Chelsea 2 Everton 1
Fernando Torres scored his first Barclays Premier League goal of 2013 as Chelsea sealed third place with a victory which saw David Moyes’ 11-year reign as Everton manager end in defeat.
Twelve months to the day since Chelsea’s Champions League win in Munich, Juan Mata put the hosts in front, only for Steven Naismith to swiftly equalise for Manchester United-bound Moyes’ visitors.
The Europa League winners were on top in the second half and sealed victory through £50million striker Torres’ first league goal since December 23 as Rafael Benitez’s seven-month spell ended with a 28th win from 48 matches.
Substitute Nikica Jelavic had three good chances for Everton, but Moyes’ men were beaten in his 518th and last game in charge before his move to Old Trafford.
Victory for Chelsea ended the prospect of a play-off with Arsenal to determine the final automatic qualifying place for the Champions League and means they depart for the United States tomorrow for their post-season tour with Benitez’s mission accomplished.
The Spaniard arrived in November with Chelsea in disarray, but he has steered the Blues through the turmoil and departs with both his and the club’s reputation restored before handing over to his successor, who could yet be the returning ’Special One’ Jose Mourinho.
Frank Lampard will be part of the future after signing a one-year contract extension on Thursday which takes his spell at Stamford Bridge into a 13th season.
Lampard scored twice in the corresponding fixture at Goodison Park in December and also netted twice last weekend, the second at Aston Villa establishing the midfielder as Chelsea’s record goalscorer on 203.
The England international, who will be 35 in June, was presented with a golden boot before kick-off by the man whose 43-year-old record he surpassed, Bobby Tambling.
Lampard was included in a side showing two changes following Wednesday’s Europa League win over Benfica.
Nathan Ake made his first Premier League start and Demba Ba was restored, alongside Torres, who started alongside Mata and Oscar in the second offensive line. The triumvirate were each making their 64th Chelsea appearances of the season in the club’s 69th game.
Ba had the first chance, but slipped and scooped over after intercepting Marouane Fellaini’s aimless pass across goal before playing a crucial role in the opening goal.
Oscar surged through the middle and found Ba, whose shot from the angle on the right was spilled by Tim Howard and Mata followed up for his 20th of the season.
Naismith, the one change from the Everton team which featured in Moyes’ Goodison Park farewell last week as Leon Osman was ruled out with a knee injury, went close before equalising when he capitalised on a mistake from David Luiz.
Luiz, playing in central defence, failed to control a regulation ball and Naismith nipped in, received a return pass from Victor Anichebe and clipped in over the advancing Petr Cech.
Darron Gibson went close from a shot which deflected off Ake, hit the post, Cech’s head, then the post again before Luiz cleared.
The relentless pace continued, with Torres, Ake, Mata and Lampard, who sliced over, spurning opportunities for Chelsea and Kevin Mirallas firing straight at Cech with the best of Everton’s attempts as the teams reached the interval level.
Chelsea had the better of the early second-half skirmishes, with a Gary Cahill shot saved by Howard and Branislav Ivanovic firing over, either side of a Fellaini effort straight at Cech.
Sylvain Distin deflected a Ba shot out for a corner after Phil Jagielka had gifted the striker the ball as Chelsea continued to press forward, but they also had to be alert defensively, with Oscar and Cahill making crucial interventions.
Ivanovic shot wide and Jelavic, on for Naismith, headed straight at Cech before fluffing a glorious chance when Leighton Baines crossed to the far post.
Chelsea went in front for a second time 14 minutes from time.
Oscar’s cross from the right was met with a cushioned header by substitute Victor Moses, on for Ba, and Torres was clinical, his half-volley beating Howard at his near post.
Torres last scored in the top flight in the win over Aston Villa before Christmas and his 22nd goal of the season was his first in the Premier League in 19 hours and 39 minutes.
How timely it was, but so too was a late intervention from Cech.
The goalkeeper saved from Jelavic before making a stunning stop at point-blank range when the striker met a Baines cross as Chelsea held on for victory and third place.