An early start saw us reach our destination in time for a bite to eat and a few bevies. They had never heard of Brown/Bitter in that ale house!

The actual team sheet came through on Twitter and it looked strong — plus a very good looking bench. Having gained entry through the usual hassle of overzealous stewards, we contemplated the outcome and most agreed we had nothing to be afraid of. From the off, this seemed to be the case as we pressed Chelsea and forced them back with some excellent joined-up stuff but actual chances of a scoring nature were again absent. Maybe that was due to a last-minute reorganisation when our new man Traore was replaced by Naismith. I heard later it was his ‘hammy’ which is a bit of a blow for the lad and us as I thought he had just got over one of those.

The first half belonged to us with a back five that was resolute and in command, aided by the excellent work of Barry and McCarthy who, along with Osman were more than a match for the Chelsea moneybags midfield. Mirallas, Pienaar and Naismith linked well but, for all the good approach work on the back of some excellent defending, we still managed to be toothless in the art of striking goals.

We made chances but taking them was proving harder than it should have been. Mirallas was set up by some great work from Naismith but the usually deadly strike from the Belgian was no more than a mistimed effort that posed no threat. We forced corners but, when we did win headers, they were either off-target or weak. Jagielka had the best chances but his headers were either mistimed or lacked conviction.

McCarthy was looking a quite different player from last week’s diffident show and, along with Barry, Baines, Coleman and the mercurial Osman, Chelsea were looking anything but title contenders... yet, with all of the first half of Blue dominance, only two real efforts on goal were recorded and, but for the excellent Cech in goal, we would have been two up, as Osman had a scorcher tipped over and another shot very well saved low down to prevent it creeping home.

Half-time: 0-0... and the chat centred on how well we were playing... yet bemoaning the fact that we just could not get a goal. A familiar tale this season, I am afraid, which left many of us being very nervous of shipping one.

Second half and Chelsea made a sub by replacing Oscar for Ramires, thus acknowledging our midfield dominance. For all Chelsea’s money, they had nothing to compare with McCarthy’s box-to-box drive or the insightfulness of Osman. Sadly, it still left us short in that vital goal-area portion of the pitch...Chelsea did up their game in the second half yet our defence made them look as weak as us in the goal scoring stakes.

Both sides had chances, the best of which was a terrific Ivanovic half-volley from close range that Howard blocked away... then Hazard, who — for such a high profile player had been virtually nullified by Coleman, aided and abetted by McCarthy and Mirallas — fired one in that had the danger sign out. Chelsea were, as you would expect, having a mini purple patch and Willian had one on target while at the other end Cech made a worldy when Osman hit one that arrowed for bottom corner.

Just after the hour mark Chelsea made a second sub and we swopped Osman for Barkley. Unless Osman was injured then this was a big mistake as the lad hardly showed in the game and, when he did, his efforts were way below what we were seeing pre-injury.

Chelsea now were on top in terms of forcing us back but some good defensive organisation was thwarting them. Mourinho then played his final card and put on his third sub on 70 mins as they chased the points but their attack floundered on the rocks of our defence and, had it not been for a miss-control by Barkley, Mirallas may have been on his way... As it was, we had to defend again and Coleman saw out the danger. The manager then swopped Mirallas for Deulofeu on 75 mins but he never really got into the game so on 80 mins the manager sent on McGeady for Pienaar.

The clock was ticking down and, with both teams seemingly incapable of creating a goal, I started to think that a point would have to do. 5 mins added went up and, after our subs were made, Chelsea seemed to be looking the likelier... but we still found time to get forward and, on two occasions, promising moves floundered when both Barkley and Deulofeu surrendered possession in alarming fashion.

A minute to go and a free kick is given against Jags just outside the box, Jags remonstrated with the ref but to no avail. Lampard swung it in and from my seat, a Chelsea shirt just seemed to sweep it home. Gutted just doesn’t begin to tell the story of the feelings of the travelling faithful. Final whistle and expletive-ridden devastation abounded.

MotM – McCarthy

That result has given us a mountain to climb to reach 4th but have no doubt that, apart from being a goal-shy side, we are playing stuff that deserves better results and is a treat to watch as we match and at times look better than the moneyed few. The manager said in the week that football is going away from the 20-goal-a-season player.... I tell you what, Roberto: I wish we had one!!

I mentioned both Barkley and Deulofeu in less than glowing terms, but I can only say what I see, and I am baffled how these two great prospects can come back fit from injury and look so poor and shot of any confidence. McGeady, who hasn’t played much, came on for 15 mins including added time and looked a far better proposition than the two youngsters. I am left at a loss as to why... The manager sees them in training and puts them on the bench yet today, I am sad to say, I thought we played the last 10 mins with 9 men.

