Rafael Benitez, speaking after the away win at Goodison Park, confirmed playing Everton was an important test of how Chelsea are progressing, and he was heartened by what he witnessed.
The interim manager admitted the early stages of the game did not go well, with the Toffees who were unbeaten at home and had only lost two of their last 28 Premier League games, scoring before some on the pitch had even touched the ball.
But on the back of Chelsea wins against Aston Villa and Norwich without conceding a goal, he saw his team this time triumph from adversity…
‘It was a great win for us,’ praised Benitez.
‘The team showed character, commitment, passion and quality against a good team. Everton were pushing and we made mistakes at the beginning but the reaction under pressure was really good. At half-time we were talking about solutions and the players did really well.
‘We knew that it could be tough but I had confidence in my players and at the end you could see we were controlling against a good team who have been 10 years with the same manager doing the same things, which gives them an advantage, but still we were doing well.
‘We have had some difficult games before but Everton were in form so we saw the level of our team and the options that we had. I am really pleased about this because it was one of the most difficult games.’
On two-goal Frank Lampard and the way the team was set-up…
‘We put Ramires on the right side against Baines and he gave a great game, and Lampard was one of the players who if he got into the box could be dangerous,’ said Benitez. ‘We knew Hazard, Torres, Lampard and Mata could score goals and that was the idea, to have a balance between attacking players with quality and players who could do the job in defence.
‘Lampard is under contract and he shows his full commitment and he is a great player. My job is to keep him fit and if he can score goals every game I will be really pleased. He is a good professional and we will try to bring the best from him until the end of the season.’
Before of the first game of 2013 against QPR, Petr Cech will have a scan on a strained adductor muscle at the top of his leg that forced him off at half-time, to determine how long he will be out. The game will come too early for a return for John Terry…
‘We have to recover quickly and be ready. QPR are in a difficult position and that means they will be more dangerous so we have to be focused on what we have to do and try to improve the things that we are not doing well.
‘Still we are making some mistakes which we have to manage but the team is much better and the main thing for me is the attitude of the players. They are keen to learn and we are really pleased with the way they train and behave every day, and that is the main thing for the future.’
Everton manager David Moyes was satisfied with his own team’s showing, if not the result, and lamented the ball not falling their way on two occasions they hit woodwork, as it had for their goal…
‘I am not disappointed with how we played and we have run the European champions really close,’ he said, ‘but we didn’t have quite enough in the end. We came close to a second goal so I thought we were a wee bit of unlucky.
‘I don’t think Chelsea are just finding their resilience. I think they have always had that whoever the manager and the players are. They stuck at it and they still have some really talented players who we were wary of when they had the ball on the break.’