It was the late, late show at Stamford Bridge as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side were made to work en route to defeating Roberto Martinez’s Everton, 1-0, on Wednesday.
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The first clear chance of the game fell to Everton forward Romelu Lukaku who raced in behind his former team’s backline, one-on-one with Petr Cech. Lukaku fired low to the near post, but Cech was quick to get down and make the save.
Chelsea put the pressure on the Everton defense, mostly through the wide areas, as Loic Remy and Willian saw a number of shots from tight angles flash across the face of goal and roll harmlessly across the endline.
On the whole, Chelsea were the better side in a scoreless first half, out-shooting Everton 11 to three over 45 minutes, but never really tested Tim Howard all that much.
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Chelsea’s first serious threat of the game came in the 63rd minute at Ramires won a free kick just outside the Everton penalty area. Nemanja Matic took a left-footed shot that looked destined to sneak inside Howard’s left-hand post, but the American ‘keeper sprang to action and made the diving save, palming the ball wide of goal.
Howard was tested again four minutes later as Willian cut inside of Seamus Coleman and unleashed a curling effort toward the far post, but Howard, making his return after six weeks injured, was again quick to the ball and pushed it wide.
Lukaku had a shot from point-blank range saved in the 68th minute as Bryan Oviedo whipped a cross to an unmarked Lukaku six yards from goal. The big Belgian first-time redirect found the leg of Cech, though, and the veteran ‘keeper booted the ball away.
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Chelsea continued to press the Everton defense into the game’s final minutes. The Blues thought they had gone ahead in the 87th minute as Matic sent a powerful shot goalward. The ball took a deflection off an Everton defender, wrong-footing Howard, before glancing off an offside Branislav Ivanovic. Still 0-0.
The breakthrough finally came as Willian spanked a skidding shot from outside the penalty area that made his way through a sea of legs, blocking Howard’s vision and nestling inside the near post.
With the three points, Chelsea narrowly hold onto their seven-point lead atop the Premier League with 13 league games remaining.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Matic, Cuadrado (Fabregas 70′), Willian, Hazard, Remy (Drogba 71′)
Goal: Willian (89′)
Everton: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Oviedo, Barry, Besic (McCarthy 46′), Barkley (Gibson 74′), Lennon (Mirallas 74′), Naismith, Lukaku