Rafael Benitez and David Moyes saw out their respective tenures by presiding over an entertaining encounter that either side could have snatched before the Spaniard's winner.
LONDON -- Rafael Benitez saw out his six-month interim spell in charge at Chelsea by presiding over an entertaining 2-1 Premier League win against Everton at Stamford Bridge.
Though Juan Mata opened the scoring early on for the home side, Steven Naismith equalized shortly after, with both sides then having ample opportunity to snatch a winner before Fernando Torres volleyed home clinically at the near post to seal all three points.
Europa League champion Chelsea started the game having already secured Champions League football next term while, regardless of the score, Everton was guaranteed a sixth place Premier League finish, as the subplots of the end of both manager’s periods in charge at their clubs took center-stage in the buildup.
Benitez opted to start both Demba Ba and Torres, while Nathan Ake came in to make his first Premier League start for the Blues. A knee injury for Leon Osman meant that Naismith was drafted in for the visiting team.
A flurry of early activity saw Chelsea start in enterprising fashion and seize the initiative after Mata started and finished a fluid counterattack, tucking into an empty net after Tim Howard had spilled Ba’s shot straight into the Spaniard’s path
Chances for Everton came thick and fast in the aftermath, with Naismith skewing Seamus Coleman’s cut back wide of the target before making amends and drawing his side level with 14 minutes gone. David Luiz was the guilty party for the Blues, being caught in possession by the Scot, who then exchanged a neat one-two with Victor Anichebe before clipping over Petr Cech.
Darron Gibson’s deflected effort came off Cech’s head via the post while Torres misdirected his free header as the game flew by breathlessly.
Torres made another poor connection with a free header before an Everton onslaught saw Chelsea lucky to enter the interval level. The visiting side thrice went close in the closing stages of the first half, as Gibson’s deflected effort rattled both the post and Cech’s head, then Kevin Mirallas scuffed at the far post before Steven Pienaar’s curling effort flew narrowly over the bar. In response, Frank Lampard wildly arrowed over when released by some clever Torres and Ba interchange.
The frantic tempo of the game showed little sign of abating in the second half with Howard immediately called into action to beat out Gary Cahill’s effort while Marounane Fellaini nearly caught Cech unaware at the other end.
Branislav Ivanovic blazed wastefully over when the ball dropped to him after a corner before Ba squandered his own fine chance, curling wide after picking up Phil Jagielka’s loose pass across his own area.
Ivanovic then hammered wide of the upright from range while the introduction of Nikica Jelavic almost paid instantaneous dividends though the Croat could only send his diving header straight into Cech’s arms.
Jelavic then missed an even more guilt-edged chance, sliding into Leighton Baines’ cross only to see the ball go the wrong side of the upright and was made to pay immediately, when Torres smashed home Victor Moses’ nod-down at the near post to secure both the win and a third-place Premier League finish.