Gylfi Sigurdsson isn’t the most popular name to appear in the starting XI these days but he is showing that he can be a man for big occasions, not least when Chelsea come to town and the chips are down for Everton. The Iceland international was in the team that blew Frank Lampard’s side away a year ago in a must-win encounter at Goodison Park and he stepped up again against the same opposition this evening to help the Toffees win at home for the first time in over two months.
Sigurdsson also took a fairly audacious penalty to win the game after Dominic Calvert-Lewin had been flattened by Eduard Mendy, rolling the ball into the other side of the goal having sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. Quite the display of confidence given his chequered record from the spot during his time with Everton and he went on to produce a performance of tireless work as Carlo Ancelotti’s men successfully blunted and frustrated his old club’s attack.
It’s fair to say that few Evertonians gave their team much of a chance against a Chelsea team that had settled into their groove in recent matches, remaining unbeaten in nine in the Premier League and 17 in all competitions coming into this weekend. They arrived at Goodison looking very much like the title contenders the pundits said they are this season but left having been restricted to a barrage of long balls in the closing stages as Everton’s stubborn back line drained them of ideas.
It was a Blues defence packed with centre-halves as Ancelotti, shorn by injury of Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman, preferred Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate in the full-back positions to Niels Nkounkou and Jonjoe Kenny, deploying them either side of Yerry Mina and Michael Keane. It was a contest that demanded some towering performances and while Mina and Keane delivered as expected and Holgate perhaps illustrated that right-back isn’t his strongest suit, it was Godfrey who caught the eye with an immense showing.
Understandably, the young defender is still raw but he was mostly excellent despite playing out of position, exhibiting good strength, pace and reading of the game and only occasionally allowing himself to be turned by the pace of Timo Werner once the German had been moved out wide to accommodate Tammy Abraham in the second half.
Chelsea were chasing the game at that point, with Everton having taken a 1-0 lead into half-time thanks to Sigurdsson’s calm under pressure. Richarlison had had the only real chance of note, a disappointingly powder-puff shot straight at Mendy with five minutes gone, when Calvert-Lewin got on the end of a punt forward by Jordan Pickford and then collected his own knock-down in the visitors’ penalty area.
He was clattered into by Mendy which left referee Jon Moss no option but to award a penalty which Sigurdsson elected to take with a disconcertingly short run-up but a confidently-taken shot after deceiving the keeper with an exaggerated look towards the opposite side of the goal.
As it turned out, the key to the Toffees getting something out of the game was the next few minutes as Chelsea immediately responded with a flurry of attacks but the home defence held firm thanks to a combination of Pickford and the woodwork.
The England keeper was equal to Reece James’s free-kick, pushing it away for a corner and he got a vital touch to the same player’s low drive from the resulting set-piece that was searching out the bottom corner until it came off the inside of the post via Pickford’s gloves.
A couple of minutes later, Olivier Giroud had put a gilt-edged chance in a plate for Kurt Zouma but the former Everton loanee could only shoot straight at the keeper while, later in the half, Werner smashed well over after the hosts had gifted Kai Havertz too much space in midfield and Abdoulaye Doucouré did well to block Giroud’s shot after Pickford’s punch had fallen well short.
In between, Sigurdsson had played Richarlison in nicely but the Brazilian appeared to slip as he shot and his effort was too close to Mendy who beat it away. Still, while Richarlison wasn’t having the best of games in front of goal, his industry, until the later stages was an important component; indeed, the whole team’s work-rate was reflective of a really good first half performance.
After Mason Mount had almost punished another dubious Pickford punch by dropping the ball into the top of the crossbar trying to lob into the empty net, Richarlison worked Mendy again with a right-footer but Mina might have snatched a goal off the head of Calvert-Lewin from the resulting corner by stealing in front of his team-mate and powering a header over the bar.
Sigurdsson then whipped a direct free-kick narrowly over from 25 yards before a second penalty awarded to Calvert-Lewin, this time for a foul by Ben Chilwell, was over-turned by Video Assistant Referee Andre Marriner for offside.
