“After years of punching above their weight and having to make do, the Blues have finally had the financial muscle to compete with that elite group above them in the market this summer but you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a performance over the past decade in which they looked so far behind than the one served up today. [D]epressingly, there was almost nothing to this Everton performance at all.”
That was the assessment in this column in August last year following Everton’s 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the first of four successive defeats in all competitions and the beginning of Ronald Koeman’s inexorable slide towards the Goodison Park trapdoor.
The season before, the Blues were annihilated in a 5-0 reverse to the would-be Champions, a performance described here as “atrocious in the context of the strong start they made under Koeman, the money he has spent and his European aspirations.”
Everton may not have ended a 24-year wait for a first Premier League victory on Chelsea’s home ground today but they finally looked like they were worthy opponents of Maurizio Sarri’s highly-regarded team, one that came into the game as the only unbeaten team left in the Continent’s top five leagues in all competitions.
The performance may not have yielded a goal but for long periods of this match, particularly in the first half, Marco Silva’s Blues were bold and undaunted, taking the game to Chelsea to produce another hugely encouraging away performance and earn what was, in the context of so many fruitless trips to these parts over the years, an important point gained.
This must surely have been as difficult an assignment as Sarri’s men have faced this season and with a bit more in the final third from the Blues, they might well have tasted defeat for the first time this season. Because, ultimately, while Chelsea would be restricted to just four shots on target, all four repelled by the excellent Jordan Pickford, it was the solitary accurate effort from Gylfi Sigurdsson on the other side of the statistics table that perhaps underlined the next step that Silva and his side need to take before a crack at that seemingly impenetrable top four is realistic.
Everton were laudably disciplined and industrious when they didn’t have the ball. Richarlison, passed fit despite picking up an ankle injury against Brighton last Saturday, and Gylfi Sigurdsson defended from the front with relentless pressing. Idrissa Gueye was, once again, superb alongside André Gomes in shutting down a Chelsea team bristling with talent. And when the Londoners, and Eden Hazard in particular, proved too much handle, Michael Keane, impressive full debutant, Yerry Mina, Lucas Digne, Seamus Coleman or Pickford were there to clean up.
Going forward, however, while they would have their occasional moments, they exhibited that little lack of quality and composure in the final third that prevented them from breaching their hosts' goal. As you would expect, Chelsea were that bit crisper and more accomplished in their passing, especially in tight or fast-moving situations, and as such they would have the clearer-cut opportunities.
And while they weren’t able to attack as fluidly and in co-ordinated numbers as their hosts, perhaps understandably as the away team against a side looking to temporarily take top spot in the League, they did manage to engineer some early set-piece chances that exposed another area in need of improvement: Silva’s team are yet to score from a corner this season and a third-minute header from Gomes that flew high and wide, they didn’t look likely to break that duck this afternoon.
All of this is to be regarded within the context of the great forward strides being take under the new manager. Not only were Everton in touch with Chelsea throughout, they might have claimed that long-awaited Stamford Bridge victory had they been able to nick a goal in the closing stages… although by that stage, with Sigurdsson off having succumbed to the effects of an awful Jorginho foul in the first half (that should, were there any justice, have resulted in him being shown a straight red card by Kevin Friend) and Richarlison struggling with a groin problem, Silva appeared largely content with a draw.
The opening exchanges revealed an Everton team well up for the challenge and with genuine intent to go toe-to-toe with the best in their own back yard. A Richarlison shot as early as the second minute had deflected behind from Coleman’s first foray to the byline and Gomes might feel he could have done better when he met Sigurdsson’s delivery from the right.
A couple of minutes later after Richarlison had been tripped by Cesar Azpilicueta, Mina came within inches of connecting with the resulting free kick by Anton Rüdiger may have got the merest of touches to take it away from him.
Then, after a Coleman cross had been blocked behind, a corner was cleared only as far as Bernard but his cleanly-struck volley flew a yard the wrong side of Kepa’s goal.
