Maurizio Sarri spent an afternoon exchanging pleasantries with opposite number Marco Silva but his visit to Goodison Park ended in the decidedly unpleasant experience of a potentially damaging defeat to mid-table Everton.
Second half goals from Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson, via his own missed penalty kick, halted Chelsea’s recent league improvements despite Sarri’s side enjoying complete and utter domination over the opening period.
And the manager, who often strayed into the Everton technical area on the compact Goodison sideline and was seen chatting jovially with Silva, could only reflect on an afternoon when Chelsea were their own worst enemies.
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Having spent much of the first half chasing shadows, Everton emerged for the second forcing a higher tempo and showing far more urgency all over the field.
Within seconds of the restart, Kepa Arrizabalaga was forced to keep out an effort from Andre Gomes, lurking on the end of Bernard’s pass, and within three minutes of the kick-off, he was picking the ball out of his goal.
It was an effort that found the Chelsea defence slow to react after Arrizabalaga flung himself low to keep out Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s powerful header from Sigurdsson’s right-wing corner.
But Richarlison’s reactions were the quickest, as the Brazilian prodded the loose ball over the line for an Everton lead that had looked a distant prospect over the opening 45 minutes.
Matters would improve even further for Silva’s team, winners of just one of their last six games, when Marcos Alonso trod on the foot of Richarlison after 71 minutes and referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot.
Sigurdsson’s penalty drew yet another fine save from Arrizabalaga but the Icelandic international remained composed and completed the routine task of converting the loose ball into an open net.
It was a turnaround by Everton that bordered on the spectacular given the way they had been dominated over the opening half.
From the fifth minute, when Jordan Pickford’s arm kept out an Eden Hazard shot, the visitors had appeared by far the more likely goalscorers.
Indeed, they compiled the two best chances of the first half within seconds of each other around the six-minute mark, starting when Hazard collected Gonzalo Higuain’s lay-off and curled an exquisite shot past the diving Pickford but against the right-hand post.
Then, Higuain looked poised to convert from close range only for defender Yerry Mina to do enough to prevent him from converting.
The other compelling aspect of the opening exchanges was the harsh reception given visiting midfielder Ross Barkley on his return to his former employers, the ex-Evertonian booed by supporters every time he touched the ball.
That did not prevent the England international from helping his new side dominate proceedings and both he and Higuain further tested Pickford with long-range shots before Pedro ended the half by taking on N’Golo Kante’s neat pass and shooting just wide.
The second half, however, quickly became a different story with Chelsea forced to respond to the game’s first goal and Pedro’s cross soon picking out Alonso who drove the ball into the side-netting.
Everton, showing far more belief than in the opening half, might have snatched a second when Calvert-Lewin slid in and came within inches of meeting Lucas Digne’s left-wing cross but Chelsea still boasted the firepower to find an equaliser.
David Luiz’s 59th minute pass was cushioned by Kante for Higuain whose crisp 25-yard strike forced Pickford into an excellent, one-handed diving save.
Sarri rang the changes, taking off Barkley among others – much to the delight of the home supporters – although the hosts still looked the more likely scorers.
Substitute Theo Walcott found himself clear but saw his angled shot well saved once more by Arrizabalaga before opposite number Pickford continued an excellent afternoon’s work by tipping over a powerful shot from Chelsea replacement Callum Hudson-Odoi.?
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