Everton weathered a blistering first half Chelsea storm as they went on to win 2-0 adding to the woes of Maurizio Sarri’s Champions League chase in his first season in charge.
A quick start by Chelsea saw the London club dominate the early play as Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuaín forced smart saves from Jordan Pickford, whilst the Belgian winger came closest in the early exchanges with a shot that deflected onto the post. Dominic Calvert-Lewin came closest for Everton in the first half as he sent Gylfi Sigurdsson’s set-piece over the crossbar with a headed effort in a half which Marco Silva’s men struggled to get into. Chelsea amounted 10 shots at goal whilst Everton managed only three in the first half showing the difference in quality in the first half despite the deadlock not being broken.
Everton’s second half started much more brightly as Andre Gomes stung the hands of Kepa early on and the momentum continued as Everton surprisingly took the lead. Calvert-Lewin once again met Sigurdsson’s cross, this time from a corner, which was parried by Kepa into the path of Richarlison who headed in and woke up the Goodison faithful.
Chelsea looked to work their way back into the game as Higuaín fired a shot into the bottom corner that forced a stretching save from the England number one which was probably their best effort of the half. The Blue’s struggles continued as their luck went from bad to worse as Marcos Alonso left his foot in tripping Richarlison who was at the centre of most of Everton’s second-half play. Gylfi Sigurdsson then stepped up – his penalty was initially saved by Kepa but came straight back to Everton’s key man who tapped the ball into the goal.
There were opportunities for both sides afterwards as Everton looked to extend their lead and Chelsea looked to get back into the game yet their efforts presented few chances and saw Everton see out the game and take all three points.
The fixture showed how football really is a game of two halves as Silva’s side solved all their own problems within 90 minutes. Everton looked pedestrian and ineffective whilst Chelsea looked lively and capable of unlocking Everton’s back four in the first 45 minutes. However, the Toffees came out and unsettled Chelsea on the ball and never took the foot of the gas forcing mistakes and earning their first victory over a top-six side in their last 26 attempts.
Richarlison – a frustrating but vital player
The Brazilian winger may as well not have been on the field in the first half as he only amounted 12 touches of the ball and looked to be completely ineffective. His performance encapsulated fans frustrations with the whole team in the game – a group of players who were simply coping and not creating.
However, Richarlison’s second half set the tone for his teammates. The winger started energetically and headed home to open the scoring and was involved in most of Everton’s play, he also won the penalty for his side that saw Sigurdsson seal the win.
Richarlison has now bagged 13 goals and proves how important he is to the team and Sunday showed why. Without him and a few others at their best, they are a team that can be easily brushed aside but when he shows up he is a key part to an attack that are crying out for a talisman.
Everton fans finally have something to cheer about
Apart from the jeers that Ross Barkley received in the first half, Everton may as well have been playing behind closed doors. The team gave nothing for the fans to sing about and after only winning once at home in the last eight, a run stretching back till November, they were rightfully quiet.
Everton’s drab performance was not received enthusiastically until the second half when the Merseyside team took the lead. With momentum behind them, the team defending with courage and grit that kept a world class attack at bay – not only that, but they also kept a clean sheet. All this earned the support of the crowd and showed just how much the support of a packed out stadium can be to a team struggling to find form.
Chelsea’s push for the Champions League
After the loss against Everton, Sarri’s side are now four points behind Arsenal in the race for the top four. Whilst they are still in the race for a Champions League spot, they are the most out of form team when it comes down to the three teams involved for fourth place. Since the start of the year, they have lost to both Arsenal and Manchester City as well as a draw with Wolves which has put their top four spot in doubt.
If Chelsea struggle to recapture consistency in the league they may be relying on winning the Europa League to earn a place in next seasons Champions League. With the quality of team that remain in the Europa League, this is no easy task and Sarri’s first season in charge may prove to be an unsuccessful one.
Toffee’s finally put top-six curse to bed
Everton have finally done it! They have managed to beat a top-six side after 26 attempts. Their last win against a side from the top six came against Man City in their 4-0 destruction in Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge. Everton since have tried to break into that top six but have barely come close and have struggled to compete with the quality that the top six sides possess.
Marco Silva managed to finally crack the code on Sunday and some credit must be given to the manager as he changed his tactics and caught Chelsea on the break. Although one win in the last 26 games is not a record to boast about, it is a record that Everton will be happy to have finally broken. They will now look to pick up some form from this win and finish the season strongly, possibly pushing for seventh place.
Man of the Match – Richarlison
In a game that didn’t create many memorable performances, it was Richarlison who stood out. He scored the opening goal and also earned the penalty which saw his side put the game to bed and take all three points.