Chelsea took a step closer to clinching the Premier League title as thanks to a 3-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday
Chelsea maintained their four-point lead over Tottenham Hotspur at the top of the table as they ran out 3-0 winners over Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday. The first half was largely sluggish as both sides struggled to grab a foothold in the match.
And it took a stunning long-range effort from Pedro midway through the second half to finally break the deadlock. With the lead firmly in their grabs, Antonio Conte’s men controlled the remainder of the match to remain on course to clinch the three points.
Full-time: Everton 0-3 Chelsea!
WHAT A WIN! 🔥💪 pic.twitter.com/8AJ94RWCdy
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 30, 2017
Chelsea’s advantage was then doubled in the 79th minute, as Gary Cahill calmly scored from close-range after Maarten Stekelenburg parried Eden Hazard’s free-kick towards him. And the win was rounded off with just four minutes left in regulation time as Willian scored from a simple tap-in.
With just four games left to play, Chelsea retained their four-point lead over Tottenham to get one hand on the Premier League title. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at some of the major talking points that emerged in the aftermath of the match.
Pedro’s Stunner Brings The Game To Life
The first half was one in which neither team looked like they were going to find the back of the net. Whether it was the long season taking its toll on the 22 men on the field or something else, but chances came few and far between in what was a sluggish start to the match.
Pedro joins the rocket club at Chelsea 🚀 pic.twitter.com/rE4DulopW7
— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 30, 2017
However, like they have time and again this season, Chelsea displayed just why they are billed as the champions-elect, as an inspired long-range strike by Pedro finally broke the deadlock. With Phil Jagielka not giving an inch to him, the Spaniard deceived the veteran defender with a clever turn.
The Englishman could not react on time and Pedro made no error in firing in a sublime shot past Maarten Stekelenburg. That goal opened the floodgates for Chelsea who, having grabbed a foothold in the match, grabbed the match by the scruff of its neck to turn the game on its head.
Goals from Gary Cahill and Willian followed and in the end it did not seem like Chelsea had much trouble to grab those three points. Another instance that showed that inspiration comes from all quarters in this truly champion-like Chelsea team.
A Stubborn Defence Frustrates The Champions-Elect… But Not For Long
As has been the case with Ronald Koeman all through his time in England, he provided yet another reminder just why his teams are so hard to beat. Setting up his side against the mighty Chelsea in a well-drilled and organised manner, Chelsea could do precious little to grab a foothold in the match.
Chelsea are the first team to beat Everton at Goodison Park in the Premier League in 2017.
The mark of champions… pic.twitter.com/o7lyjY6M1Y
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 30, 2017
Tom Davies turned in yet another masterclass of a performance in the centre of the park to frustrate the Chelsea attack, and alongside Idrissa Gueye, he was the perfect screening in front of the Everton back four.
The defence, too, were alert and stubborn at all times resisting the visitors’ juggernaut with aplomb. Their resistance was finally broken by Pedro’s brilliance and it looked like that turned off a switch in the players’ minds as that strike was followed by two quick goals.
Gueye and Stekelenburg were the guilty parties for Chelsea’s second goal, and by the time the third goal came there was no coming back into the match for Everton. Nonetheless, Everton provided another example of just how far they have come under Koeman this season.
Everton Qualify For Europe But Cracks Need Addressing
Speaking of just how far Everton have come under Ronald Koeman, European football is back at Goodison Park after two seasons in the wilderness. These were two seasons which were full of struggles despite the quality of players in the squad.
From Tom Cleverley to Morgan Schneiderlin..
From Roberto Martinez to Ronald Koeman..
From bottom half finishes to European football… pic.twitter.com/mD07pkqilg
— Tony Scott (@Tony_Scott11) April 29, 2017
However, the Dutchman’s influence has ignited a spark in a set of players that has stood toe to toe with most of the biggies in the Premier League this season. Notice the word “most” though, as they have also been found wanting on a few occasions.
These are occasions when Everton concentrate so much on defending that the creative instinct goes for a toss. Worse still, with men behind the ball, Romelu Lukaku is often isolated and struggles to have any sort of impact on the match.
This is the major issue that needs addressing by Koeman, and with the calibre of players he already at his disposal, it’s more approach than talent that is missing on a few big occasions. Looking at his track record though, nothing but improvements should be expected next season when Everton return to Europe.
Gary Cahill – A Captain Leading From The Front
A storied Chelsea career is coming to an end when the curtains fall on 2016/17. John Terry, Mr. Chelsea, was almost indispensable for the Blues for the better part of the last 12 seasons, but the current campaign has been one where he’s been on the periphery.
Gary Cahill has scored more goals (8) this season in premier league than Ozil (7), Pogba (6), Kevin De Bruyne (4)!
— 8 Fact Football (@8Fact_Footballl) May 1, 2017
The change in system effectively brought about the end of his time as a Chelsea player, as David Luis, Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill formed the solid back-three in Conte’s plans. And it is the latter who has impressively stepped up in the Chelsea captain’s absence all this while.
Taking over the armband from Terry, Cahill may not have been the most convincing defenders at times. But when sometimes he may have been found wanting at the back, he has managed to deliver the goods on the other end.
Sunday afternoon was another such instance, as Cahill scored the decisive second goal that put the game to bed before the third was scored late in the match. That was his 8th goal of the season – some of which have been as crucial as the ones scored by the stalwarts in attack. An able leader in Terry’s absence.
Is This It In The Title Race?
April was a month when the nerves started piling on for Chelsea, who looked comfortable in their bid to reclaim the Premier League title before its onset. A healthy 10-point lead over Tottenham Hotspur, and it looked like they will have no troubles getting their hands on the trophy once again.
4 points clear 👊
4 games left 🏟
3 at Stamford Bridge 🔵
Chelsea are closing in on the title. pic.twitter.com/HsjsGvJ43x
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 30, 2017
However, two losses, and a perfect half a month for Tottenham meant that the lead had already been cut to four points. But ever since the loss to Manchester United, Chelsea have held their nerves well to maintain their lead over their London rivals to four points.
Another big win over Everton on Sunday meant that the Blues remained four points clear of Tottenham even though they beat Arsenal in convincing fashion. Just four games remain now for both the sides.
Two of these are at home against the bottom two sides, the third is also at Stamford Bridge against travel-shy Watford, while the fourth game is away at the Hawthorns against West Bromwich Albion.
Antonio Conte’s men can yet afford to drop three more points and Tottenham will continue to remain at an arm’s length from the title. So in all likelihood, bar a shocking late season capitulation the Premier League title is heading back to Stamford Bridge, despite a spirited late charge by Mauricio Pochettino’s men.