It’s weird to keep reading José Mourinho making out that Chelsea battered Everton on Saturday but simply failed to convert their chances.
Both sides were fairly cagey, passing the ball around sluggishly in the first half, but the much-fancied-for-the-title Londoners were hardly dominant. Let’s face it, we know all too well what it’s like for a top side to roll up at Goodison and look imperious – this lot were nothing of the sort. They seem to be discovering, the same as Tottenham, that buying loads of players is all well and good, but the impact all those purchases have is limited by the age-old stipulation that you can only ever field eleven of them at any given time. Where’s the justice?
So, with most expectant eyes on world superstar Samuel Eto’o, it was Everton debutant Gareth Barry who stepped straight into the Toffees’ first eleven, improving the side instantly and stealing the show. The on-loan Manchester City midfielder, ably assisted by Leon Osman, showed all his experience, shielding the back four decisively and using the ball sensibly. His standout moment came though when Tim Howard carelessly passed the ball out to Andreas Schurrle who in turn teed up Eto’o in front of an open goal. Barry somehow got back to deny the Cameroon striker, lunging in to deflect his shot behind.
Eto’o and Nikica Jelavic exchanged poor headers at either end and a surprisingly low key game seemed to be drifting peacefully towards the break when Everton opened the scoring. Osman’s chip to the far post was headed back across goal by Jelavic and Steven Naismith, in for the injured Steven Pienaar, nodded past Petr Cech from close range. The former Glasgow Rangers man hasn’t had the smoothest transition to English football – in fact he’s often looked terrible – but this was certainly one of his better games in an Everton shirt and who knows,with Pienaar apparently out for a while, he might benefit from a decent run in the side now.
Chelsea had a couple of chances straight after the restart, but they never really built up that momentum that makes you feel like a goal is inevitable.
If anything, Everton grew in confidence as the game progressed, with Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas increasingly finding space to run at the visitors’ rubbery backline and win a string of free-kicks in dangeorus areas. We are still looking for our identity to a certain degree – we seem to struggle to up the pace in games, but we have to be one of the worst sides to go a goal down to, such is our ability to keep possession and lower the tempo. There’s definitely a balance to be struck yet, but the pace and physical presence of Romelu Lukaku might well be the key to imposing our will on games when we need to press for a goal.
Leighton Baines lashed a free-kick onto the crossbar in the dying moments as Everton looked the side more likely to score, especially when Mirallas moved up front in place of Jelavic who made way for another new signing, James McCarthy, who legged around loads.
Martinez has got a lot right at Everton, in terms of his demaeanour, his positive attitude and some slick moves in the transfer window. All that was lacking was that first win, and so to get it against Chelsea, when most people where looking more at the West Ham game, has given the club another lift.
Fair play like.