Everton held Chelsea at Goodison Park yesterday to remain unbeaten under Sam Allardyce in another strong defensive outing for the Toffees.
The home side were dealt a big blow before kick off when it was announced Wayne Rooney would miss out with the flu. This was the type of game Rooney thrives in so he would be a big miss for an Everton side looking to make it eight games unbeaten in a brilliant upturn in form under Big Sam. Ashley Williams and Mason Holgate were also under the weather however they found themselves on the bench with Ademola Lookman and Nikola Vlasic left out completely. A poor decision in the end as Everton looked limp all day going forward and their pace and direct running would have caused Chelsea problems. Yannick Bolasie found himself on the bench after missing over a year of action, however he would play no part.
Chelsea dominated the play from start to finish and early signs in the opening minutes suggested they were up for the battle as Victor Moses’ cross just evaded Eden Hazard and Pedro set his sights from outside the box but whipped it just wide. Not long after, Phil Jagielka, who was back in after a spell out of the side, made two crucial goal line blocks first from Tiemoue Bakayoko and a second from Willian to keep the scores level.
Other than these early scares, Everton looked relatively comfortable at the back and batted away any Chelsea attacks however they showed so little in an attacking sense it was painful to watch at times as Dominic Calvert-Lewin battled fruitlessly on his own against a physical Chelsea rearguard.
The lack of any real width hindered us badly on the attack as the three deployed centre mids were in place to defend. We lost almost all of our attacking impetus in favour of backs-against-the-wall defending. Tom Davies had a very poor first half, with his worst moment coming as he had the time and space to test Thibaut Courtois from just outside the box but he dragged his effort embarrassingly wide. The Toffees’ final first half chance came after some good hassling from DCL as he won the ball off Andreas Christiansen on the far touchline before entering the box, he drew two men away from his options in Idrissa Gueye and Gylfi Sigurdsson, however the young striker selfishly decided to shoot and it was easily blocked, another of our rare chances wasted, inexperience from the youngster costing us.
Half time arrived and Big Sam decided to tinker, with Ashley Williams replacing Tom Davies as the Blues moved to a five man defence and Aaron Lennon was also hooked with Sandro Ramirez coming on to replace him. Chelsea started the 2nd half quickly with Pickford making a great stop from Pedro after Moses had squared for him and the follow up from Marcos Alonso being blocked off the line by Williams.
Not long later, Everton were forced into their final substitution as Gueye looked hurt. He was clutching his hamstring and was replaced by Beni Baningime, we’re all just hoping it’s not serious and he is back as quick as possible. Everton scrapped well for the most part in the second period and prevented any real dangerous Chelsea attacks for the remainder of the game.
Hazard had a pop which was deflected off N’golo Kante and could have gone anywhere but landed in the arms of Pickford and the Belgian wizard tried his luck again but scuffed his shot into the path of Antonio Rudiger who looked to get his second goal this season against Everton but his shot on the turn found its way into the keepers arms once more. Defensively we were absolutely perfect and it was a performance all supporters could be proud of.
The lads fought bravely and doggedly and prevented one of the countries most potent attacking forces from breaking through. However the attack was nothing short of abysmal. Misplaced pass after misplaced pass, DCL and Sandro being constantly outfought and outnumbered, no wingers at all in the second half for support and wasteful when we did get into positions of danger. A main striker and a decent winger (Bolasie?) are absolutely imperative in January.
The Toffees best chance of the game came in stoppage time as Sandro won a corner which Sigurdsson delivered right onto the head of Michael Keane and with a free header he should have been finding the back of the net but he fluffed it over the bar. A final counter wasn’t to be as Martina did brilliantly to get to a loose ball first and play Sandro down the wing but the lightweight Spaniard was shrugged off it and that was that.
A very hard fought point in the end, all credit to our defenders. They were a disgrace earlier in the campaign but Big Sam has whipped them into shape and they have been a credit to the club in the last few weeks. However the attack today was almost non-existent and it spoiled what would have been a perfect result. It was a shame that Lookman and Vlasic weren’t involved as I felt they would have caused big problems for Chelsea and would have served as better options from the bench than Sandro. I hope we go to West Brom on Boxing Day with a more positive approach; they are statistically one of the weakest sides going forward in the league this season so it’s important we go at them with everything we’ve got, as nothing will do but 3 points from our trip to The Hawthorns.
Merry Christmas Blues!