Everton 0 - 1 Chelsea

In line with the cliché, sometimes it feels like if it weren’t for bad luck, Everton would have no luck at all. The club, under Farhad Moshiri’s stewardship, has rightly been criticised for poor recruitment decisions and profligacy in the transfer market but it has also been inordinately struck by a succession of serious injuries that have robbed the Blues of key — or potentially key — players for long stretches.

James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman’s double leg breaks, Yannick Bolasie’s torn ACL and meniscus, André Gomes’s sickening ankle fracture dislocation,  Jean-Philippe Gbamin’s thigh and Achilles woes, successive knee injuries to Cenk Tosun (not a key asset, of course, but a saleable one)  and, more recently, Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s quad tear form the bulk of a sorry list of serious injuries to have befallen Everton players over the past few years.

Yerry Mina has been available for less than half of the games for which he has been eligible since arriving from Barcelona in 2018 and the frequency of his injuries has become almost tragically comical over the past 12 months. A £27m signing and arguably Everton’s best centre-half could, through no fault of the club’s, play in just 11 of 38 Premier League games last season and, having crocked himself again this afternoon, he’ll be lucky to better that this term.

Then there is Ben Godfrey, who battled Covid and a torn hamstring last season, worked his way back to full fitness and a starting role in the back three to start 2022-23, only to break his leg inside 10 minutes of the opening game. Ye footballing gods, this isn’t funny.

At least in Godfrey’s position, Frank Lampard has replacements on whom to call and today he was able to draft in Mason Holgate who continued the run of good form he has had since the new manager took charge at the end of January.

Up front, of course, Lampard is pitifully short on options with Calvert-Lewin missing and with Ellis Simms out on loan, he didn’t even have Salomon Rondon as an alternative. That left him trying to fashion a forward line geared for pace on the counter-attack against a superior opposition and, rather than deploy Dele Alli as a false nine, he plumped for Demarai Gray and Anthony Gordon as the two most advanced forwards, with Dwight McNeil making his debut in support.

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Predictably enough, the Toffees struggled going forward without a genuine focal point and, with neither Gray nor Gordon renowned for their consistency of end product in the final third, they were able to carve out few clear-cut scoring opportunities. And as if to painfully remind Goodison of the large DCL-shaped hole in attack, some tempting deliveries into the box would go begging, particularly in the first half, where you felt that, had the No 9 been there, Everton might not just have scored but stood a decent chance of conquering this regular winning fixture for a fifth successive season.

Ultimately, though, the contest was settled by one moment of clumsiness by the otherwise impressive Abdoulaye Doucouré and the kind of penalty award that would very probably not have been awarded had the sides and venues been reversed. 

It was another debutant, James Tarkowski’s over-zealous challenge that yielded the first dangerous set-piece of the afternoon when he jumped in on Raheem Sterling and Jordan Pickford saved Kai Havertz’s header but the game was a mere 10 minutes old when Godfrey’s afternoon was ended.

His own poor back-pass forced Pickford to scramble along the byline to clear but, even though the ball had visibly crossed the line, play was allowed to continue and Godfrey put in a typically robust covering tackle on Havertz before he could threaten the Everton goal.

He immediately signalled to the bench that he had sustained a significant injury and, after some eight minutes, was carried off to hospital while Mason Holgate came on to replace him.

Holgate was pressed into immediate action to defend a barrage of Chelsea corners and he was there again to head away a set-piece after Mina’s superb block had diverted the ball behind in the 33rd minute. 

Tarkowski. meanwhile, forced Edouard Mendy into tipping his header over from a corner and, though Chelsea were tidy in possession, they lacked their characteristic attacking danger and intensity and were made to look pretty ordinary for long stretches.

The hosts were doing a decent job of keeping the visitors at bay and restricting them to half chances and dead-ball opportunities until Sterling had the ball in the net after Pickford had spilled Ngolo Kante’s shot into his path but the former Man City forward was flagged for offside.

A couple of minutes earlier, Everton had had their best look-in on the break as Gray and Gordon raced away in a two-on-two situation but the former’s attempt to find the latter in space was cut out by Thiago Silva who anticipated the pass and stuck out a timely foot.