It wasn’t until almost 20 minutes had elapsed that Chelsea were finally able to put together a meaningful attack but though Alvaro Morata out-jumped Keane, Digne’s tackle prevented Willian from stealing in.
A couple of minutes after that, Marcos Alonso was gifted a free sight of goal by the first of the referee’s dreadful decisions on the day. Mina appeared to win the ball fairly on the edge of his penalty area but his momentum meant that he caught Hazard’s ankle and Friend not only awarded a free kick but booked the Colombian too boot.
Alonso fired the direct free kick narrowly wide but when Jorginho harassed, tugged at and then scythed Sigurdsson down shortly afterwards, the Brazilian’s punishment was not befitting what was a terrible two-footed lunge that looked initially to have badly injured the Nordic star. The referee only brandished a yellow card and then took no action when Alonso chopped Theo Walcott down with a stamp to the ankle having missed the ball entirely.
Alonso remained the most dangerous man in Chelsea blue as half-time approached, the Spaniard peeling off the defensive wall at a free kick and connecting with Willian’s delivery with a sweetly-struck volley that Pickford pushed away with both gloves.
The half ended in peculiar circumstances, however, after Bernard was sent reeling off the ball in challenge with Rüdiger and the pair squared up to each other before the German collapsed to the turf clutching his face. The referee had been running away from the incident so witnessed none of it but saw fit to book both players, presumably on the advice of his assistant.
The second period opened with chances for both sides. Morata was put in by Hazard but Pickford was equal to his low shot, diving to his right to palm it around the post before Sigurdsson looked to release Walcott with a great ball over the top but the winger let himself down with a heavy first touch that ruined the opportunity.
Bernard and Sigurdsson then combined down the left with the winger passing to the Icelander in space 25 yards from goal and the latter unleashed a dipping shot that Kepa had to push over his crossbar one handed. Ambitious penalty shouts for handball against Rüdiger were sensibly ignored at one end before Willian’s loose touch took him away from goal at the other but he chased it down and crossed for Morata who went down in the box under the somewhat clumsy attentions of Mina.
Just before the hour mark, Sigurdsson turned provider for Bernard with a terrific cross from the byline but while the Brazilian was able to control the bouncing ball initially, he made a mess of his second touch, stumbling as he tried to shoot when, in reality, he had time to set himself and cut back for a better angle or perhaps lay it back to Richarlison or the arriving Gomes.
A flurry from Chelsea ensued but despite the raised attacking tempo from Sarri’s side, Everton’s back line held firm. Willian got in behind Digne but hooked his shot inches wide of the far post; Hazard unloaded from 25-yards with a stinging drive that Pickford pushed behind; and the Belgian jinked his way through again a couple of minutes later but Pickford did just enough to bat his deflected shot unconvincingly behind.
Though Morata would have the ball in the net with 18 minutes to go but was correctly pulled back for offside, Alonso had gone closer than anyone to breaking the deadlock when he struck a low shot off Pickford’s left-hand post from the angle a few minutes earlier.
Hazard had the last real chance of the game when he was played in behind the Everton defence but his attempt to prod the ball home off the outside of his boot dropped wide.
Meanwhile, Silva had withdrawn Bernard in favour of Ademola Lookman just past the hour mark. The former Shakhtar man had shown more fleeting examples of his talent but it’s clear that, given his small stature, he is going to take a while to adjust to the rigours of the Premier League. And while he is confident with the ball at his feet in wide areas, he has demonstrated in this game and at United recently a propensity to go to pieces in the box at the crucial moment. That should change with more games and more experience; a goal at home to settle his mind would do him no end of good.
In his stead, however, Lookman produced a mesmerising piece of skill late on that left three Chelsea players for dead before earning Everton the first of three late set-pieces, none of which came to anything.
As Silva said afterwards, Everton had come out intent on challenging Chelsea and for long stretches of this contest they did just that, even if the possession stats (61% to 39%) suggest that the home side were the dominant force. In truth, the Toffees were prepared to let Chelsea have more of the ball at times and, having diligently maintained their shape, would snuff them out in forward areas before trying to hit them on the counter-attack.
