Chelsea lost their second cup match in the space of a few days as they went down 2-0 in the FA Cup at Goodison Park to Everton.
It was yet another example of how much the league champions have forgotten what made them so good last year - how to win closely contested matches. As the match was approaching the final quarter, Everton looked to be the team more likely to make the crucial breakthrough, but they hadn’t created a great amount of chances to prove they deserved the lead.
Admittedly, it was a goal of special quality that will be remembered by Evertonians for many a year that put the Toffees in front and was worthy of winning the game outright (scroll down to see). Romelu Lukaku’s magnificent goal which combined brute strength and silky skills also highlighted the soft centre that the Londoners have been playing with this season.
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Lost their aggressive edge
The way the Belgium ruthlessly brushed off challenges from Chelsea veterans Cesar Azpilicueta, John Obi Mikel and Branislav Ivanovic before outwitting Gary Cahill showed how far away this team are from being back to where they were last May.
Opposition runs like this last year would have dealt with much more aggressive defending, even if that meant making a deliberate foul to stop the threat before it developed.
This lack of aggression and pace became more apparent in the second half as Chelsea were pushed back further into their own half, which made Diego Costa more isolated up front, limiting him to only one good chance which saw him drag a shot across goal after rounding Joel Robles.
His frustration boiled over late in the game when he showed his notorious temper, by receiving a red card for a second bookable offence for his reaction to a Gareth Barry foul on him.
The recent resurgence in the league, which has seen the Blues climb into the top half of the table, had given supporters hope that their side had recaptured their title-winning form. Their second successive Champions League exit to Paris Saint-Germain, and Saturday's FA Cup defeat, suggests that recent results have only been achieved by the arrival of Guus Hiddink giving them a temporary boost.
Too reliant on Fabregas
There was an obvious lack of leadership on the pitch last night for Chelsea, it handed the initiative to the home side who paid special attention to making sure that Cesc Fabregas was never given enough space to inflict any damage. Once Everton dealt with the tricky Spaniard, his side could not find another way to penetrate their disciplined back line.
When they resume their league campaign next weekend, Chelsea will only have the realistic ambition of putting themselves in Europa League contention, with no trophies in their grasps, which is nowhere near the high standards that owner Roman Abramovich has set.
It is expected that the Russian billionaire will unveil the next manager as Antonio Conte shortly, and it will no doubt lead to major changes to the personnel in the Stamford Bridge dressing room this summer.
As well as recruiting players with world class talent, the Italian will need to focus on bringing in players that have the necessary passion to cope with the demands of English football, something the current group of players seem to have lost.
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