John Terry salvaged a point on the 700th appearance of his club career to rescue Chelsea in an enthralling 3-3 home draw against Everton.
The two sides played out a dull first half in which no goals were scored, but when Everton scored two quick second-half goals, Chelsea responded in even quicker fashion through Costa and then Fabregas. Funes Mori looked to have snatched all three points when he slid home in the 91st minute but Terry made amends in the 98th, albeit from an offside position.
The Blues were set for their 10th Premier League defeat of the season and would have had no complains were this the case, but in the end it is another point away from the relegation zone and the point was met with huge roars at the final whistle, such has been Chelsea’s demise as the Blues continue to languish in 14th position.
The start of the match could have not predicted the frenetic end we were in for. Two defensive midfielders for Chelsea at home in Mikel and Matic limited Everton’s creativity coming from Lennon or Barkley but meant Chelsea’s were limited too, with Fabregas playing in a more advanced position from which he could not ping his trademark long balls.
It means Chelsea’s play reverted to the more intricate short passing between the trio of Pedro, Willian and Fabregas all to Costa, who created Chelsea’s first chance when he found Ivanovic running forward who in turn found Willian, but the Brazilian was denied by Howard.
Terry and Zouma, who had conceded two against West Brom mid-week, needed to be at their sharpest to keep the likes of ex-Chelsea man Lukaku at bay, and whilst they did that, Oviedo was left unoccupied and should have done better with his attempt.
Mirallas’ long-range shot just before the half-time whistle looked to be heading in were it not for Courtois, but it would set the tone for the second half and Everton were not messing about.
Just five minutes into the restart and Baines was not tracked by Ivanovic and when the left-back’s cross needed to be blocked out else Lukaku would have raced onto the end of it, it was left to Terry to unfortunately guide the ball into the net himself.
It was unfortunate but there was nothing unlucky about Everton’s play in the following moments. Barkley was again left free by Ivanovic down the Chelsea right and his shot hit the post with Courtois well beaten. It should have been two there and then, but all Everton had to do was wait a couple more minutes.
Another Baines cross from the left was controlled expertly by Mirallas in the penalty box and despite plenty of players around the Belgian, with Mikel the closest, the Nigerian could just not get tight enough to close down Mirallas’ stunning left-foot half-volley. It was a special goal seeing as the Everton man had his back to the goal initially but expertly finished against his compatriot Courtois.
Matic came off as Hiddink looked to rescue something and this meant Fabregas could revert to a deeper role where he could read the game a bit better. Utilising his skills in this department, he pinged a delicious long ball to Costa, who just managed to squeeze in the tiny gap afforded by Jagielka and Howard’s combined hesitation about who would clear the ball. The Spaniard rolled into an empty net.
The home faithful were buoyant again and roared their side to the equaliser seconds later. Again the move started with Fabregas passing to Costa, but this time the striker returned the favour by playing the one-two back to Fabregas, who fired home via a deflection.
Chelsea were happy again, as was Roman Abramovich, who went from texting away on his phone disgruntled to beamingly high-fiving everyone in sight within those two quick goals.
But it seems Chelsea only know how to play football when they are behind and, having equalised, felt a sense of complacency and could not kick on.
Costa went off injured, as did Oviedo, and it was Oviedo’s replacement, Funes Mori, who looked to have stole the match for the visitors in injury time. A routine corner was not dealt with and it was either Funes Mori or Lukaku who would have tapped in totally unmarked one yard from goal.
The long balls came in but Chelsea were not done. A full 53 seconds after the seven injury time minutes were played, Terry back-heeled in to squeeze in a precious equaliser. He was a yard offside but the assistant was not to see the ball came from a tiny Oscar flick else Terry would have been onside, but in the words of Terry post-match, he, and all the Chelsea fans, “don’t really care”.
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Man of the Match
CESC FABREGAS: Everyone was poor first half but, once Hiddink moved Fabregas further back, the Spaniard took charge of the match. For all the negatives of Fabregas sitting in a defensive midfield position, it is clear his positives also lie here, which is his ability to read the game and float those perfect long-balls to Costa. Grabbed the equalising goal himself too and had good energy about him after a sub-standard season so far. 7/10
Hiddink was relieved his mid-game tactical switches paid off: “I took some risks [at 2-0 down] and it paid off in a spectacular way. The team is very resilient. I will not deny it: it was offside because Oscar touched the ball, even though John was technically perfect [with his finish]. There was seven minutes extra time [but] they are celebrating at least one minute in the corner.”
Martinez was livid: “It’s a clear-cut offside that should have been spotted. It’s something that’s not good enough. To make it worse, it’s 50 seconds over time. Maybe the referee needs help with a clock where everyone can see it. It’s heartbreaking because I thought it was a terrific game of football.”