MATCH REPORT: CHELSEA 2 EVERTON 1
Third place in the Barclays Premier League was safely secured by goals from our two topscorers for the season, Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata finding the net early in the first half with Fernando Torres scoring the winner with a sharp finish with quarter of an hour left to play.
Everton had equalised soon after Mata's opener and were tough opponents in David Moyes's final game, hitting woodwork and missing chances in the first half, but although the Toffees did have the odd opportunity in the second half as well, an improved Chelsea showing after the interval deserved to win the day.
After 69 games, we end this mammoth season with the Europa League trophy and a guaranteed place in next season's Champions League group stage.
There was a first start at Stamford Bridge for freshly crowned Chelsea Young Player of the Year Nathan Ake, alongside Frank Lampard in midfield. Wednesday's hero Branislav Ivanovic was right-back today with David Luiz back in defence alongside Gary Cahill.
On the bench was Andreas Christensen - part of the team that made this season's FA Youth Cup final. The 17-year-old Dane is a central defender who can also play at right-back.
Everton were forced into one change by an injury to midfielder Leon Osman. Steven Naismith came in.
Prior to kick-off on sunny May afternoon at the Bridge, there were fine scenes with Bobby Tambling presenting a golden boot to Frank Lampard to mark the changing hands of Chelsea's all-time goalscoring record. It helped generate a buzz around the Bridge that continued throughout an entertaining and quite open first half.
Dozy defending by the Toffees almost opened the door for Chelsea with three minutes played, Ba latching onto an unattended ball inside the penalty area. Sylvain Distin slid in desperately to block as our centre-forward shot. That set a pattern for the game.
Gary Cahill snuffed out a chance for Anichibe in similar fashion at the other end and then tackled the Everton striker with seven minutes played, beginning a counter-attack that resulted in Chelsea taking the lead. Oscar drove deep into the Everton half and passed out to Ba. Tim Howard saved the Senegalese's shot but Mata was there to snap up the loose ball. It was his 20th goal of the season on his 64 appearance. Along with Oscar and Torres, he was playing a record number of games for a Chelsea player in one campaign.
Having gone behind and with little left to play for except pride and to give their manager a good send off, Everton might have taken that early set-back badly, but instead they had more of the game for the next quarter of an hour.
Naismith shot wide with a first-time effort before the Scot levelled the score with 13 minutes played. David Luiz didn't control a long ball that came his way and as it bounced loose, Naismith exchanged passes with Anichebe and beat a stranded Cech.
Four minutes later the visitors hit the post, twice. Darron Gibson was allowed room to shoot outside the area and it deflected off Ake before cannoning off the woodwork, onto Cech and then back onto the post before bouncing away to safety.
The score remained 1-1 and Torres headed a cross wide for Chelsea and Ake wasn't too far away with a 29th-minute strike from nearly 30 yards out.
But Everton continued to carry a threat and there was relief when Kevin Mirallas could only paddle a cross into the hands of Cech.
Howard punched out a Mata effort soon after and as Everton counter-attacked, Torres tripped Coleman at the expense of a booking.
Mirallas hooked a 38th-minute shot only just over Cech's bar and then had a shot hit the back of David Luiz, those moments coming after what had been a promising spell for Chelsea at the other end of the pitch.
With three minutes to go before half-time, the best Chelsea move of the game was unfortunately not finished off by Lampard, a succession of quick first-time passes through the middle ended with the 203-goal man firing wide.
Unlike for the first goal of the game, when Howard couldn't hold Cahill's shot two minutes after the restart, there was no one on hand to reach the loose ball before an Everton player did. The danger had come from a Mata corner.
On 52 minutes Mata sought out Ba with a pass into the area from wide but once again Distin was able to block, as he did again two minutes later to send a possibly goal-bound shot wide. In between those two incidents. Ivanovic got plenty of power but no direction on a shot when a corner came his way.
It was however better pressure from Chelsea than in the first half, with a succession of shots blocked deep inside the Everton area. On 59 minutes Oscar's centre to Cole was unfortunately played a touch behind the full-back, whose back-heel attempt as he adjusted his run didn't come off.
Chelsea went close to opening up Everton when after good foraging by Ake inside our half, Ba picked out Mata near the penalty spot but a combination of Baines and Distin snuffed out the danger. That was Ba's last contribution with Victor Moses his 65th-minute replacement. The new arrival was soon fouled by another substitute, Jonny Heitinga, for the game's second booking.
Everton should have taken the lead on 73 minutes, Baines springing forward after a mistake by Ivanovic who had recently shot wide at the other end. The ball was played to unmarked Nikica Jelavic but the striker, who had come on at the same time as the other substitutes, slid his shot wide from close range.
Chelsea made them pay for that miss by taking the lead just two minutes later. Ake won the ball again to start the move. Oscar ran into space on the right and clipped a ball up to Moses. The Nigerian nodded down to Torres who sweetly rifled the ball between Howard and his near post. With inches to aim at, it was deadly accurate finishing and his 22nd goal of the season.
Cech saved twice from Jelavic before the end, Howard once from Moses.
Cesar Azpilicueta came on late in the game and played in an attacking role wide on the right, and there were a few minutes of action for Paulo Ferreira, who came on to a tremendous reception and had his every touch cheered.
Everton pushed Marouane Fellaini up front for the last few minutes and played the ball up to him from the back but they couldn't trouble Cech. A good week for Chelsea Football Club was complete.
It was Ferreira, at the end of his ninth season for Chelsea, who carried the Europa League trophy on to the pitch for the traditional lap of appreciation and he, plus John Terry and Frank Lampard took the microphone to thank the fans for their support in a campaign with so many games.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole; Lampard (c), Ake; Oscar (Ferreira 88), Mata (Azpilicueta 82), Torres; Ba (Moses 65).
Unused subs Turnbull, Christensen, Benayoun, Marin.
Scorers Mata 7, Torres 76.
Booked Torres 34, David Luiz 81
Everton (4-2-3-1): Howard; Coleman, Jagielka (c), Distin, Baines; Gibson, Fellaini; Naismith (Heitinga 66), Pienaar, Mirallas; Anichebe (Jelavic 66).
Unused subs: Mucha, Hibbert, Duffy, Oviedo, Barkley.
Scorer Naismith 14.
Booked Fellaini 57, Heitinga 70.
Referee Anthony Taylor.