Friday, February 12, 2010

Everton 2 Chelsea 1

So I actually did get to the catch the game today. It took me about 40 minutes to dig my car out of its spot (where it's been hibernating since last Friday), but I made it down to Piper's Pub to catch the last 60+ minutes of the game (including Louis Saha's equalizer just as I got there). It wasn't all that exciting, as I already knew the final score, but anytime Everton beat a league leader is a rare occasion.

When I said earlier that Everton "thoroughly outplayed" Chelsea, that was not totally accurate, but I don't blame myself since that's how most of the reports laid it out. The game was fairly even, particularly between Everton's first and second goal (when the score was even at 1-1), but after the Toffees took the lead, Chelsea dominated for the last 15 minutes as they were pushing for a tie (and a point). Even though it was a nerve-racking last few minutes (well, not for me as I already knew the final score), Everton did a fine job of marking and communicating to ensure solid team defense.

Saha's second goal was pretty brilliant; after measuring a long ball perfectly, he chested the ball down with his back to the goal, turned, and fired a gnarly shot off the volley. Petr Cech was caught kind of flat-footed and probably should have done better with it, but it was still a thing of beauty from the Frenchman.

Donovan did indeed play quite well and it was probably his best game in a blue uniform (which is not to discount his performances against Arsenal, Man City, and Sunderland). Besides earning the PK and delivering the cross on the first goal, he rarely set a foot wrong and contributed to some other fairly good scoring chances. It was the type of performance that should make US fans happy with the World Cup just months away.

Here are the (quite extended) highlights.

I never like to see a player get injured, but the UK press should have quite a field day with the news that a (totally clean) challenge by Donovan on England's starting left-back Ashley Cole broke the Brit's ankle and will keep him out until the start of the World Cup. A lot of US fans were afraid that with Donovan going over to play in England, he might be targeted since the US faces England in their first World Cup Match, "They're gonna take out our best player!" Cole is far from the Three Lions' best player, but who would have thought the opposite might happen?

One final note, it was nice to see Jack Rodwell back on the pitch for Everton after a bit of time off with an injury. He's one of the most impressive youngsters (18) in the EPL, and I hope that Everton are able to hold on to him before he outplays the team (he will). He's a beast of a defensive player, and distributes the ball from the midfield better than any young player I've ever seen. There has been talk of moving him to central defense, a position he played while a youth (this has mostly been from teams thinking about making a move for him). I just don't understand why a team would do that; to me, it's like taking a gifted wide receiver in football and deciding to turn him into a tight end just because he has the body for it.

The Toffees are off until next Tuesday when they begin the knockout stages of the Europa Cup. They will play in home and away against Sporting Lisbon of the Portuguese Liga. I'll have more as we get closer. But if you have DirecTV, you get all of the Europa Cup games.

And then there's this cool look at keeping Donovan from an Everton blog.

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