Coleman sent off 52
Jermaine Beckford scored an outrageous solo goal as Everton beat deposed Premier League champions Chelsea 1-0 in what proved to be Carlo Ancelotti’s last match in charge of the Stamford Bridge club.
Forget any thought of a meaningless end-of-season kick about in the sun, this was a riveting and competitive game packed with drama and incident; not least the red card shown to Seamus Coleman after a lunge on John Obi Mikel, while Chelsea were perhaps fortunate not to go down to 10 men when Alex escaped a second yellow after blocking a sprinting Beckford. The defeat means Chelsea end the season on 71 points, the lowest of the Roman Abramovich years and nine behind Manchester United, while Everton confirmed themselves in seventh, their fifth-consecutive top-eight finish and a place higher than last year.
David Moyes picked Beckford over Victor Anichebe and drafted in Jack Rodwell in place of Phil Neville as Everton employed their usual 4-4-1-1 formation. Ancelotti, without Didier Drogba, selected Nicolas Anelka and Fernando Torres in tandem and Michael Essien as a nominal right-midfielder, with Florent Malouda a more orthodox presence on the left. Everton’s extra man in midfield, with Leon Osman dropping back from supporting Beckford, routinely robbed Chelsea of the ball and the ever-eager Beckford provided a dangerous outlet that eventually paid dividends. For Chelsea’s part, the duo of Torres and Anelka struggled to gel and the Spaniard was particularly toothless, although it was not a vintage performance from either man.
Indeed Beckford, a free transfer from Leeds United, was the most dangerous striker on the pitch. Aside from his stunning goal Beckford could have had two more: a rapid one-two with Mikel Arteta sent the striker through on goal but, caught between two minds, he neither shot nor crossed and the resultant effort trickled out for a throw-in. In the second-half Beckford was again through on Petr Cech’s goal but with the goalkeeper standing tall the chance was spurned. Having missed two respectable chances the odds of Beckford running the length of the pitch, taking on most of the Chelsea team, riding his luck a little with a fortuitous bounce, and lobbing Cech, would have been astronomical.
That Everton’s goal came after Coleman had been dismissed – and just after John Terry struck the post – made the Toffees’ advantage all the more unlikely. Chelsea pressed as the game wore on but with the home side’s back line dropping deeper, could not create a clear-cut sight of goal. Terry’s effort off the woodwork was the closest the Londoners came to scoring even after Coleman departed, and they looked bereft of inspiration as they toiled without reward.
Ancelotti at least left with the backing of the travelling Chelsea fans, who serenaded the Italian with songs of support for much of the game. Whoever stands in Chelsea’s dugout next season has to solve the Torres conundrum which, on this evidence, is easier said than done.