Match Report Were Everton’s game against Leicester going ahead on Sunday, we might have got an insight into the fitness of the likes of Demarai Gray, Salomon Rondon and Fabian Delph and why they were missing from the party that travelled down to London today for what looked like Mission: Impossible against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.There were rumours earlier in the week that, along with more obvious potential absentees in the form of Allan and Seamus Coleman, Rondon might be a doubt for this one but it was certainly a surprise when the matchday squad was announced an hour before kick-off and the names of Gray, Delph and even Cenk Tosun were missing. In their place, Rafael Benitez’s team sheet was stuffed with five teenagers players 20 or younger, a couple of second-stringers like Alex Iwobi and Jonjoe Kenny and a substitutes’ bench boasting two goalkeepers and the afore-mentioned Brazilian and Irishman, both of whom would only be used in an emergency.Given that the news that the Premier League’s decision to postpone the Leicester fixture was only confirmed right when the team news was announced, a cynic might surmise that, with a busy schedule ahead, Benitez had written this game off and decided to field the kids in one of Farhad Moshiri's expected losses (and one less to pin on the manager) to give them a bit of experience.Amazingly, despite being thrown to the lions, Everton’s sacrificial lambs turned in one of the most pride-inspiring performances yet seen under the Spaniard and not only held the title hopefuls and reigning European champions to a draw but, having been on the ropes but unbowed in the first half, with a bit more composure in the final third could have sprung the ultimate surprise and taken all three points in the second half.Even at full strength, most Evertonians would have been expecting to lose a match on the home grounds of one of the best sides in Europe; with Ellis Simms making his full senior debut, Kenny deputising at wing-back in a bottom-heavy five-man defence and Jarrad Branthwaite starting for only the second time this season, it had the air of a slaughter before kick-off. What followed was a lot of what had been expected under Benitez when he took charge — a solid game-plan, disciplined, organised defending and offensive threat on the counter-attack — but which has been so sorely lacking.And to their tremendous credit, it was the kids who led the way in what ended up being a magnificent backs-to-the-wall performance and, if anything, it was the more experienced heads — the brilliant Jordan Pickford aside — who let the team down. André Gomes, a liability outside his own penalty area and a player who is never a holding midfielder, was clumsy and profligate with the ball until he was substituted after Chelsea’s goal went in; Mason Holgate at times exhibited more of the brainless play that has made supporters so sceptical of his ability to hold down a regular first-team place when everyone is fit; Iwobi was just maddening; and it was Abdoulaye Doucouré’s abysmal decision-making that led to Mason Mount’s opener.It would be really harsh to criticise the Frenchman too much, though, given how important he was to the overall display and the result itself which will hopefully provide an enormous boost to squad morale while also giving Benitez a valuable insight into the young talent that he possesses and yet has been so reluctant to use before this evening.Though Chelsea were missing a handful of players themselves — Mateo Kovacic and Ben Chilwell were already ruled out when Chelsea learned that Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi had all returned positive results for the coronavirus while Kai Havertz was isolating while he waits on a Covid test of his own — Thomas Tuchel was still able to field a dauntingly strong line-up and they dominated the first half without making the breakthrough that a succession of good chances suggested they would.If the mis-match in quality invoked a sense of inevitability about the destination of the points, the pattern of the first 45 minutes seemed to reinforce that. Reece James and Mount both narrowly missed the target inside the first eight minutes and Pickford made a good stop to keep Christian Pulisic's heel-flick out in the 11th minute.Hakim Ziyech almost punished Mason Holgate for an errant header shortly afterwards and the Morocco international forced another save from Pickford after he was picked out in the centre by a low cross from Marcos Alonso before dragging another effort wide later in the half following a one-two exchange with Pulisic.While Everton would have just one sight of goal when Gordon fired a tame effort that Eduard Mendy safely gathered, Chelsea looked to have taken the lead seven minutes before the break when Antonio Rudiger prodded the ball into the path of Mount who just had to beat Pickford but the England goalkeeper made a smart save with his foot to keep it goalless at half-time.More of the same was expected after the break and Pickford was called into action again to tip a deflected Mount shot behind before Ruben Loftus-Cheek spurned a free headed chance that bounced off shoulder and over the bar.However, Everton grew more adventurous on the counter-attack and with more composure in the final third, they might well have scored first. Alex Iwobi wasted a great chance on the break when he elected not to play Doucouré in through the heart of the Chelsea defence in the 53rd minute.Ben Godfrey then scuffed a half-chance at the goalkeeper a few minutes later while Rudiger could only head a free-kick wide of the back post at the other end before Benitez made the first of three changes he would make on the night.Simms had toiled with no service at all against Rudiger and Thiago Silva and was replaced by the more mobile Lewis Dobbin but it was one of the older heads giving up possession during another promising counter-attack that led to the hosts opening the scoring with 20 minutes to go.Doucouré chose the wrong option in turning inside and his attempted pass was cut out allowing Chelsea to quickly counter, James to slide the ball in to Mount and he rammed it past his international team-mate from close range.Benitez immediately withdrew the ineffective André Gomes for Jean-Philippe Gbamin but it was a foul on the ever-willing Gordon that set up the equaliser for Everton. Gordon took the set-piece himself, swinging a sumptuous ball to the back post where Branthwaite timed his run well and guided it deftly inside the post with an out-stretched leg.Needing to score to keep pace with leaders, Manchester City, Chelsea pushed for a winner in the closing stages and looked to have secured the points when the unmarked Thiago Silva met a corner from the Londoners' right but Pickford did superbly to get down and push it around the post.At the other end, Dobbin took one touch too many in the box and was closed out as Everton threatened on the break once more but it was back down the other end where the Blues completed the job by holding firm in defence to take the draw.It’s perplexing that it took such a makeshift, youthful line-up to finally get the manager to successfully implement his chief — perhaps his only — game-plan but it worked in the most trying of circumstances. How much less painful might the Merseyside derby have been had the Blues been as hard to play through as they were in the second half at Stamford Bridge? (The first half was, in truth, a little uncomfortable given how susceptible Everton were through midfield and particularly down the right side of defence.) Tonight also added to the mystery and frustration around Benitez’s refusal to throw Dobbin, with all his running, nuisance-making and youthful exuberance, on at Brentford the other week when Everton were so bereft of inspiration and ideas. And why was Simms not given any serious minutes before being thrown into the starting XI against one of the best defensive trios in the league?They are questions for the manager but for Evertonians, particularly the committed souls who made a third successive trip down to London and finally witnessed a performance worth cheering for, there is at least some pride in the team, the like of which only Gordon has really been worthy in recent weeks.The teenager has grown in stature over the past few games; the only one to brave irate supporters at Brentford and there again to hear the cries of frustration from a lone fan at the end of the derby massacre at Goodison. His name was sung with gusto by the away fans this evening and encapsulated therein was the kind of spirit of the Blues that should carry this dysfunctional and injury-ravaged team to safety this season. Lyndon Lloyd top Matchday Updates Tonight Everton take on a title-chasing but Covid impacted Chelsea side while yet more injury problems could spell another difficult night for Rafa Benitez. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is still not fit to play, well into his 4th month of absence from the side, and Richarlison is ruled out with a calf injury that perhaps should have been better protected in the defeat at Crystal Palace. Andros Townsend is also missing with a metatarsal fracture while a decision on Seamus Coleman will be left to the last minute to see if he can play despite bone bruising and swelling in his foot. Allan may play some part but Yerry Mina is out with a calf problem, Everton will be without Lucas Digne for a third successive match but this time Benitez is citing illness as the reason for the Frenchman's absence. Ellis Simms makes his Premier League debut and there is a first top-flight start this season for Jarrad Branthwaite, as Rafa Benitez makes five changes from the side that started at Crystal Palace. Anthony Gordon and Alex Iwobi come into the team and Jonjoe Kenny begins his first league game since 1 November 2020 as Benitez names only seven players on the bench, two of them goalkeepers. No Romelu Lukaku for Chelsea; Ross Barkley is on their bench. Everton kicked off and did their best to keep Chelsea at bay in the early exchanges. Gomes was struggling though, losing the ball frequently and Reece James got around the back for what looked like a guilt-edged chance that he fired wide. The next attack was very similar but Mount screwed his shot across the face of the Everton goal. Gordon was fouled, Branthwaite not really convincing in trying to get his delivery to the far post. Another cunning Chelsea move saw Ziyech get in behind easily past Holgate and Pulisc's clever flick was well held by Pickford. Holgate then gifted a stupid headed pass to Ziyech and his shot was parried wide by Pickford. Gomes gave up a dangerous free-kick for James to fire goalwards and Pickford stopped it from going in the top corner. Gomes and DOucoure tried but failed to hold the ball up high and Chelsea built another attack, Pulisc fouled this time by Keane. Alonso could only hit the wall but James then fired just over the bar. Holgate was predictably the first booking. Doucoure gifted Chelsea a midfield mis-pass and Ziyech fired over the Everton goal again. Another incisive Chelsea move but this time Holgate could clear away the danger. Everton tried to keep their shape a little better and stalled the Chelsea advance for a while until Alonso got forward to cross for Mount, Pickford saving their 15th attempt of the game on the half-hour. Branthwaite was doing some good defensive work. Ziyech again got forward but shot wide. Simms headed away an Alonso corner but Mount almost got into the 6-yard box with only Pickford to beat but Pickford saved brilliantly with his right foot. Iwobi was fouled but not given, then Gomes was called for a very similar foul. Pressing by Kenny almost worked but Everton were seeing very little of the ball and when they did, could not hold onto it. Gordon did well to draw a foul from Chelsea and thwart another attack. Godfrey did a good flanking run but Gordon's shot from distance was very weak, bouncing in front of Mendy. Doucouré went on a mazy run but he tends to hold the ball too long rather than making the pass and this time was fouled by Loftus-Cheek, who was booked. Gordon's set-piece came to nothing. And to their immense credit, the bare-bones Everton team went in 0-0 at half-time. Iwoi did remarkably well to defend the ball and damage Ziyech as he was challenged, before getting the ball up the wing to Kenny, who could not hold it. The pattern of the game continued as in the first half, with another shot (deflected) saved by Pickford, the corner headed over the angle. Everton finally got a decent break through Gordon but Iwobi made the wrong decision and Kenny lashed his shot off target. Everton continued to thwart the Chelsea attack, Gordon breaking again and getting badly fouled by Jorginho. Branthwaite tackled Jorginho and got the ball plus the man, giving Chelsea another free-kick that Rudiger could not turn in at the far post, as Simms was switched out for Dobbin. Barkley came on for Loftus-Cheek. Godfrey went on a crazy run with the ball out of defence but got a nose-bleed and the promising move came to nothing. At the other end, Keane had to block Mount at close range. Everton tried to attack again but it was a huge mistake because they were then wide one as Doucouré messed up, failing to play in Gordon. It was then all too easy for Mount to finish at the near post. Gordon had another run and was clipped by James for a free-kick, which was then turned in by Jarrad Brnthwaite at the afar post, a superb delivery by Gordon. Gordom then advanced again and got in a low cross that was defended behind by Chelsea. The corner from Gordon fooled Mendy but Dobbin went down and was deemed by Michael Oliver to have thrown himself to the ground: yellow card. It was a bit more even game, but Chelsea almost scored from a corner, Pickford making a fantastic save. With time ticking away, though Chelsea ramped up the pressure, trying to force a defensive mistake, which Gordon could have done, giving away a silly free-kick, but it was wasted by