Everton and Scotland forward Steven Naismith agreed it had been a birthday to remember as he fired the Toffees to their first win of the new Barclays Premier League season.
The Scot headed home a header from former Rangers team-mate Nikica Jelavic on the stroke of half time to earn Everton all three points from a 1-0 win at Goodison Park while condemning Chelsea to a first league defeat under the second coming of manager Jose Mourinho.
The goal capped a great week for Naismith, who shone in Scotland’s 2-1 in Macedonia on Tuesday.
Naismith, who made his first league start of the season, was also celebrating turning 27 and when asked if birthdays came any better, he said: “No, they don’t. At the start of the season, competition for places is tough and unfortunately for [injured winger] Steven Pienaar it’s given the opportunity to myself and I was able to score and win the game.”
He insisted little had changed in the dressing room under new boss Roberto Martinez, who replaced David Moyes in the summer, with the team spirit possibly better than ever at Goodison.
“That’s definitely the same and I think that’s credit to the backroom staff who have shown the new boys what it means to play for Everton, and it carries on through,” he added. “We’ve got a great team spirit and that’s what we showed tonight. It’s been a drastic change in the type of football we play from last season and it takes a bit of getting used to but it’s a wee monkey off our backs.
“Now we can push on and get more wins.”
It was also a first league win as Everton boss for Spaniard Martinez, who had been frustrated by goalless draws with West Brom and Cardiff after overseeing an opening-day 2-2 draw at Norwich.
The former Wigan manager accepted praise for his defence’s resilient display but insisted he was equally happy with his side’s threat going forward.
“It feels really, really good because it was a special game, a special opposition and a very good performance,” Martinez said. “I thought we put a lot of bodies in the box, especially in the first half, even if I thought our build-up play is not as good as it has been.
“But in the second half we kept our composure and always carried a good threat in attack, and we coped with every adjustment that Chelsea did. That gives me real pride in the performance.”
Mourinho bemoaned his strikers’ profligacy, but insisted his side had deserved to win.
He said: “We dominated the whole game and had 21 shots, we risked everything we could. In that sense I think it’s fair to say we deserved to win the game.
“But in another way, the team had 21 shots and some of them easy shots but we didn’t score. We made a mistake in the last minute of the first half where we lost the ball in a strange situation and we conceded a goal.
“Maybe because of that, we deserved to lose.”
Mourinho would not single out Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o, who was particularly wasteful on his Chelsea debut following an August move from Anzhi Makhachkala, for criticism.
“Of course he needs [matches], but it was not just him,” Mourinho added.
“I think [Andre] Schurrle’s missed three big chances to score and other players also had chances.”