Chelsea took on Everton at the Bridge in the Saturday evening match this week. After the international break, the Chelsea blues returned without any injuries or worries for Villas-Boas. Luiz was almost certain not to be named in the squad for the match after only returning to Cobham on Thursday.
When the sides met at the Bridge last season, it was an even matched game and Everton looked the livelier side.
Although Everton had not won a Premier League match at Stamford Bridge in 17 years, they have always been a tough side for Chelsea to crack. Most Chelsea fans would have predicted a draw before the game and with Manchester United drawing at Anfield earlier in the day, a win became more important.
The teams lined up as follows:
Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, JT (c), Cole; Ramires, Mikel, Lampard; Sturridge, Drogba, Mata.
Subs: Turnbull, Alex, Romeu, Meireles, Malouda, Anelka, Lukaku.
Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Coleman, Fellaini, Rodwell, Osman, Cahill, Saha.
Subs: Stracqualarsi, Drenthe, Bilyaletdinov, Heitinga, Vellios, Neville, Mucha.
Torres was serving the second game of his three-match suspension, so Drogba continued up front flanked by Sturridge and Mata.
Ramires was starting his 50th Chelsea game, while JT was appearing in his 350th Premier League match.
As part of Chelsea’s annual charity date in the calendar, the Blues were sporting the Help A Capital Child logo on their home shirts.
The first decent challenge saw Ramires burst through from midfield, only to be taken to the ground by Distin 30 yards from goal, his route otherwise clear, and then within a minute Toffees, Cahill got the better of Cole, but headed his effort wide.
Chelsea’s start was slow and lacked momentum, Mata and Sturridge seemed to attack in isolation, final balls from Bosingwa and Cole misplaced and Drogba struggled to keep hold of the ball. Chelsea’s first cohesive move brought about the opening goal, Drogba dropped deep to get involved in the play, and spotting Cole’s run into the area passed the ball into the defender’s path. Cole did well to beat the opposition and diverted it across goal, where Sturridge arrived with perfect timing to send a diving header home from close range for his third in two games. Sturridge now has 4 goals in 4 Premier League matches.
Chelsea took the two-goal advantage going into half time, thanks to JT’s injury-time header. With a Chelsea free-kick, Lampard swung the ball into the box, Terry leapt highest in a group of four, and Everton keeper Howard could only flap the ball into the net.
Everton were quickly on the front foot in the second half, Osman whipping a low shot against the outside of Cech’s left-hand post after just 20 seconds, but Chelsea were equally fast to react and assume a greater level of control than the first half had seen.
Chelsea got their third goal on the hour, Mata found Drogba in the centre-circle who drove hard at the Everton defence before slipping the ball back into Mata’s path. Mata squared the ball across the danger zone to meet Ramires to slide it home from a yard out.
It was the Brazilian’s last contribution, a moment later he was forced to limp from the field with a knee injury obtained in scoring. Florent Malouda came on in his place.
Mikel and Mata both earned rests too, withdrawn after 76 minutes with the game well won, replaced by Romeu and Anelka.
Substitute Vellios scored for the Toffees after slidding home a low Drenthe cross with his first touch nine minutes from time. That meant another game without a clean sheet for Chelsea.
A fourth goal nearly arrived in injury time when Lampard sent a powerful half-volley towards goal, but Howard held on.
The game was won though and three points leaves Chelsea in third place but only one point behind Manchester United who dropped to second in the league today.
Chelsea’s next match is against Genk in the Champions League at the Bridge on Wednesday, before a short trip to QPR next weekend.