Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Everton 0-0 Chelsea: A stubborn performance earns the Toffees a point at Goodison

Dan Steeden in Editorial, English Premier League 23 Dec 2017

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Newly reinvigorated Everton welcomed reigning Premier League champions Chelsea to Goodison Park for the early kick-off on Saturday. The Toffees had been given a new lease of life courtesy of manager Sam Allardyce, and they looked to continue their good run of form into this game. The Blues meanwhile had recovered from their shock defeat to West Ham a few weeks ago, and needed another positive result in this one to keep pace with Manchester United.

Chelsea dominate the early exchanges

The game began in a cagey fashion, with the visitors holding much of the early possession while Everton looked to catch them on the break. Eden Hazard, playing more centrally due to the absence of Alvaro Morata, looked lively in the opening exchanges. The Belgian superstar almost got on the end of a Victor Moses cross on the five-minute mark to give the Blues the lead, but he couldn’t quite stretch to convert the chance. Hazard combined with Marcos Alonso down the left flank on multiple occasions in the first ten minutes, and the pair proved a handful for the Toffees defenders.

Chelsea came within inches of an opener on two occasions, first from a Bakayoko effort, then from the follow-up by Willian. The ball fell to the French midfielder in the box and he stabbed it goalwards, only for Phil Jagielka to make a superb last-ditch block on the line. Willian picked up the rebound and slammed another shot towards the Everton net, but the veteran centre half was there again, rescuing his team for the second time in as many seconds. It was all the home side could do to keep the Blues at bay, and they struggled to get out of their own half.

Neither side can find an opening

After Chelsea’s dominant opening 20 minutes Everton began to grow into the game, and Gylfi Sigurdsson began to see a lot more of the ball in central midfield. The Icelandic international proved to be the home side’s best creative presence, but Calvert-Lewin often cut an isolated figure up front as the Toffees were fairly tentative going forward. The Blues seemed to have lost their attacking vigour from the early stages of the game as the half-hour mark approached, and the Goodison crowd started to get behind their team.

Tom Davies had Everton’s best chance of the first half, drilling a shot just wide of the post from 30-yards out, which seemed to give his teammates some confidence. It was Chelsea who went closest next however, with Bakayoko slipping in Pedro down the left channel. The Spaniard drove into the box, passing Jagielka with ease, but his left-footed shot was saved well by Jordan Pickford in net. Calvert-Lewin had a chance to grab an opener on the stroke of half time, but the youngster elected to shoot instead of slipping Sigurdsson through. That was to be the final action of a tense half, and the sides went in level.

Everton grow into the game

The Toffees came out for the second half with Sandro Ramirez and Ashley Williams entering the fray, as Allardyce looked to switch to a back three and provide Calvert-Lewin with some more support. Unfortunately Everton quickly lost Idrissa Gana Gueye to a hamstring injury, and young midfielder Beni Baningime was brought on to fill the crucial role. Despite this the home side looked more comfortable in the second half, with the back three allowing them to pin Chelsea back, just as the Blues had done to them in the first period.

While the formation change did make Everton more competitive, it also turned the game into somewhat of a stalemate as the two sides began to cancel one another out. Neither could create anything clear-cut enough to grab an opener, and the game was crying out for a moment of quality from any of the various talented players amongst the ranks of both teams. Hazard almost provided such a moment, but his shot was met by Pickford once again.

The Toffees hold out for a crucial point 

Chelsea began to push for the goal that would likely win the game after the hour mark, but Pickford made his case for the man of the match award, getting a hand to every shot. Typically of a Sam Allardyce side, Everton looked set to grind out a draw in this game, defending stoutly while rarely looking a threat on the offensive. Ashley Williams almost undid all of his side’s good work however when he headed a cross onto his own crossbar, coming inches from giving Chelsea an unlikely lead.

The Blues threw everything at the Everton goal in the final ten minutes, and it was a minor miracle that the home side managed to keep them out. Pickford was imperious, and every Toffee defender put their body on the line to secure a point. The outlets to Calvert-Lewin and Ramirez allowed Everton little breathing room, and Chelsea’s tempo was frantic as the clock ticked down. In the end Michael Keane almost grabbed the unlikeliest of winners from a corner, but his header flew just over the bar. Somehow Everton hung on, and earned them selves a hard-fought point against a hugely frustrated Chelsea side.

Final Thoughts

This was another classic Allardyce performance from Everton. They never really looked like scoring, but they never really looked like conceding too many either. A draw against the reigning champions will go down as a decent result, and should continue the Toffees’ ascent up the table. Every point takes them further away from the relegation zone, and now the club can start looking at a top six finish.

Chelsea will consider this to be two points dropped, and slipping up will likely allow Manchester United to pull away if they beat Leicester later today. The Blues have looked laboured going forward without Alvaro Morata, and until he returns results like this might be all too common. The Blues are still in prime position to secure a top four spot however, which will constitute a decent season given the form of Manchester City.

Match Report

Everton: Pickford; Kenny, Martina, Jagielka, Keane; Gueye (Baningime, 51’), Schneiderlin, Davies (Williams, 46’); Lennon (Ramirez, 46’), Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin 

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses (Zappacosta, 81’), Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso; Willian (Batshuayi, 71’), Hazard, Pedro (Fabregas, 63’)

Goals: None

Referee: Robert Madley

Yellow Cards: Calvert-Lewin (11’), Martina (21’), Keane (57’) 

Red Cards: None

Player Ratings

Everton: Pickford 9; Kenny 7, Martina 7, Jagielka 8, Keane 8; Gueye 7 (Baningime 7), Schneiderlin 7, Davies 6 (Williams 7); Lennon 6 (Ramirez 6), Sigurdsson 6, Calvert-Lewin 6

Chelsea: Courtois 6; Azpilicueta 6, Christensen 6, Rudiger 6; Moses 6 (Zappacosta 6), Kante 6, Bakayoko 6, Alonso 7; Willian 6 (Batshuayi 6), Hazard 6, Pedro 6 (Fabregas 6)


Dan Steeden

Dan is a recent graduate of the University of Birmingham and an often frustrated Wigan Athletic fan. When not despairing at events unfolding at the DW Stadium he can be found fangirling over Antoine Griezmann or staying up into the early hours of the morning to cheer on the Seattle Seahawks.



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