John Terry’s stunning 98th-minute backheeled finish earned Chelsea a deserved share of the spoils as they battled from 0-2, and then 2-3 down to draw with Everton at Stamford Bridge.
The phrase ‘a game of two halves’ has never before been so appropriate, as, following one of the most dour halves of football Stamford Bridge has played host to in the Premier League era, the game ignited just four minutes after the restart as Terry accidentally diverted the ball beyond his own goalkeeper.
And things went from bad to worse just six minutes later as Kevin Mirallas showed exceptional composure to turn and smash a vicious finish beyond international team-mate Thibaut Courtois.
Guus Hiddink, Chelsea’s interim manager, had responded to going 0-1 down by taking off Nemanja Matic and introducing Oscar, and though the Blues shipped a second almost instantly after the Brazilian’s introduction, the game certainly pivoted on that moment as the Blues were finally able to rest control of the midfield away from the visitors.
They replied with a quickfire salvo reminiscent of their title-winning efforts last campaign as first Diego Costa rounded Tim Howard to reduce the arrears, before, just 101 seconds later, Cesc Fabregas’ deflected drive from the edge of the box restored parity.
Just moments before those two goals, Fabregas had seen a deft flick expertly tipped over by Howard, and Hiddink showed further attacking intentions with the arrival of Kenedy in place of the ineffective Pedro.
Courtois had to be at his best to deny Mirallas in a one-on-one with the game evenly poised, but Chelsea seemed to lose a lot of their momentum after an injury to Costa led to the Brazilian’s withdrawal from the action.
And there seemed to be an air of inevitability about the way the game went following that – a wayward Everton corner, won following a good defensive header from Branislav Ivanovic, was recycled out wide to Gerard Deulofeu, which allowed for Ramiro Funes Mori to convert what appeared to be a 92nd-minute winner for the Toffees.
Ivanovic and Kurt Zouma were left flat-footed as Funes Mori acrobatically turned the ball home, but there was to be a final twist in the tale, to be supplied – quite fittingly – by Chelsea’s captain.
Terry had been playing in relatively advanced positions since Everton had established their 0-2 lead, and it was he who showed terrific composure to backheel home from close range after Oscar had flicked on a free-kick won in the deep by Loic Remy.
Replays indicated that Terry was quite clearly in an offside position as he converted, but that was the stroke of luck the Blues deserved and, as all Chelsea supporters will acknowledge, moments of good fortune like that have been few and far between this season.
The Blues remain unbeaten since the arrival of Hiddink – with three wins and four draws to their name since José Mourinho’s dismissal – and they must take that form to the next level as they travel to Arsenal next weekend.