Chelsea return to London with nothing to show from a game we mostly dominated, paying the price for goals conceded at the start of each half and a third gifted to the Toffees close to the end.
Mateo Kovacic with his second Chelsea goal pulled us back into the contest not long after we had gone 2-0 down but an equaliser could not be found against an Everton side that had stepped up their game in the wake of the sacking of Marco Silva.
In the first half, once Frank Lampard’s men had recovered from the shock of going behind so early to a Richarlison header, we had no shortage of the ball deep in our opponents’ half but despite some dangerous crosses and runs, we lacked shots at goal against a defence which had switched from a back-three to a back-four under new management.
A sloppy goal from a Chelsea point of view was scored by Dominic Calvert-Lewin shortly after half-time, followed three minutes later by the strike from outside the area by Kovacic, Chelsea’s outstanding performer, to make it 2-1.
After that Mason Mount missed when well-placed and Cesar Azpilicueta had shot pushed over, but inside the final minutes we conceded a killer third of our own making, one we will want to quickly forget. Calvert-Lewin was the player claiming his second goal of the game.
Goodison Park has not been a happy hunting ground on many occasions for Chelsea in recent years and so it proved again today. Everton have now won seven of their past 12 home league games against us.
For his first game on Merseyside as Chelsea boss, Frank Lampard went for the same team that had beaten Aston Villa three days earlier when he named his starting line-up.
Lampard had warned that despite Everton’s poor form leading into this game, he expected Everton to be tough opponents under their new interim boss Duncan Ferguson, and the Toffees were off to the best possible start with a very Ferguson-like goal.
Chelsea looked in trouble from the moment full-back Djibril Sidibe was played into a lot of space out on our left by Richarlison. Kovacic tried to get out to him but the cross came into our six-yard box where Richarlison, who had continued his run, was first to the ball ahead of Andreas Christensen and Kepa to head in. There were just five minutes played.
Prior to this game, Chelsea may have scored the opening goal in 80 per cent of our Premier League matches this season, and no side had conceded the lead more than Everton, but this encounter was following a different script.
Richarlison was not far away from reaching another cross from the Everton right side and Kepa saved from Calvert-Lewin before Chelsea threatened the Toffees goal for the first time.
That was with 18 minutes played when a Michael Keane mistake in the opposition defence allowed us the ball and space inside their penalty area, but the combination play between Abraham, Willian and Pulisic broke down without testing Jordan Pickford.
A Pulisic run down our left and a Willian cross from the other flank that flashed across the face of goal were signs that Chelsea were growing into this game.
On 32 minutes, Abraham was a whisker away from getting an outstretched leg onto Mount’s centre. Any sort of touch and the score would have been 1-1. Then our leading scorer could not control a difficult header sufficiently to beat Pickford.
Pulisic worked his way around the back of the Everton defence and tried to pick out a team-mate in the goalmouth, but an Everton leg reached the ball first. Chelsea were now dominating with Kovacic making his presence felt in the middle of the park and Pulisic showing penetration every time he received the ball, but we reached half-time still one goal down.
Everton’s goal at the start of the second half was even more rapid than theirs at the start of the first. Chelsea were caught trying to play the ball out at the back when under pressure. Though Zouma initially cleared after Pulisic had lost possession, the ball came back in high and Calvert-Lewin wrestled it away from Zouma and Pulisic to score. There was a VAR check for handball but it did not go Chelsea’s way.
The goal felt a real sucker punch but just three minutes later we were back to being just one goal behind. An Everton clearance out of their penalty area was decent enough but it was met by a Kovacic volley, an outstanding shot from 30 yards out that was in the bottom corner of the Everton net in a flash. There was a VAR check on this one too, for offside against Abraham, and it did go Chelsea’s way.
The Croatian was not far away from equalising with a run and shot before on 64 minutes, Mount really should have done so after Kante had laid the ball back perfectly. The young England midfielder curled his shot a yard wide.
Three Chelsea attempts at goal followed in the space of a couple of minutes. Christensen fired wide from distance with a decent effort, Mount saw his shot blocked and then an Azpilicueta attempt was touched over the bar by Pickford.
With six minutes of the 90 left to play, Kepa misdirected a clearance to Alex Iwobi and when the ball came in our defence failed to deal with it despite some Everton poor control. Calvert-Lewin poked the ball towards goal and Kepa’s hand on it could not keep it out. 3-1 to Everton and there was no way back.
We will need to put this defeat behind us quickly with a big Champions League night at Stamford Bridge coming quickly, Lille the visitors on Tuesday with a win needed to guarantee progress to the knockout stages.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; James (Batshuayi 82), Christensen, Zouma, Azpilicueta (c); Kante, Kovacic, Mount; Willian (Hudson-Odoi 70), Abraham, Pulisic.
Unused subs Caballero, Tomori, Emerson, Jorginho, Barkley.
Scorer Kovacic 52
Everton (4-4-2): Pickford; Sidibe, Keane, Holgate, Digne (Baines 82); Walcott (Bernard 86), Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson (c), Iwobi; Richarlison (Davies 70), Calvert-Lewin.
Unused subs Steckelenberg, Niasse, Tosun, Kean.
Scorers Richarlison 5, Calvert-Lewin 48, 84
Booked Digne 30, Richarlison 42, Calvert-Lewin 68
Referee Craig Pawson