Wednesday 22 November 2017

Naismith piles on misery

Everton 3-1 Chelsea

Steven Naismith celebrates after scoring his hat-trick
Steven Naismith celebrates after scoring his hat-trick
Everton’s John Stones, a summer transfer target for Chelsea, shakes hands with a dejected Chelsea captain John Terry after the final whistle at Goodison Park yesterday
John Stones of Everton wins a header against Kurt Zouma of Chelsea
Diego Costa of Chelsea looks dejected
Jose Mourinho watches on

Paul Wilson

Chelsea have made an unexpectedly terrible start to the season but credit to their supporters for maintaining a sense of humour.

"We are staying up," they chanted as their side slumped to a third defeat in five games. Things are probably not quite that bad, though as the league table reveals Chelsea to be the first team to concede a dozen goals this season, this is not a situation anyone anticipated.

A sizzling hat-trick by Steven Naismith, who was not even on the pitch at the start of the game, earned Everton a deserved victory in a fixture they lost 6-3 last season. Everton were excellent without being scintillating.

The side that hit six here last season appears to have disappeared. Despite the wealth of attacking talent at Mourinho's disposal Chelsea might not have got on to the scoresheet at all but for an opportunist strike from a defensive midfielder.

The game came crackling to life a quarter of an hour in when John Stones overhit a back-pass to Tim Howard. The goalkeeper dealt with it comfortably enough but it resembled a shot and a Stones own goal against Chelsea would have been some story.

Within a minute Everton had taken the lead at the other end through a delightful combination of two of their squad players. Brendan Galloway, enjoying a run at left-back through injury to Leighton Baines, whipped in the most inviting of crosses that Naismith could hardly miss. The substitute, on after eight minutes when Muhamed Besic pulled up with a hamstring problem, met the ball perfectly on the six-yard line for a header that flew past the Chelsea No2 goalkeeper, Asmir Begovic.

If that was a bright start the afternoon got steadily better for the home side in the next few minutes. Begovic had to be alert to keep out a header from Arouna Kone after Seamus Coleman crossed from the left, then the goalkeeper saved again when James McCarthy sent in a shot from distance.

Within five minutes of the opening goal Naismith and Everton had a second. Good work by Kone and Romelu Lukaku by the right touchline led to Ross Barkley finding Naismith in space in the centre of the pitch, and spotting an opportunity the Scot beat Begovic with a cleanly struck left-foot shot that found the goalkeeper's bottom left corner.

With Coleman winning his sometimes physical duel with Diego Costa, Stones exuding grace under pressure as he calmly took on and beat opponents in his own penalty area and Mourinho subjected to chants of "You're getting sacked in the morning", Everton fans probably suspected it was too good to last.

So it was. After a largely unproductive first half-hour, Chelsea suddenly pulled a goal back with a bolt from the blue from Nemanja Matic. Everton could have closed the midfielder down, but as he was at least 30 yards out there seemed no danger. Matic changed that perception with one imperious swing of his left boot, sending the ball arrowing into Howard's top corner. From a position of complete dominance, Everton spent the remainder of the first half on the back foot.

Lukaku had a chance to restore a two-goal cushion early in the second half but shot straight at Begovic, who needed two attempts to claim the ball and was aided by a surreptitious touch from Terry that the officials generously chose not to interpret as a back pass.

Coleman's withdrawal with what appeared to be a hamstring injury will cause Martin O'Neill some concern, but it didn't matter yesterday as Chelsea had by then misplaced the energy they managed to demonstrate in the period before half-time.

They were even able to bring on Aaron Lennon and Ramiro Funes Mori before Naismith had made the game safe with his third goal, slotted home from a narrow angle from a pass by Barkley. A right-foot shot made it a perfect hat-trick and completed a perfect Everton afternoon..

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