Things didn’t quite come together in the attacking third as the manager would have hoped or the impressively vocal travelling fans might have dreamed, though. Bernard was never able to be a consistent force and in Rüdiger and David Luiz, both Walcott and Richarlison found themselves dealing with two very difficult opponents.
Again, though, the result and the display that underpinned it do represent another significant step forward in the Portuguese’s nascent tenure; a clear demonstration that this Everton side is getting closer to living up to its billing as the team most likely to challenge the established order of the “big six”.
They go into the final international break of 2018 sitting just a point outside the current top six with a home game against Cardiff to come where they will get another chance to kick on in this increasingly exciting journey under Marco Silva.
Everton endured their toughest test to date this season when they stopped Chelsea scoring at Stamford Bridge, but lacked the guile needed to win the game.
Richarlison is fit enough to start and Yerry Mina makes his full Premier League debut, 3 months after joining Everton from Barcelona. Kurt Zouma makes way — he is ineligible for this fixture against his parent club.
For the home side, Ross Barkley is on the bench as Eden Hazard displaces Pedro.
Everton kicked off in their white kit, and started with some nice passing that went backwards and sideways. But Everton did get it down the wing to Coleman and his cross led to an early corner, Digne fiding Keane who seemed to get in front of Mina; one of them really should have scored.
Bernard was clipped on the run, giving Everton a free-kick that Digne plays in perfectly for Mina who somehow fails to do anything with it! Second chance gone begging. Richarlison had a chance to run at the Chelsea defence but was pushed wide and then dispossessed.
Some key midfield possession surrendered by first Gomes, then Digne. But a great run down the right by Coleman won another corner, cleared to Barnard who fires just wide. Third chance! Really good start by Everton.
Gomes took it off Willian, who immediately recovered it. Richarlison got forward but was flagged offside. Mina hoofs the ball forward to no-one. Richarlison passes the ball out of play. Everton were now allowing Chelsea to play and Digne had to head a brilliant cross behind for Chelsea's first corner... which they worked all the way back to Kepa.
Digne had to be alert in defence but the Whites were being well penned back, Chelsea seemingly upping their game in response to Everton's fine early play. Gomes, then Ganna beaten by high pressing, unable to go forward. Mina won a ball clearly Hazard running into him. Friend blows, and Everton players are livid, surrounding Friend. But in slo-mo, Mina did catch his ankle before he got the ball. Yellow card for Mina. The free-kick was eventually taken, Alonso firing just wide of Pickford's post.
Even with possession, Everton were no longer clicking, Walcott missing a great Sigurdsson overlap; Gana firing his pass out over Digne's head. Sigurdsson finally got the ball but was chased down ruthlessly by Jorginho and then fouled horribly, a two-footed red-card challenge, but only yellow, of course, from our Friend, Sigurdsson screaming in pain.
Another good delivery from Digne that Keane headed well over, as Sigurdsson gingerly returned to the field. Kante fouled Richarlisonfrom behind: Yellow Card. Chelse definitely knew they were in a game here but once again, their quality down the Everton right, whipping in a cross that caused mass panic in the Everton area before it was finally cleared.
Everton got the ball out to the right to Walcott but Marcos Alonso puts his studs into Walcott's foot in another illegal challenge that goes unpunished. Really clever dirty play bu Chelsea throughout this half.
Gomes (?) is called for a foul, and from the free kick, Alonso peels away to the left and volleys a tremendous shot at a tight but very goal-bound angle, forcing a brilliant save from Pickford.
Morata drives into the box but he slips under minimal contact from Lucas Digne. A few Chelsea players appeal but referee Kevin Friend waves it away as it's clearly not a penalty, Coleman telling Morata of the fact.
There was a flashpoint between Bernard and Rudiger off the ball that saw Rudiger feign a head butt as Everton broke away, Willian fouling Bernard as he cut across the Chelse player. Friend finally stopped play and booked both players for 'adopting an aggressive attitude'.
