It wasn’t a statement performance to launch a new season under ambitious new owners, but Chelsea found rare motivation at Everton. “Maybe it wasn’t the most exciting game in the history of the Premier League,” Thomas Tuchel massively under-stated; “But a win is a win is a win.” Perhaps significant, given Chelsea’s recent travails at Goodison Park.
Jorginho’s penalty late in first-half stoppage time ended a run of four consecutive league defeats for Chelsea at Goodison. Tuchel’s team was stubborn not decisive, solid not spectacular, and lacking in penetration despite a lively contribution from Raheem Sterling.
Everton impressed defensively and in possession were still toothless in the final third; a surprise to absolutely no one with no recognized striker available for the opening day. Their problems were compounded by the loss of Ben Godfrey to a broken leg. Another central defender, Yerry Mina, also left injured.
“Ben has a small fracture of his fibula,” Frank Lampard confirmed. “I don’t know how long he will be out for sure, but it will be months rather than weeks.” The Everton manager added: “I thought we put in a good performance and didn’t deserve to lose. In terms of both boxes and chances created a draw would have been a fair result. We played very well and they didn’t really hurt us but we had a lapse of concentration for the penalty .”
It was a tumultuous reception for the Everton team when their coach entered Goodison Road ahead of the game, as fans once again showed the support that was instrumental in last season’s survival. Lampard’s side responded with a sharp, high-energy start only to lose Godfrey in dire circumstances just 10 minutes into the new campaign. The fact that his injury was so unnecessary added to Everton’s torment.
Major disruption in central defense contributed to Everton’s relegation last season and their latest setback stemmed from a back-pass that Godfrey played blind to Jordan Pickford. His loose ball went a yard out of play before Pickford cleared it straight to Kai Havertz. The assistant referee’s flag remained down, referee Craig Pawson allowed play to continue, and in his attempts to make amends Godfrey launched himself into a difficult but clean challenge on the Chelsea striker. The defender immediately signaled to the bench and received almost seven minutes of treatment. to his ankle before being carried away on a stretcher.
It was a sad sight as a player who missed the final seven games of last season was sent off and a major blow for Lampard. Chelsea gradually took advantage. Mason Mount was first to seriously test Pickford with a low drive which the Everton goalkeeper, captain in the absence of Seamus Coleman and on his 200th appearance for the club, pushed into the path of Sterling. Mason Holgate, Godfrey’s replacement, made a timely intervention.
Sterling thought he had broken the deadlock shortly before the interval when Pickford spilled a shot from N’Golo Kanté and the new signing converted the rebound. His celebrations were curtailed by an offside flag.
Everton came close when the impressive James Tarkowski met Vitalii Mykolenko’s cross with a towering header that Édouard Mendy tipped over. But their hard graft was undone by a moment of panic from Abdoulaye Doucouré. Kalidou Koulibaly’s passing shone on his Premier League debut and it was from the summer signing’s incisive pass that Ben Chilwell found himself attacking goal.
Doucouré, caught out by the wing-back’s surging run, reacted by catching Chilwell and Pawson immediately pinpointed the spot as the defender fell. Pickford saved from Jorginho when they faced each other in the European Championship final at Wembley last summer. There would be no repeat here as the Italian coolly sent the England international the wrong way from the spot with the final kick of the half.
In a game of few clear-cut chances, Everton squandered several promising openings due to a wayward final ball or poor first touch. Demarai Gray should have played Anthony Gordon clean through on goal but hit Thiago Silva while Dele Alli wasted a good chance from Patterson’s lively cross.
Sterling almost sealed victory with seven minutes to go with an inviting cross from £62m signing Marc Cucurella, who was making his Chelsea debut as a late substitute, but his close-range shot was deflected just wide with Pickford beaten.
Tuchel said: “Seven minutes of stoppage time in the first half and 10 in the second shows there was a lot of disruption. Neither team could really find their rhythm. Everton defended very deep and we struggled with switches of play or changes of pace. We needed more movement on the ball.
“It seemed that we didn’t want to make the decisive mistake, so we didn’t take any chances. But in the first game you stay and do what is necessary to get the win. To start with an away win is a fantastic result.”