All the while, Chelsea were enjoying the lion’s share of possession without being able to fashion any clear-cut opportunities with it. Their best chance to wipe out Everton’s lead came 10 minutes from the end of the regulation 90 when Doucouré’s clumsy foul set Mount up with a free-kick from ideal range. Thankfully, though the England midfielder beat Pickford with his shot, it bounced off the base of the post and away.
Ancelotti then moved to close out the game, first by withdrawing the tiring Sigurdsson in favour of André Gomes, then by introducing Tom Davies for Iwobi and Jonjoe Kenny for Richarlison, and the Italian was successful as, apart from a chance in the 83rd minute for Giroud that he skied into empty Park End, Chelsea were barely able to threaten.
With Everton’s form having been so disappointing since the Merseyside derby, this was the ideal result with which to welcome back the first couple of thousand fans to Goodison since the coronavirus shutdown in March. It was no bear pit but the supporters scattered across the Gwladys Street and Top Balcony more than played their part in bolstering a gritty display by a side that needed the confidence of a key win against very strong opposition.
It bodes well that despite being without Digne especially and James Rodriguez, the Blues found a way to win and defended stoutly to achieve it to garner their first clean sheet in the Premier League since the opening day. Iwobi continues to grow into his various roles at the club, showing flashes of the inventive presence he can be if he could find some consistency with his final ball while Doucouré and Allan underscored how important they have been as signings when it comes to the defensive side of their games.
James is likely to be missing again when the team travels to Leicester on Wednesday so much the same kind of performance might be required again but the players will at least have restored their own belief that they can gut out games like this against dangerous opposition and do enough at the other end to win points.
Carlo Ancelotti faced his old team as manager of the Blues at Goodison Park with 2,000 fans allowed to attend for the first time to help inspire a very disciplined rearguard defence of Sigurdson's first-half penalty.
Everton were without their most talented player, James Rodriguez, the Colombian ruled out with a calf problem that prevented him from training this week. James joins Coleman, Digne and Gbamin on the injury list.
Ancelotti stuck with his conservative and decidedly unadventurous selection of the old players who have performed so poorly for him. Although Anthony Gordon and Jonjoe Kenny were named on the bench.
Things got underway with the scattered array of attendees in fine voice early on. But it was Chelsea who forced the early pace, winning a corner inside 2 minutes but they were caught offside in the second phase. Some promising movement and control from Iwobi and Godfrey gave the impression an Everton attack could develop. But it didn't.
Sigurdsson and Richarlison combined very well, the Brazilian running in with a brilliant chance to fire home but he produced the lamest shot in his arsenal that was little more than a pass-back. Iwobi won a corner that was floated in by Sigurdsson and headed over with little power by Mina.
Chelsea were showing a decent turn of pace and skill in getting forward but the Everton defence were alert in anticipating the moves and covering the key passes, Sigurdsson tussling with James to win a free-kick. Iwobi wriggled around to deliver a cross but it was easy for Zouma to clear. Iwobi then saw a great pass for Calvert-Lewin to chase but ruined it by putting too much on it.
Havertz upended Richarlison, giving Sigurdsson a chance to float the free-kick into Mendy's welcoming arms. A looping nothing ball up to Calvert-Lewin saw him nod it on and then kick it ahead only to wiped out by Mendy. Penalty, driven home by Sigurdsson after Richarlison claimed the ball but had to surrender it to the captain.
Richarlison, probably brooding, was easily dispossessed by James. Richarlisan then stupidly did his patented recovery challenge, giving away a stupid foul and earning an even more stupid yellow card. A superb strike by James forced a decent save out of Pickford, giving up a corner from which James hit the post with a tremendous drive that Pickford just got his fingers to, deflecting it brilliantly onto the post and right across the mouth of the goal. A second corner was well wasted by Chelsea.
Keane broke up a Chelsea attack but could have taken more care with his hoof upfield that should have been a gift for Calvert-Lewin but Mendy was out quickly to clear. Godfrey was getting through a lot of good work down the left but Pickford managed to overstretch clearing the ball and was wincing in pain.
Iwobi got another chance to drive in and cross low, but, as we now fully expect, it did not find a Blue shirt. Werner got a chance to score but clipped his shot wide over the angle of the goal.
