- Jorginho gives visitors the win with first-half penalty
- Play stopped for three minutes in second half after medical emergency in crowd
- Godfrey taken off on a stretcher with serious injury
Chelsea made scrappy, character-building wins in hostile venues their forte for most of the Roman Abramovich era.
The faces may have changed in the boardroom more than on the pitch during a transitional summer at Stamford Bridge, but Thomas Tuchel will be reassured by the consistency of purpose, having silenced a Goodison Park crowd which overcame his team last season.
Jorginho’s penalty in the seventh minute of first-half stoppage time – necessary because Everton’s Ben Godfrey required prolonged treatment after suffering what was later described as a “small leg fracture” – gave Tuchel’s side a steady, if unspectacular, start.
“A win is a win,” Tuchel said. “There is a lot to improve, but a lot to be happy with.” Raheem Sterling shone on his first appearance– denied a debut Chelsea goal by the woodwork – as did imperious defender Kalidou Koulibaly.
N’Golo Kante looked revitalised in midfield, too. Chelsea’s most visible deficiency was the lack of a centre-forward they are still pursuing. As was the case a year ago, they have the tools to go the distance everywhere, except the opponent’s six yard box. The foundation of this win was flawless defending by their three centre-backs. Rolls-Royce should name one of their models after Thiago Silva, and only cramp got the better of Koulibaly, his exertions taking their toll late on to ensure Marc Cucurella could make his debut.
Silva’s partnership with Koulibaly will have masters of the defensive art purring, although they were ably protected by their midfield shields.
In truth, little new was learned for both managers. Tuchel – who confirmed he granted Marcos Alonso’s request to be left out of the matchday squad to finalise a move to Barcelona –will have more potency once he finds a goalscorer with nothing whatsoever in common with Romelu Lukaku or Timo Werner. Here, he indulged in a false nine fiesta, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz completing a fluid front three.
Sterling showed up immediately. There is no more underrated player in Europe, the frustration being whenever he took possession in dangerous areas he was generally the furthest forward and desperately in need of someone to receive the final pass or cross. Not unlike Gabriel Jesus for Arsenal, each accomplished touch made one wonder why Manchester City allowed him to leave, especially to a top-four rival.
Everton – also bereft of a recognised No 9 – could not land a meaningful punch, a first-half header from James Tarkowski the only significant action for goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
“The performance was good, but we missed that clinical edge. The only difference was the penalty,” Lampard said. “Dominic (Calvert-Lewin) won’t be out forever – a few weeks. But if we can find other options, that can help us because we gave them a lot of problems. On another day, you don’t lose that game.”
Lampard was right to be more enthused than deflated, Everton’s area of weakness as obvious as Chelsea. Bereft of a direct replacement for £60 million Richarlison, Lampard entrusted Dwight McNeil and Demarai Gray to lead Everton’s running from deep while Anthony Gordon tried to temporarily reinvent himself as a centre-forward. Gordon is more effective with the ball at his feet, slaloming towards the penalty area, not with his back to goal and Koulibaly’s breath on his neck. Everton were at least competitive enough to suggest prophecies of impending doom are premature.
There were several reassuring sights for the home crowd, and it speaks volumes for their situation that a ‘not that bad defeat’ represents a glimmer of hope, generous applause offered by the Gwladys Street for their players’ efforts.
Tarkowski looks like he could be a bargain free transfer, a figure of authority and – perhaps more surprisingly given the long-ball taunts that shadowed his Burnley career – poise in possession in the back four.
Alex Iwobi continued his revival, which began when Lampard was appointed, and there was a long-awaited debut for right wing-back Nathan Patterson, one of Rafa Benitez’s farewell gifts. Sadly for Lampard, no sooner was he ushering in one defender, he lost another in the most bizarre circumstances in the 10th minute. Godfrey, who has endured a luckless run with injuries, overhit a back-pass to Pickford, which the keeper scrambled to prevent going for a corner.
He failed, but the officials played on. Godfrey was forced into a last-ditch tackle on Havertz and was injured, requiring seven minutes of treatment before being carried out of the stadium and driven to a Liverpool hospital.
It was during the subsequent injury time that Chelsea broke through the well-organised Everton defence. Koulibaly picked out Ben Chilwell in the penalty area and the left wing-back cleverly invited a clumsy shove from Abdoulaye Doucoure. The video assistant referee’s confirmation was unnecessary and Jorginho slotted past Pickford.
Everton’s cause was not helped by another defensive injury, groans greeting the sight of Yerry Mina pulling up holding his hamstring. The Colombian is a fine player, but spends more time in treatment than on the pitch.
Chelsea eased their way to full time, assisted by Everton’s blunt strikeforce.
Lampard wants to make unity his most potent early-season weapon, fostering the spirit that kept Everton up. Deep down, he knows boisterous welcomes for the team coach on Goodison Road can only push a team so far before the usual cul-de-sacs return to view.
