Chelsea made an impressive start to the 2018/19 Premier League season. Unexpectedly enough, they came into round 12 sitting second, only two points off leaders Manchester City.
Meanwhile, Everton were where they usually are – in the middle of the table, but they were on a very good run as they prepared for the London trip with four wins in their last five league games.
Chelsea manager Maurizzio Sarri had the full squad at his disposal. The same applied for Marco Silva in the Everton dugout, apart from having to make do without Kurt Zouma who cannot play in this fixture due to being on loan from Chelsea.
For the home team, Kepa Arrizabalaga was in goal, and the back four of Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz, Cezar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso was in front of him. Jorginho anchored the midfield which also consisted of N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovačić. Upfront, Alvaro Morata led the line flanked by Eden Hazard and Willian.
The Merseysiders were arranged in what mostly looked like a 4-4-1-1 formation. Jordan Pickford stood between the posts. Michael Keane and Yerry Mina were the centre-back duo with Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman on either flank. Idrissa Gana Gueye and Andre Gomes were in the middle of the park flanked by Theo Walcott and Bernard, while Gylfi Sigurdsson played just off striker Richarlison.
The First Half
Everton hadn’t come to defend in this game, that much was clear from the start. In fact, they threatened first after less than three minutes as no Chelsea player picked up Gomes’ run into the box after a corner, but the former Barcelona man couldn’t connect with the cross. Another player that came from Camp Nou, Yerry Mina, almost scored soon afterwards from a similar situation. Bernard’s shot from around 20 yards in the 12th minute only just missed the target.
Everton’s 4-4-1-1 shape seemed rather flexible as Walcott and Bernard sometimes pushed further up to flank Sigurdsson and form a 4-2-3-1.
It took Chelsea a while to get going and start attacking. In the 22nd minute, a late challenge on Hazard some 25 yards out got Mina into referee Kevin Friend’s book and gave Alonso a good free-kick opportunity. It was a good shot by the Spaniard that only just missed the target.
Six minutes later, a sloppy pass from Luiz forced Jorginho to earn a booking himself by hunting and bringing down Sigurdsson with a poor tackle from behind, leaving the Iceland international in need of treatment. In Sigurdsson’s absence, Digne took the free-kick and found Keane high in the air, but Keane’s header went over the bar.
The game significantly livened up towards the end of the half. Hazard tried to get more involved in the game and succeeded in giving his team some attacking edge. Alonso hit an excellent volley after Willian had employed him from a free-kick, just before Morata wasted a good opportunity by going down inside the box far too easily.
Everton tried to hit quickly when chance presented itself, but Chelsea were now in control. However, some sparks flew between Bernard and Rudiger in the stoppage time for which the referee booked both.
The Second Half
Within a few seconds from the restart, Chelsea came very close as Hazard created a great chance for Morata, but under pressure from Mina the Spanish striker could get enough power into his effort to beat Pickford. Two minutes later Sigurdsson produced a wonderful pass to put Walcott through at the other end, but the former Arsenal player couldn’t control the ball properly. Then Hazard again put Morata in a chance, but this time the former Real Madrid striker failed to connect with the ball at all.
As Everton slowly got a foothold again, Kepa did well to tip a strong drive by Sigurdsson over the bar which led to a few minutes of pressure from the visitors. They even had a penalty appeal denied as the ball struck Rudiger on the arm.
But Chelsea quickly hit back through Willian, and the game exploded into life. The Brazilian broke through, beat Pickford to the ball and escaped wide to the left, before sending a cross to the far post where Morata fell down after a tussle with Mina, and it was Chelsea’s turn to scream for penalty in vain.
Willian had a good chance soon afterwards as he broke down the right side and missed the far corner by an inch, before Pickford did very well to save a powerful shot from range by Hazard. Then, several corners were taken by Chelsea in succession, but Everton held out.
Chance after chance Chelsea wasted as Hazard again hit one from range and a deflection almost beat Pickford.
With 64 minutes, gone, both managers made a substitution. Bernard made way for Ademola Lookman for Everton, while Cesc Fabregas replaced Jorginho.
Less than a minute later, Alonso hit the post with a low effort from a tight angle, before Pedro Rodriguez came on for Willian.
After a patient buildup, Morata got at the end of a good cross by Azpilicueta in the 72nd minute and slammed the ball into the net from close range, but linesman’s flag was rightly raised for offside. Hazard had another chance too as a good pass from Fabregas sent him through, but he failed to hit the target from a full run.
With 15 minutes remaining, Silva made a tactical substitution and replaced Sigurdsson with former captain Phil Jagielka. At this point, Chelsea were attacking as if their lives depended on scoring a goal, while Everton defended each situation with the same level of determination.Cross after cross, clearance after clearance, and an occasional unrewarded (also unpunished) dive by Morata,
Everton managed to work up two successive corners with 10 minutes left on the clock, but it was only a brief respite as Chelsea charged forward again and Ross Barkley came on to face his old club, replacing Kovačić. In the 87th minute, Richarlison stayed down holding his groin. He was eventually replaced by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but while he was receiving treatment, Morata picked up a booking for dissent.
Tensions were running high as the five-minute stoppage time began, but neither team looked like they had the strength to nick a late winner. Chelsea were still more eager and moved the ball quickly forward, but they just could’t get through anymore. They had one last go at the stroke of 90 minutes as Hazard lobbed a free-kick into the box, but Everton defended well and the referee blew the final whistle.
The energy with which Chelsea have been playing throughout the campaign so far was there to see again, but it just wasn’t enough to beat a very resilient Everton team. The visitors’ progress in recent weeks is certainly bearing fruit and although they will be overall happy with this point, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t have got more out of this game. Despite lacking any goals, it was an exciting contest between two teams. Chelsea were the better, but credit to Everton for the effort they put in.
Chelsea now remain two points off the top, possibly four if City win the Manchester Derby later, but the title race is certainly still on for them.
Everton stay where they were, nicely nestled in the ninth place, hoping their progress will continue over the coming months.
CHELSEA: Kepa 7, Rudiger 8, Luiz 7.5, Azpilicueta 7.5, Alonso 7.5, Jorginho 7.5 (64′ Fabregas), Kante 6, Kovačić 6 (82′ Barkley N/A), Hazard 7.5, Willian 7.5 (68′ Pedro), Morata 5.5.
EVERTON: Pickford 7.5, Keane 7.5, Mina 8, Coleman 6.5, Digne 7.5, Gueye 7, Gomes 6.5, Bernard 7 (64′ Lookman 6.5), Walcott 7.5, Sigurdsson 7.5 (76′ Jagielka 7.5), Richarlison 7 (89′ C.-Lewin N/A).
YELLOW CARDS: Mina 22′, Jorginho 28′, Kante 33′, Bernard 45′, Rudiger 45′, Pickford 73′, Morata 87′.
REFEREE: Kevin Friend.
DATE & VENUE: November 11, 2018, Stamford Bridge, London.