Performance offers comfort for beaten Everton

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Premier LeaguePA PhotosSteven Pienaar reveals 'God is great' t-shirt after his goal against Chelsea

Without a recognised right-back and missing three first-choice midfielders, the match against Chelsea was never going to be easy. Unfortunately, those same old Achilles heels appeared again. Whether it be missed chances, soft goals or both (it is often both) Everton have lost the ability to grind out results. Usually the hallmark of David Moyes' Everton that trait continues to elude the team this season. Ironically, the visitors, known more for their football, were the ones grinding out the result.

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On his return to Merseyside, Rafa Benitez received his now customary scorn from the home crowd and the Everton faithful revelled in it after a lighting start. Just 64 seconds had elapsed when Steven Pienaar fired the Toffees ahead. Starting and finishing the move, Pienaar continued his sparkling recent form with a driven finish after Victor Anichebe rattled the woodwork.

The woodwork would go on to haunt David Moyes' men as the match wore on. Everton had several chances to extend their lead; Nikica Jelavic struck the post and forced a smart save from Petr Cech with Leon Osman also testing the Chelsea keeper.

Eventually, Chelsea worked their way into the match thanks to the impressive Juan Mata. Breaking the home side's claustrophobic shackles, the visitors made Everton pay on the cusp of half time. Frank Lampard, the scourge of Everton on numerous occasions, nodded Chelsea level. The blank looks on Everton faces told their own story. The slack marking makes it 15 league games without a clean sheet - Everton's longest run without a clean sheet in the Premier League era.

Everton continued to press in the second half and, though their stranglehold on the match had lessened, chances continued to come and go. Jelavic saw his header hit the bar whilst Osman forced another clever stop from substitute keeper Ross Turnbull.

Everton tired, feeling the effects of their high tempo approach, and the Jelavic header off the crossbar proved pivotal. Inches away from taking the lead, Everton found themselves behind shortly afterwards. Lampard pounced on more lacklustre defending after Tim Howard had kept out Mata's initial attempt.

Three swift changes followed as David Moyes tried to conjure an equaliser but it was to no avail. Jelavic scuffed a presentable chance and Everton's hopes went with it. In terms of performances, Sylvain Distin was at his colossal best but the defence needs a recognised right-back to help steady it. Seamus Coleman and Phil Neville are due to return and can help plug that gap. Marouane Fellaini's return also provides a boost ahead of the Newcastle trip. However, the absence of Darron Gibson tempers it with a reoccurrence of his thigh injury ruling the midfielder out for the near future.

Victor Anichebe continued his recent form with the forward finally putting his considerable frame to good use. Launching his marker airborne with a shoulder charge, fans have yearned for this Anichebe for years. With the striker ably assisting Jelavic and Gibson sidelined, now may be the time to return Fellaini to his natural midfield role.

The midfield misses the composure and positional sense of Gibson, and Fellaini can bolster it with his tackling ability and strength. Possessing more options further forward, Everton can cope without the Belgian in the advanced role.

Overall, the result is disappointing but the players can take heart from an impressive performance. In the end, missed chances and absent players proved the difference. However, despite the missing players, Everton more than matched their expensively assembled counterparts.

Another footnote was the lack of depth with Everton. Chelsea could introduce Oscar and Victor Moses whilst Everton turned to youngsters and players lacking experience. Ultimately, the lack of depth may prove the difference between fourth place and gallant failure.

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