Saha 83 – Kalou 38, Sturridge 116
Drenthe sent off 107 – Turnbull sent off 58
Chelsea reached the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup with a 2-1 extra-time victory over Everton in a game that was far from the stereotype of an anodyne League Cup fixture. Two red cards, two missed penalties and numerous other thrilling moments combined to produce an enthralling game eventually settled by Daniel Sturridge.
Salomon Kalou opened the scoring for much-changed Chelsea when Everton’s stand-in goalkeeper Jan Mucha dropped the Ivorian’s tame chip from the edge of the area. Kalou’s opener came after Nicolas Anelka screwed a penalty wide but when the visitors’ own back-up goalkeeper Ross Turnbull saw red for bringing down Louis Saha, Everton were given a chance to equal the scores just before the hour mark. Leighton Baines stepped up but his spot kick was saved by substitute Petr Cech, as was the rebound. Saha eventually drew Everton level but when Royston Drenthe saw red late in extra-time, Chelsea increased the pressure and Sturridge sealed a hard-fought victory after Mucha parried Florent Malouda’s powerful shot.
The breathless affair followed a couple of distinct patterns of play. Chelsea, before Turnbull’s dismissal attempted to play possession football, using Oriol Romeu and Josh McEachran as a twin playmaking hub and Anelka and Kalou as fluid support to the mountainous Romelu Lukaku. Everton countered with a fast tempo, pressing Turnbull into hurried clearances and not allowing Romeu to settle, although if anything it was the London Blues who edged the first-half. Everton threatened early but Chelsea were largely in control until the break.
One possible explanation for Chelsea’s comfort could be seen in the performance of Saha. The French striker – enigmatic at the best of times – spent far too much of the game in positions from which he struggled to influence the game. It was as if Saha had developed an allergic reaction to crossing the 18-yard line and could only be in the penalty area in short bursts, such was the frequency that the striker was nowhere to be seen when the ball was crossed into the box. When Saha did venture forward he wreaked havoc, first drawing a fine save from Turnbull at the near post, then winning Everton’s penalty, and finally levelling the scores with a delightful header.
Turnbull’s red card was an obvious turning point as the game entered its second phase, that of Everton dominance. With Chelsea down to 10 men Everton had ample opportunity to level and then take the lead – not least from the penalty itself – but also a gaping chance for substitute Denis Stracqualursi, who could only head over the bar. Everton won the ball back with impressive tenacity and poured into the Chelsea area in a fizzing period of the game but failed to put the tie to bed before the full-time whistle. Chelsea retained some menace on the break but there looked to be only one winner as long as the sides stayed uneven.
Drenthe’s red, with 13 minutes of extra-time to play, brought the game’s third passage, that of measured Chelsea pressure, which eventually told with Sturridge’s poacher’s effort. On the basis of the last 20 minutes of normal time Everton could feel hard done by, but the Toffees have only themselves to blame, both for missing gilt-edged chances and wasting their man advantage, for Chelsea’s presence in the latter stages of an eminently winnable competition.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Mucha; Neville (Hibbert 46), Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Drenthe, Fellaini, Rodwell (Stracqualursi 78), Bilyaletdinov (Coleman 81); Cahill; Saha
Chelsea (4-3-3): Turnbull; Ivanovic, Luiz, Alex, Bertrand; Romeu, McEachran (Mikel), Malouda; Kalou (Sturridge 85), Lukaku (Cech 58), Anelka
Did you know…Chelsea knocked Everton out of the League Cup in 2007-08 at the semi-final stage, winning the two-legged tie 3-1 on aggregate.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Everton v Man Utd