Chelsea had to settle for a point on Sunday afternoon after being frustrated by Everton in a goalless draw.
One positive to take from the disappointing result was that Maurizio Sarri broke the Premier League record for the longest unbeaten run of a new manager with 12 games without a loss. The Italian, although, will have been annoyed to drop two points when they had the best chances as well as the lion’s share of possession.
Eden Hazard returned to a Premier League starting XI following a strong hour against BATE on Thursday while Ross Barkley was taken out against his former employers. It was they who enjoyed the first real chance of the game as Jorginho’s clearing header from a corner only reached Bernard who lashed a right-footed shot inches wide from the edge of the box, a warning sign at the very least.
The home side’s first sighting of goal came midway through the first half after Hazard was scythed down by Yerry Mina a few metres outside the penalty area. Marcos Alonso stepped up to take it and bent the ball around the wall brilliantly but just wide of the post, leaving Jordan Pickford to scramble across his goal line.
It was a set-piece that created the Blues’ next chance and it was the same Spaniard who forced a save. Willian’s clipped cross towards the back post from 35 yards out found Alonso in all kinds of space and he thundered a volley on target which was well kept out by England’s number one goalkeeper. The sides went into the break with the scoreline perfectly reflecting the lack of attacking quality on show in the first 45 minutes.
However, it took just over 10 seconds for Chelsea to go within inches of the lead in the second period. Hazard’s teasing cross which had come from a kick-off routine saw Alvaro Morata poke it towards the bottom corner only for Pickford to bat it away as it headed in. Gylfi Sigurdsson then smashed an effort onto the crossbar from what can only be described as ‘Sigurdsson territory’ to prove that there were two teams competing in the one-sided match.
Mina could have been seen as fortunate not to concede a penalty on his first league start as he bowled into Morata with no sign of an eye on the ball, but protests were instantly waved away. Moments later, Willian must have thought he’d opened the scoring. A defence-splitting pass from Hazard found Willian with the freedom of West London but after charging into the box, his low strike ended up a hair’s breadth wide.
A couple of vital Pickford saves from Hazard’s left-footed strike and then his deflected effort kept Everton in the game but Chelsea were firmly on top at this point. They just couldn’t find the breakthrough with Alonso being denied by the base of the post and Morata seeing his tap-in correctly ruled out for offside.
The hosts’ pressure wore thin and the game became much more balanced again after Hazard poked agonisingly wide with 15 minutes left on the clock. The game fizzled out and following such sustained dominance, it was a mystery as to how Chelsea only came away from the game with one point instead of three.
Sarri and his troops make the trip across London to Wembley next Saturday to face a Tottenham side who are yet to move into their new stadium. A win there would send out a huge signal with Spurs in good form.