We broke the curse. That's all you need to know. Well, not really. Once again I'm taking you on a running diary odyssey of sorts. The madness, after the jump:
No Church in the Wild
Much like the last go around, I woke up on Saturday morning, broke out the laptop, and did my best to track the madness of the match in whatever fashion I could surmise. The Chels fielded a strong lineup, with Jack's lineup prediction spot on. The bench was also bolstered by the usual set of big names. So, you could make the case that AVB wasn't taking any chances with this match. No sir. Disregard the prospect of Champions League footy in midweek, he brought out the regulars for what was clearly deemed a must-win fixture. On to the ramblings....
0:26 - Roman's in the building. Never mind the looming threat of hostile CPO riots outside the grounds, the man came to see his toys in action. He looks relaxed, for a man facing a 3 billion pound lawsuit. Oh by the way, Gary Taphouse, who the hell is Roh-MAN Ab-RAM-oh-VICHHH? Just asking, because I appear to be misinformed on how to pronounce his name, as you are clearly not.
0:52 - Everton's kit looks like when I put my whites in the wash with a grey shirt. The result, this mess of a color. Somewhere on Merseyside, a gym in structor is shaking his head in solidarity. Meanwhile, on the pitch, Everton are already pressing the Chels, putting the defense under pressure early. The back four will need to wake up or this is going to be an ugly one.
2:45 - England's Brave on 350 career club appearances in the league. Massive. Hope he gets a goal. Really really hope he does.
3:18 - Hibbert is getting skinned by Ashely Cole on the left already. Expect to see a lot of over-the-top passes from Mata and Mikel. Plenty of speculative passing by the Blues across the park, and outside the box, but the pass inside is lacking at the moment.
4:30 - Anytime the ball hits the midfield, Everton are pushing up and pressing. Ramires and Frank are dropping deep to get the ball off the defense, which is stretching the forwards and pulling them further back.
5:10 - Drogba lays a peach of a pass off for Rami to latch onto, but he's bundled over by Distin. No cards, no whistles, let them play. The Bridge is not pleased. Rami is not pictured. To be fair though, the pass did bend away from Rami at the last second. Replays show it was a good call. On the counter, Cahill gets a header off and misses it completely.
6:25 - Your not on the bench report includes Bob, Nando, and Kalou (who's wearing a speculative cap and some sort of polo shirt that's doing him no favors).
6:49 - Cross from the right by Bosingwa finds Danny in the box who uses his close control to bring it down, spin around, and ... hold up play and fail to get a shot off. Needs to do better with that service, and needs to get his shots off sooner. Everton aren't giving many windows towards Howard at the moment.
8:00 - interested in watching the Sturridge v Baines match-up on the flank. So far, it's dead even. Corner forthcoming for Everton ... Cech clears, and a scramble ensues before the Chels go rampaging up the pitch ... a few passes around the park and it ends in a clearance for Tim. We need better passing in the final third.
10:20 - Everton hit on the counter, Osman drops off a pass to Saha, who cuts inside off the left and fires directly at Cech. So far the chances are all going the way of Everton, but the possession shows Chelsea in the lead. Unlocking this back line will be the order du jour. SIDENOTE: my hunger knows no bounds. And, the dog is now giving me that look which suggests a need to relieve himself. Waiting for an Everton injury ...
12:37 - So far, Jack Rodwell playing behind Saha is working. Not saying Rodwell is doing anything spectacular, but, the chances are matriculating at the moment. Half-hearted 'Come on Chelsea' chant breaks out, but is washed away. I wonder how many of those in attendance are against the CPO proposal? A trademark Lamps run into the box is foiled after BAWSE fails to connect on a cross, again.
15:00 - This high defensive line we're employing is giving me night terrors. Would rather have Bane at right back and Luiz next to JT for additional speed on the counter. Not saying Bosingwa can't track back, but Bane's crossing is also more accurate at the moment then UniBAWSE. SIDENOTE: I need a nickname for Mata, sharpish.
15:35 - Fellaini gets the first card of the day, a yellow for a late challenge on Ramires, who is writhing in pain on the deck. On his feet now, thank the lord almighty. Everything we're doing right now has a bit of a sluggish tenor to it. Juanito (THERE IT IS) is trying to get things going but the runs aren't happening in unison. Also, Jagielka is using his speed to great effect in holding back the battering ram that is, Le Drogs.
