Chelsea v Everton
Everton were unable to resist as Chelsea overwhelmingly dispelled any doubts they will be able to mount a serious challenge to the Manchester clubs in this season’s Premier League title race.
Try as they might the Blues were unable to live with the Londoners’ rich and diverse attacking options – a situation in stark contrast to the other end of the pitch where the visitors’ goal threat was sporadic and unsustained.
Andre Villas-Boas unleashed Didier Drogba as the focal point of his forward line, but the fluid movement and game-changing influence of Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata in and around the Ivorian added a defence-corroding potency to the mix.
Sturridge has been earmarked for future England squads and it was easy to see why as the 22-year-old took the first ravenous bite out of Everton’s quest for points at the Bridge.
The second, and in the grander scheme of things more telling blow, came on the stroke of half-time.
With referee Mike Jones’ lips pursed to signal the turnaround he instead punished Seamus Coleman for a trip on Ashley Cole and John Terry bundled home Frank Lampard’s free-kick to mortally wound the visitors.
Ramires romped through the middle to add a third following more intoxicating touches from the mesmeric Mata and the brief soon turned to damage limitation for David Moyes’ men.
Yet with 10 minutes remaining what was probably the only bright spot for the team from Merseyside arrived as substitutes Royston Drenthe and Apostolos Vellios combined for the latter to reduce the deficit – the Greek converting from close range a mere 18 seconds after coming on.
Everton were unchanged from their derby defeat against Liverpool with Jack Rodwell’s red card reprieve seeing him team up with Marouane Fellaini in the middle of the park – the duo faced with the unenviable task of trying to stem Chelsea’s attacking flow.
That ultimately proved a job too far but for all of the hosts’ eventual dominance, there wasn’t much to pick between the sides in the opening exchanges.
Chelsea edged possession but had only the slightest sniff of a chance when Drogba charged down Leighton Baines’ clearance and the ball skewed wildly across the face of goal to safety.
The Blues, meanwhile, had registered a decent shot on target from Louis Saha while a fine move from one end of the pitch to other ended when John Obi Mikel surreptitiously relieved Marouane Fellaini of possession on the penalty spot.
However, just as the Blues looked to have settled into the game, the home side began to mount their first spell of real dominance and with it came the opening goal.
For five minutes they penned Everton back and eventually when they worked it quickly, the visitors were undone.
Mata’s chipped through ball released Ashley Cole down the left and the England defender’s immaculately-executed half-volleyed cross was powered in by Sturridge at the back stick.
Going in at 1-0 down would have fostered some hope in the away dressing room but Terry's second, headed past Howard from close-range, all but extinguished their challenge.
Leon Osman clipped the outside of the post within a minute of the restart but Chelsea were soon back into their stride.
And when Ramires converted Mata’s cross for goal number three it really was game, set and match.
At least the visitors were afforded some consolation as Drenthe expertly picked out popular youngster Vellios to make it 3-1 with his first touch.
The Blues will hope for an improvement in fortunes when they return to West London in a week’s time to face Fulham.