Ellis Simms came off the bench for a 12-minute cameo role and duly stole the show with a finish of genuine quality to secure another priceless point in this fight for survival. Abdoulaye Doucoure scored his second in three games to get the Blues back into the game after Felix had put Chelsea ahead, and when Havertz converted a late penalty, all looked lost… but, nobody accounted for the belief of a certain Mr.Simms.
With game results involving other clubs in the lower half of the table in midweek having gone quite favourably for Everton, and with the trip to Chelsea being the tea-time, televised fixture, Sean Dyche and his players knew exactly what was required when they took to the Stamford Bridge pitch.
Chelsea under Graham Potter stuttered in the early period of his tenure but, they are still capable of playing effective football and getting results as their progression into the quarter final stage of the Champions League clearly demonstrated that the wheels haven’t yet come off the West London outfit despite them lounging in mid-table ahead of kick-off.
Potters preparation for the visit of Everton was affected by some continuing injury concerns but was boosted by the potential return of a massively influential midfielder as he outlined his squad availability to the media on Friday. ‘Raheem (Sterling) has a problem with his hamstring,’ reported Potter. ‘It’s not too serious but he’ll miss the game at the weekend and he’ll miss the international break. It’s the same as Mason Mount. He’s been struggling a little bit with his pubic bone. He wasn’t 100 per cent the last game and is still not quite there, so he will miss the England camp as well.’
The former Brighton manager who’s seen his side win their last three games to lift some of the pressure from his shoulders also advised that Reece James and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who both missed the win at Leicester due to injury and illness were doubtful. Striker Armando Broja, Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy will also be unavailable, as is club captain Cesar Azpilicueta being monitored in accordance with concussion protocols.
On a positive note for the hosts was the possible return of N’Golo Kante as Potter reported, , ‘There is a chance for him to be in the squad. He’s been a huge miss to us. That’s not to say the other players haven’t given absolutely everything because they have, but N’Golo Kante is a top player. It’s great for us he’s back. We need to be mindful of the fact he’s had a long injury and we need to take the next steps to get him up to speed in the Premier League, which is what we’ll do.’
Hoping their Champions League progress would inspire his side to further success domestically, Potter named his 3-4-3 formation starting line-up: Kepa, Fofana, Koulibaly, Badiashile, James, Fernandez, Kovacic (c), Chilwell, Pulisic, Havertz and Joao Felix.
With three wins and a draw from his first seven games in charge of Everton, Sean Dyche too was looking for his side to have grown a new sense of belief in themselves as the effort to ensure Premier League survival intensifies. And he highlighted the need to improve the away form when he commented, “We were a strong outfit against Nottingham Forest, and arguably should have seen the game through,” he noted before expanding, “Now it’s about consistency of mentality. We have got to have a really high level of consistency. We need to go away from home and take it on. There are certain tactical things we might change for any given game. But generally speaking, the mentality is a massive thing to take on an away performance.”
As if to endorse his thinking he added, “I thought Forest was as good of an away performance as you can get in the Premier League when you are in the situation we are. I think that was a thoroughly good performance. There were some mistakes… we didn’t make the same mistakes against Brentford, and we won.”
When it came to the availability of players, inevitably the focus of attention remained the ongoing situation of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and the Blues boss advised, “We’re still monitoring the situation, being careful – [and] he’s being careful with his body. We’re trying to give him every opportunity.” He continued adding, “He wasn’t overly in my thinking for the Chelsea game, regardless of anything else because, obviously, the international break comes and hopefully you can use that even more wisely. We’re just monitoring his body and he’s monitoring it, too.”
With Everton long overdue a positive result at Stamford Bridge, the boss named an unchanged, understandably expected to be a 4-5-1, starting eleven: Jordan Pickford, Seamus Coleman (c), Michael Keane, James Tarkowski, Ben Godfrey, Alex Iwobi, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Amadou Onana, Dwight McNeil, and Demarai Gray.
On a mild evening in West London, our referee was Darren England.