18:14 - Obi Trice, do work son. Like the way he's getting it forward right now, controlling tempo, and most of all, using both feet. Crowd rises in jest urging him to take shot, but he declines. Respectfully. I like Obi. Seems like he would be a great dinner guest. Bet he'd bring an excellent Cabernet bottle with him too. Probably would even offer to bring a dish along as well. Just seems like that kind of guy.
19:41 - At the moment, Sturridge and Mata are switching sides with great effect, but again, no shots are coming out of all this running. Not exactly efficient. Everton fans are in full voice. You'd have to say, they're pretty pleased with what's transpiring. They're not really troubled. Drogba needs to get on the end of some of these passes, I reckon.
21:03 - A SUBLIME tackle from Obi on Fellaini in the box. Everton fans shout for a penalty. Replays show it was a clean tackle. As clean as it could be, no leg, nothing. As clean as his plate after an evening with you and the missus for dinner. Again, he's that kind of guy. On the counter, Ramires fires high and wide. HOORAY, A SHOT!
22:33 - The mic's are close to AVB, and you can clearly hear him shouting instructions from the touchline. 'STAY STAY STAY' followed by 'SQUEEZE SQUEEZE SQUEEZE' is the current call-out. It's eerily quiet at The Bridge. Have to give Everton some credit for this- they've been solid at the back all night. Jags has Diddy in his pocket at the moment.
26:41 - Drogs releases Ramires over the top and ... nothing. This is starting to frustrate me. Fellaini with a good tackle, resulting in a corner. Lamps strikes our corner extra high and Everton clear. Cole crosses a ball into the box after the restart and Howard catches with ease. Too much pace on the cross.
29:35 - Another sustained period of possession for the Chels gets us nowhere. Some upset Chelsea fan picked up on the mic shouting "SOMEONE HAVE A SHOT!" I concur. Cut to Malouda and Nelks on the bench, hamming it up.
30:30 - GOAL! Mata over the top to Ash, who deftly crosses a high lob to the right and Danny is there to head it into the ground and into the net! Cut to Roman applauding and grinning like a fool. He approves. So do I. At last, we cracked the back line. Here's hoping we kick on from here. SIDENOTE: my hunger is getting to me, time to grab a quick snack. Also, the dog has gone from cute complaining to absolute whining. He needs this.
37:05 - I'm back. The dog is pleased. A yellow for Ash, his fourth of the season. Baines lines up for the set piece, swings it inward, and Cech grabs it easily. Outlet pass to Bosingwa gets stopped, Ramires recovers, uses a bit of Barry Sanders-esque athleticism to dribble past a defender and lay it off for Frank, who can't control. Back to Everton we go. PS - nothing of note occurred while I was gone. I know this, because Twitter was relatively silent during said stretch.
40:05 - I'm not sold on Rodwell, yet. I know he has immense talent, but he's not being used in the right places. I think he's being deployed too far ahead in the mix- he needs to be pulled back and line up in the heart of the midfield. Replays of the goal show the vision of Mata to pick out that pass. Absolute class. He isn't just our most important player of the moment, he's our best on the pitch.
40:31 - Osman and Sturridge have words. Danny is laughing, Osman is lambasting. Sturridge carries on and uses his deft touch and dribbling ability to draw a yellow from Baines. Replays show Baines reaching out and grabbing Danny by the waist and bringing him to ground. Studge has a spark in his step. I think he could grab a second before the half is out.
41:53 - Oh my. Another brilliant spell of passing football. Terry, to Cole, to Mata, to Lampard, to Ramires, to Lampard, to Sturridge, to Bosingwa, whose cross fails to connect. Some sweet movement and a beautiful flow to the play on that one. Shades of that infamous Bolton goal. On the counter, the high-line earns another offside for Everton. That's their 5th of the game. The strategy, albeit a risky one, is working.
45:00 - BISON SIGHTING. He's looking a bit bored in the stands. Hope he's on the mend. Sweet touch from Obi in the middle, to Lamps, to Mata, to Cole, to Drogba, over to Cole, who is fouled. Set piece forthcoming ...
