Everton get better of Chelsea stalemate
As a dress rehearsal for the FA Cup Final, it was Chelsea who forgot their glad rags. And their lines. A draw against Everton, the other victorious team in last weekend's semi-finals, Wednesday night pretty much ended any pretensions, however faint, that they could win the Premier League title leaving them surely too far adrift of Manchester United.One trophy gone but still two to play for. However this was probably the worst performance they have delivered since Guus Hiddink's arrival in February with the interim manager failing with that fabled golden touch even if Didier Drogba struck the bar with a powerful shot on the turn in injury-time. Indeed Everton will rue not collecting all three points. Tim Cahill and Steven Pienaar missed glorious chances in the dying minutes while Petr Cech suffered a clash of heads with Jo as he bravely denied the striker. It would have earned their first win against Chelsea for nine years and, more relevantly, propelled them into fifth place in the league. Related ArticlesTelegraph player raterPremier League tablePremier League highlightsFrank Lampard: Im in the form of my life at ChelseaGladiator Didier Drogba inflicts pain on ArsenalGuus Hiddink: Petr Cech has crisis of confidenceHiddink had promised no rotation. And, good to his word, it was an unchanged line-up. Given the goals that Chelsea are chasing, the stakes and intensity, this in itself was remarkable. But the power players were, again, asked to increase the wattage with Frank Lampard racking up his 50th appearance of the season. Their opponents, who had stayed down in London since Sunday's FA Cup semi-final victory over Manchester United, succumbed to the need to make alterations with manager David Moyes introducing four changes, including the return of the cup-tied striker, Jo. He was afforded the first opportunity. Inside seven minutes, Segundo Castillo released the Brazilian but, clear on goal, his low shot was blocked by Petr Cech with his legs. It provoked a response. Michael Ballack's shot was deflected, but Tim Howard held on and Chelsea poured forward with Florent Malouda stealing the ball away from a hesitant Lars Jacobsen and Lampard eventually firing over from distance. The pressure grew but so did Everton's resistance with Joseph Yobo, twice, denying Didier Drogba the chance to strike and Howard clutching a cross before the Ivorian could head home. After Steven Pienaar had jumped into a tackle on Michael Essien, provoking another free-kick, Ballack curled the ball over and then Lampard, harried by Tim Cahill, ballooned his shot into the crowd. Still Chelsea attacked. John Terry joined the charge but was ignored by Nicolas Anelka, whose effort was blocked. It inevitably meant they were vulnerable to the counter-attack and when Jo broke, again, the ball was eventually squared to Cahill who turned quickly and sent in a low shot that was alertly held by Cech. Both sides continued to size each other up. Chelsea probed and pushed, Everton held firm and threatened with the odd, dangerous jab. Cahill and Leon Osman buzzed in support of Jo. The latter turned the ball to Leighton Baines whose speculative shot looped off a Chelsea defender, had Cech in a momentary panic but then dropped over. From the corner, Chelsea countered. Anelka tore away but with Malouda waiting, unmarked, his cross was picked out by Howard. A waste. But then Everton were wasteful also. Pienaar threaded a pass through to Jo. With Terry closing him down the striker still had a sight on goal but slipped as he shot and the ball bobbled away. In truth Chelsea were, to Hiddink's obvious frustration, labouring. Maybe he would need to administer another team-talk in which harsh words were spoken. Everton had also been denied what appeared to have been a penalty when Alex caught Baines' leg. There were few appeals and referee Mark Halsey waved play on but replays appeared to show the defender had been fouled. Still Hiddink didn't make any half-time changes. Nor did he, this time, send his players out early. But they were almost caught cold. Another burst forward by Baines led to Osman crossing, Cahill diving to head towards goal and Cech making another accomplished save. At the other end and Baines did well to hold off Lampard, as he almost wriggled through. Anelka then did, from Drogba's flick, but dragged his shot disappointingly across Howard. Hiddink had seen enough and ordered a double change. On came the younger pair of John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou. Immediately Howard had to turn away a fierce shot from Terry. Chelsea's frustrations grew and then boiled over as Yobo brought down Malouda. Lampard's shot was blocked, Kalou headed over, when he should have scored but still there was an Everton threat. Jo was relentless in his desire to create chances. But consistent in his ability not to take them and, once more, he shot wildly and wide when teed up. Again Howard saved, turning away Kalou's shot from another corner before Drogba came closest of all after being released by Mikel. But Chelsea couldn't break through.
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