Unfortunately, the good work done by the Toffees and that of Doucouré was undone deep into the time added on for Godfrey’s injury, when Sterling jinked into the box and was clumsily barged over by the Mali international, leading Craig Pawson to point to the spot.

Though Mina and Pickford did their best to put him off — the Colombian was booked for not retreating out of the 18-yard box in time — Jorginho made no mistake with the penalty, sending the keeper the wrong way.

The second half began brightly enough for Lampard’s men as Gray was sent away down the channel where he beat Silva for pace but the Brazilian eventually got back and lunged to deflect the shot behind.

Three minutes later, after McNeil’s attempted centre for Doucouré was knocked behind, Mendy failed to deal with the resulting corner, Iwobi squared it back to Doucouré around 10 yards out but the goalkeeper did well to stop his shot.

But the Blues struggled in general to create chances and they would have to wait until the 73rd minute for their next genuine chance that fell to substitute Dele, on for McNeil, but he couldn’t sort his feet out in time and Chelsea smothered him.

Thomas Tuchel’s men, meanwhile, had resorted to delaying tactics and time-wasting and they barely threatened Pickford’s goal until seven minutes from the end of the regulation 90 when Vitalii Mykolenko made a goal-saving intervention to prevent Sterling from putting the game to bed off Marc Cucurella’s cross.

It’s easy to dwell on the disappointment of a rare opening-defeat — this was Everton’s first loss in their first game of a new season for 11 years — and miss the elements of this performance that were genuine cause for optimism that not only is there a plan and emerging style under Lampard but his methods are working on the players.

The Blues’ passing was crisper and more accurate than was the case last season and they played their way through the lines with a confidence and efficiency that was almost entirely absent by the time Rafael Benitez was sacked in January.

Tarkowski has slotted right in and cuts an assured, leader-like figure at the back; Nathan Patterson made a hugely promising Premier League bow, displaying some exciting attacking instincts while betraying some rawness against the trickery of Sterling; the defence faced a dizzying succession of corners but held firm where last season they would surely have conceded; and Alex Iwobi continued his unforeseen but massively welcome rebirth as a midfield play-maker under the new boss.

Even if the club manage to sign a striker to replace Calvert-Lewin and then vie with him for a starting role, question marks will remain over where the goal-creation is going to come from but Iwobi’s vision, footwork and creativity could provide a big part of the solution if he keeps blossoming in the way he is and the imminent signings of Idrissa Gueye and Amadou Onana can free him up to look forward and play more in the opposition half.

The bottom line: at first blush and contrary to some neutral observers’ dire prognostications, the 2022-23 edition of Everton doesn’t look doomed to another battle against relegation but the rest of August will provide further indication.

Follow @EFCLyndon

Reader Comments (20)

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Paul Hughes
1 Posted 06/08/2022 at 21:14:51
Just back from the game. Two poor teams and an even worse set of officials. If we’d had any sort of attacking threat, we’d have won the game. I see Simms scored twice for Sunderland - he’d have been a much better option than both Gordon and Gray. They were both totally ineffective.
Jay Harris
2 Posted 06/08/2022 at 21:21:50
I agree Paul. I don't know why we let Simms go out on loan while we still didnt have cover for DCL and not a goalscorer in the squad..
Jim Bennings
3 Posted 06/08/2022 at 21:23:40
If we lose to Crease Head's mediocre Villa side next week I will start to foresee a very hard season already, September and October look horrible.
Jonathan Oppenheimer
4 Posted 06/08/2022 at 21:24:28
I thought on the whole it was far more promising than anything we saw last season, so that will be the big take-away for me, other than that we have no one to put the ball in the net with DCL absent.

We looked far more organized defensively, so credit to Tarkowski and Mina (until he got his usually 4-6 week injury). Mykolenko and Patterson were solid enough. Iwobi I thought was our best player, which bodes well for us once Gueye and Onana come in. Doucoure has his moments but what an utterly stupid foul. Without that foul, I think we would’ve had a deserved draw. Of course none of it matters if we can’t put the ball in the net, and Gordon and Gray just don’t have enough end product. We’ll see about McNeill in time, as he’s new and looked a bit lost out there.