Extra Time - Lamps lines up to hit this next to Mata. It's Frank who gets a crack at it, let's see ... GOAL! A beautiful cross inward finds the head of the one, the only, ENGLAND'S BRAVE. Replays show he uses Obi Trice for a lift, gets up, and knocks it into the ground and past Howard. I fucking knew he would score. This game is now done and dusted. Huge blow to Everton, who should feel a bit hard-done by this scoreline. It flatters the Blues right now, Everton have been better then this line would suggest.
Halftime - AVB will be pleased, but we need to continue pressing forward to try and get a third to truly kill this game off.
45:00 - Lukaku sitting next to Romeu on the bench. I hope both these kids get a run out. Everton start the second half brightly, moving the ball forward, Osman takes a crack that just shaves the post. Pete was beat on that, should have been a goal. Christ, that was close. Here I thought this would be a breeze, but alas, it's going to be a tough 45 minutes.
49:54 - The Chels are playing more on the counter in this half. The major adjustment by AVB at the half? Well nothing really, but lets see how it evolves now that Everton are showing more bite in attack and possession.
51:18 - Oooh, that was looking rather sexy. Beautiful one-two give-and-go passing between Mata, Drogs, and Danny but the final pass is fluffed by Didier. Juanito, let me tell you, is one fucking hell of a player. Luka who?
52:24 - Lamps passing has been very good today. It's an obvious adjustment for him to fit into this new style, and it's never easy for a pass and push player like him to adjust, but he's doing a decent job this afternoon of playing the right passes- these diagonal chips over the top are just beautiful. Bet him and Juanito work on this in training. Meanwhile, Danny is all over the park, tracking back and helping out everywhere.
56:53 - Osman takes a crack from outside the box, and slices it high. AVB looks displeased that the ball is being given away so cheaply. Warming up, whilst applauding the fans, are the dynamic duo of Florent + The Machine and Nelks. I'm none too pleased about this development. Was hoping for a Lukaku sighting at the very least. May still happen though. Once again, it looks like Mata will be relieved of duty early. I can't remember the last time he completed a full 90. Or I may just be way off base with that assertion. You never know. It's early in the morning, and my cereal failed to satiate my appetite. I really want that Obi Trice dinner. Just saying ...
59:30 - Danny does an audacious spin move on the ball to get away from two defenders. Confidence, I say. On comes Royston Drenthe. Remember when we were linked with him? How the mighty have fallen, it seems.
61:03 - GOAL! A beautiful run from end to end, Mata releases Drogba through the middle, who drops it off on the left to Mata, who crosses it in front of goal for Ramires to finish with the easiest of tap ins. I'm so expecting Rami to notch 15 this season. Shit, he should already have at least six, even though he's on three for the campaign. This one is done, methinks. Bring on the subs, AVB.
63:20 - Uh oh. Ramires is down on the ground, JT walks over to him and immediately signals for a change. This isn't good news. He appears to be having trouble with his right knee after that goal. Baines did sort of crash into him but he got up fine after the fact. Here's hoping he's alright. Shit. Damn. Not good. Now I'm worried. Off he goes to be replaced by Malouda.
69:17 - Yellow for Danny. Gets one for 'simulation'. Drenthe doesn't even touch him, replays show. Danny is in disbelief. Wish he would cut this part of his game out for reals. He has all the tools to be an incredible striker, but this shit needs to stop.
71:43 - Phil Neville is on. I feel like you need to know these things.
73:06 - ROMEU SIGHTING. He's being prepared by AVB for entry. Really like what he brings to the table. I'm guessing he'll replace Mata or Mikel.
75:50 - Romeu comes on for Mikel, and Anelka replaces Mata. Both will be instrumental in midweek against Genk I'd imagine. Not using Meireles today suggests he'll feature against Genk too. Nelks is due for a start, methinks. But credit where it's due- the dude is not complaining at all about minutes or starts. Immediately, Nelks earns only our second corner of the match. Cut to the bench- Nando and Luiz are cheesin' with Mata, grabbing his head and joking about. Nice stuff.
80:08 - Saha off for Velios. Dude is massive. Looks like a Spartan. Shit, I think I just mixed up my references there. Apologies for all those offended. GOAL! Holy balls. Velios just knocked one past Cech. Damn, that was a brain-fart if I've ever seen one.
84:00 - For fucks sake, I'm not happy about that goal. What a foolish mistake to make. I'm expecting Bane to be replaced by Luiz or Alex in midweek. I feel for him, considering it's not his fault, but I'm guessing John plays on in Belgium.
90:00 - Game, set, match.