Doucouré and Dobbin strike to give Everton victory against Chelsea

<span>Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA</span>
Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

Chelsea spent more than £430m on new recruits this summer, the biggest outlay in a transfer window in Premier League history, yet Mauricio Pochettino’s response to a seventh league defeat of the season was to suggest they must spend again in January. What they need is character, resilience and fight. What they need are the qualities Sean Dyche has ingrained in Everton.

It is 23 days since Everton were docked 10 points for a breach of Premier League profit and sustainability rules. They have clawed back nine points already with a hat-trick of league wins – the club’s first since the days of Carlo Ancelotti in March 2021 – with Chelsea the latest to succumb to Dyche’s defiant team. The expensively assembled visitors dominated possession at Goodison Park but were again found wanting not merely in front of goal but in terms of character.

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Everton showed it in abundance with an outstanding defensive display, the latest goal from Abdoulaye Doucouré and the substitute Lewis Dobbin’s first for the club delivering a merited victory. Dyche’s team would be 10th, four points above Chelsea, but for the deduction that is now under appeal. In the meantime, as their manager would say, they simply crack on.

“I felt the first marker this season was we had to improve,” Dyche said. “Can we improve individuals, the team and the output in terms of results? We have done all of that and then some people took some of that away and said: ‘You have to start again.’ So we did. If you get a group of players who give everything to win, it’s a powerful thing.”

Chelsea started and finished on top as they sought to recover from defeat at Manchester United on Wednesday – Everton, with fewer resources, had played 24 hours later when beating Newcastle – but rarely threatened to turn possession into penetration. Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Jackson were dropped to the bench after the midweek loss.

Reece James returned to make his first start since being sent off against Newcastle last month but it was short-lived.

The Chelsea captain, who has struggled with hamstring and knee problems this year, departed with another hamstring injury early on. The England defender has not completed 90 minutes since April, a fact that will not be lost on the watching Gareth Southgate.

Injuries and fatigue contributed to a scrappy first half. Ashley Young exited with a hamstring problem having been tasked with a second successive start in four days, at the age of 38. It was a big ask that backfired, with the veteran struggling against Mykhailo Mudryk before his departure.

Mudryk and Marc Cucurella carried Chelsea’s biggest threat down the left but there was no end product from the visitors. Jackson’s replacement, Armando Broja, flicked over from a Mudryk cross and Cole Palmer brought a fine save out of Jordan Pickford with a 25-yard drive.

The Everton goalkeeper was relatively untroubled otherwise. Jarrad Branthwaite’s battle with Broja and another excellent display from Vitalii Mykolenko were major factors in a commanding defensive display. The England manager will also have noted the blossoming of Branthwaite alongside James Tarkowski in the heart of Dyche’s defence.

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Everton threatened little before the interval but attacked with greater aggression and purpose in the second half. Dwight McNeil was central to the improvement. The in-form winger forced the first serious save from Robert Sánchez when drilling Jack Harrison’s pass towards the bottom corner. He created the opener with a surging run through the Chelsea half that ended with a piercing pass into Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s run behind Benoît Badiashile.

Sánchez was quick off his line to smother the striker’s shot but the rebound fell to Doucouré. The midfielder drove an emphatic finish past the stranded keeper for his sixth league goal of the season. It was Doucouré’s 11th goal since Dyche became Everton manager. He had scored five in just over two years before the appointment and had been ostracised from the first‑team setup by Frank Lampard.

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It took a tireless rearguard action for Everton to preserve their advantage. Palmer, booked in the first half for diving, stung Pickford’s palms with a low free-kick. Pochettino introduced Sterling and Jackson to intensify the pressure. The two almost combined to produce an equaliser late on but Jackson scuffed his close-range shot and the outstanding Tarkowski cleared. The Everton captain was instrumental in repelling Chelsea’s efforts and helping his goalkeeper to preserve a third successive clean sheet.

Victory was secured in stoppage time. Djordje Petrovic, brought on to replace the injured Sánchez, punched James Garner’s corner to the edge of the Chelsea area under pressure from McNeil. His clearance dropped to the 20-year-old striker Dobbin, who opened his senior account with the sweetest of connections through a crowded box.

“We were the better side but if you don’t score goals it’s difficult to win,” said Pochettino, stating the obvious. “We need to be more ruthless and after five months we need to check [on where improvement is needed]. That is something to analyse with the sporting director, to see what we can do to change the dynamic.”