Inside Blue Fri 22 Dec 2017
If our trip to Goodison Park this weekend is anything like our pre-Christmas visit in 2006, Blues fans are in for a treat.
After winning back-to-back Premier League titles at a canter, Chelsea were presented with an altogether tougher challenge as we looked to make it three on the bounce, with a thrilling championship race with Manchester United beginning to take shape.
Defeat here, against an Everton side known for its physicality and never-say-die spirit, would have left the Blues lagging behind. Twice we went behind, and it was largely a disjointed performance. Yet somehow, against the odds, this group of players found a way to win an enthralling game of football, through sheer bloody mindedness and an ability to conjure up a goal out of nothing.
In the opening half-hour of this match there had been few signs of the fireworks that would follow, but the game came to life shortly before half-time thanks to a needless challenge by Khalid Boulahrouz on Victor Anichebe inside the penalty area. Mikel Arteta stroked the resulting spot-kick one way as Hilario dived the other and the Toffees were in front.
There was to be an even better set-piece at the other end, though, when Michael Ballack lined up a free-kick 25 yards from goal early in the second half, he bent a sumptuous effort around the wall and into the back of the net via a combination of post and goalkeeper Tim Howard.
There was another twist to come, however, as Joseph Yobo rose highest in the Blues box to head the home side in front once again. Goodison Park erupted and the travelling Chelsea support were deflated.
Entering the final 10 minutes, however, this match was far from over. Salomon Kalou received the ball down the left channel and laid it off to Frank Lampard, who was 25 yards from goal. One touch was all he needed to steady himself before rifling a swerving effort beyond the despairing dive of Tim Howard.
Having netted four in four against the Toffees in the previous campaign, they were proving to be a very profitable opponent for Super Frank, who became our highest-scoring midfielder of all time with his 77th goal for the club, surpassing the record set by Dennis Wise.
An even better strike was to follow, one which came via the simplest of build-ups. A hopeful punt up field by Hilario was flicked on by Andriy Shevchenko, who was clattered for his troubles, and Didier Drogba took one touch on his chest before swivelling and unleashing a ferocious half-volley from 35 yards. Howard, for the third time in the match, had absolutely no chance and the goalscorer sprinted towards the Chelsea supporters, sliding on his knees in celebration.
This was also the season when Drogba's lethal shooting on the turn while outside the box netted him memorable goals against Liverpool and Barcelona, and it would end with the Ivorian securing the Premier League Golden Boot and netting the winner in both domestic cup finals.
This, however, was the pick of the bunch according to the man himself.
'It was probably the best goal I’ve ever scored,' he said after the game. 'The goals we got were special. Maybe, given how far out we were, we could count ourselves lucky they went in. But the way we won that match, when everything was against us, showed we believe in our destiny.
'There are not many teams who can find a way of coming back from 2-1 down at Everton with less than 10 minutes to go. We showed everybody we have the best team spirit in the world.'
Though the title would ultimately elude us, it wasn't without one hell of a fight, epitomised by this dogged display at Goodison Park.