Boos for Blues as they are held 1-1 by dour Everton at the Bridge
By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 1 v Everton 1
Boos greeted Chelsea as they dropped two vital league points as they were held 1-1 by Everton tonight at Stamford Bridge.
Mason Mount thought he had scored the winner against a dour, defence-orientated Everton with 20 minutes left on the clock.
But that lead lasted just four minutes as Jarrad Branthwaite poked home at the far post from a free-kick on the odd occasion the Liverpool outfit ventured forward.
The Blues have failed to keep a clear sheet in their last six matches.
With Covid ruling out strikers Romelu Lukaku and Hudson Odoi, Thomas Tuchel has a couple of readymade excuses but he was facing a side that had seven regular players unavailable.
Arsenal are now on the coat-tails of third-place Chelsea who face Wolves away on Saturday.
Chelsea had 80 per cent possession, but it’s putting the ball between the stick that ultimately counts, and Chelsea failed to do enough to justify more than one goal.
Chelsea had a glorious chance on six minutes to open the scoring when excellent play by Jorginho to regain possession saw the midfielder produce the perfect ball to in-running Reece James. The right wing back took one touch before inching the ball past Jordan Pickford, but the ball just went the wrong side of the goal for a goal kick.
Mason Mount tried an across-the-goalkeeper daisy-cutter three minutes later, but that too went wide, this time the other post.
A lovely turn and twist by Hakim Ziyech bamboozled the Everton defence, and the Morocco attacker cut through the Toffeemen’s defence. He cut his byline ball back to Mount, who tried a back-heeler. It worked, but it did not fool Pickford.
James forced Pickford into a Hollywood save from a free-kick on 16 minutes, parrying away the curling right-footer to give the TV cameras a lovely view.
Some brilliant close-control interplay by Chelsea, involving Toni Rudiger and Mount, saw the Englishman nip clear onto the six-yard box on 37 minutes. But, again, Pickford showed his ability and kicked away the goal-bound effort by Mount.
Everton had their first effort on target on 42 minutes when Anthony Gordon, tried a right-footer from range. Mendy was equal to the shot.
There was no changes by either side at half time. But the home side continued to press forward with little reward.
Everton, as per the first half, were happy to push numbers forward, but only as a counter-attacking measure.
Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel could see this game ebbing out to a crushing 0-0 draw, so he opted to bring on ex-Everton star Ross Barkley and Saul Niguez - off came, predictability Loftus-Cheek and Marcos Alonso.
Christen Pulisic took Alonso’s wing-back berth.
After a couple of minutes of readjustment in positions and play, The Blues finally got the breakthrough with 20 minutes left when Thiago Silva snatched the ball - he passed the ball out to James then onto Barkley. The ball went back to James who fed Mount on the right. The midfielder raced onto the penalty area before dispatching a firm shot past Pickford to open the score.
The lead lasted four minutes when a wonderful free-kick by Gordon was met at the far post by the outstretched leg of Jarrad Branthwaite who poked home to level the score.
Tuchel then brought on Trevoh Chalobah for Azpilicueta.
But it didn’t change a thing, and Everton can claim a point won as a result of a masterclass of tactics from former interim manager Rafa Benitez.
In truth, Chelsea were just sloppy up front and when it mattered at the back.
Teams: Chelsea, Mendy, Rudiger, Alonso, Jorginho, Silva, Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Mount, Ziyech, James, Azpilicueta
Subs: Kepa Bettinelli, Christensen, Kante, Chalobah, Saul, Barkley, Sarr
Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Holgate, Keane, Doucoure, Iwobi, Gomes, Godfrey, Gordon, Branthwaite, Simms
Subs: Begovic, Lonergan, Allan, Coleman, Gbamin, Dobbin, Onyango
Referee: Michael Oliver.