It was not a statement performance to launch the new season or the new Todd Boehly era from Chelsea but Thomas Tuchel found rare encouragement at Goodison Park nevertheless. His team opened the campaign with a dogged, deserved victory at Everton, ending a run of four consecutive defeats in this fixture, displaying a tenacity if not a cutting edge that bodes well for the months ahead.
Jorginho’s penalty late in first half stoppage time delivered the win over Frank Lampard’s striker-less side in what was a fairly tame and forgettable encounter. Everton lost two central defenders to injury to add to their opening day problems.
Both teams included two debutants, the former Burnley duo of James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil for Everton, Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly for Chelsea, while the visitors’ new £62m recruit, Marc Cucurella, started on the bench. Ben Chilwell occupied the left wing-back role on his first start since suffering a serious knee injury against Juventus nine months ago. The Everton right-back, Nathan Patterson, made his Premier League debut eight months after his £12m arrival from Rangers.
There was a tumultuous reception for the Everton team when their coach pulled into Goodison Road before the game as fans again showed the support that was instrumental in last season’s survival.
The players responded with a sharp, high energy start only to lose Ben Godfrey in horrible circumstances 10 minutes into the new season. That his injury was so unnecessary increased Everton’s torment.
Serious disruption in central defence contributed to Everton’s brush with relegation last season and their latest setback stemmed from a back pass Godfrey played blind towards Jordan Pickford.
His loose ball went a yard out of play before Pickford cleared it straight to Kai Havertz. The assistant referee’s flag stayed down, the referee, Craig Pawson, allowed play to continue, and in his attempts to make amends Godfrey launched himself into a hard but clean challenge on the Chelsea striker.
The defender signalled to the bench immediately and received almost seven minutes of treatment to his ankle. It was a sad sight as a player who missed the final seven games of last season was carried off on a stretcher and a serious blow for Lampard.
Chelsea gradually took advantage and control. Mason Mount was first to seriously test Pickford with a low drive the Everton goalkeeper, captain in the absence of Seamus Coleman and on his 200th appearance for the club, pushed into the path of Sterling.
Mason Holgate, Godfrey’s replacement, produced a timely intervention. Sterling thought he had broken the deadlock shortly before the interval when Pickford spilled a shot from N’Golo Kanté and the new signing converted the rebound. His celebrations were curtailed by a correct offside call.
Everton were dangerous on the counterattack and went close when the impressive Tarkowski met Vitalii Mykolenko’s cross with a towering header that Édouard Mendy tipped over. But their hard graft was undone by a moment of panic from Abdoulaye Doucouré in the final minute of first half stoppage time. Koulibaly’s distribution shone on his Premier League debut and it was from the summer signing’s incisive pass that Chilwell found himself bearing down on Pickford’s goal. Doucouré, caught out by the wing back’s surging run, reacted by grabbing Chilwell and Pawson immediately pointed to the spot as the defender went tumbling. Pickford saved from Jorginho when they faced each other in the European Championship final at Wembley last summer.
There would be no repeat here as the Italian coolly sent the England international the wrong way from the penalty spot with the final kick of the half.
In a game of few clear-cut opportunities Everton would rue their failure to capitalise on several promising openings due to a wayward final ball or poor first touch. Demarai Gray should have played Anthony Gordon clean through on goal but hit Thiago Silva instead while Dele Alli should have done better when Patterson burst into the Chelsea area and squared for the substitute in front of goal. His heavy touch squandered the chance. Gray was closer when beating Silva for pace only for his shot to deflect beyond Mendy and drift wide of the far post.
Everton lost a second central defender to injury when the brittle Yerry Mina pulled up while receiving the ball with no-one near him. Koulibaly also joined the centre-half casualty list with 15 minutes remaining although the Senegal captain’s problem did not appear too serious.
Sterling almost sealed victory with seven minutes left when meeting an inviting cross from Cucurella, who made his Chelsea debut as a late substitute, but his close range shot was deflected just wide with Pickford beaten.
There were 10 minutes of stoppage time due to a medical emergency in the away section.