Thursday, March 30, 2023
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Everton end Chelsea’s winning run with dramatic late equaliser

At Stamford Bridge, Everton broke Chelsea’s winning streak with a stunning late equalizer by substitute Ellis Simms, boosting their chances of making it out of the Premier League.

The 89th minute saw the 22-year-old outmuscle Kalidou Koulibaly to slip in and make it 2-2 after Kai Havertz’s penalty appeared to have given Graham Potter’s team a fourth straight victory.

Chelsea took the lead early in the second half of a game they had been dominating before Abdoulaye Doucoure’s headed goal pulled them back.

The hosts were again forced to rue wasted opportunities, with their flowing offensive play muted by a lack of deadly instinct inside the box.

The first cheer of anticipation came early from the boisterous home crowd. A leaping shot by Mateo Kovacic after Michael Keane’s headed clearance from a Ben Chilwell corner dropped to the outside of the box nearly missed the net.

Christian Pulisic, back in the team for the first time in two months, got in down the left and pulled the ball back for Chilwell to prod it towards the stretching Felix, whose contact was just too slight to turn it past Jordan Pickford.

The breadth of Chelsea’s play challenged Everton’s defensive organisation, attacking fluidly down either flank with Reece James and Chilwell at their incisive, energetic best. Enzo Fernandez hit short and long balls with deadly precision, and Felix stretched the visitors with his mesmerising close control.

Yet for all Chelsea’s endeavour, a first-half goal would not arrive. Felix – through whom every promising attack seemed to flow – tried with a drilled effort from 18 yards that flew straight into Pickford’s gloves. A clever free-kick move ended with a low shot from Fernandez which was blocked.

The hosts had started the game in the bottom half of the table but a winning run and at last a sense that Potter knows his favoured starting XI and shape had lifted the mood of Stamford Bridge. Even with Raheem Sterling out injured, they attacked like a team comfortable in one another’s company, full of spirit and belief.

The second half opened with more Chelsea pressure. Chilwell, excellent again throughout, crossed from the left and Havertz rose to power a header low at goal which was beaten out by Pickford. On the rebound, Keane narrowly beat Felix to the ball and cleared.

The goal was the architecture of Chelsea’s two best players. Fernandez hit another sublime pass which fell perfectly onto the left foot of Chilwell, who cushioned his cross into the middle. Keane was first to the ball for Everton but the defender was too off-balance to make good contact. His half-clearance reached Felix, who took a touch, took aim and with deft precision rolled the ball home off Pickford’s far post.

Keane almost made amends at once for his defensive lapse, freeing himself from his marker as the ball was whipped in by Demarai Gray but failing to make the contact the cross deserved.

The visitors were encouraged, and 20 minutes from time they were level. A corner from the right was met by James Tarkowski muscling above Chelsea’s defence to get his head to the ball, and as it dropped into the six-yard box Doucoure acted quickest to nod it over the line, as Havertz tried in vain to hook clear.

Chelsea responded like a team buoyed by new confidence. James won a penalty when he was barrelled to the ground by Tarkowski. That handed Havertz the chance to restore the lead, which he duly took, sending Pickford the wrong way.

But Everton would not be beaten. A minute from the end, Doucoure played the ball to Simms, who darted beyond a weak challenge from Koulibaly and side-footed past Kepa Arrizabalaga to secure what could be a priceless point in Everton’s battle for survival.

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