Chelsea missed the chance to go top of the league after their unbeaten run came to an end on Saturday evening, falling to a 1-0 defeat away to Everton.
Gylfi Sigurdsson scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot after Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy clattered Dominic Calvert-Lewin, leaving referee John Moss no choice but to point to the spot.
Leading the line and keeping his place in the side after his recent goalscoring form was Olivier Giroud, with Timo Werner, Mason Mount, and Kai Havertz behind in support. N’golo Kanté and Mateo Kovacic were selected to provide the balance in midfield, sitting in front of the now familiar backline of Mendy, Reece James, Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma, and Ben Chilwell.
Whilst Everton had got off to a flyer at the start of the season, their form has dropped off in recent weeks and they were beginning to struggle with injuries, meanwhile, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea are in excellent form and were 17 matches without defeat prior to kick-off.
The opening 15 minutes of the game were totally void of chances, as both sides felt their way into the match and found it difficult to assert any kind of dominance on proceedings. As can be the case so often in tight matches, it took an individual error to kick-start the action.
In uncharacteristic fashion after such a fantastic start to his Chelsea career, it was goalkeeper Mendy who was at fault as Everton were presented the perfect opportunity to open the scoring. A long ball forward was flicked on by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who then did well to chase it down himself before Mendy charged out of his goal into no-mans-land and clattered the Everton forward – a stone-wall penalty.
Stepping up to take it was Everton captain Gylfi Sigurdsson, after some deliberation as Richarlison initially picked up the ball, however, the Icelandic midfielder remained cool as you like as he sent Mendy the wrong way and rolled it into the net to make it 1-0.
With the search for an equaliser now underway, the closest Chelsea came to a goal in the first half an hour were two efforts from Reece James. The first was saved well by Jordan Pickford from a 30-yard free-kick, and the second was an even better stop by the England goalkeeper, tipping the ball onto the post as James fired a powerful first time effort from the edge of the box through a crowd of bodies and so nearly into the net.
There was no doubt that Chelsea went up a gear after falling behind however the rest of the first half passed without any real chances for either side, other than a mix-up in the Everton defence that nearly presented Giroud with an open goal to tap into if Abdoulaye Doucouré hadn’t been in the right place to clear just in time.
That meant that Chelsea headed in for the interval 1-0 down, and one man who looked particularly deep in thought on the way in was Frank Lampard, who had a job on his hands to maintain that previously mentioned unbeaten run.
The visitors almost got their equaliser less than two minutes into the second half and it was nearly an individual error leading to a goal again. Pickford, regularly under intense scrutiny after questionable patches of form, came charging off his line to claim a Thiago Silva ball into the box, before the ball fell to Mason Mount 25 yards out who tried to loop it into the empty net, seeing his effort clip the top of the bar.
Following on from that scare Everton grew back into the game and Chelsea were starting to ride their luck. Multiple corners and crosses into the box needed clearing by Chelsea heads, with the defending looking slightly desperate at times as Everton looked for a two-goal cushion.
Chances were becoming even more difficult to come by for Chelsea and Lampard’s side were just inches from seeing the game get away from them after 65 minutes. Making good progress down the right was Calvert-Lewin, running at Chilwell and driving into the box before a coming together that saw the Everton man go down as the referee pointed to the spot again. Mercifully, Chelsea were saved by VAR, as Calvert-Lewin was just offside as he initially received the ball, leading to the initial decision being overturned.
If Chelsea were really to be the title challengers that so many people believe they can this season, difficult moments like the final 15 minutes of this game would be absolutely vital. Looking far from convincing going forward, these were the sort of games that title winners manage to turn around and get something out of.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, Chelsea hit the woodwork again through Mount as they ramped the pressure up. It was a well struck effort from a free-kick just outside the box, Mount went low with his shot and almost caught Pickford out as he aimed for the keeper’s side and wrong-footed him.
Spaces had started to open up now in what had been a tight game, as the visitors started to throw more men forward in hope of a late equaliser. That brought on Giroud’s first half-chance of the match, which took 83 minutes to arrive, as the Frenchman failed to make good contact on Werner’s low driven cross into the box, scooping the ball over the bar.
In the last few minutes of the game, Everton shut down and sat back, defending deep and keeping everyone behind the ball as only their second victory in eight matches got ever closer. Chelsea looked worryingly short of ideas and creativity in response to the deep defending and had done all evening in general, perhaps missing the spark and influence of players such as Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech.
The final whistle sounded soon after as Everton claimed all three points, in what was a very good display from the home side and a particularly poor one from Chelsea. Being brought back down to Earth may not be the worst thing for Lampard’s side, hopefully ensuring complacency doesn’t creep into the squad with today highlighting that lack of creativity going forward.
The coming week sees Chelsea have the chance to get over the loss immediately, with two tough Premier League games, away to Wolves and at home to West Ham, that present the test of bouncing back from defeat against a couple of good sides.
Written by Dom Domaingue @dmdsport
Edited by Jai Mcintosh @jjmcintsh5