Everton 2-0 Chelsea
There is a long-held saying in football which many us fans will not have heard of.
It was invented long before the Premier League was established but remains as true today when first uttered.
‘Fail to take your chances and it will come back to haunt you’.
Now I don’t know who was first responsible for making the point but this encounter was a prime example.
For when the Premier League highlights are compiled, Chelsea will feature in probably more stand-out moments than Everton but it is the Merseysiders who have the points.
The Premier League betting odds on who will claim a top four spot have taken yet another twist.
Highlights of the game
From the first whistle it was clear Chelsea weren’t going to get a warm welcome. Or rather Ross Barkley, a boyhood Evertonian, wasn’t on his first return to his former club following his £15 million transfer in January 2018.
He was handed a place in the starting line-up, while the Toffees namedan attacking line-up with Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all included.
Chelsea started on fire and could easily have been two goals to the good.
Jordan Pickford, making his 100th top flight appearance, kept out Eden Hazard after fine play by Marcos Alonso.
Then Gonzalo Higuain fed the Belgian whose shot hit the post before the ball was worked to Higuain almost immediately, only for Pickford to produce a smart save.
Although both keepers were tested, there was little else to write home about in terms of clear chances but the visitors were clearly the better side.
Pedro went close just before the break and then did see an effort find the net but was offside.
The past two league meetings had ended 0-0, most recently in November, so could there be another one?
Only four fixtures in Premier League history had finished goalless in three consecutive games.
At the break there was always the feeling, Maurizio Sarri’s men may rue missed chances, whereas Everton – who needed to lift the gloom after failing to score in their last five league matches against Chelsea – surely would improve.
There was to be an immediate answer.
Andre Gomes’ curling shot from the edge of the box called Kepa Arrizabalaga into action and, moments later, the Toffees had the breakthrough.
Arrizabalaga did well to keep out Calvert-Lewin’s header but Richarlison was on hand to pounce and head home from close range.
As Sarri told his men to calm themselves, Goodison roundly booed Barkley as he had to leave the fray early.
Then the key moment.
Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with Everton after scoring against Chelsea
Alonso clipped Richarlison in the box and, while Arrizabalga saved Sigurdsson’s penalty, the rebound came straight out to the influential Icelander who wasn’t going to pass up the second opportunity.
Chelsea were totally frustrated, Everton totally fluent on the counter as substitute Theo Walcott – who has scored six goals in all competitions against Chelsea (finding the net at all four grounds he has faced them on until today) – nearly made it three.
That would have been harsh on the visitors who threatened a late scare when sub Callum Hudson-Odoi unleashed a stinging shot which Pickford had to push over the crossbar.
Even in stoppage time they were to be denied when David Luiz nodded a corner back across goal and substitute Olivier Giroud was stopped by Pickford.
For Everton, who had only won one of their previous six league games, a first home win in nine weeks and eight matches.
In contrast, it’s matches like this when it’s clear to see why the Blues remain the lowest scoring of the Premier League’s top six clubs with 50 goals in 30 matches.
This was only the second Everton win against Chelsea in 11 Premier League encounters.
This was also their first victory against one of the established top-six sides in the league since January 2017, drawing seven and losing 18.
Chelsea have lost four of their last five away games in the Premier League, conceding 14 goals in those four defeats.
The Blues have kept only one clean sheet in their last 10 away league matches, in a 1-0 triumph at Crystal Palace on 30 December.
Chelsea have hit the woodwork 20 times this season, more than any other side in the top flight.
Everton have only seven games remaining this season.
They are next in action at West Ham on March 30 followed by a trip to Arsenal on April 7. Five of their last seven matches are against London clubs.
Chelsea have a busier programme.
They face Cardiff a fortnight today and then host West Ham before a two-legged Europa League quarter-final against Slavia Prague, sandwiched between a return to Merseyside to face Liverpool.
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