Chelsea’s challenge of making it three FA Cups in a row were demolished in dramatic fashion at Stamford Bridge yesterday after Everton equalised in last minute of extra-time, before beating us 4-3 on penalties.
Chelsea were not at their best throughout the game but looked to have booked their place in the next round after Frank Lampard scored in the dying stages of the first half of extra-time.
But then Leighton Baines once again came back to haunt us with his left foot, and this time it was from a free-kick from 25 yards which did the damage.
Carlo Ancelotti gave Didier Drogba the starting role in the absence of cup-tied Fernando Torres, with Salomon Kalou, John Obi Mikel and Paulo Ferreira also returning to the starting line-up for this one with David Luiz also ineligible.
Everton started with Jermaine Beckford, who scored the equaliser at the Bridge earlier this season, as the goal scorer from the first leg, Louis Saha, was still out injured. Tim Cahill, who has an impressive record against Chelsea, also started after missing the first match due to International duty.
Chelsea started the game slowly, which has kind of become a habit for the defending Champions, as Everton were on the mark, hustling and bustling from minute one.
Chelsea were hoping to get a reaction from the returning Didier Drogba, but his first half performance was overshadowed by a knock he took from Jagielka, as he spent most of the half trying to knock off that injury.
Everton had their tactics spot on, but also resorted to excessive fouling to break down play. Referee Phil Dowd allowed Everton to get away with it, but wasn’t afraid to book Chelsea players for similar offences.
Chelsea faithful were again given the chance to show their frustration for Down after Ramires was booked for simulation when he went down in the box from a Howard challenge. The decision could have gone either way, Howard went for it and didn’t get the ball, but did get some of Ramires.
The only problem here was that Ramires did what every player does these days; go down when there is contact, no matter what the extent of it is.
The first half never lit up and was short on quality. Chelsea were creating chances but never looked in control of the game, which always gave Everton a chance to hit back.
Carlo introduced Michael Essien in place of Obi Mikel for the second half, as we looked to get more bite in the middle of the park without having to sacrifice our attacking play.
Chelsea started with much more vigour than what we witnessed in the whole of first half, and showed encouraging signs as we camped Everton in their own half, threatening to take the game away from them.
Despite dominating the second half, the goal wasn’t to come for us, with Lampard’s chip over the bar representing the best chance for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, but were then given a mighty bad scare when Fellaini put the ball in the back of the net just before the full time whistle, but it was correctly ruled offside.
Inevitably it was extra-time for us, and Anelka was introduced to refresh things up and get that elusive goal so that penalties could be avoided, a thing which every Chelsea fan dreaded and considering our record in it, who could blame them.
Nicolas Anelka did the trick for Carlo Ancelotti as well, as he was the one who did the good work on the right to provide ball for the goal. Nico’s cross was chested down by Drogba for Lampard, who didn’t miss from five yards out.
With things going as they are, most of the Chelsea fans would have loved to have the Golden goal rule still in place, but it’s not, and we had another half to get through.
And as it turns out, the fears of Chelsea fans were well founded as Leighton Baines came back to lay more pain, but this time he didn’t need anyone else to put finishing touches to his good work, he did it himself, after he put the ball back into the back of the net from a free-kick to break the heart of all Chelsea fans and sent the visiting Merseysiders into ecstasy.
Chelsea then continued their atrocious penalty record and despite Leighton Baines missing the first Everton kick, we still came out on the losing end with Nicolas Anelka and Ashley Cole being the unfortunate ones to miss their penalties.
Based on the 90 minutes played, we deserved the win, even if you include the next 30 we still shade it, but credit to Everton for staying in it and never giving up. It’s a theme that we have been continuing from the past few games; we play well, but can’t kill of teams.
However, the point is that we never look in control of the games so even if we score we are not sure if that’s enough. With big games coming up, especially in Europe, our only chance of silverware now, this kind of frailty could really come back to haunt us.
Carlo Ancelotti insisted that best penalty takers were chosen, and was adamant that the team will be recover ahead of the Champions League tie that was coming up, he said; “Obviously, we are not happy but we have to look forward, to use these days, the next days, to recover well, to recover energy and to prepare well (for) the next game in the Champions League.”
“I think that we have the time. It will not be easy but we have the time.” Carlo added; “We had very good shooters from the penalty. Lampard, (Didier) Drogba, Anelka, Essien and Ashley Cole: they were the best.”
“Obviously, penalties are a lottery and sometimes you can win and sometimes you can lose.”
Chelsea (4-4-2): Cech, Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry (c), Cole, Ramires, Lampard, Mikel (Essien h-t), Malouda (Anelka 90), Kalou (Zhirkov 110), Drogba.
Goal Lampard 103.