Chelsea had to come from behind to earn a replay in the 4th round of the FA Cup against Everton. Louis Saha gave Everton the lead early in the second half, but a Saloman Kalou goal fifteen minutes from time gave the FA Cup holders a draw, despite not being at their best.
Carlo Ancelotti picked a full-strength starting line-up, some of this being owed to the fact that we are ten points behind Utd in the League, and rest to the strength of the opposition.
Frank Lampard was the only change from the 4-0 win at Bolton, Mikel returning to the bench for this one. With Gael Kakuta and Patrick van Aanholt moving on loans, there was place for young Jacopo Sala on the bench.
Everton were still missing their top-scorer, Tim Cahill, who is away on International duty with Australia in the Asian Cup, but other than that David Moyes had a full-strength side to choose from.
It was a chilly day in Merseyside, but the bright sunshine made it a wonderful setting for football between the 2009 FA Cup finalists, although this was a very different game from the game which took place two years ago.
Everton started the game in a buoyant mood putting Chelsea under lot of pressure and thereby starving the players of time on the ball, leading to strayed passes.
The first half was a tight one with both teams failing to any create clear-cut chances. Still, each side had their opportunities to take the lead.
Nicolas Anelka had the chance for Chelsea, after being released by Ramires, but his shot was hit straight at Tim Howard.
On the other hand, Jack Rodwell had the best chance for Everton, after Essien lost possession of the ball in the middle of the park to Marouane Fellaini, allowing Saha to slide through to the young Englishmen, but his shot was well saved by the impressive Petr Cech.
Both teams went into the half time on level terms, with Everton being the better of the two teams after having dominated the possession. The problem for Chelsea was that they were being outshone in the middle of the park with only Ramires being performing to the levels expected.
The second half began in a similar way, with the match still waiting for some brilliance from either side to bring some life into the game, although this didn’t stop the travelling supporters, who were in full voice, from reminding everyone of our reported interest in a certain Merseyside striker.
Everton were in the lead soon though, Louis Saha heading in home from a Leighton Baines corner, the former Utd and Fulham man continuing his impressive scoring record against the Blues, his seventh goal in eight games now.
With things not going our way, Carlo Ancelotti decided to bring on Salomon Kalou in place of Florent Malouda, and it proved to be an inspired substitution as he scored within minutes of coming on. It was a quick break from an Everton corner; Anelka getting the ball on the left touchline with Ramires and Kalou making the forward runs, he found the Ivorian, who made no mistake in putting the ball into the back of the net.
It was an undeserved equaliser, but was nothing less than what we wanted, as it gave us another lease of life.
There were few chances after this, with Ramires going the closest with his fierce drive from 25yards which hit the bottom of the post with Howard beaten.
The game now moves on to Stamford Bridge for the replay on the 19th of February with Carlo Ancelotti definitely the happier of the two managers, and also maintaining the possibility that we could still win the FA Cup for the third consecutive time and for the fourth time in five years. With hopefully a signing or two to come before the end of the transfer window it could only get better.
Petr Cech and Ramires stood out for Chelsea in what was a rather dull display from us. Salomon Kalou, who often gets criticized very heavily from the Blues faithful, deserves credit for rescuing us a point in what looked like a lost cause ever since Everton took the lead.
Carlo Ancelotti admitted his side were second best on the day, but was understandably satisfied with the result, he said; “Everton put us under pressure and played good football and created chances to score, so the result is good. It was not a good game but in general it was a good performance.”
The manager added; “Everton have a special kind of football, play a lot of long balls and they like to fight in the box on set-pieces. But we showed a good attitude and spirit even though we did not play well.”
“We have to look forward now as we have very important games in the future.”
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry (c), Cole, Essien, Ramires, Lampard (Mikel 84), Anelka, Drogba, Malouda (Kalou 69).
Goal: Kalou 74