After playing so well today and losing right on the death, which must be soul-destroying, I hope the manager can lift the players for a good run-in as all is not yet lost... and maybe Lukaku can return in the form of the first few games of the season, as well as Deulofeu and Barkley hitting some form, and confidence that can propel them back to the limelight, and us to a trophy and high finish.

It should be remembered that playing Chelsea away is no easy task and to play them as we did deserves high praise: at times we looked like the home side. I think today we will feel frustration and hurt not because we lost but for being the better side for a long period and then to get done right on the death just because we just can’t seem to score in these sorts of games. We talk a lot about a glass ceiling but, if we could just get the knack of scoring goals, there would be no ceiling at all.

I hope our crowd get right behind the lads on Saturday unlike the Chelsea crowd today who were so quiet for long spells you could almost hear individual conversations.
UP THE BLUES

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Dave Williams
700 Posted 22/02/2014 at 23:24:42
The best account of what happened today by a country mile! No unwarranted criticism, no "I told you all that this would happen" a good honest account of a very good performance which just lacked a goal.

I remember back to 1983 when the knives were out for Howard Kendall and his team could not score a goal. Gradually, things started to turn... young players like Trevor Steven and Graeme Sharp suddenly found their feet... and the rest is history.

This current side has got potential but this will not be realised whilst we have six starters aged 30 or more. We are crying out for a scorer but, apart from that, we have outplayed Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Man Utd on their own grounds and conceded only 3 goals. The rest will come – just give Roberto a bit more than half a season to do it!

Patrick Murphy
705 Posted 22/02/2014 at 23:41:28
Well those hardy souls like Ken haven't had a great deal to shout about on their away travels and for a club who supposedly punch above their weight 22 wins out of 90 Premier League fixtures is hardly the sort of form that is required is it?

These are the teams we have managed to beat since August 2009 in the PL on their grounds:

Aston Villa x 2
Birmingham CIty
Blackburn Rovers x 2
Bolton Wanderers
Fulham
Manchester City x 2
Manchester United
Newcastle Unitedx 2
Portsmouth
Swansea City x 3
West Bromwich Albion x 2
West Ham Unitedx 3
Wigan Athletic
Wolverhampton Wanderers

Danny Broderick
709 Posted 22/02/2014 at 23:39:56
I agree wholeheartedly about Osman going off for Barkley. Osman had his best game for ages, I thought he had a really good game.

I was very underwhelmed by Barkley's performance. I can handle him making mistakes, he's still a young lad. He also has all the talent in the world, and can be as good as he wants. But he just looks so nonchalant, and UNFIT! He was trotting around the pitch without a care in the world. He should be tearing all over the place at 18 years of age, playing in the Prem...

I wonder if he would benefit from a kick up the arse, rather than an endless stream of praise about how good he is.

Clive Mitchell
719 Posted 23/02/2014 at 00:36:26
Agree with Dave, Ken, an outstanding account of the game. For all Deulofeu's talent the lad is remarkably lacking in situational awareness – but, on the bright side, today McCarthy, Coleman, Baines, Pienaar, Mirallas and Distin were excellent and the rest of the starting 11 not far behind.
Jimmy Hill
722 Posted 23/02/2014 at 00:50:20
Good one Ken about summed the game up perfectly. We just seem to lack that bit of luck and cutting edge in the final 3rd. It will come.

I was impressed at how we stood up to the physical intimidation that seems to be overlooked. Chelsea are a big side and try hard to bully teams. They always leaving a boot in or shoulder. The lads stood up to them today. Shame we had incompetent officials.
Tim should have rolled around in agony and made out terry had made contact... but then, we are not Liverpool, are we?

