In which Luke Harvey sticks up for his fellow youngster Jordan Henderson, whose performance against Everton has been sharply criticised by a number of longer-in-the-tooth supporters. But then Luke still cannot quite get Chelsea out of his mind …
Monday night’s match against Everton showed that you don’t have to be the best teams in the league to produce football of high entertainment value.
Nor do you need the best players in the world, for they are all dodging high tax bands and competing in that duopoly that is La Liga. While Real and Barcelona thump even the better teams in the league by four or five goals, it’s a continuous battle here in England.
Taking on a side drawn from the modest Everton squad, whose members make up for their lack of numbers by including several who ooze class, was never going to be an easy task. And it wasn’t. It took only six minutes for our chief tormenter to get himself on the score sheet.
Baines provided and Cahill answered the inviting cross with a thumping header to get the away side off to a rapid start. From then on it was the home side that dominated, roared on so loudly that the sound seemed to assume a collective life of its own as it bellowed from the speakers.
Our now-Scottish friend Phil Bardsley was once more imperious at left back, a new lease of life for the player whose career in the North East looked over.
Bolo Zenden rolled back the years on the right wing, jinking his way towards the box to set up the equaliser; Welbeck, too, was phenomenal up front as he netted a couple of goals, and Henderson returned to his attacking best, repeatedly surging forward – a privilege he was not afforded when on international duty.
The match itself was without any real flair or display of ability. There wasn’t an abundance of stepovers or football skills only ever seen on highlight reels or computer games; there was, however, plenty of endeavour in a back and forth match where both teams broke through the defensive shackles without going over the top.
The draw ensures that the results are still positive since the Newcastle horror show. The Stamford Bridge performance was not going to be repeated. Indeed, we may never see another performance that good for another decade, but the belief was surging through the Stadium of Light nonetheless.
The atmosphere, from a crowd somewhat below the usual 40,000, was electric. Not even a cold Monday night could deter these fans and the commitment was tangible. When Everton went a goal to the good so early on, it was the home fans who could be heard chanting when the teams restarted.
A passionate home atmosphere has always been well received by the team, the Stadium of Light has become something of a fortress over recent seasons and it’s a place that teams dislike coming to. Which makes it all the more fitting, then, that those of them – the most ardent and loyal – who travel, even when fleeced for tickets and confronted with the appalling logistics of a 4.10pm Sunday start, were so well rewarded at Stamford Bridge.