After last week's shockingly poor showing at West Ham, Everton again failed to turn up in their penultimate home game of 2016-17, meekly handing an easy win to the Champions elect with three soft goals in the second half.
Morgan Schneiderlin was kept out with a thigh injury picked up in training, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Enner Valencia coming into the line-up, with Mirallas dropping to the bench; no start for Gareth Barry.
Everton kicked off and Calvert-Lewin almost got into the Chelsea area, then he did on the next attack off a great Barkley pass, surprising Courtois the ball coming back off the post and Lukaku so close to sweeping the ball home, but denied.
Cahill forced a save from Stekelenburg that bounced off him, with some good movement by Everton in the early exchanges but Holgate was beaten and Chelsea won their first corner, played short. The midfield was very open letting Everton move the ball upfield with pace in the early stages but the final passes were not coming off.
But they were vulnerable to the counter and Hazard left Gana for dead, got around Stekelenburg but could only put it into the side netting in something of a let-off for the home side.
A poor pass by Barkley led to another Chelsea attack but Davies with a brilliant tackle denied Costa, catching him with the follow-through. But Chelsea had improved their shape and Everton were reduced to passing the parcel in midfield, looking very vulnerable without Schneiderlin on the turnover.
Everton won a corner delivered well enough by Barkley but the ball went all the way back to Stekelenburg under minimal pressure and any initiative was lost. O a Chelsea free-kick, Hazard again got away from Gana but no-one benefited. Matic then ran through and got off a shot. At the other end, Lukaku drove a low shot a couple of feet wide.
Jagielka got tied in knots by Costa but somehow the Chelsea star lashed the chance way over, Everton looking to gift the first goal to their illustrious visitors. Calvert-Lewin was given space to turn but he shot from distance, well off target.
Everton were given space and time on the ball but it was more pass the parcel in the middle, ending with an over-hit ball that Baines could not keep in. Gana had his hands full with Hazard, but somehow won a free-kick after grappling the Chelsea man to the ground.
Lukaku was finally picked out by a long ball but he could not bring it down for the shot and the chance was gone. But Cahill gave away a free-kick with a handball that earned him a yellow card. Nothing came of Barkley's free-kick.
Moses mugged Calvert-Lewin forcing a foul, a yellow card, and a free-kick from Pedro that fortunately came to nothing. Azpilicueta was next to see yellow for upending Valencia in a better position for Barkley who shot lazily into the Chelsea wall.
Valencia got space in the Chelsea area ahead of Alonso but Lukaku could not connect for the header. The half came to an end with a late Chelsea corner, Everton showing far too much respect and far too little initiative or inventiveness to really attack the Premier League leaders despite a remarkable lack of pressing from the visitors.
Proceedings resumed at the same slow pace, with a distinct lack of intensity. After Davies had got to the byeline and failed to keep the ball in, Everton were pinned back with a couple of corner,s Moses firing fractionally wide from the first, a slight deflection earning a second. But from that, Davies got to make a good central run only to overplay his final touch.
Jagielka played an awful back-pass to Stekelenburg that gave Costa a chance but he fouled the Everton keeper and was shown yellow. Valencia finally drove forward with the ball his shot deflected behind for a corner defended away, Valencia halting the Chelsea break illegally.
Valencia again drove in, this time from the left, but could not find a blue shirt after beating Azpilicueta. Barkley did well to challenge for and win the ball in midfield but could not get his pass through to Lukaku. However, Lukaku got to run in from the right but got nothing on his shot.
It was at least becoming a little more competitive as a contest but the quality was surprisingly poor, neither side seemingly capable of raising the standard to match the pre-game billing. That was until Pedro took matters into his own hands, dodged aside Jagielka and lashed in an unstoppable shot from 25 yards.
Everton continued to show no idea what to do with the ball from midfield and they had to defend manfully with key interceptions against Costa and Matic. Koeman reacted with Mirallas and Kone replacing Calvert-Lewin and Valencia.
Barkley tried to do a Pedro but he was blocked and fouled by Hazard. Lukaku fired the free kick over the wall and over the bar from a very good position. Poor. Gana fouled Hazaard for a yellow. Hzard powered in a low cross from wide left, and Cahill was on hand to profit from a dreadful attempt to save by Stekelenburg.
Barkley fouled but another shockingly poor free-kick, this time from Mirallas. More poor defending let Fabregas scamper through and pull it back for Willian to slide it home with ease, after being on the field for just a minute.
Can the lack of intensity and ultimate surrender be put down to the news that other results yesterday had secured European football next season? The players seemed to be half way to the beach such was the lack of interest in competing. No excuse for such an insipid performance on the back of such a good home run, with Lukaku of course doing nothing to enhance his dubious reputation as the Premier League's most prolific striker.
