Everton 1 Chelsea 2: Injuries start to bite at Goodison Park as sparkle fades for Blues
They are qualities which are often described as priceless – but unfortunately Everton’s spirit, determination and endeavour can’t always buy them three points in the Premier League.
Certainly not against a club which fielded two players who individually cost more than their entire starting eleven. Money talks, and in the end it was the Chelsea fans doing all the shouting. Mega-bucks recruits Fernando Torres and Eden Hazard didn’t even score against the Blues but it was the sight of them being joined from the bench by Oscar, who cost more than £20m and Victor Moses, almost £10m, which put David Moyes’ predicament this season into sharp focus.
The Londoners were even believed to have been in talks to sign Demba Ba during their hard-fought victory at Goodison yesterday, but it is Moyes who must crave the chance to add new faces, particularly another goal-scorer, to his depleted squad in January. They might have started in a way which suggested they would belie the odds yet again, but ultimately being without so many key men was too much for Everton. There can be no faulting the players Moyes turned to in order to plug his various gaps, for much of the first half they had a subdued opposition on the ropes. But for Everton to finish in the top four they will need to repeat their juggling feat which saw their dealings last January prove so influential.
There is certainly genuine quality in Everton’s ranks, even with injuries biting so deeply. Steven Pienaar – a shining example of what went right for Everton in the transfer window this time last year – gave Everton the lead. Barely more than a minute had passed when Eden Hazard surrendered possession with an aimless ball in midfield and Everton pounced. Pienaar slipped a wonderful pass to Phil Jagielka and the over-lapping England defender sought Victor Anichebe at the far post with a teasing cross.
The striker beat Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta in the air only to see his header striker the post – but Pienaar was fastest to react from eight yards and kept his composure to drill home the loose ball. Moyes’ decision to play the South African in the hole behind Nikica Jelavic had reaped almost instant benefits. Then with Goodison still buzzing, Jelavic struck the post with a deft free-kick from 25 yards. The visitors remained dazed and confused.
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