Unbeaten Chelsea held by Everton at Stamford Bridge
Maurizio Sarri’s title challengers drop points against Marco Silva’s organised Toffees
Eden Hazard and Chelsea were left frustrated by Everton. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters
Chelsea 0 Everton 0
Maurizio Sarri broke a Premier League record here with the extension of his unbeaten start as Chelsea’s head coach to 12 matches, though the Italian’s agitation towards the end of a fractious and ferociously fought contest betrayed an underlying sense of dissatisfaction. Everton may be hugely improved this season but this still seemed like a missed opportunity.
The home side pressed urgently in the latter stages, asking Eden Hazard to play a full match and flinging Ross Barkley on for the final eight minutes against the club he left acrimoniously last season, even if nothing the England midfielder tried came off. Previous Everton teams would have wilted amid the onslaught but there is more resilience to Marco Silva’s lineup. A team whose target is the title could simply find no way through, denied by the visitors’ organisation and Jordan Pickford’s excellence.
Chelsea are not used to being denied goals at home – this was the first time under Sarri they have failed to score at Stamford Bridge – but Pickford would not let them pass. A snarl of a first half, all niggling fouls and too little panache, had prompted a quintet of bookings and one eye-catching save as Marcos Alonso, darting beyond the far post to connect gloriously with Willian’s free-kick, saw his volley turned away at full stretch. The England goalkeeper had to be just as agile to deny Álvaro Morata’s near-post prod 11 seconds into the second half, the striker reaching Hazard’s cross. Subsequent saves to thwart Hazard, first from distance and then as the Belgian’s shot flicked up off Yerry Mina, felt almost straightforward by comparison.
By then the atmosphere was more charged, not least because Barkley, once loved and now loathed by Everton’s support, had started warming up among Chelsea’s substitutes on the sidelines to a chorus of abuse. He greeted those he used to call his own with a smile, a thumbs-up and some exaggerated applause. It all maintained the spiky theme of the opening period, even if Alonso had gone unpunished for arguably the worst of the flurry of fouls as he floored Theo Walcott, connecting nastily on his right ankle, in front of the dug-outs.
Everton gave as good as they received, their side boasting a fine balance with Mina imposing on his first start, pace down either flank and Gylfi Sigurdsson carrying a threat from the playmaker’s role. The Icelandic midfielder forced Kepa Arrizabalaga into one smart block of his own.
The diminutive Bernard’s flashpoint with Antonio Rüdiger, thrusting his head forward and up to meet the German as they disputed a foul, had contributed two of the cautions for all that the referee, Kevin Friend, had his back to the incident at the time. Richarlison seemed intent upon taking on all-comers, and then there was Marco Silva forever berating the fourth official, Andre Marriner, to such an extent that Maurizio Sarri eventually snapped. Marriner always carries a world-weary look on occasions such as these.
Yet the coaches would hug after the final whistle, mutual respect restored. For Everton this was a hard but superbly claimed point. For Chelsea it was a source of regret.