For me, Everton are Chelsea’s bogey side and I always dread the day at Goodison Park when it comes out on the fixture calendar. Chelsea do not have the best record there – losing 6 out of the last 11 in all competitions – only winning there 3 times, most recently in August 2014: an eventful end-to-end 6-3 win. Everton should not be taken lightly, however, – Ronald Koeman demands his players to use the football and have gelled a handful of youth prospects into the starting XI such as Mason Holgate, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tom Davies, who is a revelation. Furthermore, I always dread facing Romelu Lukaku – someone treated unfairly at Stamford Bridge and therefore always has a point to prove against Chelsea, since we sold him in 2014. In brief: before kick off I’d have been happy walking away with a point, because we would then still be in control of our destiny with ‘easier’ looking games on the horizon – Middlesbrough, Watford and Sunderland at home as well as West Brom at the Hawthorns
Nervous energy from the fans was reflected in Chelsea’s start. Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin had a shot tipped onto the post by Thibaut Courtois in only the 2nd minute. It didn’t fill me and about 3000 fans in the away end with much confidence. Belgians seemed to be majorly involved in the first half with Hazard breezing away from Everton’s ageing centre-halves of Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams, rounding the goalkeeper and hitting the side netting. Courtois was untroubled in the Chelsea net and it was a really scrappy affair – Chelsea were controlling the midfield battle and it was a patient display by the Champions-elect.
The pattern of play was similar at the start of the second half: Chelsea in control – waiting for the opportunity to arise. Everton rarely threatened going forward but Jagielka and Williams were marshalling Costa superbly. Then, the moment of brilliance came. Patience from Cesar Azpilicueta and N’Golo Kante allowed Nemanja Matic to advance forward, pass to Pedro who although suffocated by Williams and Jagielka, produced a bit of magic, put the ball on his weaker left foot and unleashed a world-class strike into the top left corner. Pandemonium in the away end! That goal gave Chelsea the confidence to manage the game professionally and like champions. Everton didn’t offer much from this point despite Kevin Mirallas replacing the lively Calvert-Lewin. A free kick from Lukaku which didn’t really trouble Courtois was the only momentary cause for concern. Antonio Conte’s team made it 2-0 on 78 minutes – Hazard’s low free kick and Gary Cahill couldn’t miss- I’m not sure how much he knew about the goal but it ended up in the back of the net. Chants of ‘We’re gonna win the league’ and ‘Antonio’ rang out an emptying Goodison Park. Cesc Fabregas, Nathan Ake and Willian replaced David Luiz who was solid at the back again, along with Pedro and Eden Hazard who were impressive all game. It is such a luxury when a player of the calibre of Cesc Fabregas is a substitute. There was only one team on the pitch by the 85th minute – Chelsea were playing champagne football, accompanied by the consistent chanting all game. Willian wrapped up the game with a first-time strike after Marcos Alonso played Fabregas through and unselfishly teed up the Brazilian.
Chelsea won 3-0 and it showcased the team’s qualities throughout solid at the back, dominance in the midfield, flair and potency in the front three. Fans knew how important this result was- cue the rendition of ‘we’re gonna win the league’. Yes, Chelsea are going to probably win the league after a long season – a feat that was so unexpected considering their 10th position finish in the dismal 2015-16 season. The title in the coming weeks will be rightly deserved and celebrated.