SIMMS GIVES EVERTON HOPE TO CLING TO
Potter left frustrated as he watches Chelsea give away their lead twice
By Adrian Kajumba AT STAMFORD BRIDGE
AT ONE stage against Everton, there was so much confidence flowing through Chelsea that even Graham Potter indulged in a bit of showboating.
As a ball looped up into the air and over Potter’s head as he stood in his technical area, the Chelsea manager nonchalantly leant forward, let it drop and back-heel volleyed the ball into play.
Chelsea were deservedly 1-0 up at the time through a fine strike from Joao Felix who also showed off some fancy footwork at Stamford Bridge. But if there is one thing Potter has learned in this job is that Chelsea are not yet in a place where too much can be taken for granted.
And so it proved, once again.
Everton levelled a first time through Abdoulaye Doucoure to test whether Chelsea really were back in form after their three successive wins which suggested they mayu have turned their season around.
And after Kai Havertz restored Chelsea’s lead from the penalty spot, young striker Ellis Simms came off the bench to force in his first senior Everton goal in the 89th minute. The strike earned the Toffees a crucial point in their battle to beat the drop.
They had earned the draw with a combination of defiant defending and a positive response to going behind twice, a situa
tion that stirred them rather than deflated them. Deflated may be how Chelsea and Potter will feel going into the international break after a late goal denied them a fourth win on the spin.
The pattern for the first 50 minutes was quickly set, Chelsea pinning Everton in their own half and Sean Dyche’s men having to keep their concentration and work overtime to protect their goal.
Enzo Fernandez was first to threaten when he had a shot blocked and his midfield partner Mateo Kovacic blasted just wide after five minutes.
The Croatian is no stranger to a spectacular volley. But by his standards, he would have been disappointed not to have scored when a clearing header dropped to him, in plenty of space on the edge of the penalty area.
It was shaping up to be the sort of game made for James Tarkowski and inside the first 10 minutes his first piece of body-on-the-line defending was needed to deny Joao Felix, deployed through the middle by Potter.
After a fast Chelsea start, Everton stemmed the home side’s flow for a spell though Chelsea flickered again with Havertz’s curler collected by Jordan Pickford, who also pounced on Ben Chilwell’s deflected cross as Felix looked to poke in.
Chelsea were rightly confident because of their form and the way they had started the game.
Kovacic and Fernandez were dominant and pulled the strings in central midfield. Felix and Havertz delighted the home crowd with their skill.
Centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly drew gasps too when he killed a ball dead first time as it dropped out of the sky and over his shoulder as he ran back towards his own goal.
What Chelsea wanted and needed was a goal that would be a deserved reward.
Everton, though, continued to defend diligently and frustrate. Pickford was equal to an effort from the impressive Felix before Tarkowski again flung himself at the feet of Reece James.
He was not the only one. Two teammates produced similar heroics in first-half added on time after Dwight McNeil’s foul on Fernandez handed Chelsea a free-kick in a promising situation.
Two Chelsea efforts came from it and were met by Everton blocks to keep the score level at half-time,
The one-way traffic continued in the early stages after the break. Chilwell’s cross was met by Havertz whose header was batted away by Pickford.
But Everton — Michael Keane and Tarkowski in particular — could only hold on for a few more minutes. It was not for a want of trying on the part of Everton’s overworked centre-back pair.
Keane stretched to poke Chilwell’s next cross away from goal after Fernandez’s pinpoint cross-field pass. Tarkowski was then quick to sense the danger when the ball trickled towards Felix.
But he could not get to the danger in time and Felix fired the ball through Tarkowski’s legs, past Pickford and into the net off the post.
After going behind, Everton removed the shackles. Keane could
only divert Alex Iwobi’s cross straight at Kepa Arrizabalaga — a spectator up to that point — before he got firm contact on Demarai Gray’s fierce free-kick.
Everton increased their intent and a flurry of set-pieces paid off when Doucoure’s touch from Tarkowski’s knockdown, crossed the line.
Now came the test for Chelsea after their recent morale-boosting wins. They answered the question within five minutes. James burst dangerously into the box, Ben Godfrey and Tarkowski combined to bring him down and referee Darren England pointed to the spot.
Pickford tried to delay taker Havertz further with some gamesmanship so the German enjoyed sending the England keeper the wrong way, sticking his tongue out and taunting him with a playful gesture as he wheeled away in celebration.
But Everton were the ones smiling at full-time thanks to a moment sub Simms will never forget. The young striker burst past a sluggish Koulibaly and squeezed the ball under Kepa to earn a valuable point for Everton.
dmg media (UK)