For matchday photos, scroll to Photostream above left; click on the statistics tab for stats; manager reaction below
Chelsea finished third in the Barclays Premier League after a narrow home win over Everton brought their marathon season to an end. In the 69th match of a campaign when they have competed for seven different trophies, a late Fernando Torres strike was enough to seal a spot in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League next season.
Juan Mata's early strike was cancelled out by Steven Naismith, but 14 minutes from time Torres - who entered the match without a league goal in 2013 - scored a late winner at Stamford Bridge.
Both managers - Chelsea's Rafael Benitez and Everton's David Moyes - were taking charge of their teams for the last time, with the Spaniard walking away the happier after a terrific week when his club won the UEFA Europa League final on Wednesday.
Benitez made two changes, with striker Demba Ba and debutant Nathan Ake coming in for Cesar Azpilicueta and the suspended Ramires, while Moyes, who will replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, selected Naismith in place of the injured Leon Osman.
Everton entered the match with five clean sheets from their last six Barclays Premier League games but their defence failed to stand up to an early Chelsea test, as Mata netted the opener after just seven minutes. The goal, Mata's 11th league strike of the campaign, came after Ba, who was on the end of a fast break, saw his effort spilled by Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard. The ball rolled into the path of Mata, who calmly tapped in to give Chelsea the early advantage.
In an open encounter, Naismith and Darron Gibson had good efforts for Everton, before the former produced a terrific finish to level proceedings after 14 minutes. An errant David Luiz backpass came to Naismith, and after a neat one-two with Victor Anichebe, the Scotsman, who found himself in space, chipped a left-footed effort over the onrushing Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech to delight the travelling fans.
The game swung from end to end, as a deflected 25-yard effort from Gibson hit a post while Torres missed a free header at the other end after an excellent Branislav Ivanovic cross. Everton, who enjoyed the majority of possession, were opening up their opponents with ease at times and Cech was required to make a good save to deny Kevin Mirallas at the back post following a superb Gibson pass.
Howard was quick to deny Mata as Chelsea responded but Steven Pienaar had two chances to give Everton the lead late in the first half - the second of which was headed against Luiz, as the visitors entered the half-time break the happier of the two sides.
Chelsea piled on the pressure in the second half and Gary Cahill's early effort was well saved by Howard, while Ivanovic fired over following a corner. Ba almost capitalised on an error from Phil Jagielka, but he could only curl his effort wide, and Ivanovic was close with an effort from distance. It seemed only a matter of time before Chelsea scored but they were almost made to pay by Everton substitute Nikica Jelavic, who could only turn a Leighton Baines cutback wide.
Chelsea's second goal did come in the 76th minute, though. Victor Moses cleverly chested down a good cross from the right from Oscar and Torres was on hand to thump the ball home at the near post.
Jelavic had two further chances to score for Everton - one of which required a good save from Cech - but Chelsea held on for a crucial three points.
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez: "It's not just what we achieved [coming third and winning the UEFA Europa League], it's the team we achieved these things with. It's a team in transition with young players and a lot of circumstances surrounding it.
"The staff have done a really good job. When I say these things it's not because I have to say it, it's true. We don't have too many injuries, we don't have too many problems and we've finished where we wanted to finish so it's been quite good for everyone."
Everton manager David Moyes: “It was a really good game. We played excellently and the result was harsh on us. The attitude of the players and their performance levels were as good as we have had this season. But for a few misses we would have had a point. We have competed from the first day to the last this season. We have had bad days but show me a team who haven’t.
It is difficult to sum it up in a few words, but I am grateful to have had the chance [to manage Everton] and I hope I am leaving a club in better condition than when I took over. I will go into Finch Farm some of the days next week and make sure things are in place for whoever the incoming manager is. I would like to be remembered for doing a hard working honest job because that is what the football club stands for.”
|22 Dec 2014||v Stoke (A)|
|26 Dec 2014||v Chelsea (H)|
|28 Dec 2014||v Southampton (A)|
|01 Jan 2015||v Spurs (A)|
|10 Jan 2015||v Chelsea (H)|
|17 Jan 2015||v Swansea (A)|