Defeat to the European Champions is no shame for any side, let alone one deprived of so many first-team regulars, as Everton were here. But still this loss will have left its mark on David Moyes and his players. After 12 months of undeniable progress at the club, this ultimately proved one game too far. Moyes had spoken in the run-up to this game about the importance of European football for Everton. European football, he said, was crucial in terms of both attracting new players and keeping existing ones. Everton FC V Chelsea at Goodison Park.
This defeat, of course, damages the Blues’ aspirations in that field this season. Victory would have put them in the Premier League’s top four heading into the New Year; a two-goal win would have taken them above Tottenham into third. Instead, they sit sixth. And though they remain within three points of the Champions League qualification spots, and are playing well enough to suggest they can keep pace for a little while longer, the harsh realities of elite-level football were laid bare here.
Moyes has spoken of his desire to add to his squad when the transfer window re-opens later this week. Options, he says, are what Everton lack. His worries were exposed here. Everton were brilliant for half an hour, and deserved more than the single-goal lead given to them by Steven Pienaar’s second-minute effort. Were it not for two fine Petr Cech saves, or had Nikica Jelavic’s free-kick been guided a yard to the right, they could well have been out of sight by the time Chelsea woke up. But sustaining the kind of work-rate shown in that opening period was always going to be a tough ask, especially for a side playing its third game in eight days, against a team of the calibre of Chelsea.
The likes of Jelavic, Victor Anichebe, Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar simply ran themselves into the ground. Their tanks were empty by the time the 94th minute was up. And when Moyes looked to change things, he found only inexperience. His six outfield substitutes had between them started a total of 26 games for the club, none of them had scored a Premier League goal this season. That is the reality Everton are facing, unfortunately.