Everton easily succumb to a Chelsea side back on track
Fabregas and Morata are both on target for Conte’s men
Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata scoring against Everton at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: EPA/Will Oliver
Chelsea 2 Everton 0
Chelsea enter the final week of the transfer window with much to do in the market but momentum well and truly regained on the pitch.
Contests against Everton have tended to bring the best out of Antonio Conte’s charges in recent times, and the visitors, even with their ranks strengthened over the summer, were swept aside here almost at will by a team the Italian is desperate to reinforce. Indeed, performances this dominant arguably undermine the head coach’s argument that strengthening is still required.
Yet all would recognise the champions will not be treated to afternoons this comfortable too often this term. Everton’s display was a huge anticlimax, the visitors succumbing far too meekly, with Thibaut Courtois utterly untroubled until compelled to tip over a wild shot from substitute Aaron Lennon three minutes from time.
Ronald Koeman would have expected his team to mount more of a challenge than this. It was as if a daunting run of fixtures at the start of the campaign had caught up with them, weariness creeping into legs and fatigue into minds. This was a reality check of sorts after a summer of raised aspirations.
Conte will hope Chelsea follow up a second successive success with some progress in the transfer market before the deadline on Thursday. Interest is strong in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley, a trio of England internationals who would add further depth to the squad with Champions League football a few weeks away. Certainly, the first team is functioning efficiently again after that unexpected stutter against Burnley on the opening afternoon.
Belief was pepped by early urgency, the home side sweeping forward eagerly. Chelsea had spat away a series of shots which Jordan Pickford thwarted before the visitors eventually cracked, their concentration wavering as Ashley Williams conceded a free-kick and the hosts took it short almost instantly.
Willian found Cesc Fábregas, who exchanged passes with Alvaro Morata, the striker eventually nodding down his return, with the midfielder’s finish crisply dispatched low across the goalkeeper with the outside of his right boot.
Fábregas, inevitably, was at the heart of the champions’ forward forays, prodding passes between Everton defenders and picking up possession from the busily energetic N’Golo Kanté at his side.
Their intent was not dimmed once ahead, for all that Everton barely stirred. Victor Moses was duly crunched on the edge of the visitors’ penalty area five minutes from the break with the referee, Jon Moss, opting to play an advantage Conte did not instantly recognise.
The Italian was still berating the fourth official as Willian lost the ball, and still while Cesar Azpilicueta crossed and Morata eased beyond a static Phil Jagielka to steer a header beyond Pickford.
Koeman, left ruddy in the afternoon glare, scowled his way back to the dressing rooms at the interval, his agitation having been clear at every missed pass or scuffed shot.
Muhamed Besic was introduced at the break with the club aware of reports circulating back in Bosnia that the midfielder’s father, Meho, had been shot in the hand and leg after a dispute at the family home near Srebrenik. He added a touch more bite to a previously soft underbelly, but the better opportunities – battered shots from Victor Moses and Pedro – were still Chelsea’s.
Sandro Ramírez latched on to Wayne Rooney’s slipped pass but saw a shot deflected behind by Antonio Rudiger, and Williams guided a header just wide, but that was as close to Everton came to a response.
Without a shot on target all afternoon, their own pursuit of a striker would appear to be just as pressing as Chelsea’s search for senior bodies.