King Louis Saha Exposes Weakness In Both Chelsea And John Terry

Rabu, 10 Februari 2010

Even the most optimistic of Chelsea fans would no doubt have been wary about Wednesday night’s trip to Everton, and that caution was proven not to be misplaced as the Toffees proved too sticky a proposition for the Blues players who seemed unable to find top gear.

Goodison Park is not the easiest place to visit at the best of times, with the vocal local support always able to have an effect on proceedings, and a game against one of the more combative sides in the Premier League just three days after a victory against Arsenal that no doubt took a lot out of the players was always going to prove difficult to overcome.

It was perhaps a surprise then how brightly Chelsea started, with Florent Malouda blasting the ball past Tim Howard early on after a prime example of route one football that will no doubt have Arsene Wenger up in arms when he sees it.

Unfortunately for Blues fans, that was as good as it got. Everton quickly wrestled their way back into the game, and found themselves on level terms after Louis Saha took advantage of an uncharacteristic error from John Terry to nod home Landon Donovan’s corner from close range, in the process marking his 100th goal in English football.

As if to ram home the point that this was not a Chelsea side at the peak of their powers, Terry's defensive partner Ricardo Carvalho then proceeded to bring down the lively Donovan inside the box for as stone-wall a penalty as you are ever likely to see.

Fortunately for the central defender, Petr Cech was on hand (literally) to palm away a soft effort from the Frenchman that came to him at a very saveable height.

But despite that moment of respite, there was always the sense that this was going to be Everton's night.

Before the game, the omens might well have been seen to be favouring Chelsea. Didier Drogba may have reminded everyone at the weekend that Arsenal is the Premier League club against whom he is most effective, but Everton are second on his list, with the 31-year-old previously having scored seven goals against the Merseysiders.

The Toffees are similarly runners-up in Nicolas Anelka’s books, the Frenchman’s eight goals against them only second to the number he has notched in various games against Blackburn Rovers.

But in the end it was the Blues who finished second-best, as Saha took advantage over another Terry misjudgement to finally add his second of the night — and in the process make Chelsea the club against whom he has scored the most goals during his time in England (seven).

Before the game David Moyes had tipped his striker to cause problems for Chelsea's defence, and John Terry in particular, and the Scot's assessment was proven to be spot on. No doubt some pundits will be keen to link Terry's error-strewn display to his off-field problems, but the more obvious cause was the performance of the Frenchman and the effect of a vociferous home crowd.

At one point in the second half, around the time Ashley Cole was forced to depart with an injury that was a further blight on the night, Everton had their more illustrious opponents firmly on the ropes. It was one of those times when it is easy to see why Goodison Park is a daunting place for many to travel, with the crowd seeming to will their team forward and making it twice as hard for the away side to get the ball out of their own box, let alone their half.

Having gone behind, Chelsea struggled to summon the energy or invention to push themselves forward, and it wasn’t until Everton decided to shut up shop, retreat and hope they could hold on to what they had that the away side really managed to put some real pressure in their search for an equaliser.

Unfortunately it was too little, too late.

At least events elsewhere meant things could have been worse for Carlo Ancelotti and his men. Manchester United’s draw at Aston Villa (with Nani getting his marching orders) means at least the Blues are still top of the table, albeit only now by a point.

That does mean that the two sides’ meeting at Old Trafford at the beginning of April keeps assuming greater significance with every game.

But Sir Alex Ferguson’s men also still have to visit Goodison Park themselves next weekend, a fact that in itself should keep spirits up among Blues players and their fans.

On this evidence, it will certainly be no walk in the park.

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