Everton v Chelsea
Jermaine Beckford scored a truly memorable goal as 10-man Everton wrapped up seventh place in the Premier League with a spirited and fully-deserved 1-0 win against Chelsea.
A man down following Seamus Coleman’s dismissal for two yellow cards early in the second half, Beckford produced a moment of class which will live long in the memory at Goodison Park.
Collecting the ball on the edge of his own box, the striker snaked through a posse of bamboozled Chelsea defenders and went straight for the jugular.
He looked to have lost the chance momentarily but, as the visitors dived in, a ricochet looped up and served only to put the Everton man clean through.
Peter Cech raced from his line but Beckford’s deft chip had enough purchase on it and the ball sailed over the glovesman – despite the ball flicking his flailing left hand.
The breakthrough had an air of brilliance and a healthy dose of good fortune about it, but the striker had made his own luck, typifying the bottle the Blues had shown by continuing to commit men forward despite their numerical disadvantage.
It was Beckford’s 10th goal of the campaign, thus putting the seal on a promising first season at the Club and fulfilling a midweek promise from the ex-Leeds man that he would get into double figures against the side that had discarded him as a youngster.
The win was no less than the hosts deserved for a display devoid of end of season lethargy and fulsome in its energy and enterprise.
The Blues could even have been ahead as early as the 6th minute as Phil Jagielka rose highest in the box to head Mikel Arteta’s corner onto the Chelsea crossbar.
Emboldened by that early joy, they continued to blossom as an attacking force – their extra zest and invention seeing them cut through the Chelsea ranks on three or four occasions with intricate triangles and bright movement off the ball leaving the visiting defenders dizzied.
One such foray forward saw Coleman play a razor-sharp one two with Beckford and the Irishman could, and probably should, have opened the scoring but chose to delay his shot too long.
Chelsea struggled to clear their lines, however, and back came Leon Osman slaloming into the box.
Down he went under the surly attentions of Alex, but while Osman was convinced, referee Peter Walton was unimpressed by his penalty claims.
It took 25 minutes for the visitors to fashion anything approaching a sniff of a chance, but when Frank Lampard surreptitiously released Nicolas Anelka, the hulking frame of Sylvain Distin swooped to thwart his fellow Frenchman.
Chelsea enjoyed some better if somewhat sterile possession for a spell, but Everton soon regained their impetus.
And when they did an exquisite pass from Arteta released Beckford at full gallop between centre-half and full-back. The striker left the floundering Alex for dead but miscued his finish, sending a limp shot past the far post.
That was the last notable action of the first half, but before the Blues could get into their stride after the break they found themselves a man down.
Coleman – already on a booking for a tackle on Ashley Cole just minutes earlier – launched into a full-blooded challenge with John Obi Mikel.
And with the Chelsea players baying for recrimination, red followed yellow and the winger was off.
With the Blues reeling John Terry unleashed from long-range and only a combination of Tim Howard and the woodwork maintained parity.
But despite being a man light the home side showed tremendous spirit with the cultured prompting of Arteta at the heart of their revival.
After Cech had made a sprawling save to deny Beckford, the Spanish midfielder ghosted past a couple of tackles and sent a low effort whistling past the post from 20 yards.
Branislav Ivanovic had a goal chalked off for offside following a handling error from Howard, but it was the Blues who were showing the greater conviction to win the game.
And with 15 minutes remaining, Beckford took centre stage as his mazy run and finish gave his side a fully deserved winner and ended the 2010/11 campaign on a real high.