Everton: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Jagielka, Ashley Williams, Baines, Gana, [Y:78'] Davies, Valencia [Y:58'] (72' Mirallas), Barkley, Calvert-Lewin (72' Kone) [Y:38'], Lukaku.
Subs not Used: Robles, Barry, Lookman, Pennington, Kenny.
Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta [Y:40'], Luiz (82' Ake), Cahill [Y:35'], Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso, Pedro (82' Fabregas), Hazard (86' Willian), Costa [Y:56'].
Subs not Used: Begovic, Zouma, Batshuayi, Chalobah
Referee: Jonathan Moss
From my seat: Chelsea (H)
A trip out to the match is always welcome and after that dreadful day at West Ham Utd when all of them should have been locked up for impersonating footballers. We received team news at five-past-one that has us fretting for our credibility against such a Chelsea line-up and bench. Koeman had told us in his presser that the youngsters were not ready and here he was having to use three of them in our starting line-up and three more on the bench. Mind you, he also said we had no injury worries yet Schneiderlin was out injured, so it’s always difficult to believe a word you here regarding fan information even from the horse’s mouth.
The walk up was dominated by the opposing fans singing and chanting as they spilled out of hostelries but there seemed no malice in them. Evertonians were quietly contemplating the encounter and I do wonder if the thought that we have qualified for the knockout round of the Europa league sort of made it okay if the strong looking Chelsea team were indeed to prevail. Heaven forbid but if 7th was as high as many thought possible then the mood could be explained in the words ‘We have reached our goal’
Down Goodison Road which seemed the busiest of the season and into the ground in time for Z-Cars and the handshake. Our ref today was Jon Moss and he got the ball rolling as we attacked the Park End. We pressed early and Calvert-Lewin was thwarted in the box from our first meaningful attack but after a few minutes on our second attack the same player got into the box and had a shot that beat the keeper after a superb through ball from Barkley but not the post and the rebounding ball just evading Lukaku’s rather lame attempt to connect.
Although that was early doors it was our only real chance in a half that we competed well with Davies and Gana outstanding in keeping Hazzard quiet, Gana’s job, along with Davies breaking up play and in no way phased by the antics of Costa in the main as well as a few other prima donnas. Without creating a lot ourselves we did nullify most of Chelsea’s work but it was becoming clear that this mode would need to kept up all match just to get a draw as Chelsea demonstrated the art of good interpassing at pace in quick counters and fast one-twos in and around the box. Our back line was just about coping but clearances were hurried and merely gave the ball back to our visitors. When we did manage to put a few passes together, it usually ended without a final ball.
The half was progressing and I have to say more in Chelsea’s favour as we were stretched each time they produced a fast transition and when we did clear on too many occasions Barkley just lacked the craft, guile and precision to open a pathway and instead played a wayward pass that either put one of our players in trouble or returned the ball to Chelsea. It is so frustrating seeing Barkley play like this as going through my head is "He has so much more to offer"... yet I am still left waiting to see it. Quite perplexing.
Half-time: 0-0 and the chat is positive as were are still level and still in it. Us seeing it through and gaining a point was the view of most.
Second half started and it was clear that Chelsea had tweaked their formation and were more open and this was to have a bearing on the second half as with them interchanging positions at pace had us opening up as well when really we didn’t want to do that.
Chances came but mostly for them and a pattern was emerging. We were holding them out but their attacks were looking more dangerous than ours. We had a couple of marauding runs for Davies one of which he beat two men to the by-line but alas the ball left his control and went for a goal kick then a powerful run through their defence into the box before just toeing it to far forward and the chance was gone.
Jags aimed a back pass toward Stek but it lacked power and Stek had to charge out to smother at the feet of the in-rushing Costa. The two came together but the ref deemed Costa had fouled and booked him. A bit harsh but maybe the ref was just fed up with Costa’s play acting as every time he was tackled fairly or not he always ended up in a heap on the deck and not once did he require attention.
The half wore on and began to get quite feisty with fouls, bookings and staring with intent. Annoyingly our supposed red-hot duo of Lukaku and Barkley who both want action in the Champions League, played in a way that suggested the Eurovision Song Contest might be their best way in. Having witnessed the last five fixtures, including today, their performances have suggested they may find it a struggle to find clubs willing to pay the transfer fee and their requested wages. That is sad because those two fully focused and firing could do no end of damage to all our rivals and thrill us in the process.
The hour mark was reached and Chelsea were in our box and after a couple of attempts to progress they turned the ball out of the box and fed Pedro who went a few paces to his left and, just as Jags was sliding in, Pedro unleased a 25-yard rocket that completely beat Stekelenburg and they were one-up. Hard to blame anyone for that goal, just hold hands up and accept a superb strike, the Chelsea fans were in full voice now taunting Tottenham that they are coming to get them. Everton fans began the exodus on that goal.
