Everton 1-2 Chelsea
Chelsea became the first team to beat Everton at Goodison Park this season, as Frank Lampard popped up with his 191st and 192nd Chelsea goals to secure his side all three points in a fierce tie.
With the third spot up for grabs for both sides, it needed the sheer quality of Frank Lampard to turn the game around, after the hosts went ahead with just 62 seconds played.
It means the England international is now just one goal behind Kerry Dixon, who is Chelsea’s second-highest scorer, and should Roman Abramovich sanction another contract for the veteran, the 11 goals he needs more to surpass Bobby Tambling’s feat may not be an impossible mission after all. And on this evidence, there is little reason to suggest why the long-serving Chelsea legend doesn’t deserve one.
The 33-year-old is currently fifth in the all-time leading Premier League scorers, a staggering 49 goals ahead of the next best midfielder, and Lampard does not for one second look like he is past it.
For when the big matches come, Frank delivers. Rafael Benitez has been fortunate to play the likes of Nordsjaelland, Norwich and Aston Villa in his early tenure as Blues’ boss, so when the biggest match of his reign thus far popped along, the likes of Frank Lampard needed to deliver Chelsea’s seventh win out of nine in this busy December month.
Everton have been on a magnificent run of form themselves. In fact, this was Chelsea’s first away win since 2008 at Goodison Park, ending the Toffees’ 13-match unbeaten home run.
And whenever these sides meet, it has always been a very close contest. The Blues have only won 38% of the encounters, with Everton winning 31% of the last 165 games these sides have been involved in.
Add that to the fact that you have to go back 13 games for the last time an Everton game was decided by a two-goal margin, you could expect that Benitez was not going to get a warm welcome back on Merseyside.
And it hardly got off to the perfect start for the European Champions. For all the threat Baines poses on the left, it was a Phil Jagielka cross from the right which started the panic. Anichebe’s header struck the post, but former Chelsea target Steven Pineaar hit home.
The woodwork was to be hit again from a Jelavic dead-ball situation, as Cech breathed a sigh of relief that the same post spared his blushes and bounced away to safety. No Premier League team has hit the woodwork more times than Everton this season, and the lack of pinpoint accuracy would prove costly.
Ramires’ task as Chelsea’s right-winger was to nullify any threat from Leighton Baines, but the energetic Brazilian was putting more of a shift going forwards, feeding in Juan Mata, whosd shot was saved by Tim Howard.
The initial Everton dominance was easing as Chelsea surged forward to make amends for early lapses in concentration, but where they ventured forward, so Everton countered, with Cech needing to be smart to stop firstly Osman, and then Jelavic.
But it was Chelsea who scored next. Frank Lampard hung around in the penalty box, and when Ramires’ lofted ball made its way towards Lampard, the midfielder glided the ball past Everton’s American goalkeeper, to pull Chelsea one back.
Everton’s only league clean sheet at Goodison Park this season was the opening day victory against Manchester United, meaning they have now conceded in 15 consecutive league games, the longest run of any side in the division.
But where they were leaky in defence, their attack more than made up for their defensive deficiencies. And with Petr Cech’s 400th Blues appearance cut short, a vulnerable Ross Turnbull, who was making his first league appearance of the season, was at the mercy of the Everton forwards.
Everton’s concerns were more than mirrored in Chelsea, with Fernando Torres making an uninspired impact thus far, so the news that Demba Ba looks to be on his way to Stamford Bridge will have certainly giving Chelsea some optimism going into the new year. The Senegalese striker has been prolific for Newcastle, being the league’s most third most prolific striker since 1st February 2011, behind only Van Persie and Rooney.
But who needs a striker when you have a sublime midfielder?
Super Frank Lampard put Chelsea ahead with 20 minutes to go, latching on to a Juan Mata shot, which was only parried by Tim Howard into the path of Lampard.
If this was his last match for the Blues, with talks about leaving in the January window, then this performance typifies Lampard’s role at the Club over the past decade.
Frank Lampard has now scored five or more goals in each of the last 16 Premier League seasons, and though the victory could have been more had Oscar and Torres been more productive, there was to be no denying Frank Lampard of all the headlines in tomorrow’s papers.
Chelsea have won all but one of the league matches with Lampard this season; without the influential vice-captain, the Blues have only won one, such is his influence.
So Chelsea condemned Everton to their first Premier League defeat at their home ground since the 1-0 loss to Arsenal some nine months ago. It was certainly a good way to end the historic year for the west London side.