Everton had done well to hold the advantage and defend their lead against Chelsea's lively attackers, while another wonderful chance for Richarlison was created by Iwobi and Sigurdsson, but his shot again was utterly hopeless, slipping poorly as he fired. Mina was pushed into Pickford in a dangerous moment but Jon Moss was quick to halt the game.
Everton were coming under increasing pressure ahead of the break but were showing good discipline and shape, preventing Chelsea from getting any real sight of goal. Kante was booked for a challenge on Allan as Everton drove into the area with Iwobi this time firing an accurate cross too hard at Sigurdsson and he could only punt it behind. Everton went in at the break with a decent lead that they had defended reasonably well.
Everton restarted the game but could not press forward. Pickford came out to punch but was stranded as Mount almost caught him out, chipping the ball back but just over the bar. At the other end, Calvert-Lewin tried to force another error from Mendy, much to the delight of the 1,500 dotted around the Gwladys Street stand.
Everton had everyone back for a corner and could not profit when Sigurdsson blindly hoofed the ball forward with no-one to receive it. A Chelsea mix-up saw Everton break, Richarlison shooting a little more strongly, forcing a corner that Sigurdssnn floated in. Mina then got in front of Calvert-Lewin to steal a clear chance he was eying up and better positioned for, the Colombian putting it behind wastefully.
A good Everton spell ended with Sigurdsson firing a free-kick over the bar with Mendy well beaten. Everton then had to defend for a spell as Chelsea again tried to figure a way through to Pickford's goal. James got a yellow card for a poor tackle on Allan.
Everton broke out from a sustained Chelsea attack, Iwobi feeding Calvert-Lewin who was then taken out by Chilwell for a second penalty but Calvert-Lewin had gotten too far ahead and was offside for Iwobi's pass. Calvert-Lewin was then fouled by Tiago for a 3rd yellow card for Chelsea.
From the free-kick, Richarlison battled well to win a corner off James but Zouma defended it away well. A flowing Everton move at pace saw Iwobi exchange passes with Holgate and get into a brilliant crossing position, only to wellie the ball madly in a new variant of his impossible-to-anticipate crossing lexicon.
Maddeningly, Calvert-Lewin had a chance to run with the ball but turned and played it back, possibly in an intentional move to avoid advance exposure. It became very scrappy for a while, with Chelsea getting a tad frustrated that they could not get past Keane especially, who was on the end of so many clearances. Richarlison this time also spurned the chance to run down the wing as Everton seemed to be under instruction to be more conservative.
The game entered a critical phase where the next goal would define the result, Everton not quite clicking with Richarlison outpaced easily by James, then Iwobi yet again beating his teammate with another potent cross. Keane again critically blocked another Chelsea attack but, from the corner, Doucouré gave away a real gift of a free-kick. From it, Mount hit the post with Pickford poorly positioned. Gomes came on for Sigurdsson.
Allan got mangled in a sandwich and Chelsea created perhaps their best chance for Giroud, who lashed it high and wide. Everton responded with a break, winning a free-kick as Davies replaced Iwobi. The free-kick eventually produced a late corner for Everton, put behind but Gilmour with Keane in attendance. Gomes's second corner was better but the ball was eventually went dead.
More stalwart defending was required as Chelsea kept pushing and probing, the minutes relentlessly ticking away. Kenny came on for Richarlison as 5 minutes of added time were signalled. Everton went upfield, Gomes winning an important late corner, but without putting anyone in the area!
Everton continued to frustrate the visitors, who had had an overwhelming share of possession in the game, but they just could not get a decent sight on goal. Holgate went on a fine distracting run to the right corner flag in the last minute, and Jon Moss, who had overseen the game well, finally blew his whistle to give Everton a very precious win with a clean sheet as well.
Everton: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, Mina, Godfrey, Allan, Doucouré, Iwobi (86' Davies), Sigurdsson (83' Gomes), Richarlison [Y] (90' Kenny), Calvert-Lewin.
Subs not Used: Olsen, Gordon, Bernard, Tosun.
