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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.
Everton were relentless. Their work-rate was intense and they continued to dominate proceedings making a mockery of the apparent disparity in value of the two sides. Torres barely touched the ball during the first half hour, and Chelsea registered just once chance when Ramires powered through the blue ranks to force Tim Howard into a smart save. Otherwise the Londoners remained listless. Everton might have doubled their lead only for the excellence of Petr Cech when the Chelsea keeper denied Leon Osman with a fantastic diving save.
It was perhaps inevitable that Everton’s ferocious work rate would sag, and as it did towards the end of the half Chelsea went close again. This time Ashley Cole seemed certain to convert at the back post after good work from Juan Mata and Azpilicueta, but the full-back narrowly failed to connect as the ball fizzed across the face of goal.
The hosts were not about to surrender their momentum entirely though. Pienaar was outstanding, and the midfielder created another chance when he skipped past his marker and played in Jelavic who forced another fine save from Chelsea’s goalkeeper. It seemed as if the hosts might regret not taking their chances before the break when Frank Lampard equalised. Previously immense, Everton’s defence parted too easily and the Chelsea skipper wrong footed Tim Howard with a header to level.
After the break the Londoners grew stronger. Torres should have scored after a fantastic scooped pass from David Luiz, and Everton were forced further and further onto the back foot. Chelsea worked another impressive move which saw the Spaniard through on goal, although the offside flag was raised.
Rafa Benitez had replaced the injured Cech with Ross Turnbull at half time but the Blues took their time in testing the new keeper. When they did he seemed far from convincing and Osman began to assert his own influence as Everton had a flurry of chances. Despite that the hosts were forced to defend increasingly deeper, and Howard had to be at his best to deny Torres again on 69 minutes.
At least Everton remained a threat when they managed to get out of their own half, and Jelavic was unlucky to see his header smack the cross bar after a terrific cross from Leighton Baines.
Unfortunately there was no denying the overall shift in momentum. Chelsea eventually capitalised when Howard saved superbly from Mata but Lampard was on hand to tuck away the rebound and complete his side’s comeback. It was the ninth goal against the Toffees during his Chelsea career and Evertonians will no doubt hope he leaves for the riches of Qatar or somewhere equally far removed next month.
Moyes tried to induce some further energy and vigour with the limited options available to him from the bench, but it was not enough. Instead Chelsea almost gave the score an even more painful edge after Ross Barkley conceded possession.
Everton’s manager acknowledged in his programme notes that he is not expecting a huge influx of cash to invest in January. “We are a very open club and we’ve made it clear that our finances will be tight.” he wrote. “We’ve had our moments in 2012 and we always must believe that the best is still to come.”
Even a little wriggle room to boost his flagging resources would make that optimism so much more valid.
LEIGHTON BAINES hopes Everton FC can boost their Champions League dream by adding new faces in January.
The England defender believes the Blues played well enough to get a point in their eventual 2-1 defeat by Chelsea yesterday, but with injuries mounting David Moyes had few options to try and claw back an equaliser from the bench.
Everton were without Marouane Fellaini, who served the last game of his recent suspension, Darron Gibson, Seamus Coleman, Phil Neville, Kevin Mirallas, and Tony Hibbert – and Baines said that increasing the size of their small squad could be crucial next month.
He said: “The manager and his staff work hard at looking for new people. They scout the world and even if it’s only loans they try and do something as they have in the past.
"It tides you over and freshens things up sometimes but it’s a tough job for the manager because the funds aren’t always there to do the business he’d like to. If we’ve got everyone fit and available he’d have a few selection head aches.
"We just could do with getting everyone fit and available.
“You can see what we’re doing, at least matching a team like Chelsea without key players. We’ll get Felli back for Newcastle and hopefully we’ll have the lads who are out injured following not too far behind. Then we’ll look like a strong squad again
“It’s when we’re missing three or four that it affects us. We can cover one or two because we have a little strength in depth but any more and we feel it. I’m sure the manager would have liked more options from the bench, or the likes of lads like Kevin Mirallas and Seamus Coleman available to him.
“We probably could have been two or three up before they got their goal. We tried to play at a really high tempo and we had Chelsea on the ropes. It’s just disappointing we let them get back in the game. By the last 15 minutes of the first half we’d put so much in that we just ran out of steam a bit. We found something again in the second half as we tend to do and gave it a good go. I think for our effort and chances we deserved a bit more.
“We deserved a point.”
The defeat saw Everton drop down to sixth in the table, but Baines said there was some consolation in their dominant first half display.
“I don’t think any of the top sides look forward to playing against us,” he said.
“We’ve proven we can make it difficult for them but we can also play a bit.
“We’ve fared well against the big sides this season and we need to do that and win the games we’re expected to as well.”
MARTIN O’NEILL is ready to ask Tim Cahill to provide Sunderland with a new year boost as he attempts to drag his club up the Premier League table.
It is understood the Black Cats are in talks with New York Red Bulls over a winter loan move for the 33-year-old Australia international.
Cahill, who scored 68 goals in 278 appearances during his eight seasons at Everton before moving to the United States last summer, would certainly be welcomed by Sunderland fans if a deal could be struck after proving something of a thorn in their side over the years.
He scored seven times in 14 outings against the Black Cats for the Merseysiders, but was also the man who denied them a trip to the 2004 FA Cup final with a semi-final winner for Millwall at Old Trafford.
Cahill has registered just once in 12 MLS appearances for the Red Bulls to date, but O’Neill, who has seen summer signing Steven Fletcher score eight of his side’s 21 Premier League goals to date, is keen to increase his options.
The Black Cats had eased clear of the relegation zone with a run of three wins in four league outings culminating in the sensational Boxing Day defeat on champions Manchester City.
They were denied a chance to extend that sequence by a concerted Tottenham fightback, although they will approach the end of 2012 with a measure of confidence restored.
Frank Lampard has made a habit of being in the right place at the right time over his years at Chelsea.
How peculiar, then, that from the end of this season, he will probably be somewhere else entirely.
Of all the bizarre events that have characterised Chelsea’s recent history, the apparent decision to jettison one of their most important players next summer is among the more perplexing.
Lampard has made almost 400 Barclays Premier League appearances for Chelsea as the club have established themselves as one of the best in Europe. He has been a cornerstone of all that has been achieved in the Roman Abramovich years. However, those who suggest that Lampard should be rewarded for his loyalty with a new contract miss the point.
He should be invited to stay at Stamford Bridge not out of sentiment but simply because he still has something to offer a squad that needs continuity more than most others.
Lampard’s two goals at Goodison Park yesterday were certainly timely. They enabled his team to recover from a second-minute Everton goal to continue their impressive recent progress and they also provided a reminder of his enduring worth as a footballer. At 34, Lampard may not be as mobile or as dynamic as he once was. Time has inevitably diminished him.
Nevertheless, the England midfielder’s ability to pass and read and anticipate play remains undimmed.
One senses that Rafael Benitez recognises this and it is a shame that it is someone else other than the club’s interim manager who would appear to be making the decisions about players at Chelsea.
Certainly, yesterday, Benitez will have been grateful.
Chelsea fell behind after only 63 seconds and then had to withstand something of a blitz from David Moyes’s progressive Everton team.
That they did so says much for the manner in which Benitez has organised his team and the confidence that has come from recent victories.
Putting eight goals past a poor Aston Villa team at home is one thing but moving forward to win at Norwich and then here on Merseyside is arguably more impressive.
The first half-hour belonged to Everton. Unfortunately for the home side, it brought them only one goal. Ultimately, that proved critical.
A good goal it was, though, as Everton took advantage of Eden Hazard’s misplaced early pass to sweep down the right through Phil Jagielka.
The emergency right back’s cross was a good one, and it enabled Victor Anichebe to climb above Cesar Azpilicueta — with the help of a shove in the back — and head powerfully against the post. If Chelsea thought the danger had passed, they were wrong. Steven Pienaar was lurking 12 yards from goal and the technique he showed in drilling the ball low past Petr Cech was exemplary.
A goal to the good so quickly, Everton were effervescent and inventive. For a while, Chelsea had no answer. The likes of Lampard, David Luiz and Juan Mata were slow into the game, and they were almost invisible as the hosts swept forward.
Moyes’s players created chances but couldn’t take them. Nikica Jelavic struck a free-kick against the post with Cech stranded before Anichebe headed over after a throw-in was flicked on from the right.
Perhaps the turning point arrived in the 24th minute, though, as another Jagielka cross reached the impressive Leon Osman and Cech somehow managed to smuggle a fierce low drive past his left-hand post.
Had Chelsea fallen two goals behind at this point, there might have been no way back. They really had offered very little at this point.
As it was, though, Cech touched a Jelavic cross-shot wide after a superb Pienaar pass, and Chelsea sprung forward to equalise just before half-time.
The goal hadn’t exactly been coming, but Chelsea had been improving quietly as time went on.
In the 34th minute, Ashley Cole had been an inch away from diverting a low Azpilicueta cross into the net at the far post, and they equalised when Fernando Torres ran the ball down the right, fed Ramires and watched the Brazilian drop a right-foot cross on the forehead of Lampard eight yards from goal. He simply wasn’t going to miss.
No doubt relieved to be level, Chelsea began the second half the stronger, even though they had lost goalkeeper Cech at half-time to an ankle injury.
With Luiz, Mata and Ramires now looking more like themselves, a Luiz chipped pass deserved better than a poor Torres touch while Chelsea’s centre forward found a much better contact in bringing a superb save from Tim Howard in the 67th minute.
At the other end, Everton’s threat was by now more sporadic, but they remained very much in the game and superb work from Leighton Baines down the left enabled Jelavic to head against the bar as the game hung in the balance with 20 minutes left.
Moyes was later to rue his team’s failure to follow up rebounds.
It was pertinent, then, that Chelsea won the game just minutes later when a superb move involving Ramires, Torres, Mata and Hazard ended with Lampard bundling the ball in from close range after Howard had saved.
Still there was time for Jelavic to dawdle over a late chance after another Baines cross, and perhaps Everton would have deserved a point.
Chelsea, though, are threatening to become as ruthless on the field as they are off it.
Frank Lampard knows this well.