SURVIVAL Sunday meant something entirely different to those at Goodison Park yesterday. Well, at least it did to Carlo Ancelotti.
While the rest of the Premier League mused and watched the season denouement through their fingers, Everton and Chelsea had little to play for even if this game was conducted in the knowledge that it was probably Ancelotti’s last as Chelsea manager.
The scale of Roman Abramovich’s ambition at Stamford Bridge means that a season with no trophies means a manager has to go. There are few ifs and buts in Roman’s world.
Ancelotti may well have delivered the club’s first ever league and FA Cup double last season but that was last season. Memories, at least at boardroom level in West London, are very short indeed.
What shall live longer in the memory is Everton’s winning goal by Jermaine Beckford, a quite stupendous individual effort that proffered spasms of disbelieving laughter as opposed to ecstatic applause. With 15 minutes remaining, and with Everton down to 10 men following Seamus Coleman’s dismissal for two second half yellow cards, the second coming just five minutes after the first, Beckford received the ball deep in his own half, looked up and sighed.
In front of him lay the likes of John Terry, Ashley Cole and Paulo Ferreira but rather than be daunted by that prospect, for the first time in the match his execution matched his ambition.
Beckford proceeded to drift towards the halfway line and then over it before bluffing, hustling, dribbling and muscling his way through a succession of Chelsea tackles before clipping the ball over Petr Cech, who could not prevent the ball from settling into the net at the Gwladys Street End.
It was a goal worthy of winning far better fixtures than an end of season jamboree and if it is the last goal that an Ancelotti-led Chelsea side concedes then at least he can go out knowing he went down to a stunning finish.
The preceding period in this game gave no indication that a moment of genius, however bluffed, was on the cards.
What tarnished the first half in general was the dearth of quality on display. Observers reckon Manchester United have been under-par in winning the title this season but that is only because nobody, least of all Chelsea, have raised their game sufficiently enough to question United’s dominance.
That was eminently clear here. Everton, in contrast, tried to score and dominate even if they matched Chelsea in the absent quality stakes. Coleman should have scored early on but Cole managed to get in a despairing block while Leon Osman was brilliantly upended by Alex in the area but referee Peter Walton spotted that he got the ball before the man and it went unpunished.
Walton was considerably busier in the second half as he offered yellow cards around like confetti. All of them were deserved, not least of all Coleman’s double for two snappy challenges that ended his afternoon early.
Everton responded better when a man down and the lack of vigour in the Chelsea side ensured that the home team still felt like the team more likely to grab a goal and it was Beckford who finally did just that.
His goal was ridiculously good and made all the more ridiculous by the fact earlier in the game, one of his efforts had ended up going out for a throw-in. Somehow it summed the game match up. Somehow it summed Ancelotti’s season up. Somehow it was the portent for the dismissal that came shortly afterwards.
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