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EPL 2016/17: Everton 0-3 Chelsea, 5 talking points

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 30: Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea celebrates with N'Golo Kante of Chelsea and Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on April 30, 2017 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Chelsea players celebrate their win with manager Antonio Conte
Maya Mahadevan

A tricky trip to Everton started off on a scrappy, uninteresting note before a rejuvenated second-half spell from Chelsea saw the Blues score three goals to make it a convincing victory in the end. It also saw them maintain a 4-point edge over second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who cruised past Arsenal in the North London derby.

Pedro opened the account for the Blues after the hour mark, before captain Gary Cahill showed immense presence of mind to score their second. Willian came off the bench and scored within a minute as a game – which was going nowhere - was turned on its head by Antonio Conte’s men.

Despite referee John Moss dishing out as many as seven yellow cards across both teams, the two sides ended with their player count intact.

Take a look at the five talking points from the game.


#5 Lukaku struggles as Koeman tactics choke creativity

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 30:  Romelu Lukaku of Everton and Gary Cahill of Chelsea battle for possession during the Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on April 30, 2017 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Lukaku was isolated and struggled for service for most of the game

From the outset, it was evident that Everton were setting up for a draw; the giveaway was not the personnel but the way the Toffees played.

There was no intent to attack or play the ball into the box as Romelu Lukaku had a torrid time being the lone striker. The interplay between Ross Barkley, Enner Valencia and Lukaku was next to nil, leaving the former Chelsea frontman isolated for most parts of the game.

The lack of service did not do the Belgian any favours but he tried his best to get on the ball and was unlucky to see his solo effort go narrowly wide during the early stages of the game.

The ball was simply passed around in midfield by Everton for most of the first half but there were no scary moments for the home side apart from a glaring Diego Costa miss.

It is a shame that Ronald Koeman preferred to salvage a point on home turf when his side have shown they can beat the best on their day.

#4 Conte’s personnel rotation proves to be a masterstroke yet again

Everton v Chelsea - Premier League : News Photo
Conte is jubilant as his side trumped Everton

It has been said several times over the past few days but this needs to be said again.

As evidenced against Tottenham Hotspur in last week’s FA Cup semi-final and again in midweek against Southampton, Antonio Conte’s shuffling and management of key players have paid off remarkably well for Chelsea.

Eden Hazard and Diego Costa watched from the bench for over an hour against Spurs before being brought on. It paid off instantly as Hazard scored one and created another to put the Blues through to the final.

On Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, Hazard and Costa both started the game along with Cesc Fabregas and Victor Moses, as Pedro and Willian were confined to the bench.

Despite Fabregas being influential in the Blues’ win, Conte went for Pedro today, putting team and tactics ahead of sentiment and form. It worked to the T as the Chelsea number 11 proved to be the difference-maker, breaking the deadlock at a crucial time in the game.

The late substitutions of Fabregas and Willian and the two combining to create Chelsea’s third within a minute of the Brazilian’s introduction ensured full marks to Conte for effective and fruitful player management.

#3 Everton found wanting defensively as Pedro finds a way through

2017 Premier League football Everton v Chelsea Apr 30th : News Photo
Pedro scored a beauty to tilt the balance for Chelsea

Idrissa Gueye had one job to do and it did not take too long to find out what that was – follow Eden Hazard on the pitch. The Senegalese international did a fair job of it but Hazard being who he is, managed to keep finding space every once in a while and came close to scoring twice.

While the Everton manager’s game plan involved dealing with Hazard, he failed to do as much with Pedro and paid the price for it. The Spaniard’s pace and runs proved to be too much for the Everton backline and when the goal came, it was the deserving reward for a scintillating effort.

Pedro retained possession in the final third of the box and, faced with a bunch of defenders, took a shot that curved and landed in the top left corner of the net.

Earlier, Phil Jagielka was poor in the air and almost gifted the Blues an early goal. Maarten Stekelenburg did not cover himself in glory for Chelsea’s second; Gary Cahill just tapped in a rebound off the Everton keeper who failed to collect the ball after a shot.

Gueye, Tom Davies and to an extent Ashley Williams may have been the only Everton players who put in a fair shift against the prospective champions.

#2 A game of two halves: perseverance pays off for Blues but Costa disappoints

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 30:  Diego Costa of Chelsea fouls Maarten Stekelenburg of Everton during the Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on April 30, 2017 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Costa had a disappointing outing at Goodison Park

The only worthwhile piece of action in the first half was a golden chance where Costa was through one-on-one with the keeper but scuppered his shot into the stands for a potential ‘miss of the season’ contender. In what proved to be a dismal outing for him in terms of goals, he also went into the book for fouling the Everton keeper.

The rest of it was scrappy with neither team doing much to take the game to the other, just being content to play the ball about and edging it for throw-ins/corners. Indeed, not one meaningful save was required from either keeper in the first half of play.

As drab and boring as the first half was, the second was as entertaining. While the first 45 was spent nudging around the ball with both teams focused on not letting the other score, Chelsea opened up a bit more in the second.

Costa missed another sitter; he was onside but failed to make contact with the cross. Thankfully for Conte and the Blues, these misses did not come back to bite later. Chelsea probed, waited patiently and probed again before Pedro finally scored to break the deadlock. It was followed by goals from Cahill and Willian, putting it out of the Toffees’ reach in the latter stages.

#1 The trophy is Chelsea’s to lose

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 30:  Willian of Chelsea (obscure) celebrates scoring his sides third goal with his Chelsea team mates during the Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on April 30, 2017 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Willian scored his side’s third goal as players celebrated the hosts’ rout

Chelsea were in excellent form and had virtually bagged the title before stuttering at home against Crystal Palace, following that up with a loss against Manchester United at Old Trafford. These setbacks narrowed the gap between them and Spurs to four points, allowing the North Londoners a glimmer of hope.

While Tottenham too managed to win on the night, Chelsea’s three points have tilted the title race in their favour.

In the closing stages of the season, this was the Blues’ trickiest of fixtures with home games against Middlesbrough and Watford coming up either side of a trip to West Brom. Chelsea will play their last game of the season at the Bridge against relegated Sunderland.

On the other hand, Spurs next play West Ham before hosting Manchester United followed by a fairly tricky outing to Leicester. A slip up in any of these games could end their title hopes; also, the trophy is Chelsea’s if they win the next three games irrespective of Spurs’ results.

This puts the Blues in control of their own fate and they surely have one hand on the trophy now. Come May, if they are not on the podium, they will have only themselves to blame.

Edited by Staff Editor

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