Everton in their pink away strip once again, had the backing of another tremendous travelling support jammed into the seating behind the goal they were attacking through the opening 45 minutes, having turned the home side around.
A raking cross field ball from Fofana picked out Chilwell and he got a second bite a the cherry to get away from Iwobi and get the ball into the Everton area where it was cleared as far as Fernandez who saw his shot blocked and cleared. Chelsea were awarded a free kick wide left that Chilwell swung to the back post where Keane rose to head behind for a Chelsea corner. Chilwell again took the set piece with Keane heading out to Kovacic who struck a fierce volley wide of the target.
A Fernandez foul on McNeil gave the visitors their first free kick that Chelsea defended too easily to launch a counter attack that fizzled out tamely on an aimless long ball from James. Pulisic tried to burst through on the left, Tarkowski across quickly to put the ball into the stands and with Everton pressing high, Chelsea had to go back to halfway to start their next attack. Chelsea were knocking the ball around confidently and eventually won another corner as a shot from Felix was deflected behind, Chilwell finding the head of Havertz who couldn’t direct his header on target.
Through the opening quarter of an hour, Chelsea had enjoyed considerably more of the ball and territorial advantage as Everton seemed happy to concede possession but, pressing well to make Chelsea recycle and looking to catch the hosts on a quick counter. Iwobi linked with McNeil who fired a shot from over 25 yards that rose too quickly and didn’t trouble Kepa in the home goal as Spirit of the Blues echoed around Stamford Bridge.
Good tracking back from Coleman and Onana saw the Belgian intercept an inside ball from Felix intended for Havertz, and once again Everton pressed and forced Chelsea to go all the way back to Kepa. Chelsea came close as a ball into the Everton six-yard area was just too strong for Felix and Pickford gathered safely. A foul by Badiashile on Gray gave the Blues a chance to get the ball forward into the Chelsea area, Coleman finding Keane and when Doucoure lobbed the ball towards the back post, Koulibaly did enough to bloc Tarkowski from getting on the end of it. Chelsea streamed forward again in numbers but once again, the Everton defence did enough and Felix saw a close range cross/chip sail over the bar.
A sweet turn by Felix took him away from two Everton defenders, Ben Godfrey providing the cover to clear the danger and the Portuguese again caused a moment of concern before a stoppage in play saw Gana Gueye yellow carded for an earlier challenge on Pulisic.
Half an hour gone and Havertz was penalised for a foul on Tarkowski, and when Everton got forward, Doucoure was adjudged to have made contact on Badiashile and when an Everton foray forward broke down, they had to funnel back quickly before a shot from Felix was easily gathered by Pickford.
Badiashile with a poor challenge on Gray gave Everton a free kick five yards outside the Chelsea area on the right side, Gray hitting the wall with his shot, Pulisic taking it full in the face and needing some treatment and affording both sides the chance to get a drink and some pep talk messages from the respective managers.
Dwight McNeil on a good break ran fully 50 yards only for Koulibaly to do enough to prevent him shooting and winning a goal kick for the home side. Into the final five minutes of the half with at least three added minutes highly likely to be announced, and Everton tried to force their way forward again before Chilwell went down after the ball hit his foot – soft sod – and Chelsea came forward again before Everton again closed ranks and forced them all the way back to Kepa.
As expected, three added minutes were confirmed and McNeil was booked for a challenge on Fernandez just outside the Everton area on the right hand side. Chelsea tried too hard to be elaborate with the set piece and Everton cleared the threat comfortably.
There was time for one more Chelsea attack and a cross from the left sailed aimlessly through the Everton area and at the break, the scoreboard remained blank. It hadn’t been pretty but at least to this point, it had been an effective and well executed gameplan from Sean Dyche and the players.
Half Time: 0-0
No changes of playing personnel for the start of the second half that began as much of the first half had played out, Chelsea in possession and Everton pressing hard and forcing the hosts back. Keane headed a James cross out for an early Chelsea corner on their left, Chilwell again the taker and Onana firing the ball out for a repeat set piece. Tarkowski this time defended a Pulisic cross and an Everton counter attack broke down on the edge of the Chelsea area. A good cross from Chilwell picked out Havertz and his downward header was well saved by Pickford, Tarkowski completing the clearance.
