It wasn’t the start of a new season or a new era for Chelsea’s Todd Boly, but Thomas Tuchel found rare support at Goodison Park nonetheless. His team kicked off the campaign with a hard-fought, well-deserved victory over Everton, breaking a four-game losing streak this match with a tenacity, if not a drive, that bodes well for the coming months.
Jorginho’s penalty at the end of stoppage time in the first half ensured victory over Frank Lampard’s non-attacking team in a rather dull and unmemorable encounter. Everton lost two centre-backs to injuries, adding to their problems on the first day.
Both teams included two debutants: former Burnley duo James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil for Everton, Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly for Chelsea, with £62m new recruit Mark Cucurella starting on the bench. Ben Chilwell took over at left wingback in his first start since suffering a serious knee injury against Juventus nine months ago. Everton right-back Nathan Patterson made his Premier League debut eight months after a £12m move from Rangers.
The Everton team received a stormy welcome when their manager drove to Goodison Road before the game as the supporters once again showed support that was instrumental in last season’s survival.
The players responded with a sharp and energetic start, only to lose Ben Godfrey under dire circumstances in the 10th minute of the new season. That his injury was so unnecessary added to Everton’s anguish.
Serious failures in the center of the defense contributed to Everton’s relegation last season, and their latest setback was due to a blind back pass from Godfrey to Jordan Pickford.
His loose ball went out of play for a yard before Pickford cleared it straight to Kai Havertz. The assistant referee’s flag remained down, referee Craig Pawson allowed the game to continue and in his attempts to make amends Godfrey issued a tough but clean challenge to the Chelsea striker.
The defender immediately signaled to the bench and received nearly seven minutes of treatment to his ankle. It was a sad sight when a player who had missed the last seven games of last season was carried away on a stretcher and it was a serious blow to Lampard.
Chelsea gradually took over the advantage and control. Mason Mount was the first to seriously test Pickford with the Everton goalkeeper’s low kick, captaining in the absence of Seamus Coleman and during his 200th spell for the club, pushed into Sterling’s path.
Mason Holgate, who replaced Godfrey, intervened in time. Sterling thought he had broken the stalemate shortly before halftime when Pickford hit N’Golo Kante and the new signing deflected the rebound. His celebration was interrupted by a legal offside.
Everton were dangerous on the counter and were close when the impressive Tarkowski met Vitaliy Mikolenko’s cross with a powerful header that knocked over Edouard Mendy. But their tenacity was nullified by the panic of Abdoulaye Doukouré in the last minute of stoppage time of the first half. Coulibaly’s distribution shone on his Premier League debut and it was with a sharp pass signed over the summer that Chilwell found himself closing in on Pickford’s goal. Ducouret, caught by the cornerback’s rushing run, reacted by grabbing Chilwell and Pawson immediately pointed to the spot as the fullback fell. Pickford saved from Jorginho when they faced each other in the European Championship final at Wembley last summer.
There won’t be a repeat here as the Italian coolly sent England the wrong way with a last-half penalty kick.
In a game with several clear opportunities, Everton will regret not being able to capitalize on several promising openings due to a wayward final ball or a poor first touch. Demarai Gray should have played Anthony Gordon without a miss on goal, but instead struck out Thiago Silva, while Dele Alli should have done better as Patterson charged into Chelsea’s area and set up a substitute in front of the net. His heavy touch missed the chance. Gray was closer when he beat Silva on speed, but his shot deflected off Mendy and went wide of the far post.
Everton lost their second centre-back to injury when the frail Yerry Mina stopped receiving the ball when no one was around. Koulibaly was also on the centre-back’s hit list with 15 minutes left, although the Senegal captain’s problem didn’t seem too serious.
Sterling nearly sealed the win with seven minutes left when he met an attractive cross from Cucurella, who made his Chelsea debut as a late substitute, but his close-range shot was deflected almost wide and Pickford lost.
There were 10 minutes of stoppage time due to a medical emergency in the away section.