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Page last updated at 20:59 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 21:59 UK

Everton 0-1 Chelsea

By Nathan Mercer

Michael Essien
Essien (right) pulled the strings in the Chelsea midfield

Chelsea closed the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester United to two points with this resilient display against Everton at Goodison Park.

Michael Essien hit the winner after 41 minutes, clipping a close-range effort over Tim Howard after exchanging passes with Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Everton were industrious but lacked the quality to unlock the resolute Blues.

Manuel Fernandes went close with a curling free-kick as the hosts pressed for an equaliser, but Chelsea held on.

Interview: Chelsea manager Avram Grant

It may have been a nervy finish for the Blues but they were good value for the three points and Avram Grant's side are back in the hunt for the league title.

The Israeli's position at Stamford Bridge had come under scrutiny after Monday's draw with Wigan, but his players were focused and determined enough not to let another lead slip at Goodison Park.

The result also leaves Everton's Champions League qualification hopes in tatters with them trailing neighbours Liverpool by five points with three games to play.


The superb Ricardo Carvalho typified Chelsea's defensive efforts - regularly shutting out Andy Johnson and strike partner Yakubu.

Everton's only chance of the first period came when Fernandes' dipping free-kick forced Cech into an uncomfortable parry behind.

Chelsea bossed possession in non-threatening areas but looked toothless for large periods with the absence of Didier Drogba highlighting the Blues' finishing deficiencies.

And their delivery to the misfiring Nicolas Anelka, particularly from wide areas, was desperately poor.

When the Frenchman did get a sight of goal, he dragged his shot well wide of Howard's left post.

Everton were forced to defend for long periods but were able to create moments of creativity going forward, with Joleon Lescott providing a useful outlet down the left flank.

Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry
Carvalho (left) was immense for his skipper Terry

But it was Chelsea who produced the first move of quality, coupled with a huge slice of fortune, and it enabled Essien to claim his second goal in four days.

The Ghanaian looked to play a neat exchange with Wright-Phillips before a wicked deflection off Phil Jagielka helped the ball into the on-rushing Essien's path.

Howard advanced but Essien kept his composure and slotted over the keeper from close in.

A fizzing, long-range drive from Jon Obi Mikel almost gave the visitors an undeserved second soon after, but Howard was alert to tip over.

Interview: Everton manager David Moyes

Chelsea failed to build on their lead after the break with Everton bossing possession without seriously threatening Petr Cech's goal.

Fernandes produced a stunning free-kick that whistled inches past the post, and the Portuguese also enjoyed flashing drives from distance.

But for all the Toffees' purpose, the key pass failed to materialise and their Champions League qualification hopes have all but come to an end.

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Chelsea's Michael Essien 7.14 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Neville, Carsley, Fernandes, Pienaar (Anichebe 63), Johnson (Gravesen 62), Yakubu.
Subs Not Used: Wessels, Baines, Rodwell.

Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Wright-Phillips (Makelele 81), Obi, Essien, Joe Cole (Malouda 76), Anelka, Kalou.
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Shevchenko, Alex.

Booked: Carvalho, Ferreira.

Goals: Essien 41.

Att: 37,112

Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

see also
Everton 0-1 Chelsea as it happened
17 Apr 08 |  Premier League
Grant delights in Chelsea victory
17 Apr 08 |  Premier League
How to watch Match of the Day
08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day

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