Chelsea had to settle for a single Premier League point against Everton at Stamford Bridge as we were harshly punished for not killing the game off, despite controlling the match and twice taking the lead, only to be pegged back on both occasions.
The game began with a first half that was big on Chelsea dominance but low on chances, with a couple of efforts from the edge of the box by Enzo Fernandez and Mateo Kovacic the closest we came to a goal before the break.
Things sparked into life after half-time, though, with the Blues soon taking a deserved lead as Joao Felix punished a weak Everton clearance by sweeping an accurate left-footed finish into the bottom corner, via the post, from the edge of the box.
With Christian Pulisic then having a goal chalked off for offside, it was starting to look comfortable until a set-piece gave the visitors a way back into the game, when Abdoulaye Doucoure flicked James Tarkowski’s header beyond Kepa Arrizabalaga at close range and technology signalled a goal despite Kai Havertz clearing off the line.
In a breathless conclusion at the Bridge, the Blues retook the lead as Reece James was brought down in the box and Havertz showed why he is our new penalty taker by slotting home comfortably from the spot.
That should have been the end of it, but we had the win snatched away in the last minute of the 90, as substitute Ellis Simms powered away from Kalidou Koulibaly and squeezed a shot under Kepa to equalise with his first goal for Everton.
Christian Pulisic was ready to feature from the beginning, having come off the bench in our previous two matches against Borussia Dortmund and Leicester City. He made his first start for the Blues since early January, Mykhailo Mudryk the man making way as Pulisic joined Joao Felix and Kai Havertz in the front three.
Reece James was also back after missing the trip to Leicester due to illness, returning on the right in place of Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The rest of our midfield was unchanged, with Ben Chilwell on the left and Mateo Kovacic captaining the Blues alongside Enzo Fernandez in the centre.
The third change by Graham Potter was in our back three, where Benoit Badiashile came in for Marc Cucurella, alongside Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana in defence. Kepa Arrizabalaga continued in goal.
There was more good news on the injury front, too, as N’Golo Kante was named among our substitutes for his first involvement since going off with an injury against Tottenham in August.
Chelsea started the game the livelier of the two sides, trying to push forward early on, with the first sight of goal arriving for Enzo as the ball sat invitingly for him on the half-volley 20 yards out, but the penalty box was crowded and it was cleared via two blocks off Everton defenders.
The danger hadn’t passed for the visitors, though, as a Chilwell free-kick from the left had the defence at full stretch to put it behind for a corner, and the resulting set-piece was only cleared as far as Kovacic. From a similar position as Enzo a minute or two earlier, Mateo lashed a rasping volley which fizzed just wide of the right-hand post with Jordan Pickford motionless in the Everton goal.
While we continued to pick up momentum, with Everton barely managing to get a touch on the ball in the opening 10 minutes as Chelsea recorded 82 per cent of possession in that period, there was a brief respite from the threat to their goal, before a smart turn and shot by Joao Felix saw his effort deflected behind and Havertz’s header wasn’t too far from finding the mark from the corner.
The best Everton had managed after 20 minutes of play was a wild shot by Dwight McNeil from fully 35 yards, which flew harmlessly over Kepa’s crossbar and into the second tier of the Shed End behind him.
However, we weren’t really managing to trouble Pickford at this stage either, even if one beautiful flowing move which started with Kepa and involved James, Enzo, Havertz and Joao Felix certainly deserved a goal, before Everton managed to scramble clear as Pulisic moved in to provide the finishing touch.
Probing for weakness
Our right flank was increasingly looking the most likely route for the opening goal, with Joao Felix twice getting the best of Ben Godfrey, but his first cross was half-cleared and when he got the second chance he scooped it behind for a goal-kick.
Chelsea were going about our business in an unhurried manner, patiently testing our opponents’ defensive shield and looking for a way through, while Joao Felix’s skill continued to cause concern for Everton’s back line whenever they tried to get close to the Portuguese international.
Indeed, it was our No11 who did draw the next save, after winning the ball back well high up the pitch, but his drilled effort from the edge of the box was straight at Pickford. There was a long pause before half-time while Pulisic needed treatment after bravely blocking a powerful Demarai Gray free-kick, which was broken only by the applause from the home fans as Kante walked down the touchline to stretch, having been included in the matchday squad for the first time since August.
We couldn’t find a way past the kind of stubborn defence you would expect from a Sean Dyche team before the break, despite the by now familiar theme of Chelsea dominance continuing as half-time approached, and Koulibaly had to produce a perfectly timed challenge as he found himself outnumbered by McNeil and Gray on the counter.
Deserved breakthrough by Joao
The Blues came out for the second half at a higher tempo as we attempted to break the deadlock, and it nearly paid off straight away, from two Chilwell set-pieces in quick succession, the first headed clear from under the crossbar and the second seeing Havertz’s downward header palmed away by Pickford.
It wasn’t long before we did find the opening goal, though, and there were few people more deserving of it than Joao Felix, who had caused Everton problems throughout and been denied his second Chelsea goal by the woodwork and VAR on a number of occasions since scoring his first against West Ham United.
It was another Chilwell cross from the left which opened things up, this time Everton only clearing weakly to the edge of the box, where Joao Felix was waiting. Our No11 took one touch to tee himself up before sliding a slow shot beyond Pickford in off the foot of the right-hand post. A well-deserved goal for the Portuguese and a well-deserved lead for the Blues.
Pulisic then had the ball in the back of Pickford’s net a second time, collecting a lovely Joao Felix back-heel before curling left-footed into the top corner, but the flag went up as the Portuguese forward was well offside in the build-up.
Back to the beginning
Any thoughts that we had the job done now after taking the lead were soon dismissed, though, as Keane was a whisker away from getting on the end of an Everton free-kick from wide on the right, giving us a warning against complacency. Onana then threatened from a corner as the Toffees warmed to their task and from their next set-piece opportunity they managed to level the scores.
The initial header was by James Tarkowski. It was heading straight for Kepa but the Spaniard was left helpless as Abdoulaye Doucoure appeared right in front of him to get a flick on the ball. Even then, it looked like Havertz had done brilliantly to cover behind his goalkeeper and hook it clear from on the line, but the referee pointed to the centre-spot after technology indicated it had narrowly crossed the line.
That left us with 20 minutes to find the goal we needed for a deserved win, but as it happened we needed barely five of them.
A clever one-two between James and Joao Felix released the former into the box and, as he sprinted in to latch onto the return pass, he received a push in the back before being tripped by Tarkowski’s outstretched leg. The referee had no doubts, penalty kick, and VAR agreed despite a lengthy delay for checks before Havertz could step up to take it.
Once the arguments had come to an end, the German walked up to the spot confidently and showed exactly why Potter chose him as our new penalty taker, hesitating in his run up to put Pickford off balance before sending his shot high to the right and into the back of the net. We were back in front.
We still couldn’t consider the three points safe, with Everton making a series of attacking changes as they resumed their hunt for an equaliser on the counter, McNeil flashing a half-shot across goal from the left and substitute Ellis Simms having an effort charged down after a Koulibaly mistake had given him possession 25 yards out.
Unfortunately that warning wasn’t heeded and Simms was able to restore parity in the last minute of regulation time. Doucoure headed on a high ball in the centre and Simms’ pace took him away from Koulibaly and into the box, before he managed to squeeze a low finish past Kepa.
It seemed harsh on Chelsea at the end of a game we had controlled for such long periods, but we were punished severely for failing to kill the game off after taking the lead twice.
The upcoming international break means Chelsea's next fixture is on Saturday 1 April, another 5.30pm kick-off at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, this time with Aston Villa the visitors to SW6.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Kepa; W. Fofana (Chalobah 86), Koulibaly, Badiashile; James, Enzo, Kovacic (c) (Loftus-Cheek 81), Chilwell; Havertz, Joao Felix (Chukwuemeka 86), Pulisic (Gallagher 62)
Unused subs: Bettinelli, Cucurella, Kante, Madueke, Mudryk
Scorers: Joao Felix 53, Havertz pen 76
Booked: Koulibaly 57, James 75
Everton (4-4-1-1): Pickford; Coleman (c) (Mykolenko 84), Keane, Tarkowski, Godfrey; Iwobi, Onana, Gueye (Simms 79), McNeil; Doucoure; Gray
Unused subs: Begovic, Coady, Holgate, Mina, Davies, Garner, Maupay
Scorers: Doucoure 69, Simms 90
Booked: Gueye 29, McNeil 45+1
Referee: Darren England