Late Willian goal clinches Chelsea victory

Chelsea 1 Everton 0

Willian struck a brilliant last-minute winner in a dramatic finale as Chelsea maintained their seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Moments after Everton’s Gareth Barry had been sent off, Willian rifled in a shot from 25 yards to break the visitors’ stubborn resistance.

Just a few minutes earlier, a similar strike from Nemanja Matic had been disallowed as it struck an offside Branislav Ivanovic, before Barry picked up a second yellow.

Everton keeper Tim Howard had frustrated Chelsea up to that point, denying Loic Remy in the first half and both Matic and Willian after the break, while the recalled Petr Cech produced a crucial point-blank block from Romelu Lukaku.

New signing Juan Cuadrado made his full debut for the Blues
New signing Juan Cuadrado made his full debut for the Blues

A Blues draw would have brought Manchester City back to within five points of the leaders but Willian’s effort ensured the status quo remains with 13 games to play.

Few would have predicted it would remain goalless for so long after a lively opening, which saw Chelsea’s fluid front four buzz about and Matic and Willian both sending shots just over the bar.

Cech, brought back in at the expense of Thibaut Courtois, was called into action to block a Lukaku shot at the near post, after the Belgian had been slipped in by Ross Barkley.

Juan Cuadrado, who played 70 minutes on his home debut, looked lively in patches and flashed a shot across the face of goal while Remy brought a good save from Howard.

Howard also clung on well to Eden Hazard’s fierce low drive from the edge of the box as the hosts continued to press.

The second half took a little while to get going, but both goalkeepers made superb stops in an explosive seven-minute spell just after the hour mark.

Howard clawed away a Matic free-kick and that same left paw was also equal to a Willian curler.

At the other end, Cech produced an instinctive save from close range to block former Chelsea man Lukaku’s effort as he latched on to Bryan Oviedo’s centre.

Then came the late drama. Chelsea thought they had the winner as Matic’s shot was deflected in, but although it struck an Everton player first, it also brushed off Ivanovic, who was offside.

Barry saw red after a trip on Willian and Ivanovic almost could have followed suit after grabbing James McCarthy by the neck in the resultant melee.

But Chelsea finally broke the deadlock when Willian’s arrowed shot took the merest of touches off Steven Naismith as it flew into the net.

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Cuadrado (Fabregas 70), Willian (Cahill 90), Hazard; Remy (Drogba 70).
Subs: Courtois, Ake, Filipe Luis, Loftus-Cheek.

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