Alex Iwobi needed a change of boots causing a stoppage that Chelsea weren’t happy about before James tried to release Fernandez into the area and when Chelsea came again, Chilwell saw a cross from the left easily held by Pickford. The deadlock disappointingly from the Evertonian perspective was broken on 52 minutes as a cross field ball found Chilwell and his first touch ball found Felix and his shot beat Pickford low to his right to go in off the far post.
Onana took one in the nether regions in winning a free kick that ended with Iwobi firing a ball into the area where it hit Keane and fell nicely for Kepa to gather. Pulisic fired a sweet shot beyond Pickford only to be denied by the offside flag. Everton were now having to come out in search of an equaliser and Koulibaly was booked for a foul on Iwobi as he latched onto a long ball from Coleman, the free kick on the right hand side of the Chelsea area. Gray whipped the ball into the danger area with nobody in a pink shirt able to get a telling touch on it.
An hour gone and Everton needed something out of the ordinary given their away form this season (and plenty of others in the past) and it was a Kovacic shot deflected over for a corner that led to the first change as Pulisic was replaced by Conor Gallagher. The corner saw Chilwell find the head of Fofana, the ball spinning high and wide and out for a goal kick. A nice flick on by Onana saw McNeil cross and Koulibaly hurriedly clear into touch and when Chelsea tried to get forward, a harsh free kick against Tarkowski gave Chelsea another free kick that failed to produce. Everton got forward quickly down the right with Gray crossing low and just to far in front of McNeil, Kepa smothering the ball safely.
Everton spread the ball right to left to win a corner off James, that saw Chelsea concede another on the right as a glancing header denied Onana, and the follow-up corner saw Abdoulaye Doucoure get the ball over the line, flicking a Tarkowski header beyond Kepa, just before the 70-minute mark.
It was Evertonian voices now in the ascendency as blue smoke billowed from the visiting fans section, and a Chelsea attack ended with Pickford making an easy save from Havertz. Indecision at the back saw Godfrey and Tarkowski fail to stop James and he went down to win a penalty that saw VAR review it for offside and any other potential infringement, and you guessed it, the original call was upheld. Havertz stuttered on his approach to send Pickford the wrong way and Everton were behind again with a quarter of an hour to play.
Could Everton find another equaliser as Idrissa Gana Gueye made way for the introduction of striker Ellis Simms on 78 minutes? Chelsea made their second change with Kovacic making way for Loftus-Cheek on 81 minutes. Doucoure played McNeil into space on the left and his ball into the area was too far in front of Simms with Kepa allowing it to run out for a goal kick and use up some time.
Excellent defending by Keane saw him win a goal kick off Gallagher when a corner looked odd-on and another change by Everton saw Vitalii Mykolenko replace Seamus Coleman, a move that saw Godfrey switch to the right with the Ukrainian international taking up his normal left-sided position. Badiashile blocked a shot from Simms and a ball from McNeil for Mykolenko was shepherded out for a goal kick by the home side who used up more time making two further changes for the final five minutes.
Incredibly, the Blues struck back as Ellis Simms bullied his way past Koulibaly to gain the area and he slotted an excellent finish past Kepa with less than 90 seconds remaining in normal time.
Five added minutes were announced, could Everton now go on and find a winner?
Chilwell with a deep corss from the left again found Havertz whose header was poor and it was cleared, only for Chelsea to come again and win a corner on their right, Pickford with an excellent punch clearing the ball back to midfield. Tarkowski headed a James cross to safety as the home side pushed for an added-on time winner while the travelling Evertonians did their level best to out shout the home support. A foul by McNeil on James gave Chelsea a late free kick wide right, and that led to another cross being put behind for a corner from the left that Chilwell took and again it was defended for another, third corner in quick succession. Tarkowski headed it clear and the final whistle blew to rapturous applause and noise from the Evertonians to acclaim the players for their terrific effort, and Ellis Simms maiden goal for the club.