Chelsea: Mendy; James [Y], Zouma, Thiago, Chilwell; Kante [Y], Kovacic (82' Gilmour); Havertz (68' Abraham), Mount, Werner; Giroud.
Subs not Used: Kepa, Rudiger, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Anjorin.
Referee: Jon Moss
VAR: Andre Marriner
A little over a year since Duncan Ferguson led Everton to an adrenaline-fuelled victory over Chelsea, Carlo Ancelotti faces his old team as manager of the Blues at Goodison Park.
Circumstances may be different this time around and Everton's need for victory might not be as acute, but Ancelotti certainly needs a victory to restore confidence and faith￼ that his team can indeed sustain a challenge for Europe this season.
They will have to do it without the most talented player in the form of James Rodriguez, though. The Colombian has been ruled out with a calf problem that prevented him from training this week and has also cost doubt on his participation in the midweek trip to Leicester city.
￼With Lucas Digne also sidelined as he recovers from ankle surgery, it means that Everton will be without their two main chance-creators in what is their most difficult assignment since the Merseyside Derby two months ago.
Rodriguez is one of five players ruled out with injury at the moment, with Seamus Coleman and Jean-Philippe Gbamin still working to regain full fitness at Finch Farm while Fabian Delph (hamstring) and Digne (ankle) are longer-term absentees.
James has been battling niggling injury complaints ever since the Merseyside derby in October and he will be a big loss to a side that has won just once in seven games since topping the table with a 4-2 win over Brighton.
Ancelotti explained that he will exclude Rodriguez from the visit of his former cub out of caution and hinted that he will probably miss the trip to Leicester on Wednesday as well.
"He had a little problem during the game against Burnley," Ancelotti explained in his pre-match press conference. "He was not able to train this week. I think he will start to train next week but for this game, we don't want to take a risk.
"I'm not used to complaining about the players that are not [available] for the match. The players that are available trained well and are in good condition . We understand it will be an important test in this period of December so we arrive at the game with confidence and motivation."
Coleman, meanwhile, could make his return to the side in midweek. Ancelotti said that the skipper had trained with the team this week and could be available for the Leicester game.
With all that to deal with, the manager hinted in his press conference that the absentees would force on his team a different way of playing but it is unclear what form that will take. Ancelotti has had to make a number of adjustments already this season, either due to injuries and suspensions or simply the need to tighten up a defence that has not kept a clean sheet in the League since the opening day victory at Tottenham.
The onus for providing the ammunition to Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison will probably fall on the shoulders of Alex Iwobi who has been playing at right-wing back of late. Ancelotti has a decision to make this week, however — his team performed much better at Burnley once they had reverted to a back four with Ben Godfrey filling in at left-back. Assuming Niels Nkounkou won't be given a look-in, it's a good bet that the manager will go for a four-man back line against Chelsea, perhaps with ￼￼Jonjoe Kenny, Tom Davies or even Mason Holgate at right-back.
That would free Iwobi to push up into a right-wing role to provide the creativity and Ancelotti could then pack the rest of the midfield with André Gomes, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré.
￼￼￼With Everton on a poor run of form, blunted by the loss of their most productive outlets for opportunities and Chelsea now settled into a groove that has them firmly in the title race, it's hard to see the Toffees getting back to winning ways in this game.
Timo Werner's pace will pose a significant threat, Olivier Giroud is in fine scoring form while the likes of Kai Havertz, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic will be a handful in attacking midfield. As such iIt is going to be a very difficult test but provides a great chance to surprise a few people.
2,000 fans will be in attendance, split between the Gwladys Street stand and the Top Balcony as the first supporters allowed to watch an Everton match live since March, and while they won't be able to give anything like the bear-pit atmosphere that helped tip this fixture in Everton's favour this time last year, they will hopefully be able to make enough noise to spur the boys on.
Kick-off: 8pm, Saturday 12 December, 2020
Referee: Jon Moss
VAR: Andre Marriner
Last Time: Everton 3 - 1 Chelsea
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Davies, Keane, Holgate, Godfrey, Allan, Doucouré, Gomes, Iwobi, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin