Drogba stunner sinks Toffees
By Alex Dunn
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Didier Drogba struck a fine late winner as Chelsea beat Everton 3-2 at Goodison Park.
Chelsea showed precisely why they are champions after twice coming back from going behind at Everton, to come away from Goodison Park with an exhilarating 3-2 victory that keeps their title hopes intact.
Didier Drogba's majestic season continues after he proved the match-winner for his side with a simply stunning volley just three minutes from time.
Everton more than played their part in what was a fine game as they took the lead through a Mikel Arteta penalty and then again through Joseph Yobo, after Michael Ballack had drawn Chelsea level early in the second half.
With nine minutes left Frank Lampard scored a fine effort of his own with a swerving drive from distance, leaving Drogba to steal the spoils with one of the finest goals seen this season.
The first period was a sprightly affair that had more than the occasional spark but it only really caught fire when Victor Anichebe marked his first Premiership start by winning a penalty.
In the absence of John Terry, who nursed a back injury in the stand, Khalid Boulahrouz was handed a recall and it was the Dutch defender at the centre of the game's most contentious decisions.
Just past the quarter of an hour mark and Boulahrouz had an incredulous look of innocence spread across his face as referee Mark Halsey ruled against a penalty when he appeared to push Andy Johnson, having got caught on the wrong-side of his tormentor-in-chief. Later and he would not be so fortunate.
With an insipid Chelsea thwarted when going forward by a pugnacious Lee Carsley and put on the back-foot by Arteta's insatiable appetite to play the killer pass, it was always David Moyes that looked the more comfortable of the two touchline generals.
As Everton pressed Boulahrouz put in an excellent challenge to deny Johnson, after Anichebe had flicked on, before a peripheral Lampard drove a yard wide on a rare Chelsea counter-attack.
Anichebe grew in confidence after a start that betrayed his rawness and in the 36th minute he was celebrating a vital contribution. Boulahrouz was too tight on the heavyweight hit-man and after being rolled too easily he wrapped his arms around Anichebe and conceded a somewhat soft penalty.
Arteta's spot-kick was befitting of his overall performance, as the Spaniard beat Henrique Hilario with a polished finish to deservedly put Everton into the lead.
A rankled Chelsea looked to hit back as Ashley Cole threatened with an excellent drive narrowly wide, but at the same time, at the other end, Leon Osman belied his lack of inches with a clever header just over.
Jose Mourinho had seen enough and marched down the tunnel with a list of instructions that included introducing Salomon Kalou as Geremi made way.
What was said in the dressing room will remain privy only to those present but Mourinho's rallying call had the desired effect as they drew level within three minutes of the restart.
After Carsley blotted his copybook with a needless handball, Ballack imposed a class on the proceedings previously only conspicuous by absence. His curling free-kick from around 20 yards was tipped onto the post by the faintest of touches from Tim Howard, only for the American to be handed a bum deal as the ball flicked off his back and into the goal.
The champions smelt blood and Kalou smacked the post after Yobo's panicked mis-kick in defending a corner had played in Chelsea's substitute no more than five yards from goal.
Everton were not, though, to be bullied into submission and after winning a series of corners their aerial pressure was rewarded at the third attempt. Arteta swung from the right and after evading his marker Yobo's incisive header glanced off Ballack before evading Hilario.
Chelsea's bid for parity was primarily conducted through the powerful promptings of Drogba and it was the Ivorian that went close to levelling when he sent a blistering drive over after turning Yobo.
With the game, perhaps even the title, slipping from Chelsea's grasp Lampard provided a moment of sheer class. The lively Kalou worked the left flank before feeding Lampard 25 yards from goal, who then proceeded to beat Howard with a beautifully arched effort.
Drogba cracked the post with a brilliant shot on the turn but he was not to be denied a winner, as class eventually prevailed on Merseyside. A long punt from Hilario concluded with Drogba taking the ball on his chest before swivelling and from 25 yards planting a sublime volley past Howard.
Chelsea were never at their best on what could prove to be a critical weekend of the season but in Drogba they have a player capable of delivering the unexpected and in Mourinho, a manager with the Midas touch.
Everton v Chelsea player ratings
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|2||Shots on Target||5|
|2||Shots off Target||8|