Anyone who walked in as the Chelsea/Everton replay moved into extra time can be safe in the knowledge that they caught the best part.
Up to them it was insipid stuff. Everton had the better of the first half although their edge in midfield never translated into very few clear cut chances.
Jermaine Beckford had little support in attack and Tim Cahill was surprisingly subdued.
Nonetheless Everton dodged a bullet when referee Phil Dowd chose to wave off a penalty claim after Everton keeper Tim Howard brought down Ramires. To pour salt in the wound Ramires was booked for diving.
Essien for Mikel at half time gave Chelsea more possession in midfield and a more solid platform to build from.
The width that Everton were getting on both sides of the field was largely negated and Chelsea started to dominate the play and much of the last half hour was played in the Everton half.
Chelsea’s second half push never produced any goals in a game that looked as if only one would be needed to decide it.
When David Moyes replaced Leon Osman with Johnny Heitinga, Marouane Fellaini was pushed forward to support Anichebe who had come on for Beckford in the final ten minutes of normal time.
The game continued to be under Chelsea’s control in the extra time with Anelka on for Malouda. Baines had the Chelsea substitute to occupy him and that restricted his forward runs.
When Frank Lampard scored in extra time after an Anelka cross from the Everton left (a notorious weak link) the game looked over but then Chelsea unravelled.
A silly free kick given away by Ivanovic with only a minute or so left gave Baines the chance to curl the free kick beyond a statuesque Petr Cech (did he really think that Baines was going to hit the free kick anywhere else but the top left hand corner of the Chelsea goal?) and so to penalties.
When know that the team opting to shoot first has close to a 60/40 chance to win a shoot out. But nevertheless Chelsea once again conspired to throw it away. With Baines missing on Everton’s first attempt and trailing 2-1 after two “rounds” things looked rosy for Chelsea. But……….
There is something to be said for choosing players who show a certain degree of cool-headiness under pressure but there is also a fine-line between that and not seeming to give a crap – something that Anelka seems to specialize in.
Another short run up from Anelka and another miss …..or more accurately another save by the keeper.
Arteta’s successful penalty right after Anelka’s miss was key and although Essien took a very good penalty Heitinga more than matched it with possibly the best penalty of the ten that were taken.
I would have bet money on Cole going to Howard’s left but he went the other way……way, way, way the other way.
Philip Neville is not the most technically adept of players but he has always shown a great deal of mental strength and Moyes correctly kept him in reserve for the last penalty the one that was to be the winner.
The FA Cup may have been the third of Chelsea’s priorities but being knocked out does increase the pressure on manager Carlo Ancelotti. Chelsea are “dormie” 12 with Manchester United in the Premier League (although they have to play each other twice) and so it comes down to the Champions League.
Ancelotti seems to have lost an ability to approach the game in a clear-headed manner and changes to both formation, personnel and tactics are happening with much greater frequency.
He needs to coax a gigantic effort out of Chelsea if he is to deliver the trophy with big ears to his club’s owner. At the moment Chelsea’s looks like a team that is not only out of gas but one whose engine is close to seizing up.
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