Chelsea attacked from the restart and Pickford was immediately in action, saving from Morata, Mina having done enough to shield the cross. Sigurdsson broke away well and brilliantly played in a fantastic ball for Walcott who totally messes up, awful first touch.
Some good Everton passing ended when Gomes overhit his pass for Digne. Chelsea attack and Hazard gets behind the Everton defence lashes a cross right through Morata. More good play from the home side ends with Pickford grasping the ball. But it was proving really hard for Everton to break out as Barkley intensified his warm-up.
Great work from Digne and Barnard set up Sigurdsson for a classic shot, too close to Kepa, tipped over. Handball claimed from the corner, then Walcott crosses for Mina 2 yards out but Mina fies over and Walcott was ofside.
At the other end, a brilliant ball forward, Willian nipped in ahead of Pickford and drove the ball wide. His cross back saw Mina tangle with Morata, clains for a corner.
A spell of massive pressure from Chelsea, another corner, hard shot deflected up and very difficult for Pickford to push behind.
Berenard had another fantastic chance but got the ball all tried up in his feet, Hazard set Willian free down the right, and his shot whizzed just inches beyond Pickford's post. Hazard then lashed a shot for Pickford to parry away for a corner. Time for the first subs on each side, before Alsonso's shot clipped the face of Pickford's far post.
Walcott had a good run but pushed it too far for Coleman. Another ferocious Chelsea attack down the Everton left ended with a goalkick. Lookman tried to beat Azpilicueta but was penalized, and Chelsea were on the attack again, pushing the Whites deep into their area, Morata finishing well from close range but he had strayed offside.
Richarlison got a rare chance to turn and run, Kovacic clipping him and Richarlison collapsing rolling around and staying down... but no foul. Chelsea broke and another shot was lashed across the Everton goal.
Sigurdsson walked of very slowly, still suffering from that awful first-half takedown. Morata collapses under a challenge from Keane but Morata was judged (wrongly?) offside. Everton tried to attack but were easily pushed back.
Richarlison was no match for Rudiger in protecting a loose ball and then falling under the slightest touch, exactly ass Richarlison does! Lookman did absolutely brilliant to beat three players but gave Kepa tot much sight of the ball. Mina did not get on the first corner, Loookman played the second one short and Digne's cross was blocked out as Barkley came on to resounding boos from the travelling Evertonians.
Gomes released Richarlison, but Rudiger again totally had the measure of him, shepherding the ball out for a goalkick. At the other end, an awful shot from Barkley goes well wide.
Azpilicueta was finally called for impeding Richarlison, free kick wide right from Digne, horribly overhit, another opportunity squandered. Another free-kick when Morata fouled Jagielka, with Richarlison down, holding his groin... wasting time? holding his groin. Calvert-Lewin was readied to come on after an unnecessarily long stoppage. Everton running the clock down Somebody booked for time-wasting?
With 5 added minutes, the fans enjoyed seeing Barkley needlessly scoop a pass ahead of his teammate and out of play. Then he was easily dispossessed in midfield.No urgency for Everton once they won a free-kick that Mina launched long and wide right. But the zest had now gone out of the game, heading for a draw.
Calvert-Lewin got a chance to run onto a ball but once again Rudiger had no problem stopping him, Chelsea attacking and winning a last-minute free-kick that Calvert-Lewin cleared with a defensive header and the ball eventually went dead, Friend blowing time on a very competitive game, Everton doing very well to resist some really determined Chelsea attacks, but simply too naive in attack to really make the Pensioners suffer.
Chelsea: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger [Y:45+2'], Luiz, Alonso; Jorginho [Y:27'] (64' Fabregas), Kante [Y:33'], Kovacic (82' Barkley); Willian (68' Pedro), Hazard, Morata [Y:87']
Subs not Used: Caballero, Christensen, Zappacosta, Giroud
Everton: Pickford [Y:73'], Coleman, Keane, Mina [Y:22'], Digne, Gomes, Gueye, Walcott, Sigurdsson (75' Jagielka), Bernard [Y:45+2'] (64' Lookman), Richarlison (88' Calvert-Lewin)
Subs not Used: Stekelenburg, Baines, Davies, Tosun
Referee: Kevin Friend
Everton face arguably their toughest test to date this season when they travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on Sunday.