Chelsea. Branthwaite showed excellent determination to stick with mount and tackle, albeit for a corner. Dobbin almost created two chances but just didn't quite have the guile needed. Some fine work by Gbamin and Doucoure won an advanced free-kick, Gordon then coming off for Onyango as the game went into 5 minutes of added time, still 1-1. Everton reverted to full defensive mode as Chelsea tried again to create some real danger but the young Everton side stuck it out with excellent resolve to take a point off the European Champions. Kick-off: 7:45pm, Thursday 16 December 2021 on BT Sport 2 Chelsea: Mendy; Azpilicueta (79' Chalobah), Thiago Silva, Rudiger; James, Jorginho [Y:58'], Loftus-Cheek [Y:45'] (65' Barkley), Alonso (65' Saul) ; Mount, Ziyech, Pulisic. Subs: Arrizabalaga, Christensen, Kante, Bettinelli, Sarr. Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Godfrey, Holgate [Y:22'], Keane, Branthwaite, Iwobi, Gomes [Y:63'] (71' Gbamin), Doucoure, Gordon (90+1' Onyango), Simms (62' Dobbin [Y:77']). Subs: Begovic, Lonergan, Coleman, Allan. Referee: Michael OliverVAR: Darren England> Michael Kenrick top Match Preview Everton are back in the Capital for a third successive away game, this time taking on title-chasing Chelsea in a match-up that looks hopelessly mis-matched given the Blues' injury problems. With Dominic Calvert-Lewin likely to be held back a little while longer and Richarlison ruled out with a calf injury, Rafael Benitez is set to be without his two chief goal threats for the trip to Stamford Bridge. Another first-choice option in Andros Townsend will also be missing with a metatarsal fracture while a decision on Seamus Coleman will be left to the last minute to see if he can play despite bone bruising and swelling in his foot. Allan, who couldn't make Sunday's defeat to Crystal Palace due to an adductor strain, has participated in light training but could play some part but Yerry Mina is out with a calf problem, Everton will be without Lucas Digne for a third successive match but this time Benitez is citing illness as the reason for the Frenchman's absence. Digne missed the games against Arsenal and Palace amid reports he had had a verbal disagreement on the training ground with the manager and he was deputised by Ben Godfrey in both games. He will miss the trip to Chelsea as well now but Benitez said that the full-back had complained of feeling ill, although the manager's comments to the press following yesterday's pre-match press conference betrayed a little scepticism. “It is not that I believe or not,” he said. “I have been in football for so many years and I have so many experiences similar to this one and it is a question of making a decision. I have to be sure that the players that will be there tomorrow want to be there and they want to fight for the club.” Digne's absence complicates things in terms of team selection if Coleman isn't passed fit. Ben Godfrey, a potential deputy at right-back is already needed at left-back but could switch flanks if Fabian Delph is deployed in Digne's spot instead. Up front, Salomon Rondon will get to lead the line if he is fit and Anthony Gordon will be the likely beneficiary of Townsend's absence. Chelsea have so much depth that it hardly matters that N'Golo Kante will only be fit enough to take a place on the bench or that Ben Chilwell and Mateo Kovacic have been ruled out. The Londoners have been a little erratic of late by their standards having been held at home by Burnley and Manchester United last month and losing to West Ham earlier this month before getting back to winning ways against Leeds last time out. That slender 3-2 lead kept them in touch with the top two and clearly makes them favourites against Benitez's struggling side. Indeed, few will be giving the Toffees any chance in this one and the prospects of the Spaniard improving on his horrendous run of results in charge in this game appear slim. The key for him and his Everton side will be to demonstrate some sort of progress when it comes to being compact defensively and hard to beat. Demarai Gray will always provide a threat on the break and nick a goal but it will count for nothing if the Blues are as open and porous as they were against Liverpool and again at Palace last time out. Kick-off: 7:45pm, Thursday 16 December 2021 on BT Sport 2Referee: Michael OliverVAR: Darren EnglandLast Time: Chelsea 2 - 0 Everton Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Holgate, Keane, Godfrey, Delph, Doucouré, Gomes, Gordon, Gray, Rondon Lyndon Lloyd top * Unfortunately, we cannot control other sites' content policies and therefore cannot guarantee that links to external reports will remain active.