Premier League: Spotlight falls on Ivanovic in headbutt row

Frank Dalleres
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Willian proved Chelsea’s match-winner while (inset) Ivanovic tussles with McCarthy

EVERTON manager Roberto Martinez insisted Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic should have been sent off for violent conduct after the Premier League leaders struck late to maintain their seven-point advantage last night.

Attacking midfielder Willian’s 89th-minute deflected shot snatched the points, moments after the visitors had seen midfielder Gareth Barry sent off for a second bookable offence. That incident sparked a melee in which Ivanovic grappled with James McCarthy and appeared to move his head towards the Toffees midfielder -- an incident that could yet see the Serb banned if referee Jonathan Moss indicates he missed it.

“If you look at the images, the Ivanovic behaviour is wrong,” said Martinez, whose team have won just one in 11 games and lie 12th.

“He grabs McCarthy around his neck in a very forceful manner and then puts his head against him when James McCarthy never reacted one single bit. So if you want to be on top of the law, that’s a red card. I think Chelsea will win the league but you don’t want to see teams have to win games in that manner.”

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who saw striker Diego Costa banned for stamping retrospectively last month, argued the fracas could have been avoided had Barry been sent off earlier and called the tussle “nothing important”. Mourinho then threatened to end the post-match conference early when asked if he was concerned Ivanovic may face action, saying: “I am concerned with my reaction because after one more question I leave.”

Everton had not won at Stamford Bridge since 1994 while Chelsea had dropped just two points at home this season, so it was no surprise the hosts bombarded the visitors early on

Willian, full debutant Juan Cuadrado, Eden Hazard and Loic Remy all narrowly missed the target in the first half-hour, while recalled Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard showed no signs of rust in stopping efforts from the latter two.

The American reprised his World Cup heroics when Chelsea tried to turn the screw in the second half, producing one-handed saves at full-stretch to keep out a Nemanja Matic free-kick and Willian’s shot from the left.

A frenetic final five minutes began with Matic’s strike being disallowed because of a deflection via the offside Ivanovic, and the right-back was central to the action seconds later in the melee surrounding Barry’s second booking.

As players surrounded referee Jonathan Moss, Ivanovic bear-hugged McCarthy and appeared to move his head towards him. The incident could be examined by the Football Association if Moss indicates he missed it.

But just as Chelsea looked set to have their lead cut to five points by Manchester City, comfortable winners at Stoke, Willian drilled a hopeful shot from the edge of the box that Steven Naismith diverted past Howard.