Wednesday 26th October 2011, kick off: 8.00pm, Goodison Park
Chelsea are into the Carling Cup quarter-finals thanks to an extra-time winner from substitute Sturridge, but would never have got there had it not been for the goalkeeping heroics of Petr Cech.
Sturridge struck with four minutes remaining before penalties after Salomon Kalou and Louis Saha had scored in normal time of a scintillating encounter at Goodison Park.
Chelsea had led for almost an hour, playing nearly half of that with 10 men after goalkeeper Turnbull had been dismissed, only for his replacement on the night Cech, who had been rested, to save Baines’s penalty and turn in a performance of the very highest order.
Saha would equalise with an 84th minute header to take the tie into extra time, where Everton winger Drenthe would be dismissed for a second yellow card 10 minutes before Sturridge’s winner.
Chelsea had taken a fortuitous first-half lead when Kalou’s poorly hit cross-shot dropped through the arms of Everton’s backup goalkeeper Mucha and into the net.
Chelsea were playing neatly and matching their opponents, who had fielded a strong side, in every department, only for the curse of the red card to strike again, this time against Turnbull who was second to a loose ball, bringing down Saha to gift Everton a penalty and a man advantage.
Cech was allowed on to face Baines’s kick, and beat the shot away with his fists, then blocking the rebound to preserve what was now a perilous lead.
We held out with a man less for 25 minutes until Saha, so often a scorer against us, stooped at the near post to head substitute Seamus Coleman’s right-sided cross into the bottom corner.
A tense extra 30 minutes would follow, the hosts reduced to 10 themselves during the second period when Royston Drenthe, Everton’s best player on the night, was dismissed after receiving two yellows, swinging the tie back in Chelsea’s favour.
The winner came four minutes from time, Mucha parrying Florent Malouda’s drive back into play, allowing Sturridge to guide the loose ball into the far corner.
The win had come hard-earned, but after the last few days nobody can say it was undeserved.
Andre Villas-Boas praised his side’s commitment and desire as he saw us progress in the Carling Cup despite being a man down for nearly an hour.
“I think we were very committed, showed strength of character and resilience once again,’ the 34-year-old said after the game. ‘We went down to 10 men unfortunately once again and made things even more difficult but were able to triumph under difficulty. This is extremely good signs for us and shows the squad is committed with the trophies.
‘We got one of the most difficult draws, Everton away after a dramatic and motivational win at Fulham for them, and with one of their strongest sides showing they wanted to go through.
‘To be fair we had good chances to kill off the game, couldn’t find it, got the first goal and had good chances,’ Villas-Boas continued. ‘Then we had to fight because Everton had quality chances as well, we had 10 men and were as compact as possible but Everton had the desire and motivation and were on top, and we had to hold on until extra time arrived.
‘We managed to get things right in possession, and what satisfies me is that the players’ talent comes out in this situation and they were able to find excellent positions with 10 men. Then when the numbers got even they found better spaces and eventually we got the goal we wanted.
‘We were able to not only play good football but again to show commitment and desire and physical effort because it’s again a game of 120 minutes after a game with nine men and it shows we are progressing as a team and it’s very, very gratifying for everybody.”
Looking ahead, the manager believes Wednesday’s win will now help the side’s preparation for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off against Arsenal, a game he wants to win to get us back on track in the Premier League.
“It was important,’ he stressed. ‘To be fair after a defeat that happens like that, although we have nothing to say about the effort we put on against Queens Park Rangers it was important to go back to winning ways and to do it in this fashion is more gratifying.
‘Although the physical effort is immense the emotional benefit you gain from this is tremendous and it helps us to recover for Arsenal and to try to get back to winning ways in the Premier League.
‘If you see our timesheet we have minutes spread out by everybody because we have immense talent available and we are able to distribute minutes through everybody. I think we are under a good logic and physically we won’t have problems.”
By Clare Smith