The Toffees have already faced an in-form Arsenal side and come away from the Emirates unfortunate to lose 2-0 in September but under new boss, Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea are the only remaining side from Europe's top five leagues that are unbeaten in all competitions.
That, coupled with the fact that an Everton side hasn't won on the Pensioners' home turf in 24 years makes a particularly daunting task for Marco Silva who, unluckily enough, has a significant injury worry on his hands.
Arguably his key player, Richarlison, hasn't trained with the main group this week because of an ankle problem and is a doubt for Sunday. [Update Richarlison trained on Saturday and travelled with the team to London.]
The Brazilian rolled his foot awkwardly on the touchline astroturf during last Saturday's 3-1 win over Brighton and it looked at one stage as though he would not be able to continue.
He remained on the field, however, and completed a brace with two fine goals but it may have been at the expense of being fit to face Chelsea this weekend.
Silva admitted in his pre-match press conference that Richarlison, Everton's top scorer this season and a vital component of the manager's strategy away from home, didn't train yesterday but did some individual work away from the rest of the team today.
The club's medical staff will assess him further tomorrow before a decision is taken on whether he can be included in the side.
Jonjoe Kenny, who missed the midweek friendly with Gor Mahia, is also a doubt for Sunday but Phil Jagielka and James McCarthy came through the SportPesa Trophy match unscathed.
Should Richarlison miss out, it would require that Silva change his attacking personnel for the first time in five games and likely open up an opportunity for one of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Cenk Tosun to lead the line.
Tosun hasn't started a game since the Carabao Cup tie against Southampton at the start of last month but did scored as a substitute in the two home matches either side of that cup defeat. Calvert-Lewin also scored off the bench in the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace and the decision will probably come down to whether Silva fancies a greater aerial threat and braun for this one.
At the back, meanwhile, the manager will be forced into one change given that the impressive Kurt Zouma is ineligible to face his parent club. The on-loan centre half has been in great form since arriving on a season-long contract over the summer and Silva will surely be loathe to break up what has developed into a solid partnership with the rejuvenated Michael Keane.
Though Phil Jagielka returned from his latest injury problem in midweek against Gor Mahia, another summer signing, Yerry Mina, is the more likely beneficiary of Zouma's ineligibility.
The Colombian made a brief debut against Brighton and played the full 90 minutes against the Kenyans on Tuesday but his real baptism by fire will come against the team that begins the weekend sitting in second place behind Manchester City.
His getting to grips quickly with the pace of the English game will be paramount and the defence as a whole is going to need to be at its best to counter the Londoners' myriad attacking threats.
Chelsea are likely to make some changes from the team that beat BATE Borisov in the Europa League on Thursday with players like Alvaro Morata, Anton Rudiger, David Luiz and Willian, a perennial scourge of Everton, good bets to return to the starting XI.
The game will also be notable for the fact that it will, in all likelihood, pit Ross Barkley against his boyhood club for the first time since his £15m move to Stamford Bridge in January.
Everton's performances away from home, coupled with their increasingly more cohesive and attractive look in general of late suggest that they have what it takes to ask some serious questions of Chelsea and that they have the talent in their ranks to cause an upset by becoming the first team to beat Sarri's men this season.
It's a massive ask, however, and you can't help feeling that Richarlison is key to the Everton's chances. Given his commitment to the cause and the fact that he played through the pain barrier last Saturday, it would not be a surprise to see him start but, should he fail a late fitness test, the onus of creativity will fall very much on the shoulders of Bernard and Theo Walcott.
Kick-off: 2:15pm, Sunday, 11 November 2018
Referee: Kevin Friend
Last Time: Chelsea 2 - 0 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne, Gueye, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Walcott, Richarlison