Everton and Chelsea fought out a dramatic battle at Goodison Park on Saturday evening, with Roberto Martinez recording his first league win in charge of the Toffees with the 1-0 home win.
0 - Liverpool and Everton are now the only Premier League teams yet to lose in 2013-14. Merseyside.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 14, 2013
The first half was, at times, alternately lacking in event but was technically and tactically intriguing to watch, as Everton managed to get the better of the away side and control much of the opening 30 minutes or so.
Samuel Eto'o and Nikica Jelavic spurned early headed chances, but shots on goal were a relative rarity at both ends of the pitch. That was, at least, until Tim Howard's moment of madness, which almost presented Eto'o with an open goal.
Gareth Barry had to be alert to make a sprawling diving tackle to block Eto'o's shot after Andre Schurrle dispossessed the ball from Howard and pulled it back to Eto'o.
Schurrle himself also missed a couple of presentable opportunities, before Steven Naismith broke the deadlock right on half time.
A cross from the right side found Nikica Jelavic at the far post, and the striker was able to divert the ball across the face of goal to Naismith—who headed it in from close range.
After half time, Schurrle had another chance to score but clipped his effort wide within seconds of the restart.
Chelsea were largely dominant in the next 20 minutes, but a succession of poor final balls and dominant defending, from Phil Jagielka in particular, ensured that Howard was not unduly troubled despite the heavy pressure applied outside his penalty area.
The away side began to show frustration as Branislav Ivanovic was booked for a deliberate handball as he attempted to guide a corner toward goal.
The last half hour was a far more energetic and high-tempo affair as both teams sought to find the important second goal of the game, with Barkley and Eto'o still looking threatening at either end.
David Luiz was perhaps lucky not to be shown a red card when Mirallas spun him on the halfway line; the foul took place a long way from goal, but the Belgian's pace meant he would have been clear away on goal.
Despite a plethora of late-half chances from both sides, there were no late goals to savour, and Everton held on for an impressive and important victory.
Everton goalscorer Steven Naismith: "It's been a drastic change from the type of football we played last season and we can now push on."— Premier League (@premierleague) September 14, 2013
Key Player Grades
Ross Barkley: B+
The new England midfielder produced a strong early showing, as he had more impact on the game than any other central midfielder in the opening half an hour, with several powerful runs and searching passes. After the break, his powerful runs forward were vital in helping Everton counterattack and relieve pressure late in the game.
Samuel Eto'o: B
He might be lacking a bit of sharpness, but Eto'o got into several goalscoring positions in the first half, and it was a surprise to see him fail to take either of the two more-than-presentable opportunities he had. Despite his failure to hit the back of the net, Eto'o's movement and clever approach play was one of the positives of Chelsea's attack.
Gareth Barry: A
A good first-half performance will have pleased both player and manager, as he helped Everton take control of the game in the first 20 minutes or so. His spectacular sliding block on Eto'o was, until the goal, the moment of the first half. The second half saw the on-loan man perform impressively in a holding role, breaking up attacks and closing down Chelsea's attacking midfield, while also launching counterattacks with his passing. An excellent display.
Chelsea miss the chance to go to the top of the Premier League and will now head into their Champions League campaign. Everton remain unbeaten in the league under Roberto Martinez and can look forward with confidence to their upcoming games, starting with West Ham next week.