Best wishes to Godfrey for a speedy recovery. I had high hopes for him this season. Good thing we had enough center backs to start the season — though now a Coady signing is looking better and better. Also, credit to Holgate where it’s due. He came on and was solid enough and didn’t make any big mistakes.

I have no idea if we’ll be in a relegation scrap or not again this season, but I’m leaning towards positive, because we were well organized today. Just need to find those goals somewhere, somehow.

Kjetil Moen
5 Posted 06/08/2022 at 21:35:08
Agree with #4 Jonathan. Thought we looked organised and in control for most of the game. Obviously lacking a striking force, which I'm sure will be addressed in the coming weeks. rnrnI actually think the penalty was soft, although I understand those claiming Doucoure should know better. Its a SOFT penalty, but cannot complain too much.rnrnActually quite relieved we didnt get hammered, as a 0-4 rollicking would make me fear the rest of the season. This defeat I can accept under the circumstances, and I think we will be more solid this year. Safely placed between 10th and 14th in the table, in our transitional season going forwards with more sensible transfer policy.
Mal van Schaick
6 Posted 08/08/2022 at 08:33:33
Doucoure rampaging up and down the pitch like a raging bull, giving a needless penalty away didn’t help. Can’t fault his effort but he is reckless.

Chelsea passed the ball better and were more slick and fluent, but for me it was the same old bluster with little quality.

How on earth we have not signed a striker or two leaves me wondering what the plan is? We need to sign two strikers or buy one and recall Simms.

John Kavanagh
8 Posted 08/08/2022 at 10:22:55
I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about the penalty. It would definitely not have been given if it had been one of the Sky 6 defending.

Contrast Doucouré's penalty with the one not given against Manure yesterday when Brighton were two nil up. It was a far worse challenge than Doucouré's – absolutely blatant – but not given and 'nothing to see here' deemed by the VAR. The decision set up the Mancs to claw a goal back and almost snatch a completely undeserved point instead of a probable comfortable three-goal win for Brighton.

The whole PGMOL/VAR setup is designed to protect the Super League Six. Rotten and corrupt to the core.

Nick Page
9 Posted 08/08/2022 at 11:44:36
It absolutely is, John. They have effectively legitimised protectionism.

The tackle by McTominay yesterday was a red card for any non-Sky 6 team. Reminded me of the tackle Jagielka got sent off for against Wolves a few years ago, when he caught the guy post tackle. It wasn't even a free-kick.

Horrible bastards.

Rick Tarleton
10 Posted 08/08/2022 at 11:47:38
Letting Simms go out on loan was a strange decision, considering how few striking options we had once Richarlison left.

Is there a behind-the-scenes story or is it just yet another inexplicable decision by a club that specialises in such decisions?

Brent Stephens
11 Posted 08/08/2022 at 12:33:37
A very fair report, in my view. Rightfully more optimistic than pessimistic, given the opposition and given the injuries and early disruption to plans.

My hope is that, with those expected midfield signings, and the indications already of greater defensive resilience with Tarkowski, Patterson and Mykolenko, then we will have the ball more in the opposition box. More ball in the box hopefully translates to more chances created and taken. Fewer goals conceded, and more goals scored means...

John McFarlane Snr
12 Posted 08/08/2022 at 16:28:20
Hi Lyndon, another balanced outlook on the game.

I always look forward to your opinion, it makes a change from the usual, "Everton flounder to defeat in a dross performance" which can be expected from some quarters.

I walked away from Goodison disappointed with the result, but pleased with the effort that every player put in. What I witnessed gives me hope for the immediate future, and if we can sign a regular goalscorer I can't see us fighting for top-flight survival, but I'm mindful of the fact that 'anything can happen in a game of football'.

Tony Abrahams
13 Posted 08/08/2022 at 16:58:24
I had to leave not long after half-time, so can’t give a true opinion of the whole 90 minutes, but I’ve read quite a few people say that Chelsea were poor, and this is something I wouldn’t agree with.

I thought Everton made it very difficult for Chelsea, who were possibly allowed to relax, and change their tactics, once they’d gone in front, knowing we never had that much to hurt them going forward.