Chandra Kumar
731 Posted 23/02/2014 at 03:43:29
Thanks Ken for the best match report as usual. Like everyone else, I'm equally baffled by Barkley's performances since the injury. He made a helluva difference in the earlier games. I hope not, but could it have anything to do with contract negotiations?
Ajay Gopal
742 Posted 23/02/2014 at 06:54:55
Ahh.. Ken, a breath of fresh air.. your report, amidst all the doom and gloom on the other threads (one poster actually criticised Osman for 'disrupting' the team, I kid you not!).
I agree, we have had horrendous injury issues with our strikers, and we have not been putting away our chances, but the way we have been playing, I am sure we will soon return to winning ways. I just hope that some of the home grown players turn into world class goal scorers and stay with us for a couple of seasons.
Chandra, I have a bizarre theory about Barkley's horrible performance today - he has just seen a former Everton academy graduate sign a new contract for 300K per week, and I suspect that Moyes has tapped him up to get him on the cheap! I know, it sounds like a far-fetched paranoid theory, but think about it.
Dick Brady
750 Posted 23/02/2014 at 08:50:26
West Ham at Goodison next and we really need the 3 points. COYB — get this season back on track.
Christopher Timmins
751 Posted 23/02/2014 at 08:45:35
Another good performance against another top 6 side but again, as against Spurs we end up with nothing out of the game. The team that Martinez has but together is as good as any up to the opponents penalty box but then we fall down. If the scoring department gets sorted then anything is possible. We are in seventh spot this morning and I can' see anyone from behind catching us up. We have a real chance of moving up a place but the top 5 spots are basically determined if their exact order is still to be worked out. For the 3023/14 season the Cup tie against Arsenal now becomes the crunch game.
Matt Traynor
758 Posted 23/02/2014 at 09:31:15
Excellent report Ken, as ever.

It's a game of fine margins, and yesterday epitomised it for me more than most. Watching in my hotel room on BeIN Sports, we had Andy Gray and Richard Keys as the hosts. Along with Gianfranco Zola and Alex McLeish, who I am convinced had been on piss before - his speech seemed slurred, and he was talking absolute shite (although that could be just pundits disease).

After the game they showed that Osman chance from several angles, the one low to Cech's left. You realise what a good save it was from behind the goal. Mirallas seemed to get a touch on it, and seemed to be already wheeling away, arm aloft, to celebrate "his" goal.

Then the Ramires free kick. No doubt some of our own will be in the "he was touched therefore entitled to go down" camp that pundits often revert to. I must've missed the directive that decreed football to be a non-contact sport. It was never a foul, not at all. And Probert was a twat for getting suckered into giving it - especially given the "form" Ramires has for such behaviour. Andy Gray went as far to say it was Ramires and not Jagielka who should've seen yellow for it.

I know there are those who still say there's points to be won which mean 4th is still there. It's not. It's gone. If it didn't go during that home defeat on Boxing Day, it went during the January transfer window - again - when despite the Martinez Missive we ended up weaker at the end than at the start.

I see some people on the live forum or in some posts are asking "where's the Blue Union?" in all of this? Why? What's changed from last time when they were campaigning? It was never about reacting to short-term troughs in performances, or about the manager. It was about the underlying issues we face under the current ownership. Nothing has changed. Nothing will either.

Jim Bennings
760 Posted 23/02/2014 at 09:49:29
As much as we hate to admit it 4th place went the night we lost heavily at Anfield.

We knew then that the ream looked shot to bits mentally tired and basically the two signings we made havent yet had any impact on changing around our fortunes.

I can see Traore being another Kroldrup to be honest, one or two glimpses before he leaves, now he has hurt his hamstring again and God knows how long it will be before he is ok.

The summer time is a big moment for Martinez.
To get a team more capable of challenging, and sustaining a top 4 bid we need to replace the players who are past their best days now, its not the business for sentiment.

It wont happen overnight but its what we must start to do this summer.

We offer nothing as an attacking force, thats the 8th game we failed to score in this season, I am not sure we had failed to score in that many this time last season?

Its obvious where the problems are , the things that are clearly holding us back, too much of the ball where it does little harm to our opponents, no striker in the penalty box, no midfielder arriving late in the box.

Watching Hull on Match of the Day and seeing two strikers, working together in tandem, Jelavic and Long, its something Jelavic never got the chance to do much at Everton.

Makes me wonder whether we will ever try something different than the 4-5-1 formation ever again?

Tore Fredlund
763 Posted 23/02/2014 at 09:55:41
Accurate, balanced report.
Martinez dilemma: Osman, Naismith and Pienaar make the team look good in posession, but physical limitations mean opposition won't be bothered. Away from home. Deulofeu and Barkley who has more pace, make bad decisions and put their own team under pressure. I disagree with those who say all that is needed is a striker. What will improve us is the younger players reaching the decision making standards as the Osmans and the Pienaars.

Naismith contributed well yesterday, but the final 15 minutes were crying out for pace, as Chelsea gave away incredible pace. Mirallas should have been upfront. He struggles as a striker when opposition defends deep, but that was not the case here.

Not to worried by Jelavic leaving, but criminal to play 65 minutes at Anfield, plus away to Spurs and Chelsea without a striker. Martinez needs to sort it in the summer, or he will face his own glass ceiling.

Finally, I wish the manager would stop talking about harsh results. Start talking about how to exploit the good foundations put in place to win games.

