Drogba pen 42
Jermaine Beckford’s late header snatched a deserved point for Everton from an entertaining visit to Chelsea in a game where the Toffees’ excellent performance betrayed their recent poor form.
David Moyes made five changes to the side which capitulated against West Bromwich Albion a week ago. Only two were enforced – Phil Neville and Marouane Fellaini replacing Mikel Arteta and Tony Hibbert, who were respectively suspended and injured – while John Heitinga, Yakubu and Victor Anichebe made way for Jack Rodwell, Louis Saha and Seamus Coleman. Coleman was introduced to aid the side defensively against Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda but the withdrawal of Heitinga and Yakubu was down to their lacklustre performances against the Baggies. Their replacements, Rodwell and Saha, entered arguably their most impressive performances of the season as Moyes continued with his preferred 4-4-1-1 formation.
Saha was substituted just before the hour mark but the Frenchman’s contribution should not be overlooked just because the man who replaced him, Beckford, scored the equaliser. Saha has undergone some heavy criticism from Everton fans – much of it deserved – but the former Manchester United striker appeared back to form of last season for much of this fixture, perhaps helped by the happy memories of his last league goals – against the same opposition in February. While not a perfect performance from Saha – he needs to find the back of the net to approach that level – this was a vast improvement from his most recent outings. It would be wrong to suggest a predator like Saha ever lost his hunger to score goals but the way in which that hunger manifests itself, shots on goal and a presence in the box as opposed to loitering in midfield, was more positive than at any other time this season.
After such a demoralising defeat by West Brom, Everton deserve a great deal of credit for the resolve they showed at Stamford Bridge – even more so having gone a goal down through a rare Phil Neville error. A strong team performance this may have been, but there were still individual players standing head and shoulders above their teammates with regards to their own performances. Sylvain Distin was colossal in defence, winning towering headers and gathering up through-balls, the ex-Portsmouth player was an inspirational force. His left-sided colleague Leighton Baines, a contender for most underrated player in the Premier League, was tireless in his work up and down the left flank and produced more than one sumptuous cross before Tim Cahill teed up Beckford in the 86th minute, and if the best left-back England have was on the pitch today it is debateable which shirt he was wearing, Chelsea blue or the vanilla of Everton.
Everton return home with a point but also the extension of their winless streak to six games. Wigan Athletic come to Goodison Park next and Everton can take heart from what they achieved in London but correcting their patchy home form is now the priority.