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Chelsea FC 0-0; 1-1 (aet); 3-4 (pens) Everton: Match Report

John Terry consoles Ashley Cole after the left-back missed the deciding penalty against Everton in Chelsea's 4th Round FA Cup replay.
John Terry consoles Ashley Cole after the left-back missed the deciding penalty against Everton in Chelsea's 4th Round FA Cup replay.

I only saw the very late stages of the second half, extra time, and penalties, so I'll do my best to keep this one fairly brief. Chelsea drew their 4th round FA Cup replay with Everton before losing on penalty kicks, something Chelsea fans will be used to on account of the team having won two of their last nine penalty shootouts in all competitions*. The FA Cup loss, their first almost three years, means that that the Blues won't be defending the trophy they'd held over the last two seasons, something that many Chelsea fans are considering something of a travesty. In truth, Chelsea had the most difficult 4th round draw of any Premier League team save Everton, and certainly shouldn't have expected to simply walk to the 5th round. They came very close to getting through, but did not. This sort of thing happens.

*Everyone else is reporting this as one of their last eight, but we all know what that means.

Anyway, unlike the original fixture at Goodison Park, Chelsea were supposedly pretty good for most of the match, but had major problems turning possession and neat play into clear-cut opportunities and goals, and ultimately paid the price after a very late Leighton Baines free kick saw Everton level the match in extra time before Nicolas Anelka and Ashley Cole missed key penalties to hand the match to the visitors.

Chelsea were without Fernando Torres and David Luiz and so started with Paulo Ferreira at right back and Didier Drogba leading the line in a 4-3-3. Everton's main injury concern was with Louis Saha, so often the bane of Chelsea over the years, and the striker/annoyance was unfit to take the field, with Jermaine Beckford taking his place.

The first half saw Chelsea in control, with John Obi Mikel dominating his area of the pitch and allowing Chelsea plenty of position, but there were very few clear-cut chances for either team. Ramires was denied a penalty after going down in the box following a Tim Howard challege, instead receiving a yellow card for diving - I can't speak as to how strong the claims were since I didn't see the incident, but everyone watching seemed to be fairly annoyed about it.

Michael Essien came on to replace Mikel in the second half, which led to some more Chelsea drive going forward with the switch to a 4-2-3-1 double pivot but also opened up the midfield for Everton to make some forays forward of their own. Chelsea were dominant and had the best of the opportunities, but the Fulham goal hex continued to bug the team, with Frank Lampard in particular seeming clinically allergic to scoring goals. In fact, it was Everton who managed to bundle the ball into the back of the net, but Marouane Fellaini was (correctly) adjudged to be offside after tapping home a rebound from Leighton Baines' long-range cracker in the 88th minute, an episode that led to some hilarity from Chelsea's official twitter.

Extra time was the last thing Chelsea wanted with a Champions League match against FC Copenhagen coming up on Tuesday, but at 0-0 it's what they got, and there were once again dominant. Nicolas Anelka was substituted for Salomon Kalou, and he created the opener, skipping past two defenders and crossing for Didier Drogba, whose layoff was converted by Frank Lampard. Chelsea were by far the better side, and Stamford Bridge was starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Yuri Zhirkov made his first appearance in months as well, coming on with nine minutes to play for Florent Malouda, who was once again fairly ineffective.

Then, with just seconds left to play, Branislav Ivanovic committed a rather dubious foul on the edge of the area, and that man Leighton Baines stepped up to curl an excellent effort into the back of Chelsea's net. Everton's FA Cup dream was kept alive, the game went to a penalty shootout, and was ultimately decided by Ashley Cole's horrible miss after Anelka and Baines had both seen their penalties saved. It's worth pointing out that coming up as the 20% on a 80/20 gamble doesn't automatically make you a horrible footballer, so there's no real point in blaming either Anelka or Cole for failing to score. Penalty shootouts are 90% luck.

Losing on penalties is always painful, but it's the sort of thing that happens when you're not rooting for Germany. The FA Cup would have been nice, but Chelsea right now have far more important fish to fry. Hopefully the team will pick themselves up and go all-out against Copenhagen ahead of a critical home match against Manchester United at the beginning of March. Congratulations to Everton and their fans on advancing to the 5th round. Baines' free kick was worthy of winning any match.

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