Fernando Torres broke his Premier League scoring drought by banging home the game-winner to secure Chelsea’s automatic place in the group stages of the Champions League.
The match sparked to life from the opening kickoff with Everton no doubt keen to finish the season on a high note and provide manager David Moyes with parting gift before he leaves for Manchester United.
It was Chelsea, however, who broke the dead-lock in the 7th minute when Oscar burst through the midfield and found Demba Ba on the right side of the box. The Senegalese international unleashed a daisy-cutter that didn’t appear to be well struck but nevertheless troubled Everton keeper Tim Howard.
As the American went to ground to make the save the ball bounced off of his chest and straight into the path of Juan Mata, who made no mistake with his finish. It was Mata’s 20th goal in all competitions this season and his 12th in the Premier League.
Seven minutes later and Everton were level. Leighton Baines drove a pass in the direction of Victor Anichebe, who was 20 yards outside of the box and closely marked by David Luiz. Luiz intercepted the pass but his touch went directly into the path of the unrushing Steven Naismith. The Scot played a one-touch pass to Anichebe, who returned the favor by splitting Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill as Naismith blazed into the box. His first touch drew Petr Cech off his line and Naismith took advantage, cooly slotting home a left-footed strike.
The entertaining end-to-end affair remained deadlocked until the 76th minute when Oscar’s cross from the right side of the field found Victor Moses in the center of the 6 yard box. With his back to goal Moses unselfishly directed his header into the path of Torres, who buried his right footed shot into the bottom corner. It was the Spaniard’s first Premier League goal of 2013 and one that Torres desperately needs as he states his case to remain at Stamford Bridge.
As time ticked down Everton came close on a few occasions. In the 86th minute Nikica Jelavic met Baines’ cross with a flush header that looked goal-bound only for Cech to make an unbelievable reactionary save and ensure Chelsea the victory.
For the Blues, the win sealed third place in the table and automatic qualification in next fall’s Champions League. The match also marked the end of Rafael Benitez’s seven month spell in charge as interim manager where he is expected to be replaced by Jose Mourinho. While many fans and pundits scoffed at Roman Abramovich’s decision to utilize Benitez in an interim capacity it’s hard to argue the project wasn’t a success as the Spaniard not only enjoyed league success but also managed to win 28 of 48 matches and lift the Europa League cup.
For Everton, the loss was one that manager David Moyes felt was undeserved. “We were excellent in the first half and then went behind with a bit of a mistake leading up to that but we deserved our goal back. In the second half we didn’t start the game so well but we created a lot of chances and at the worst we should have had a draw out of it.”
It was Moyes’ 518th game for the club and his last in charge before taking over at Old Trafford. The Toffees finish the season 6th in the table and two points ahead of rival Liverpool. The feat marks the second consecutive season in which Everton outperformed their Merseyside neighbors, the first time that’s happened in first-division football since 1935-37.