Goodison Park’s reputation as a problem ground for Chelsea was increased on Saturday night as a first-half penalty proved sufficient to give the Toffees their eighth victory in the past 12 meetings between the clubs on Merseyside, and their third in a row.
The defeat was only the second of the season for Frank Lampard’s team, excluding penalty shoot-outs, the other inflicted by Everton’s city rivals Liverpool back in September.
This game’s deciding penalty, scored by Gylfi Sigurdsson, was conceded by Edouard Mendy midway through the first half and although Chelsea initially reacted strongly, forcing saves from Jordan Pickford and hitting the post with a Reece James shot, in truth we did not create sufficient chances against Carlo Ancelotti’s side who were for the most part solid, especially in the second half when defending their lead.
Everton were awarded another penalty during that second period but it was overturned by VAR. One goal was enough however although the Londoners were cursing our luck near the end when Mason Mount hammered a free-kick against the far post with Pickford beaten.
As expected, Frank Lampard made plenty of changes from the midweek Champions League group-stage closer, nine in total. The side was largely the one that had beaten Leeds in the Premier League with just one player different from that. With Hakim Ziyech injured, Mateo Kovacic came into midfield and Kai Havertz moved into a more forward position out on the right. With Callum Hudson-Odoi also a hamstring injury victim and no Christian Pulisic, Chelsea were without conventional wingers, with Werner continuing in a wide role on the left and Olivier Giroud down the middle.
On Pulisic, Lampard reported before kick-off that he had 'a bit of awareness in his hamstring' and despite training through the week he could not be risked. The American might be available for the midweek game.
Everton, missing several players themselves including James Rodriguez, changed their shape and went from a back-three to a four-man defence.
Eventful first half for Edouard
Chelsea began the game knowing a win would put us top overnight ahead of the Liverpool and Tottenham matches and for the first time this season we would have to do it in front of opposition fans. Everton had 2000 inside Goodison, all housed in the traditional home Gwladys Street End.
We were defending the other end in the opening half and Edouard Mendy, back in goal having been rested midweek, saved a tame shot from Richarlison early on but there was little to choose between the sides in the opening stages as they both probed for openings.
Our keeper needed some treatment when he claimed a high ball and winded himself on landing but he was able could continue. Three minutes later he conceded the penalty that led to Everton going ahead.
The deciding moment
The ball was bouncing in the penalty area after Dominic Calvert-Lewin had challenged Thiago Silva for it and as Mendy came out in an attempt to deal with the danger, he could not get his foot to the ball and instead followed through on Calvert-Lewin. He could not make amends as Sigurdsson slotted the spot-kick to put the home side ahead at the midway point of the first half.
Soon after it needed a full-length dive from Mendy’s opposite number Jordan Pickford to keep out a superbly struck Reece James free-kick, and our right-back was going for goal again when the corner that followed was cleared his way. Again the contact was sweet and Pickford this time had to dive the other way and made the smallest of touches but enough to divert it onto the post.
Kurt Zouma, playing at a ground where he was on loan two seasons ago, had a chance from much closer in but shot straight at the Everton keeper. After a quiet start to the game the action was coming fast now and Chelsea had responded well to going a goal behind.
With 10 minutes to go before half-time, James and Kovacic moved the ball well down the right but the cross was too far in front of Werner for him to make anything of it. Mendy then saved well when the dangerous Richarlison was played through.
The game continued to be a tale of two goalkeepers as Pickford was clearly still suffering from an injury he had sustained earlier in the game when he slipped over. He made it through to half-time however, as did his side’s 1-0 lead, although Chelsea had finished the first 45 minutes on the front foot.
The home side hold firm
Pickford was at the centre of the action at the start of the second half when he came a long way out to punch clear and had not made it back when Mount, from over 30 yards out, lobbed for goal but landed the ball on the roof of the net.
Then, after Havertz had a shot blocked, Mendy saved again from Richarlison after the Toffees broke swiftly. After that, Sigurdsson went close with a free-kick.
Chelsea, with plenty of the ball, were finding it hard to break through the Everton lines. The crosses from James on the right were looking as dangerous a weapon as we had, although he also picked up Chelsea’s second booking for following through on Allan when one of his deliveries was blocked.
It looked as if Chelsea had conceded a second penalty soon after, when the chasing Chilwell felled Calvert-Lewin, but a VAR check chalked that one off due to offside so we had 25 minutes left to do something about what remained a single-goal deficit.
It was down to 10 minutes to go when Chelsea were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out and Mount was left scratching his head in frustration when his sweet strike flew back off the woodwork.
Giroud volleyed over first time before the end but that was a rushed effort from a James centre. Chelsea have been more comprehensively beaten on this ground on some previous visits but it was a day when our open-play threat of recent weeks just wasn’t there.
Our unbeaten run ends at nine in the league and 17 in all competitions. We remain third in the table.
The Blues have back-to-back Premier League away games and in quick succession too. Following on from today’s match at Goodison Park, we are at Molineux on Tuesday night to face a Wolves side that lost there against Aston Villa earlier today. That game ended 1-0 as well.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Mendy; James, Zouma, Thiago Silva (c), Chilwell; Kovacic (Gilmour 82), Kante, Mount; Havertz (Abraham. 68), Giroud, Werner.
Unused subs Kepa, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Jorginho, Anjorin.
Booked Kante 45+4, James 60, Thiago Silva 65
Everton (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Holgate, Mina, Keane, Godfrey; Doucoure, Allan, Iwobi (Davies 86), Sigurdsson (c) (Gomes 82), Richarlison (Kenny 90); Calvert-Lewin.
Unused subs Olsen, Gordon, Tosun, Bernard.
Scorers Sigurdsson 22 pen
Booked Richarlison 24, Doucoure 80
Referee Jon Moss