Chelsea 2, Everton 0
Was this the coming of age for Kai Havertz at Chelsea? The 21-year-old forced an own goal and won a penalty as they moved back into the Champions League places. But even more than that the forward finally looked the part; he looked like what he was when he signed last summer – one of the most coveted players in European football.
Once again there was a touch of alchemy from Thomas Tuchel – albeit a £62million signing and an expensively assembled squad can hardly be described as base metal – as he tinkered with his line-up, deployed Havertz as a ‘false nine’ and defeated Everton, one of the main challengers for a top four spot. Chelsea have momentum and are only four points off second place.
For Tuchel, it is 11 matches without defeat, eight wins and a fifth home game without conceding – a new Premier League record for a new manager – and by any measure he has made a hugely impressive, transformative start to life at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have let in just two goals in those matches with Andreas Christensen another young player who has been revitalised.
Havertz was far more positive, far more confident and far more clever as he knitted play, dropped deep and moved up top and provided an elusive, fluid threat throughout as – crucially – he linked well with Timo Werner.
Havertz’s involvement in both goals was key and he had another effort ruled out for handball in what was his first start since Tuchel’s first game in charge. Where previously he has looked lightweight and lost, here he was the main man and thrived on the responsibility. In fact, Chelsea actually look like they are having fun and thriving on Tuchel’s rotation and tactical changes as they hunt down those ahead of them but it was Havertz who stole the show.
“I’m very happy with his performance, no doubt about his quality his talent and also not about his character,” said Tuchel.
“He needs to adapt to the Premier League, he needs to be at a club where you play to win every game, where the highest standards are normal. That’s a normal process also for him to adapt to this mentality.
“He showed up between the lines and used his potential to accelerate our game and to increase the touches in the box – and to be responsible for assists and through-balls, and also to take the responsibility to finish himself. And from here on we go.”
For Everton, this was a blow. “Don’t give up,” shouted manager Carlo Ancelotti after the second goal was conceded but the result was sealed. They lacked ambition and were punished and even if their squad looks thin as they came to try and limit Chelsea rather than make a statement of their own ambitions. They paid the price.
Before conceding Everton had defended resolutely with, at times, five-at-the-back and Allan set as a midfield shield but Callum Hudson-Odoi twisted and turned and Alex Iwobi switched off to allow Marcos Alonso to escape. Hudson-Odoi found him with a smart in-field pass and Havertz made a darting run to meet Alonso’s low cross.
The German international opened up his body, the connection was good – but the ball was going across goal and probably wide before it took a heavy deflection off Ben Godfrey’s thigh to wrong-foot Jordan Pickford and find the net. It would have been only Havertz’s second league goal since his £62million move from Bayer Leverkusen but, even so, he had made a vital contribution.
Tuchel had tinkered. He changed up his attack with Werner out on the left and, again, with Tammy Abraham not in the squad – his absence and Havertz’s performance has to be a concern for the England striker – while the headline news was a place on the bench for Mason Mount before he replaced Hudson-Odoi. But then look at that substitutes list and compare it to that of Everton who only had three senior players. It told a tale in the vast difference in resources as Tuchel could afford to bring on Mount, N’Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic.
Nevertheless, he is nothing if not bold and despite the changes Chelsea took control with an astonishing 87pc possession after just 15 minutes. That was partly through design by Everton as they dropped off as, for a while, Dominic Calvert-Lewin was reduced to chasing his own headers. The irony for Ancelotti is that his team fell behind once they started to move forward. Even so Christensen, who looks a different defender, had to react quickly to sweep up after the ball broke to Richarlison who looked like he would have a run at goal.
Alonso was afforded just that after he was picked out by Christensen with a raking ball forward only for Pickford to react quickly to push away the wing-back’s low shot.
Once again Havertz thought he had scored when he brought down Hudson-Odoi’s chip before finishing but the effort was ruled out for hand-ball after a long VAR check. Instead it should have been Everton equalising with Godfrey intercepting, Gylfi Sigurdsson exchanging passes with substitute Tom Davies only for Richarlison to wastefully slice his shot wide.
As the game began to open up Pickford was sent scrambling to cover a low shot and then tipped over another effort by Hudson-Odoi before Cesar Azpilicueta picked out Havertz’s intelligent, purposeful run across Godfrey and with the Everton goalkeeper hurtling out the ball was pushed past him. Inevitably Pickford caught Havertz. The challenge was unnecessary, Pickford was at fault and the penalty was given with Jorginho calmly converting from the spot.
Everton should have fallen further behind with Pickford excelling to twice deny Werner as well as Kante and Mount. “Don’t give up,” was the shout again from the Everton bench. They did not but neither did they really give it a go.
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