Peter Murray
768 Posted 23/02/2014 at 09:56:50
The goal-scoring problem cannot be reduced simply to the need for a "20 goal a season" player. Given the quality of the squad and the type of football we play, we should be getting a lot more goals from other areas.

A lot of approach play is brilliant. Chances are created but then it becomes a question of awareness and correct decision-making... This is where we are weak.

Chelsea’s goal was scored by a centre-back. He was aware and reacted first.

Paul Tran
788 Posted 23/02/2014 at 11:50:01
All you need to do is watch the BBC post-match interview with Mourinho. He said we were a good team, kept the ball well, frustrated them, but were 'not impressive in the last part of the pitch'.

Nail, head.

Chelsea did to us what we did to Swansea, Villa, West Ham; they used pressure to get themselves a good free-kick. Good delivery plus determination to get to the ball first won the game for them. When did we last look like that on a set-piece?

As I said on a previous thread, the conundrum for Martinez is keeping the defensive solidity while injecting some pace and conviction in the final third.

Brian Denton
791 Posted 23/02/2014 at 12:02:35
All being said, though, if Mirallas hadn't made such a hash of the clear shot on goal he had just before half-time (omitted on Match of the Day), and had Cech not made an outstanding save from Ossie's deflected shot in the second half we would have been talking a completely different story. In another game both of those would have gone in - and admittedly in a different other game they wouldn't. Such is the paper thin margin between success and failure.
Paul Thompson
795 Posted 23/02/2014 at 12:08:47
I'm struck by Ken's reference to 'playing with nine men' in the latter period, so ineffective were Barkley and Deulofeu. Okay, Barkley's form was particularly woeful, but there is a wider issue hinted at by Ken – so is their positional sense and, to an extent, effort.

This gives some additional context to Paul Tran's observation that the dilemma for Martinez is 'keeping the defensive solidity while injecting some pace and conviction in the final third'. The result is that recently such subs have drastically changed the shape of the team and not necessarily for the better.

I know it is almost an article of faith for some on the Live Forum to call for these subs from about the 5th minute, but as a number of posters on various threads have noted, once Osman went off, we suffered (and he was a more potent goal threat than anyone else... though that's not saying much).

Brent Stephens
802 Posted 23/02/2014 at 12:21:16
Paul #795 - a fair assessment IMO.

Transition season. I’ll take what we’ve got, where we are. But the next 6 months are going to be enormously revealing for me. That final third - no consistent / strong strike power, no feed to same. We aint going to see big-name, expensive signings. We might get one or two relatively cheap signings that Roberto can mould into something really good, we might have a couple of really good loanees, and we might see a few academy players starting to raise a hand to knock on the door, albeit not there yet.

I don’t expect anything more than that. And I don’t expect Roberto to waver (this season or future seasons) from his possession / passing philosophy, his Plan A1 being tweaked to Plan A2 but not so much a Plan B.

I’ll be realistically content if this season we end up 6/7th and a good FA Cup run. Beyond that I’m bracing myself for what might be some great football but some really frustrating results, for 6/7th again, but hoping, hoping that somewhere along the way Roberto finds those cheap gems and those impact loanees, brings on those Academy players, and considers a Plan B as necessary.

Raymond Fox
967 Posted 23/02/2014 at 21:18:40
Just as I saw the game Ken, we played well especially 1st half where we had a couple of chances. The game drifted away from us 2nd half, but I think we showed enough to be worth a draw, even though overall I think they just shaded it.

Dave 700, makes a very valid point about the age of our squad; we are

going have to do some serious & expensive rebuilding over the next few years to even tread water: Howard 35; Distin 36; Jagielka 32; Barry 33 (if he stays); Osman 33; Pienaar 32; Alcaraz 32; Kone 31.

Looking at it optimistically, Robles for Howard, Stones for Distin, Gibson to return & stay injury free (says laughingly) for Osman, Oviedo maybe for Pienaar. That aside, we need a top class striker, a creative midfielder & a central defender at the very least pronto.

It looks to me like we are going have to show patience for a year or two more unless RM is indeed a miracle maker!

Christopher Dover
024 Posted 24/02/2014 at 08:49:37
Having watched the match, I totally agree with Ken's report. Barkley was very poor and Delboy could not get past the first man, both giving the ball away.

I also agree that having a GOOD striker is no use if the ball is not played to him in a position from which he can score.

Osman subbed on 60 minutes is what 90% on here always say (that is if he starts) and Barkley should play from the start. On this and the last couple of showings, if he did we would be 3-0 down at half-time as it would be like playing with 10 men.

I am no expert but, as most say, we need a striker (or two) that can create and take a chance, be supported with faster balls played through with better finishing from the rest of the forward runners. (Coleman excepted.)

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