Saha brace hits Chelsea hopes
Published 11/02/2010 | 05:00
FOR all the embarrassing headlines and revelations he has had to endure over the past fortnight, not even his 12-minute audience with Fabio Capello last Friday will have proved as uncomfortable for John Terry as his 90-minute mauling at the hands of Louis Saha.
Terry's failings are rarely exposed on a football pitch, but Everton forward Saha's centre-forward masterclass did just that to the Chelsea captain as his two goals claimed victory for David Moyes' team and reduced Chelsea's lead at the top of the table to just one point.
Goodison Park has not been the home of the league champions for over two decades, but it remains a hazardous venue for all teams with title-winning ambitions. Good teams can drop points here, so emerging from this blue corner of Liverpool with a victory can rarely be taken for granted.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson will have identified this fixture as a difficult one for Chelsea, just as Carlo Ancelotti will view United's visit here in nine days' time as a potential road-block for his team's closest title rivals.
Catch Everton on the wrong day and they can inflict damage, so Ancelotti will have been expecting the hosts to muster a defiant response to Saturday's defeat against a 10-man Liverpool.
And so it proved. Moyes may have been without the suspended Steven Pienaar and the injured Marouane Fellaini in midfield, but the grit and tenacity of those two was replaced by the greater creativity of Mikel Arteta, starting his first game since returning from a cruciate ligament injury, and the Russian Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.
As a result, Everton were able to claw their way back into the game in the first-half after Florent Malouda's eighth goal of the season had put Chelsea ahead on 17 minutes. Arteta has his qualities, but outmuscling Didier Drogba to clear a long punt forward from Petr Cech is not one of them.
Drogba's ability to flick Cech's ball on to Malouda, having barely noticed Arteta's attempt to thwart him, enabled the French midfielder to break clear of Phil Neville before guiding a left-foot shot past goalkeeper Tim Howard from 15 yards.
Chelsea marginally deserved their lead, but Everton responded well to falling behind and the visitors began to lose the midfield battle.
Arteta and Leon Osman dominated the central areas, while Landon Donovan and Bilyaletdinov stretched the game and Chelsea's back four.
Both Chelsea full-backs, Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole, quickly had the white chalk of the touchline on their boots. But the Everton leveller came from another set-piece -- Chelsea's Achilles heel this season -- when Donovan's outswinging corner was emphatically headed in by Saha.
Terry, spared the booing by opposing fans that has accompanied him since recent revelations surrounding his private life, was worryingly caught out by Saha, who lost him at the near post to win the header without the centre-half within sight. Saha had hauled Everton level, but he proceeded to waste two golden chances to put Moyes' team ahead before the interval.
Having aimed a volley from Donovan's cross straight at Cech, the former Fulham and Manchester United forward then saw Cech save his 44th-minute penalty, which had been awarded by referee Alan Wiley as a result of Ricardo Carvalho's foul on Donovan.
However, Saha was unperturbed by those mistakes, and pounced on Terry's error to secure victory for his side and do old club United a huge favour. (© Daily Telegraph, London)