Chelsea vs Everton– Thomas Tuchel has dropped more points in the last five league games than any Chelsea manager can afford, but probably his worst result was failing to overcome an Everton side that only vaguely resembled Rafael Benitez’s preferred lineup.
Despite the fact that Benitez’s pool of eligible players included 12 first-team absentees, they managed to eke out a draw thanks to Jarrad Branthwaite’s first Premier League goal.
This was a victory of sorts for the beleaguered Benitez, a game that had to be fought for at every turn in every section of the pitch and offered no special spectacle – the kind that the Everton manager, one imagines, values most highly. It was a stunning result in the circumstances, and Benitez appeared to be in his element.
At the conclusion, the Everton manager went to congratulate his players in front of the away end, and the fans were greeted with a round of applause.
Everton fans wanted to appreciate their goalie, Jordan Pickford, the most because he was their team’s best player.
16 December 2021, Stamford Bridge, London, United Kingdom Everton supporters hold a banner inside the stadium requesting Everton manager Rafael Benitez to leave the club before the match.
Tuchel’s last five league games have resulted in only two victories. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has his own absentees, and there were numerous chances in the first half that could have been taken by the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, who were also out.
Despite this, a three-point gap has emerged between Liverpool in second place and Manchester City, who are one point ahead. There will be much more difficult challenges than this Everton side.
The European champions are in danger of falling behind, and Tuchel now has to deal with the major issue of Covid’s absences.
As things stand, Chelsea’s match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday is still on, and the Blues will need to win at Molineux to keep up with the league’s top two teams.
The Everton team that remained filled in the gaps to a significant extent. Pickford and Abdoulaye Doucoure were there, but so were Branthwaite, who last played in the Premier League two seasons ago, and Ellis Simms, who was making his Premier League debut.
This was the toughest test of them all for young Simms, who was only 20 at the time and had only played professional football on a single loan at Blackpool.
The centre-forward was the one ball out of the siege in the 5-4-1 defensive system that Benitez’s players settled into.
When left alone with Antonio Rudiger and Thiago Silva, the young Simms fought back with grit and determination.
Luca Digne, Richarlison, Andros Townsend, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Yerry Mina, Tom Davies, Demarai Gray, Fabian Delph, Salomon Rondon, and Cenk Tosun are among Everton’s absentees.
Allan, a Brazilian, was only cleared for the bench, as was captain Seamus Coleman. Everton only had two substitute goalkeepers on the bench, the second of which was Andy Lonergan, 38, and even then they only had seven.
In the first half, it’s fair to say that the final men standing rode their luck a lot. A Chelsea squad that was so dominant on the ball that Everton only had 19% possession in the first half missed numerous opportunities.
Mount had a handful of chances, the greatest of which was a disguised pass slipped through the away defense by Rudiger on 36 minutes, which the young Englishman attempted to nudge beyond Pickford.
Jorginho’s early ball through the inside-right channel, which Reece James should have finished, was one of them.
Lukaku, Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and the long-term injured Ben Chilwell are among the Chelsea players who have tested positive for Covid-19. Despite the fact that Kai Havertz had not returned a positive test, he was forced to withdraw from the matchday squad due to sickness. With so many players out, Christian Pulisic was forced to play as a central striker.
When Benitez finally decided to rest Simms, a teenager, 18-year-old Lewis Dobbin, an academy graduate, took his place. Indeed, it wasn’t until Everton began to attack that they appeared to be truly vulnerable.
Mount’s goal came on 68 minutes, when Doucoure raced forward with the ball and was stopped by a brilliant Thiago Silva challenge.
Everton were caught with midfielders on the wrong side of the ball for the second time in a few minutes, and this time they paid the price.
Mount’s run down the inside right was spotted by James, and the ball was despatched beyond Pickford at his near post. You could have assumed that after the siege was breached, the game was done.
Everton, on the other hand, had a new sense of liberation. From James’ clumsy tackle, Anthony Gordon earned a free kick on the left.
Branthwaite, whose last goal had came for League Two Carlisle United, met his subsequent ball into the box on the run at the back post.
Everton had re-entered a game in which they had barely played before half-time.
Tuchel had already made two changes, with Ross Barkley starting against his former club and Saul Niguez making his first Premier League game since October.
Trevoh Chalobah was on by the end of the game, signaling a conversion to a three-man defense. Despite this, the game felt most open in the last stages.