Chelsea 1 Everton FC 1 (Everton win 4-3 on penalties): Reflections on a dramatic day at Stamford Bridge

LONDON ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Everton captain Phil Neville (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the winning penalty to put his team through 4-3 on penalties during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 4th round replay match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on February 19 2011 in London England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

They say to truly appreciate the highs you have to endure the lows and Evertonians have found that out first hand over the past week - a miserable Premier League defeat to Bolton followed by a dramatic Leghton Baines inspired FA Cup win over Chelsea.

Could you have two more contrasting matches on back-to-back weekends? 

All aboard the Everton rollercoaster, those who are pregnant or have pre-existing heart conditions are advised to take caution!


Last Monday I was picking over the pieces of a dreadful showing at Bolton. A result that kicked off a solemn period of self-reflection that boiled over into frustration and then anger aimed principally at the board…and Victor Anichebe.

There was also the genuine fear that David Moyes looked on the brink of packing it all in. He looked thoroughly dejected at the Reebok, beaten into submission following one setback too many. His job at Everton reminds me of a man tied to a piece of elastic. The further he strives for success the tighter the elastic becomes and the more forceful the jolt back is to where he started.

Shouting and bawling is one tactic when the players put in a poor showing. But credit to Moyes he maybe realised that shouting isn’t always the answer. Instead he gave the players a few days off, a chance to get away from it all and escape the storm clouds enveloping over Goodison Park.

They then returned to training with Moyes determined to fill the air with positivity. There was constructive criticism, focusing on where to go next rather than what has gone before. There were intimate one-on-one chats, truths were spoken, grievances were aired, and the players travelled down to London with a renewed sense of purpose.

It was the sort of game this Everton side are made for. The fact Manchester City away could be a possible quarter-final destination isn’t reason to fear for our FA Cup future, because the better the side the more adept the players are at hanging in there for grim life.

True we needed a slice of luck, but you will never go to a place like Chelsea and not concede an opportunity. If Chelsea had had one of those days where everything they hit went in, they would have been out of sight by midway through the second half.

But the excellent Tim Howard made three fantastic saves from Malouda, Lampard and Ivanovic on the rare occasions the Londoners found their way past a rugged Toffees defence once again marshalled by the excellent Sylvan Distin and Phil Jagielka.

The game followed a similar pattern to the 2009 FA Cup semi-final, not just because of the eventual shoot-out but a key refereeing decision going our way.

Two year’s ago Danny Welbeck tumbled under the challenge of Jagielka in the penalty area only for referee Mike Riley to wave away his appeals. This time round it was Phil Dowd’s turn to wave away a penalty shout when Ramires went over as he and Howard clashed. I have seen penalties given for those sort of challenges, but the Brazilian did go down rather easily and was looking for the spot kick rather than a genuine attempt to go after the ball. That said luck had still landed on our side.

That good fortune looked to have fizzled out in extra time when Frank Lampard – again – scored for Chelsea and seemingly put them through to the fifth round.

But lying in wait was one of those magical football moments you will re-live again and again.

For those new to the game or suspicious to its appeal I urge you to look at the faces of Moyes and the supporters following last week’s game at Bolton and compare it to the reaction after Leighton Baines goal. Its hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck type stuff as he takes two steps before planting a 25 yard free-kick into the top corner.

 

What a goal!!! Reminds me very much of this strike (only Baines' is better!):

 

There was still the small matter of penalty kicks to come though and when Baines, almost predictably, missed his spot-kick you wondered whether his earlier heroics had merely delayed the pain and dejection.

But a lazy penalty from Nicolas Anelka and another superb, sprawling, one-handed stop from Howard meant we have crawled our way back into contention again.

Step forward Jonny Heitinga and first his passionate celebration in front of the supporters before his deliberate barge into Ashley Cole en-route back to the half-way line.

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From the centre line you walk straight to the penalty spot, and you're completely focused on your penalty....I tried to ruin [Ashley Cole's] concentration by colliding with him [as he made his way to the penalty spot]. The harrassment was intentional.

You legend Jonny!!!!

Never the most popular of players among opposition supporters the sight of first Heitinga’s barge into the Chelsea full-back and then his miss was one to bring a smile to the face of all those not of a Chelsea persuasion. Everton had their chance.

Step forward Phil Neville.

The defender has his critics, and his constant 'rallying cries’ to the media irritate some. But you can't criticise his commitment to the cause, his passion for the club and also his composure. He buried his spot-kick into the top corner to send the 6,000 travelling fans barmy and the players sprinting towards their captain, who had stood, arms outstretched, taking in every last cheer and passionate, celebratory cry.

One of my favourite images of the afternoon was the look of pride on Moyes’ face as he watched the players celebrate with the fans. He looked like a man vindicated, but as ever he refused to take the limelight by celebrating with his players. He duly took a step back, safe in the knowledge that it was a job well done.

The Scot was quick to dampen soaring expectations post-game, and given the season we have had we know not to get carried away with ourselves. This campaign has had more turning points and false dawns than I care to remember. The pressing need for Premier League points must now take a priority with a massive home game against Sunderland coming up.

We can’t look to far ahead in the cup ether, Reading will provide stiff opposition in round five and are the sort of side we have struggled against this season.

Two year's ago we beat Liverpool in the fourth round and the determination not to waste all that effort by tumbling out in the next game carried us all the way to Wembley. I hope this result can instill a similar sort of steely determination back into an Everton squad that has had a frustratingly soft centre this season.

With all the up and downs this year I have begun to feel a bit sick, a slow and steady upward curve from now until May will suit me fine.

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