I was impressed with Everton’s, effort and organization, and feel if we could have been a bit calmer on the ball, and used it better, after creating very good fast counter-attacking opportunities, then things might have been different, and I thought Chelsea had to work very hard for Saturday’s victory.

Will Mabon
14 Posted 08/08/2022 at 17:03:59
Tony, I agree with that - a fairly good performance that gives hope, and considering we had no real forward as a target/outlet. There was more movement with and without the ball in forward areas than I've seen for a long time. Hope it continues when we are better equipped in attack.
Dale Self
15 Posted 08/08/2022 at 17:06:18
Nice Tony, I thought it was more of a frustrated Chelsea side. Perhaps they don't have the channels well set while adding Sterling but the way Everton possessed early drew them out of their preferred operating shape.

In fact, it was impressive early on to see our lads well positioned for turnovers when it got scrappy in the middle. Iwobi had good vision to movement on the left side with Mykolenko keeping pressure on and resetting well.

This looked to me what Frank is trying to build as a system. Stretching the opposition and not being so focused on going forward on first opening and getting lines set for run throughs seemed to be well understood by the team as a whole. It didn't come off but it was the most coherent display I've seen in a while which is doubly something in that we had no striker up front.

I'm a bit worried about conditioning and injuries with a slight squad playing this way but I'm not going to get shy about being more pleased than I've been for some time. Still wondering if Calvert-Lewin can contribute, honestly.

Tony Everan
16 Posted 08/08/2022 at 17:20:27
A very fair, accurate report. I think to capitalise on our much more solid-looking performances now rests on the striker that Thelwell brings in this week. Especially over the short term over the next 2 months. But this forward player will prove crucial throughout the season.

Dom will be back in 6 weeks if all goes well and it also looks like Rondon is going nowhere so I’m interested to see what type of goalscorer Frank and Thelwell will target. Will it be a 6ft-7in unmarkable nuisance or a fox-in-the-box poacher? It doesn’t matter to me one bit as long as they score plenty of goals for us.

17 Posted 08/08/2022 at 17:34:48
I thought we played well, obviously without much threat going forward.

The pleasing thing was, after losing Godfrey & Mina, then going 1 nil down too, they didn't collapse like we have seen so often. In fact, I thought we grew into the game when the players realised this Chelsea side were not at their best.

In the past, this result would have been much worse imo.

Calvert-Lewin must have been watching thinking he could've roughed that back line up.

I would've preferred Dele Alli to start as he didn't have much impact coming on, like Gray, Gordon or McNeil may have had later in the game, coming on fresh with speed and cutting edge.

Can't blame Frank that Simms went on loan, he had Calvert-Lewin, wants at least one more and Rondon as back-up. Bad luck with Calvert-Lewin's injury.

Simms is a starter next season and will be a more rounded player with a year in the Championship. Just seen his 2 goals and he took them well.

Martin Mason
18 Posted 08/08/2022 at 21:26:09
Two poor teams? No, one ridiculous comment.
Will Mabon
19 Posted 08/08/2022 at 21:28:10
Return of the posting phantom...
Jamie Sweet
20 Posted 08/08/2022 at 21:50:04
As usual, a thoughtful and well-balanced report, thank you, Lyndon.

Always a refreshing antidote to the miserable one, which I personally find tiresome.

But it is all a game of opinions and that's what keeps things interesting isn't it?!

The players you picked out for individual praise all thoroughly deserved it. The whole world could see we needed a proper Number 9 on the pitch, but some encouraging signs none-the-less.

Another small positive point to make and perhaps a sign of incremental improvements being made: Chelsea had about 300 corners, and I thought we looked solid on each and every one of them.

Paul Kernot
21 Posted 08/08/2022 at 22:02:56
A dozen corners and no clear goal opportunities for the opposition and some people still say we were terrible. We moved the ball much quicker than last season and the two young full-backs looked capable enough.

The big change I noticed sadly was that the 5 subs will play a big part towards the end of games this season. Top sides have class players to change the game with 20 mins to go. The rest of us get 1 injury or suspension & the gap is even greater than last season.

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