This week’s signings of midfielders Amadou Onana and Idrissa Gueye will help. The manager revealed he organised a staff barbecue ahead of the season, bringing together all departments of the club. Owner Farhad Moshiri was not there. Pity. Plenty would like to give him a thorough grilling about when he plans to buy a striker, too.
Chelsea win at Everton, as it happened
A win is a win, that's the most important thing. But we have to get better, we are not at our highest level but some of our situations were very good.
It was a strange second half but we hung on and did what was necessary, a clean sheet is a positive. 1-0 with a Jorginho penalty, classic!
19mins: Everton 0 Chelsea 0
Godfrey, who is taking in some oxygen, comes off the pitch on a stretcher. On comes Holgate.
Everton have to defend a corner. Holgate gets his first touch when he heads clear. A second corner is cleared.
From the third corner, Mount drills a shot from distance that's pushed away by Pickford. Chelsea get a fourth corner but James' effort goes over everyone and out of play.
10mins: Everton 0 Chelsea 0
Almost a calamity for Everton. Godfrey plays a blind back pass which catches out Pickford. Pickford scrambles to keep the ball in play but only gives the ball to Havertz.
Havertz drives into the box and Godfrey makes a last-ditch challenge to deny him. But it looks like he's injured himself in the process.
A reminder of the teams
Everton:Pickford, Patterson, Tarkowski, Mina, Godfrey, Mykolenko, Gray, Doucoure, Iwobi, McNeil, Gordon. Subs: Holgate, Keane, Allan, Begovic, Alli, Gbamin, Ruben Vinagre, Warrington, Mills.
Chelsea: Mendy, Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Koulibaly, James, Kante, Jorginho, Chilwell, Mount, Havertz, Sterling. Subs: Cucurella, Arrizabalaga, Kovacic, Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah, Gallagher, Ziyech, Broja.
Referee: Craig Pawson (England)
Pre-match stats via Opta
- Everton have won each of their last four Premier League home games against Chelsea – only once in their history have they had a longer run against the Blues, winning seven in a row between 1923 and 1935.
- Everton have kept a clean sheet in five of their last nine Premier League meetings with Chelsea (W4 D3 L2), as many as they had in their previous 27 against the Blues.
- Chelsea have lost just four of their 28 Premier League away games under Thomas Tuchel (W18 D6), with all of these defeats coming by a margin of just one goal. However, one of those losses (and the most recent one) was at Frank Lampard’s Everton in May.
- New Chelsea signing Raheem Sterling is one of 10 players to have scored a hat-trick on the opening weekend of a Premier League campaign, doing so against West Ham in 2019-20. Meanwhile, coming into 2022-23, only Aston Villa (25) have had more different players score on their Premier League debut for them than the Blues (24).
Team news explained
Everton give debuts to two of their new signings - James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil - with Demarai Gray given the centre-forward role in the absence of the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin and suspended Salomon Rondon.
Chelsea hand debuts to summer signings Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly.
Defender Marc Cucurella was named on the bench just over 24 hours after his £60million move from Brighton.
Hello and welcome to coverage from Goodison Park as Everton host Chelsea.
Frank Lampard heads into tonight's fixture without a recognised central attacker after Dominic Calvert-Lewin was ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury.
Salomon Rondon is suspended for the visit of Lampard's former club, while Richarlison has been sold to Tottenham.
Everton avoided relegation to the Championship on the penultimate day of last season after coming from two goals behind to win at Crystal Palace.
Dwight McNeil, James Tarkowski and Ruben Vinagre have bolstered Everton's squad for the new campaign.
But Lampard, who took over from the sacked Rafael Benitez in January, has warned that his side must improve to avoid another relegation scrap.
"We must work on every side of our game to be sure that we are not in a situation like we were in last season," said the 44-year-old.
"It's nice to have a relative clean slate. I never felt that we had that in my period at the club and that is important, because it should hopefully give us a fresh idea and feeling of confidence.
"We are all level, while at times last year it felt like we were chasing, especially if you're five points from safety. That's something we overcame and that's testament to the group of players we have, the club and fans.
"There are still things I want us to do going forward to try to make us play more the way I want us to play - to be more consistent in what we can deliver.
"That will be a mixture of work on the training pitch and the players we can hopefully strengthen the squad with.
"We are working on and off the pitch and trying to improve the club in any way possible. There are a lot of good people at the club, but we have to get the culture right and move forward. We have to keep this unified feeling we have."
Meanwhile, Thomas Tuchel was not keen on setting any goals for Chelsea in the new season, saying they were still a club in transition following their takeover, which was led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital.
"I don't want to lower our ambitions. But I don't want to put the pressure on us," Tuchel said.
"We are a club in transition still. A team in transition still. But at the same time, I don't want to limit us from the beginning and say what is possible."