Tuesday 27 June 2017

Extra-special Sturridge the Chelsea hero

Everton 1, Chelsea 2, (After extra-time), Andy Hampson

Daniel Sturridge struck four minutes from the end of extra-time on a night of high drama at Goodison Park as Chelsea survived a third red card in four days to book a spot in the Carling Cup quarter-final.

This remarkable game featured two sendings-off, two missed penalties and a horrendous goalkeeping clanger.

The visitors went ahead in freakish circumstances through Salomon Kalou in the 38th minute, then rode their luck after back-up goalkeeper Ross Turnbull had got his marching orders on the hour for bringing down Louis Saha in the box, with substitute Petr Cech saving Leighton Baines' penalty.

Saha did equalise -- heading in Seamus Coleman's cross -- with seven minutes of normal time remaining, but that was the least Everton deserved as they redoubled their efforts, laying siege to the visitors' goal in the final stages, and then in the first period of stoppage-time.

Saha and Royston Drenthe both came within inches of scoring, but then Drenthe was shown a second yellow in extra time and, with the numbers evened up, Chelsea dominated the second period, with Florent Malouda tormenting the Everton defence.

Ryan Bertrand set up Nicolas Anelka to hit the post, before Malouda unleashed a fierce shot that Everton 'keeper Jan Mucha could only parry, and Sturridge was on hand to sweep in the rebound.

Cech was Chelsea's other hero. The first-choice 'keeper came off the bench following Turnbull's sending-off and his first act was to block Baines' penalty, which was smashed down the middle. His second was to stop the left-back's follow-up, and Tim Cahill headed the rebound wide.

If it was a night to forget for Turnbull, given a rare start by Andre Villas-Boas in a team showing 10 changes to the side beaten at QPR on Sunday -- after being reduced to nine men -- it was even worse for his opposite number Mucha.

The Slovakian, coming in for Tim Howard, allowed a gentle lob from Kalou to squirm through his grasp and into the net after 38 minutes. Kalou seemed embarrassed to celebrate, hiding his head in his shirt, but he at least spared the blushes of Anelka, who had put a penalty wide on 16 minutes.

Josh McEachran was adjudged to have been hacked by John Heitinga, but Anelka plodded up to the spot-kick and slipped it wide despite sending Mucha the wrong way.

Chelsea wanted another penalty moments later when Anelka appeared to be bundled over by Sylvain Distin, but referee Lee Mason waved play on.

Romelu Lukaku threatened again when he raced on to a long ball into the box. He controlled the ball on his chest and allowed it to bounce twice as he shaped to shoot but missed the target.

Mucha was inexplicably beaten by an innocuous shot as Chelsea finally grabbed the lead in comical fashion after 38 minutes.

He seemed in little danger as Kalou gently floated the ball into his hands from 18 yards. Yet he allowed it to slither through his hands and his frantic effort to recover were in vain.

The hosts were almost caught napping early in the second half as Anelka found space on the left, but he shot tamely straight at Mucha as he closed in on goal.

Next it was Turnbull's turn to suffer a horror moment as David Luiz failed to cut out Cahill's flick-on with Saha clear in front of goal.

Saha took a clean first touch and Turnbull reacted too slowly, chopping the forward down and denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Mason pointed to the spot and brandished a straight red card at Turnbull, but Cech immediately made amends for his team-mate's indiscretion with a brilliant double save.

After the equaliser, the dangerous Drenthe and Saha both came desperately close a winner, but Chelsea hung on to force extra-time.

The resilient visitors repelled all Everton could throw at them in the first additional period, and then made the most of Drenthe's needless second yellow.

Irish Independent

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