s role in the match should not be ignored.
During a run of only one win in nine matches, Toffees manager David Moyes has bemoaned that their recent performances have not yielded the results they deserve.
Here their resilience and endeavour received the reward it merited and suggests that their current position in the bottom half of the table is a false one.
They made the perfect start to the game, taking the lead after only four minutes.
Leighton Baines swung over a free-kick from the right and, with Saha challenging, the ball struck the back of John Terry, hit the post and ricocheted into the net off the back of Cech, bringing to an end a run of seven clean sheets for the goalkeeper in the most unfortunate of circumstances.
The goal was the first Chelsea had conceded in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge in over 10 hours of football.
However, just as on Tuesday, Ancelotti’s men hit back in emphatic fashion, transforming the stadium into a cacophony of noise.
Ricardo Carvalho showed determination to firstly win the ball and then move forward before feeding Frank Lampard whose deft lay-off was dispatched into the far corner with aplomb by Drogba.
Following a further four minutes of near constant pressure, the home side were ahead as Everton failed to clear their lines from a corner and Branislav Ivanovic was able to poke the ball to Anelka who prodded the ball into the roof of the net.
Having seen the tables turned on them, Everton’s afternoon was dealt a further blow late in the half when Jo was forced to limp from the field after Terry had landed awkwardly on his ankle.
However, this particular cloud brought with it a silver lining as Jo’s replacement Yakubu, having been on the pitch barely two minutes, equalised with his first meaningful touch.
Diniyar Bilyaletdinov’s long throw from the left was nodded on by Marouane Fellaini and the failure of both Terry and Carvalho to clear the danger allowed the Nigerian striker to side-foot in from close range.
Having had half time to regroup it was unsurprising that Chelsea began the second half with the bit between their teeth, and equally unsurprising that their attacking intent yielded instant reward.
Ivanovic found space on the right and his cross was expertly volleyed home by Drogba for his 18th goal of the season.
With their lead restored Chelsea now appeared set to close out the game but they did not bargain on the fighting spirit of their opponents.
It took just four minutes before the Toffees were level again, and for a second time the goal owed a good deal to fortune.
Johnny Heitinga delivered a free-kick deep into the penalty area where it was met by Drogba but his attempted headed clearance struck the back of Saha’s head and looped over Cech and into the unguarded net.
Relinquishing the lead a second time shook the home side and it took them a significant amount of time to compose themselves again.
Chelsea penned Everton into their own half for the remaining 25 minutes of the game but the visitors held on.