Unlocking a grim defence

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The trudge home from the Bridge on a wet evening… as the impressionists would have painted it


How do you do it? How do you unlock a defence that is determined to shut out all attacks?

The Blues failed at Goodison Park, where Sam Allardyce’s Everton team snuffed out move after move in a thorough – if grim – display of suffocation. The celebrations at the end of that 0-0 confirmed that the Toffees had succeeded in their game plan… but what a negative game plan.

At half-time against Brighton at the Bridge on Boxing Day, it looked like it was going to be deja-vu all over again.

And then something amazing happened. Moments after the restart, Cesar Azpilicueta floated a beautiful ball over everyone, on the diagonal, and that polished header of a ball Alvaro Morata rose to nod into the back of the net.

Precisely on the hour mark, from Chelsea’s 11th corner of the game (reflecting the attacking balance and possession), Cesc Fabregas swung the ball into the Seagulls’ area, and Marcos Alonso ran across to head in a second.

A slew of other chances and half-chances followed, but the Blues had persisted and that persistence was translated into victory.

Stoke City will try similar tactics at the weekend – sitting back, absorbing pressure, then striking on the break.

Hopefully, Chelsea have discovered the key to unlocking the door.