The smile on Everton chairman Bill Kenwright's face said it all. As Everton inflicted the first defeat of the second era of the Happy One (formerly the Special One) and momentarily turned him into the Frustrated One, that smile seemed to say the words: 'I made the right choice after all'.
For as predictable as Jose Mourinho’s post match interview turned out to be (“We did not deserve to lose..blah-blah, 21 shots at goal, …), any football fan and even the Chelsea supporters could only accept, though grudgingly, that Everton had outfought them.
In the days just after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and the swiftly programmed announcement of David Moyes as his replacement, the Everton chairman spoke of the need to make the right choice of manager. After all, Moyes had turned out to be a right choice.
Though Cardiff City manager Malcky Mackay was mentioned strongly, the overwhelming favourite was always going to be the level-headed Spaniard Roberto Martinez. His Wigan team had played the right kind of football and it was felt by everyone that he needed a bigger stage to showcase his managerial skills.
After drawing the first three games while playing well, the Martinez factor had been mentioned in some quarters: that of playing attractive football while struggling for a result. But Martinez could not have wished for a better opponent with which to record his team’s first victory.
Seated on the Chelsea bench was over £125m pounds of talent and much more in the starting line-up. Mata was restored to the starting eleven and the inclusion of new-signing Samuel Eto'o underlined Mourinho’s trust in the Cameroonian.
Energy and the first ball
For the home side, there was a start for on-loan signing Gareth Barry from Manchester City while Steven Naismith received his birthday surprise of a starting berth in place of Steven Pienaar.
Both took their chance excellently with the energy of the home side typified by Barry. The big Englishman often appears to amble along in the middle of the park but his ability to be first to the ball in the centre of the park and his physical play unnerved the Chelsea midfield. He provided an excellent springboard for the whole team to attack whenever they gained possession.
The whole Everton team was so committed and the twin centre-halves Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka performed admirably. Chelsea’s ball players never fully hit their stride with Mata replaced just before the hour by Oscar.
The driving runs of teenage sensation Ross Barkley were a continuous source of discomfort and the yellow card tally (four for the Londoners, none for the home side) underlines this factor.
Indeed it was from one flowing move that Everton scored with credit surely going to Nikica Jelavic who stretched to head across goal a long cross from the right after some good inter-passing, that was then nodded into the roof of the net by Naismith just before the interval.
Try as they could Chelsea could not muster a reply and the normally clinical Eto’o was rather profligate in the box, while Schurrle missed a glorious chance with Mourinho ready to celebrate.
Martinez recognised that Chelsea have no outstanding player in the anchor position with Mikel the only yet underwhelming option, so Everton with Barkley and Osman in the centre and the width of Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman drove forward whenever Chelsea conceded possession.
With so many attacking players, this may prove to be Chelsea’s Achilles heel all season unless the Portuguese mentor signs a specialist in that position. David Luiz’s inability to maintain position and drift forward is also a tactical nightmare and perhaps his best position may be in midfield. For Mourinho, his favoured 4-5-1 which operated more like 4-1-4-1 may require tweaking as the goals are not really flowing and the team still looks to Lampard for goals.
Player of the match: Gareth Barry rolled back the clock with a performance worthy of Roy Hodgson’s consideration. He injected muscle into the midfield battle and Mourinho’s ‘babies’ (Mata, Hazard and Oscar) found the going tough. None typifies this more than the block on Eto’o’s goalbound shot that was certainly the moment of the match. Other contenders were Distin and Jagielka.
The boy’s a bit special: Ross Barkley showed what a special talent he is with his powerful runs always asking questions of his opponents. With maturity his decision making can only improve and alongside Jack Wilshere, he could form the core of a formidable England midfield for years to come. He is advised though, to avoid leaving too soon and for the wrong team (read Jack Rodwell, former Everton prodigy).
Chelsea verdict: Mourinho will point to the stats and claim his was the better side, but this is merely an excuse. For all the 22 shots at goal Chelsea made, only 5 were on target; exactly the same number on target for the home side whose total were exactly half that of Chelsea. His side was certainly outfought, if not outplayed and he does not seem certain on his strongest eleven. The lack of a celebrated anchor leaves a soft underbelly that is unlike any of Jose’s teams of the past, while the David Luiz conundrum (is he a midfielder or defender?) will linger, especially on the back of such performances.
Everton verdict: Powerful performance by a committed team willing to work their socks off and this brought all three points. Though technically inferior on paper, Martinez’ side more than made up for it by winning all loose balls and driving through Chelsea’s soft centre. Martinez will certainly need these old fashioned values to go with his up-to-date style of possession and movement if he is to better Moyes’ record.
As for Bill Kenwright, after a profitable summer he will be saying to himself now: “Let the games begin.”
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