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Everton, Naismith sink Chelsea

Clive Brunskill

Well well well. The first loss of the Jose Mourinho era, and it couldn't have been more deserved. Everton, 1-0 winners, might have scored against the run of play, but that's what happens when you waste opportunities left and right before going into defensive meltdown mode -- this was a truly awful performance from virtually everyone, and nobody is entirely free of blame.

The match started brightly enough, with both sides feeling each other out before Chelsea began to assert themselves. There were chances, and plenty of them. The finishing just happened to be majestically poor. Samuel Eto'o managed to shoot straight at Gareth Barry after Andre Schurrle robbed Tim Howard and sent a too-slow pass the Cameroonian's way. Juan Mata missed a cheeky dink completely. Schurrle himself then fluffed his lines when presented with two prime opportunities to score, finding when open on the left and then the side netting after Ramires picked him out with a surging run forward.

In between those Schurrle misses, Steven Naismith scored the winner. The goal, frankly, was forshadowed by the utter lack of defensive organisation Chelsea demonstrated throughout the game. David Luiz would charge out as the rest of the line fell back, and it was only thanks to the gross incompetence of the hosts' final third play that the opener was Everton's first significant chance.

Injury time in Prague saw Petr Cech picking the ball out of his net; the same fate befell him in Liverpool. And it's hard to argue that it wasn't at least partially his fault this time around -- a silly attempt to force play through the centre and then a half-hearted hop when Nikica Jelavic and Naismith combined for the goal sandwiched the mistake. That said, the goal was a team effort, and there were a half-dozen other players one might point at as having contributed to the disaster, which culminated in Jelavic finding himself free at the far post and nodding back to Naismith, who headed in from all of a yard out.

Chelsea pressed hard for most of the second half, and although it looked for a few seconds as though the introduction of Frank Lampard and Oscar would spice things up (the latter had a penalty shout turned down by Howard Webb on what was pretty much his first touch), they never really managed to get any closer to scoring than that wasted second Schurrle chance.

Yes, there were a couple of dangerous-looking crosses that caused Howard and the fans no little consternation. There were some scrambles in the Everton box that might, on a different day, seen Lampard pop up to notch number 205. And some free-flowing football was from time to time conjured up. But it wasn't good enough. It wasn't anywhere good enough.

To Mourinho's credit, he attempted to shake things up well before the end of the game, swapping Ashley Cole for Fernando Torres and switching Chelsea into a 3-5-2. But far from getting the Blues back into it, the change seemed instead to cause problems. David Luiz, John Obi Mikel and Eden Hazard all picked up yellow cards while making last-ditch tackles as the hosts, growing ever more confident, imposed themselves on the match.

Everton came closer to scoring a second than Chelsea did a first. Leighton Baines, taking advantage of one of the aforementioned fouls, beat Cech with a free kick only to see his effort skim off the angle of post and bar. Ross Barkley, supposedly a Chelsea target, continually sliced open a central midfield that didn't seem to know where it was supposed to be. Hazard played (tried to play) at left wingback. Things were rather messy.

And up top, Torres and Eto'o flitted about like a pair of butterflies, troubling the well-drilled Toffee lines with neither physical presence nor intelligent movement. Chelsea -- and their manager -- were a spent force, and, irony of ironies, the one man on this squad who might have created space in a tight area was sent off to this very same opposition at the close of the transfer deadline.

Nobody did well enough today. Not a single one. They tried, of course -- Mourinho's desperate switch to a three-man back line and David Luiz's repeated attempts to rally the troops with dashing forays forward was evidence enough of spirit. But what they missed was consistent quality, and Everton weren't going to let them get away with that today.

After earning seven points to start the Premier League season and holding our own in the Super Cup against Bayern Munich, we might have expected there to be some momentum as we head into autumn. Now we're going to have to start afresh.


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