Steven Naismith was Everton’s hat-trick hero against Chelsea on Saturday as they beat the beleaguered Premier League champions 3-1 at Goodison Park.
Scotland forward Naismith made the difference as an early first-half substitute as he inspired Everton and condemned Jose Mourinho’s side to a third defeat of what is fast becoming a disastrous title defence.
Naismith scored twice in quick succession after coming on for the injured Muhamed Besic, and while Nemanja Matic’s fine strike halved the deficit before half-time, Chelsea were unable to find an equaliser before the former Rangers man completed his treble eight minutes from time.
Roberto Martinez started John Stones despite the summer saga of Chelsea’s failed efforts to sign him, and the young England defender responded with a superb display.
Mourinho, meanwhile, was left to reflect on a third loss in five Premier League outings this season – the same number Chelsea suffered in the whole of the last campaign.
Besic’s return to Martinez’s starting XI action did not last long as he was forced off with what looked to be hamstring problem after just nine minutes, with Naismith replacing him.
Naismith did not need long to make an impact. His clever turn gave him the space to pick out Brendan Galloway’s run, and the 28-year-old burst through the centre of Chelsea’s defence to head home the cross in the 17th minute.
The visitors had Asmir Begovic – in for the injured Thibaut Courtois – to thank for preventing the home side from doubling their lead as he produced two superb saves in quick succession, first clawing away Arouna Kone’s point-blank header before diving to his right to deny James McCarthy from distance.
But Begovic could do nothing to stop Naismith from adding to his tally as he arrowed a fine left-footed strike into the far corner from 20 yards just five minutes after his opener.
Chelsea then carved out their first real opportunity as Cesar Azpilicueta sprung the offside trap only for Stones raced across to block his effort.
Mourinho’s side continued to struggle against an organised Everton defence, but Matic got them back into the game with a spectacular 30-yard drive that bent away from the despairing Tim Howard.
Eden Hazard almost levelled before half-time, his shot deflecting narrowly wide after good work from Diego Costa, before John Terry powered a header just over the bar.
The second half began in scrappy style but Romelu Lukaku spurned a good chance to double Everton’s lead when he fired straight at Begovic from inside the box, with Terry perhaps lucky to avoid conceding a free-kick after nudging the ball into the keeper’s hands.
Kone stung the hands of Begovic with another effort before Chelsea saw Pedro’s penalty appeals waved away a coming-together with Naismith, and Lukaku was once again denied by a good Begovic stop.
Costa wasted Chelsea’s best chance of an equaliser when he dawdled on the ball inside the area and allowed Phil Jagielka to time his recovery tackle perfectly, with Everton content to play on the counter as the visitors’ poured men into attack, with Lukaku again wasting an opening with an overhit cross.
Mourinho threw on Kenedy, Radamel Falcao and Willian in an effort to find an equaliser, but Everton secured their second win of the league season as Naismith latched onto Ross Barkley’s clever throughball before firing low under Begovic to complete his hat-trick with eight minutes left.