x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Angry Ancelotti demands more from his players

Chelsea threw away a winning position with an abject second-half display and in the end it was they, rather than Everton, who were left clinging on for a point.

Jermaine Beckford heads past Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal to earn Everton a point.   Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo
Jermaine Beckford heads past Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal to earn Everton a point. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo

Chelsea 1 // Everton 1

Chelsea Drogba (pen) 42'

Everton Beckford 86'

Man of the match Leighton Baines (Everton)

LONDON // The blanket of snow which has enveloped the London environs for the past week started to melt yesterday, but the cold snap that has frozen Chelsea's seemingly unstoppable title defence refused to thaw.

With Manchester United's game at Blackpool postponed, this was a day when Chelsea could at least have re-established a lead at the top of the table.

Instead they threw away a winning position with an abject second-half display and in the end it was they, rather than Everton, who were left clinging on for a point.

The past month has seen Chelsea surrender a five-point lead at the top of the table having lost three, drawn one and won just one.

They now trail new leaders Arsenal by two points and with their next three games against Tottenham Hotspur, United and the Gunners, Black November could easily span December, too.

Carlo Ancelotti was furious: "Obviously I am worried and I have made the players aware of my feelings," the Chelsea manager said.

"I am very angry. I thought we did OK in the first half and the spirit was all right. But in the second it all fell away. It was all wrong.

"The team played like it was afraid. It stopped playing the football that we have played for the last year and a half. We just started hitting the long ball. The players have got to improve their behaviour on the training ground.

"We have no reason to smile at the moment. We have to be serious. I see the fact that the next game is against a team of Tottenham's quality as a good opportunity to bounce back."

So what has gone wrong for Chelsea? The long-term absence of Frank Lampard has obviously started to take its toll. They miss his ability to create something special from difficult situations.

An ageing squad lacks the quality in depth it once had. Indeed, had John Terry and Michael Essien not been back for the first time in three matches this result could easily have been worse.

Despite Ancelotti's denial, there seems no question that the ill-timed removal of assistant coach Ray Wilkins has undermined Chelsea's spirit and even tactical prowess. Suddenly Ancelotti looks a vulnerable man, standing alone on the touchline without a trusted ally to bounce ideas off.

Allegedly, one of the reasons Wilkins was ditched was dissatisfaction from the club's interfering owner Roman Abramovich over tactical substitutions.

Yet it was Ancelotti's decision to withdraw Nicolas Anelka in the 78th minute for the ineffectual Ramires that opened the door Everton had been banging on since half time.

Anelka's attacking outlet down the right had helped rein in the marauding runs of Everton's influential left-back Leighton Baines. But, with Anelka out of the equation, Baines ran riot.

Chelsea had just edged the first half when a weary looking Didier Drogba crashed home a penalty, after Tim Howard, the Everton goalkeeper, had blocked Anelka to make it 1-0.

But the shift in power was marked in the 62nd minute when Baines whipped over an excellent cross which saw Jack Rodwell glance a header off the far post.

With Petr Cech shaken after he suffered a cut to his eye when Tim Cahill was a little late with a lunging attempt on goal, Chelsea looked increasingly suspect at the back. And in the 86th minute, Baines stormed beyond four Chelsea men before sending over a deep cross. Cahill headed back across the face of goal and substitute Jermaine Beckford nodded home from closed range to earn a point.

Meanwhile, the Chelsea strikers Salomon Kalou and Drogba were named on a five-man shortlist for African Player of the Year yesterday, along with Inter Milan's Samuel Eto'o, Asamoah Gyan of Sunderland and Barcelona's Seydou Keita. The winner will be announced on December 20.

sports@thenational.ae