MATCH REPORT: EVERTON 1 CHELSEA 2
The winning Christmas continued as the team fought back from going behind to an early Steven Pienaar strike, Frank Lampard netting in each half to take his Chelsea career total to 192 goals.
That puts the midfielder just one goal behind Kerry Dixon who is currently the club's second-highest scorer in our history, and it was predatory finishing at its best.
The visitors were on the back foot early in the game against a hard-battling Everton side who hit the woodwork soon after scoring, and forced Petr Cech in to two good saves. But Chelsea stuck to our task and levelled just before the break with a headed goal.
Cech's milestone appearance was spoilt by injury that forced him off at half-time but although they hit woodwork again, Everton couldn't beat replacement Ross Turnbull and it was left to Lampard to win it from close range with 20 minutes to go.
Rafael Benitez selected the same defence that kept clean sheets in the previous two matches so David Luiz was once again in midfield, this time with Lampard alongside.
Everton made two changes from their win against Wigan. Captain Phil Neville was missing so Johnny Heitinga came in at the back with Phil Jagielka at right-back, and Steven Naismith replaced injured Darron Gibson in midfield.
Visiting a side that had beaten us on our last three league visits to Goodison Park, this match was always likely to be a true test of our improving form, so the last thing we needed was to concede as the clock ticked onto one minute played.
The ball was given away cheaply and there looked to be danger from the moment it became clear Jagielka's cross was going to be met by the tall Anichebe at the far post. He was arguably climbing on Cesar Azpilicueta as the striker's header beat Cech but cannoned back off the upright. Pienaar however was in the right spot to snap up the rebound.
Everton struck woodwork again just eight minutes in. Cahill was upset to have been whistled up for a foul in the first place but from the free-kick, it was Nikica Jelavic rather than the anticipated Baines who took it and he curled the ball away from Cech and onto the upright. This time a white shirt was nearest to clear.
The home team were on the front foot and it needed a stretching Cahill to cut out a threatening Pienaar cross.
Playing a 4-2-3-1 shape with Anichebe wide left and Pienaar playing behind Jelavic, Everton were winning too many of the 50-50 contests. When Ramires did come off better in one scramble outside the Everton box, he skied his shot. With half the first period gone, that was Chelsea's only attempt on goal so far.
On 25 minutes Cech, on his 400th appearance for the Blues, kept Everton at bay with a sharp dive to stop Osman's crisp strike. Again it had been a cross from Everton's right that had created the opening.
Chelsea went straight up the other end and could well have scored. Ramires ran at the heart of the Everton defence and although his intended pass didn't come off, it fell kindly for Mata but his snap-shot was into the legs of Howard. Slowly the ship was being steadied.
On 32 minutes Chelsea finally produced some of the attacking play that has lit up the last few games. Torres and Mata swapped short passes in a crowd and Mata did very well to find Azpilicueta's overlapping run. The delivery was hard and low across the mouth of the goal and opposite full-back Cole was only centimetres from turning it in at the far post.
Everton broke soon after with Chelsea's defence stretched. Jelavic was able to run at and shoot inside of Cahill but Cech at full-stretch pushed the ball wide with his fingertips.
Instead it was the visitors who hit the back of the net before the interval. Ramires took Torres's pass on the corner of the penalty area and swivelled to deliver a cross. Lampard, with that famous sixth sense of when to be in the box, was left free behind Heitinga. He headed down wide of Howard to level the scores. There were 41 minutes played and we had a platform on which to build in the second half.
There was however a shock before the whistle blew to begin the second 45 minutes. Ross Turnbull warmed up on the pitch with the others in the changing room and replaced Cech between the posts.
Cahill picked up a booking for blocking off a Baines run but as at the start of the first half, Everton were winning the physical contest. Ivanovc did defend strongly to snuff out an Anichebe attack before there were a couple of promising moments for Chelsea on the attack, but Mata was dispossessed trying to trick his way past Distin, and Torres couldn't control David Luiz's pass over the top.
Torres was unmarked when Howard kept out his 55th-minute shot but the flag was up for offside anyway.
Everton pressed forward but strong aerial defending but Cahill and David Luiz protected our net. Pienaar was shown a yellow card for a foul on David Luiz just past the halfway line. The Brazilian was playing a safe game, with Lampard the one pushing forward the most.
It was now a pretty even contest and on 66 minutes, Lampard wrestled away from Pienaar and passed on to Torres. From the edge of the area the shot was good, but Howard was able to save.
Tunbull had to make his first save two minutes later, pushing sideways an Osman shot that lacked power. Moments later Everton hit woodwork for the third time, Jelavic in front of Cahill flicking Baines's cross over Turnbull but onto the crossbar. David Luiz then fouled Pienaar for a 69th-minute booking.
Chelsea were still in the game despite that scare and two minutes later shocked Goodison Park by taking the lead. Mata looked like the player about the score after Hazard had knocked the ball back into the six-yard box but Howard performed wonders to keep it out. Lampard from even closer range and just onside returned the ball high into the net.
Suddenly, after having been on top, the Toffees began to look a defeated side. Jagielka had to clear a Ramires cross over his own bar with a resigned hack before substitute Oscar caught Distin dawdling on the ball.
The three points could have been sown up on 90 minutes as substitute Moses started a counter-attack against a sparse defence, continued by Oscar. But Distin chased down Torres to prevent the striker shooting.
With a minute's stoppage time left, Everton fired over one last cross which hit the shins of Cole. Happily Turnbull was able to gather up the loose ball first and the three points were ours.
Chelsea have now won seven of our last eight matches in all competitions.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech (Turnbull h-t); Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole; Ramires, David Luiz, Lampard (c); Mata (Oscar 85), Torres, Hazard (Moses 73).
Unused subs Ferreira, Ake, Marin, Piazon.
Scorers Lampard 41, 71.
Booked Cahill 47, David Luiz 69, Cole 86.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard: Jagielka (c), Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Naismith (Vellios 76), Hitzlsperger (Barkley 78), Osman, Anichebe; Pienaar (Oviedo, 80); Jelavić.
Unused subs Mucha, Browning, Duffy, Gueye.
Scorer Pienaar 1.
Booked Pienaar 64, Distin 73.
Referee Howard Webb