Everton tried to rally with Davies leading the charge but Chelsea were now buoyed and Everton that tad slower. They say goals change games that one did as on 80mins Gana fouled Hazzard who took a low fast cross which rebounded off someone to power toward the startled Stekelenburg who reacted by instinct and got hands to ball but only succeeded in pushing it onto Cahill and the ball rebounded into the net. Drat I thought. Then with 4 to go Fabregas, on as a sub just seemed to stroll forward and such was our disarray he was able to look up and see Willian in acres so he weighted his cross and Willian joyously rammed it into the net. Cue more wild celebrations from our visiting fans and now a mass exodus from the old lady. The final whistle was welcome to those of us left in the ground.
MotM – Tom Davies
We haven’t had the best of run-ins and only Swansea, Watford and Arsenal for the players to show some fight but mainly classy joined-up footy. Let’s practice on the first two and then have a good go at the Emirates...
The manager, having fielded today’s team, is in a very good position to say to the owners and directors of football "Well, there you are v that’s what we have got to play top teams and get the Champions League that you say you would like via a league placing – we need big investment and some astute buying." I hope he gets it.
Swansea next. Always a nice trip out and will be even nicer if the players swap flip-flops for footy boots.
UP THE BLUES
Everton's penultimate home game of 2016-17 is a high-profile one as double-chasing Chelsea come to Merseyside.
The Blues are virtually guaranteed a place in Europe next season by way of a top-seven finish but there is still the chance of finishing higher if they can string together a sequence of wins at home and away over the remaining four games of the campaign.
Opportunity has knocked for the Blues in recent weeks but for varying reasons — a stoppage time goal at Old Trafford, another weak performance at Anfield and last weekend's awful display at West Ham — they haven't been able to take advantage.
It means that the prospect of a sixth-place finish, the extra Premier League prize money and the avoidance of a July start to the Premier League that go with it, is looking to be a taller order for Ronald Koeman's team but while it's mathematically possible, hopefully the manager won't be counting anything out.
Arsenal have re-found some form as the pressure was mounting on Arsene Wenger and Manchester United's long unbeaten record has continued but the Red Devils have a tricky run-in that involves trips to The Emirates, White Hart Lane and Southampton's St Mary's Stadium and a home clash with current spoilers Crystal Palace on the final day. They still have a game in hand and the Gunners have two, however, so Everton will need some help from other teams of they are to be in with a chance of improving on the seventh-placed berth they have occupied since December.
First, though, they need to help themselves as they move centre-stage in the saga of the title race. The Blues can throw the situation wide open with a victory over Antonio Conte's side on Sunday and a Tottenham win in the North London derby so the eyes of the nation will be on Goodison Park for a fixture that has favoured Everton in recent years.
Thanks to Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku, the Toffees have won three of the last four meetings between the two clubs in all competitions and Koeman will be banking on his team's sterling home form since the turn of the year to carry them past the league leaders for the first time under his stewardship. November's miserable 5-0 reverse to Chelsea should act as extra incentive — Everton and their three-man defence were torn to shreds that day by the rampant Londoners and it's unlikely that the Dutchman will make the same mistake with that formation again.
Given the injuries to Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori, the defence will largely pick itself again and it's reasonable to expect that Maarten Stekelenburg will continue in goal at the expense of Joel Robles after last weekend's switch by Koeman.
Whether he feels he needs to alter things elsewhere in the team on the basis of the display against the Hammers remains to be seen. Ademola Lookman, a potential change for Kevin Mirallas, faded after a bright introduction at half-time at the London Stadium and Koeman has been reluctant to start him recently due to his defensive naivety. Dominic Calvert-Lewin also failed to make much of an impact so, if there is to be a change to the starting XI, it could be that Enner Valencia is the most likely to come in after being ineligible to face his parent club last Saturday.
With Chelsea boasting threats across midfield and up front, the key for Everton will be in emulating what Spurs and United have managed in recent weeks — namely hustle the Londoners out of their stride and press home any superiority with goals. Having notched 29 of them already at Goodison in 2017, the Blues haven't had trouble in that regard and Chelsea have shown of late that they can be rattled and are susceptible to conceding.
Another big performance by Lukaku against the team he has supported since he was young, played for and — if newspaper tattle is to be believed — wants to play for again will be crucial but it will, of course, take big performances throughout the team, akin to the big win over Manchester City in January, to get the job done.
Kick-off: 2:05pm Sunday 30 April 2017
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Last Time: Everton 3-1 Chelsea
Predicted Line-up: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Jagielka, A Williams, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Davies, Barkley, Valencia, Lukaku.