Chelsea cannot blame Covid-19 outbreak for Everton draw after yet again failing to make dominance count

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  • Chelsea
    Chelsea
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  • Everton
    Everton
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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Chelsea cannot blame Covid-19 for this latest slip - even if they were robbed of Romelu Lukaku, Tim Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi against Everton on Thursday night.

An outbreak of coronavirus hit the Blues pre-match with Kai Havertz was also missing due to illness, which could yet be confirmed as another case - adding to injured defender Ben Chilwell’s positive test.

But even without the attacking quartet they created enough chances to secure victory against Everton long before Jarrad Branthwaite’s sucker punch.

Even before the 19-year-old struck, Chelsea had put themselves in position to win a game they had dominated throughout, but once again, only had themselves to blame for failing to make their superiority count.

It took an injury-time penalty to save them against Leeds at the weekend – but on this occasion there was no reprieve and there can be no complaining either after a 1-1 draw saw them lose further ground on Manchester City and Liverpool in the race for the title.

Mason Mount’s 70th-minute strike looked to have saved them after seeing a host of first-half chances go begging. But even if Branthwaite’s goal was totally against the run of play, it was a consequence of Chelsea’s failure to kill this game off when they should have.

At what point does bad luck just become bad finishing?

While it is easy to imagine any of Lukaku, Havertz or Werner taking at least one of the numerous chances created in the first-half – it is equally as easy to imagine them wasting them as well.

That is because this is becoming too much of a familiar story for Thomas Tuchel, who sarcastically dismissed questions about his side’s lack of cutting edge when they dropped points to Burnley in almost identical circumstances last month.

Looking back, that was the start of a run that has seen Chelsea drop nine points from a possible 21.

While Tuchel would have every right to point to the number of attacking players he was without, he will also know his side did enough to make this a comfortable evening.

In truth, they should have been out of sight by half-time.

It was not for lack of opportunities that they failed to find a way past Jordan Pickford by the break, with their slick forward play repeatedly cutting through even a deep-lying Everton defence.

Reece James should have opened the scoring inside six minutes, but fired wide when one-on-one with Pickford. Mount had a clear sight of goal shortly after, but fired wide.

Christian Pulisic’s backheel was stopped by Pickford, who pushed away further efforts from Hakim Ziyech and James again.

Chelsea continued to create chances and when Antonio Rudiger fed Mount inside the box, he only had to pick his spot from close-range but Pickford was there again to deny him with an outstretched foot.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

With 80 per cent of possession by the halfway stage, Chelsea were making this as one-sided a contest as could be imagined, but if anything, it felt like Everton were growing in confidence with each chance that went begging.

When Chelsea finally took the lead through Mount after 70 minutes, the sense of relief was palpable. The outstanding James slipped him in down the right of Everton’s box and from a tight angle he beat Pickford at his near post.

Given the visitors’ lack of ambition, it was hard see anything other than a Chelsea win – but just four minutes later came the twist.

Anthony Gordon’s swinging free-kick from the left touchline sparked panic in the Chelsea box. Substitute Saul Niguez was caught ball-watching and when he failed to cut it out with his head Branthwaite was there, unmarked, to convert.

While the away fans erupted – it was depressingly familiar for the rest of the Stamford Bridge.

Still they had chances to win. Thiago Silva’s header was brilliantly saved by Pickford, who then denied Rudiger.

More points dropped for Chelsea and more questions for Tuchel to answer about his misfiring team.

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