Naismith scores hat-trick from the bench, the first Everton player to net a treble against Chelsea since Dixie Dean (1931)
Chelsea pull one back through Matic stunner but Toffees stand firm for deserved win
Martinez shows his worth with astute substitutions while feel-good factor returns to Goodison Park
Steven Naismith was Everton’s hat-trick hero, appearing from the substitute’s bench to inspire his side to victory against champions Chelsea.
The Scot opened the scoring with a fine header, barely 10 minutes after replacing the injured Muhamed Besic. He then doubled Everton’s lead on 22 minutes with a left-footed strike from the edge of the box, putting the hosts firmly in control.
Nemanja Matic pulled one back for the visitors with a sublimely struck effort before the break and Everton were made to dig-deep to ensure their lead at half-time.
Romelu Lukaku squandered some of Everton’s best chances in the second half but with just 8 minutes on the clock Naismith latched on to Ross Barkley’s clever through ball and completed his hat-trick with an angled shot.
The result moves the Toffees up to fourth place in the Premier League on 8 points, while Chelsea are left languishing in 16th after two league defeats in as many games.
Money can’t buy you Stones, or Naismith, apparently
We’ve all heard the song. The much loved Beatles tune was sung from start to finish with the visit of Chelsea who so publicly courted John Stones all summer. But perhaps the song should be re-written for Everton’s hat-trick hero, a player who has split opinion amongst the Goodison faithful since his arrival.
Criticised -at least as much as I can tell- for not being as good as his talents allow, the former Rangers man was reportedly the subject of an £8 million bid from Norwich City on transfer deadline day. Sections of Everton’s fan base were incredulous at the club turning down the offer but on Saturday afternoon it was clear why Roberto Martinez values the Scot, even if others don’t.
He was the first to get at Chelsea’s shaky defence, relentlessly chasing the ball and unsettling the back four. But more importantly his eagerness and determination to be more than a spectator in the game is one of his best attributes, an attribute that put Everton ahead.
A simple lay off gave Brendan Galloway the space in the final third to cross from the left. Rather than admire the pass and subsequent cross, Naismith showed the young left-back where he wanted the ball, attacking the space behind Chelsea’s defence and Asmir Begovic. His header was unstoppable; a simple yet well worked goal crafted from nothing more but a sound cross and a determined effort to meet it. Lukaku would do well to take note.
His second goal showed a slightly different side to his energetic game but demonstrated nonetheless that the Scot is one of Everton’s best finishers (he recorded just 3 efforts on target, but all 3 found the back of the net). A nicely worked passing move saw Barkley tee up Naismith and with a quick look up, his left foot did the rest.
And to show he can do it with either foot, Naismith killed off any hopes Chelsea had of taking any points back to the capital with a right-footed finish under the keeper. Again Barkley was the provider; the midfielder continued his fine early season form with another assist and an all-round performance which shows he can make the “No 10” position his own.
But just as impressive as the tee-up for the finish was Naismith’s run which beat the offside trap and gave him enough time to steady himself before completing his hat-trick. These quick bursts off the shoulder of defenders into space is a Naismith trademark and the hallmark of an intelligent player. One which, with the right supply line, is a nightmare for defenders and a dimension to Everton’s player Martinez was not ready to lose.
Matic stunner had Everton rocking but determined defence steadied the ship
At 2-0 and with half an hour on the clock, Everton were cruising to victory. But the bolt from the blue which was Matic’s left-foot strike stunned Everton and the hosts looked to be headed for the jagged rocks via wave after wave of Chelsea attacks.
The final 10 minutes of the half, in retrospect, was where the game was won for Everton, and in so many cases last season it’s exactly where it would have been lost or drawn (think Leicester, Arsenal, Crystal Palace last season).
Chelsea didn’t look like scoring before or after this period but those shaky minutes before half-time were nail-biting for the hosts. The defence stood firm however, with John Stones (making 2 blocks, 2 clearances and 2 interceptions) in particular standing up to the onslaught.
Gareth Barry was resolute in the holding midfielder role and made some vital interceptions himself to deny the visitors. A last ditch tackle from Phil Jagielka prevented Diego Costa from running through on goal in the second half. But all round, the Blues have cut out the costly errors of last season and look all the better for it.
The Old Lady had a smile back on her face
Goodison Park was not the fearsome cauldron it once was last season, with teams coming to L4 confident of coming away with at least a point; often all three.
But today had all Blues united in support -despite the plane that dragged an anti-Kenwright banner across the ground- and every fan played their part in a thoroughly deserved victory. Beating the champions should serve as an example to both away supporters and their teams, that with Goodison in full voice, there’s no one the Toffees cannot beat.
Much of that optimism came from the inspired substitution on nine minutes that saw Naismith introduced for the injured Besic. Twitter timelines across the city blew up with cries for one of the three wingers to come on instead. “Anyone but Naismith”. But the switch could not have worked any better and Martinez deserves full credit for the bravery to stick to what he feels is best for the team.
And so too did the other changes when they came along. Lennon’s tireless hard work and defensive cover was timely, with space for Chelsea starting to appear on Everton’s right flank. And with Seamus Coleman forced off through injury, Romero Funes Mori was handed his debut. I’m sure it was not the change Martinez wanted to make with the clock ticking down, but again the decision to move the impeccable Stones to right back so as not to leave the Argentinian exposed, proved to be a brave and successful one.