Chelsea bogged down at Goodison
Just five days after a 4-0 thrashing of Bolton saw Chelsea heralded as possible Premier League title contenders again, the Blues produced a display to resemble the poor performances that have punctuated the Blues' inconsistent season.
The FA Cup is a competition that stirs fans' emotions but, on the pitch, it was Everton, not the holders, who more passionately pursued progress to the fifth round.
Last season's Double winners were frustrated by a disciplined Everton outfit in the first half and overrun by a Toffees side teeming with attacking intent in the second, but Salomon Kalou's breakaway equaliser ensured they will have the opportunity to prove that they do have an interest in successfully retaining their trophy when they welcome the Merseysiders back to Stamford Bridge for a replay. Carlo Ancelotti's post-match claims that "a draw was the right result" and that his Chelsea side had "a good attitude" smacked of defensiveness, and paid little respect to the sterling efforts of his opponents. His suggestion that "because of the sun, we lost control in the second half" was perhaps a more realistic evaluation of what had unfolded as the game ended 1-1.
Didier Drogba, who appeared back to his world-beating best at the Reebok Stadium on Monday, was a peripheral figure at Goodison Park. His penchant for histrionics continues to make him an exasperating player to watch, with the Ivorian greeted by a crescendo of boos from the Everton faithful on each occasion he insisted on using the pitch as a stage for his amateur dramatics. Similarly anonymous was Frank Lampard, whose lack of match sharpness is costing Chelsea the midfield dominance they usually enjoy when he is at the peak of his powers.
While Drogba was kept quiet, Louis Saha roared into life against Chelsea once again. One thing David Moyes has learned over the past few years is that John Terry is really troubled by the Frenchman's physicality. And Moyes' decision to break-up the blossoming partnership between Jermaine Beckford and Victor Anichebe in order to plump with Saha as a lone frontman was wholly justified as he rose highest to power home from Leighton Baines' 63rd-minute corner. It was the former Manchester United striker's seventh goal in his past eight games against the Blues; a record that undoubtedly cause Terry much consternation.
Saha's was a goal that was certainly deserved, though this was a game that only burst into life after half-time. In his programme notes, David Moyes described recent meetings between Everton and Chelsea as "tough and tight" and it appeared his assessment was also a forecast for what lay ahead at Goodison as the two sides played out a dreary first 45 minutes that did little to warm the cockles for the 36,000 watching fans on a bitter afternoon on Merseyside.
Everton closed down high up the pitch, with Jack Rodwell, Marouane Fellaini and Seamus Coleman doing their best to deprive Chelsea players of any time on the ball, while Florent Malouda offered the away side plenty of movement but little tangible result. The second half, however, proved a much more vibrant affair. Phil Neville spoke after the game of Moyes reminding his side at the interval that they were competing in a Cup tie, and the way Everton went out certainly illustrated as much. Midfield talisman Mikel Arteta began to see more of the ball, while the all-action Coleman and excellent Leighton Baines began to provide a genuine threat down the right and left flanks respectively.
Saha's goal was a deserved breakthrough for the Toffees and they continued to press for a second with an acrobatic overhead kick from Diniyar Bilyaletdinov narrowly missing minutes later. Saha was denied a second when Ramires made a brave block from a back-post header, while Cech was called into action to produce superb saves from Fellaini and Coleman. But as Everton looked to be closing in on a second, it was Chelsea who struck with a devastating counter-attack. The Blues swept forward on the break from an Everton corner through Nicolas Anelka and substitute Kalou pounced on the Frenchman's through-ball before slotting past Tim Howard.
Anelka's selfishness cost the Blues after a similar break moments after the equaliser, with the striker choosing to shoot rather than tee up a team-mate. Ramires hit the post and Essien headed over as Ancelotti's side began to show some glimpses of a fighting spirit, while Everton's desire to grab a winner made for an entertaining conclusion.
Moyes appeared content with a replay in the post-match press conference, but there is no doubt that it could have been even sweeter. The Merseysiders' performance will certainly give him every hope that Everton can be the club to deal Chelsea their first defeat in the FA Cup since Barnsley shocked them in April 2008.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Seamus Coleman. A player who is really growing into his role on the right wing, after being shifted up from right-back, Coleman again provided an exciting attacking outlet for the Toffees and caused Ashley Cole all manner of problems with a high-energy display. He almost capped off another impressive performance with a goal, only to see a back post header saved by Cech.
EVERTON VERDICT: After a disciplined display in the first 45, Everton took the bull by the horns after the interval. They created plenty of chances and deserve credit for going all out to score the second goal to kill the game off. The Toffees just need to start replicating that sort of tempo week in week out and if they do, a rapid ascent up the Premier League table awaits.
CHELSEA VERDICT: The holders were extremely fortunate to avoid a first defeat in the competition in three years and will need to show significantly more desire if they are to win the replay and continue their quest for a third successive FA Cup crown. It had seemed a corner had been turned against Bolton, but talk of a resurgence appears to have been a little premature.
TORRES WATCH: The Chelsea fans were happy to vocalise their feelings about the possible arrival of Fernando Torres, chanting "Torres, give us a wave" shortly after Ancelotti had appeased with some enthusiastic gesticulation. After the game, journalists were warned not to ask any queries about the Spanish striker, but one plucky hack tried his luck and was greeted with the frustratingly vague answer of "nothing has changed" from Ancelotti.