How Pedro's goal turned the game and why man-marked Eden Hazard was frustrated again

Jonathan Liew
Chelsea's player celebrate Pedro's goal - AFP

Was Pedro’s goal the title-clincher?

You might point out that Phil Jagielka could be half a yard closer there. Or that Tom Davies could step up. But sometimes in football, you just have to hold your hands up and say: fair play. Pedro’s stunning left-footed finish may ultimately be worth a place in the pantheon of title-defining goals: think Overmars against Manchester United, Macheda against Aston Villa, Vardy against Liverpool. The best find a way. And even though they were far from their best, Chelsea found a way.

What made Pedro’s goal such a knockout blow - Joshua’s uppercut on Klitschko had nothing on this - was the fact that it came during perhaps Everton’s best period of the game. In truth, Chelsea had looked far more likely to score in the first half-hour. Everton had more possession, but rarely looked comfortable in it. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa should both have scored from quick transitions. Chelsea’s diet of pinpoint long balls, with Pedro and N’Golo Kante emptying their lungs to chase down the remains, was giving Everton plenty to worry about.

So Ronald Koeman sent Everton out for the second half sitting tighter and deeper, giving up control and territory for better opportunities on the counter. It almost worked, too. Enner Valencia got round Cesar Azpilicueta more than once. Romelu Lukaku was able to get one-on-one with David Luiz.

But then came Pedro’s goal, with Willian and Gary Cahill’s knee doing the rest. And so once again, a game that felt fairly even ended up in a thumping. This is the thing about Chelsea: they are always attacking, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Everton 0 - 1 Chelsea (Pedro, 66 min)

Is man-marking the way to stop Eden Hazard?

Idrissa Gueye’s man-marking job on Hazard was a proper old-school ambush. Wherever Hazard went, Gueye followed like a detective: tracking his runs, nudging his shoulder, gently placing a hand on his hip to let him know he was there, fouling him if necessary. On its own, it was a reasonably succesful tactic, although you could argue that drew Gueye away from the central areas where he is usually so influential, creating space for other Chelsea players to exploit.

Occasionally, Hazard was able to peel away and make sharp bursts from deep. One such run saw him easily outpace Gueye and round the keeper, from where he really should have scored. But mostly, being man-marked is just really annoying. Hazard’s body language was already giving away his frustration within the first half-hour. You get the feeling he was relieved to get off the pitch, get back to London, drive back home and open his front door. Where, it is tempting to imagine, Gueye will be waiting, a menacing grin on his face.

Any positives for Everton?

Tom Davies shields the ball from Marcos Alonso Credit: Reuters

Tom Davies is fast becoming the player Ross Barkley was supposed to be. Just 18 and undaunted by the challenge of going toe to toe with Kante and Nemanja Matic, Davies may not have Barkley’s touch or range of passing, but his positional sense and decision-making are arguably already superior. With Gueye otherwise engaged, he was often the last line of protection in front of the back four, and a couple of superb slide tackles displayed a red-blooded commitment that Barkley so often seems to lack.

He’s not the finished article yet - that would be weird. And perhaps he flew out of blocks a little quickly, fading as the game progressed. Ideally you would build Everton’s midfield around him and Barkley for the next 10 years. But if you asked Everton fans which of the pair they would be more upset at losing, well, they’d probably have to think hard before answering. Which is sort of telling in itself.

Who was the man of the match?

You’d probably have to say Pedro, who not only scored the decisive goal but was superb without the ball, one of the players whose energy makes Chelsea work. But Matic and Azpilicueta also had fine games.

Race to 50 Premier League goals

What do both sides need to work on in the week?

Chelsea have eight days to prepare for the visit of Middlesbrough next Monday night, and against a packed defence they’ll need more from Matic and Kante going forward. Linking the middle two with the front three is one of the few areas where Chelsea could conceivably find some improvement.

Everton need to discover some intensity without the ball. It was lacking against West Ham and it was often lacking again here. In Lukaku, Valencia and Barkley you have three players not overly preoccupied with winning the ball back, often taking up “nothing positions” - neither close enough to the man on the ball, nor marking an opponent or blocking a passing lane. That allowed pressure to build up further back.

RegisterLog incommenting policy

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes