Everton hosted Chelsea FC in the first game of the Toffees’ 2022/23 Premier League season and Frank Lampard went with an interesting selection of players for his starting lineup, enforced as it was by injuries and a suspension. Captain Jordan Pickford was behind James Tarkowski, Yerry Mina and Ben Godfrey, with a midfield of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Alex Iwobi. The two wingbacks Nathan Patterson and Vitaliy Mykolenko in their customary positions and a fluid front three of Demarai Gray, Anthony Gordon and Dwight McNeil.
Everton started the game well, pressing the visitors and roared on by the very lively home crowd they snapped into tackles and passed the ball around well. However an unfortunate injury after a mistake by Ben Godfrey saw the centrehalf carted off with what looked like a horrible ankle injury.
When play resumed nearly ten minutes later with Mason Holgate on, it was at a subdued Goodison Park and Chelsea took control of the game. The London side had a series of corners which the Blues defended responsibly. For their part, Everton did have a few attacking chances but either failed to get the crucial pass in, or else were thwarted by the wily and experienced heads in the Chelsea defence.
The visitor’s pressure finally told when seven minutes into added time in the first half Doucoure clumsily bundled over Ben Chilwell and the visitors had a penalty. Jorginho made no mistake this time, leaving out his customary hop and skip and sending Pickford the wrong way.
The second half started exactly the same way as Chelsea went into game management mode and dared Everton to chase the ball. To the Toffees’ credit they didn’t give up that easily, struggling to sustain pressure but still creating half-chances from pressure.
At the end the Blues simply did not have the quality to create and score upfront and despite another ten-plus minutes added on in the second half, it ended with Chelsea winning 1-0.
Nathan Patterson made his Premier League debut and it was a very good one too. Between Ben Chilwell, Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz he got a very stern test, and apart from a couple of situations where his inexperience showed, he acquitted himself very well.
Everton were very solid on their left too, in no small part because that was where Tarkowski was. He provided able backing for Mykolenko who did well too.
Everton did not look completely awful without that focal point upfront. The false 9 would even have worked against a team more inexperienced or less-skilled than Chelsea.
The Blues’ struggles in defending setpieces last season were legion. Looks like they have certainly worked very, very hard at that this summer.
That was about 110’ minutes of football. For both sides, if you weren’t ready for the new season, you better be now.