Blues On Verge Of Title (Sky Sports)
Chelsea 3 Everton 0
Chelsea moved to within one point of claiming back-to-back Premiership titles by comfortably defeating ten-man Everton 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.
With Manchester United watching on forlornly, Frank Lampard set the hosts on their way in typical fashion with a shot from outside the area before Lee Carsley was harshly red-carded by referee Rob Styles a matter of minutes into the second half.
While the incident is unlikely to have affected the outcome of the match it facilitated The Blues' task and the win was rounded off with emphatic goals by Didier Drogba and Michael Essien.
The match which ended in a stroll in the sunshine began at a leisurely pace as well.
Lampard and Essien threatened intermittently but David Moyes's strategy of strangling the hosts' midfield had met with early success. Leon Osman on Claude Makelele, Kevin Kilbane on Essien and Tim Cahill on Lampard all succeeded in their stifling agenda.
The Toffees had held The Blues at arm's length up until the half hour, albeit without offering too much of a threat themselves.
But then, in the 28th minute, the inevitable happened: Chelsea scored. And, as he has done so many times this season, Lampard proved the difference with what has become a trademark strike.
Cahill advanced but when few forward options presented themselves he dallied allowing Drogba to rob the Australian and advance into dangerous territory himself.
He drove inside and teed up Lampard who took aim and fired into the bottom left hand corner from 20 yards for his 20th goal of the season.
William Gallas's lackadaisical defending gave James Beattie a hint of an opening but, in getting to the ball ahead of Petr Cech, his finish landed on the roof of the net. The onrushing goalkeeper collided with Gallas resulting in a deep gash to the keeper's leg and his half time withdrawal for Carlo Cudicini.
Hernan Crespo and Arjen Robben played a neat one-two as Chelsea sought to find a second gear but the Dutchman was thwarted by a superbly timed challenge from James McFadden as Jose Mourinho impertinently appealed for a penalty.
As half time approached Cahill tested the labouring Cech.
The action resumed without the participation of Robben who was slow out of the changing rooms but it was the visitors who controversially found themselves a man light for the remainder of the match.
Robben's absence had escaped the attention of Styles and the official's stringent eye was found wanting again two minutes later when he misjudged a challenge from Carsley.
The midfielder was shown a straight red card for a robust challenge on Drogba - the challenge was ill-timed but not sufficiently reckless to warrant the red.
Chelsea sought to capitalise on their fortuitous advantage and did so through Drogba's 62nd minute header. Lampard returned the favour from Drogba's assist by swinging in a corner which the Ivorian won authoritatively to double the lead.
Essien, who had found his range after a couple of wayward efforts in the first half, lashed in a third goal after The Toffees had failed to clear an indirect free kick from Lampard.
Drogba could then have added a fourth goal when sliding in but it mattered little by that point.
Another consummate performance means the hosts will now wrap up the title should they claim a draw against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in two weeks' time.
|6||Shots on Target||3|
|11||Shots off Target||2|
Cech (Cudicini 45), Del Horno, Gallas, Terry,
Essien, Geremi, Lampard, Makelele, Crespo (Wright-Phillips 75), Drogba,
Robben (J. Cole 62)
Subs Not Used Huth, Duff
Goals Lampard 28, Drogba 62, Essien 74
Wright, Naysmith, Neville, Weir, Yobo, Cahill, Carsley, Kilbane, Osman,
Subs Not Used Turner, Ferrari, Van der Meyde
Sent Off Carsley 47