It may have been a disappointing afternoon at Goodison Park as the Toffees succumbed to their first Premier League defeat on home soil since the turn of the year, but there were still some positives to take away.
Here, we pick out the talking points from the 3-0 loss to Chelsea and discuss the progression of Ronald Koeman’s side with three games of the season remaining.
1. Gana the man marker
Idrissa Gana Gueye has been one of Everton’s stand-out performers so far this campaign.
His industrious work at the heart of the Blues’ midfield - he has completed more tackles than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues - has been widely praised by fans and the media alike.
On Sunday, the Senegal international was given a brief to nullify the threat of Chelsea star Eden Hazard.
While it was a first for Gana to man-mark an opposition player in an Everton shirt, he executed his task almost to fantastic effect, limiting the impact of the influential Belgian - a former Lille teammate - to a minimum.
Hazard has scored 15 goals and created five in the Premier League this term, a feat which earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Year, but was uncharacteristically quiet at Goodison Park.
“I just tried to do my job on the pitch,” said Gana. “The gaffer told me to go with Eden Hazard all the time, so I tried to stay with him. But that’s also because I like him!”
2. European football awaits
While defeat against Chelsea was the obvious disappointment of the weekend, it was also confirmed Everton will compete in European competition next season.
West Bromwich Albion’s 1-0 loss at home to Leicester City and Southampton’s goalless draw with Hull City on Saturday means the Blues cannot be caught by any of the teams below them in the table.
With Manchester United having already clinched at least a Europa League place by winning the EFL Cup, and this year’s FA Cup final contested by Arsenal and Chelsea – two clubs currently in the top six – a seventh-placed finish is good enough for a Europa League spot.
But the Toffees, who last played in Europe during the 2014/15 campaign, can still finish higher with a home game against Watford and trips to Swansea City and Arsenal to come.
3. Another landmark for Leighton
Leighton Baines made his 350th start for Everton against Antonio Conte’s title-chasing side.
It was also the left-back’s 309th league appearance, meaning he has now appeared more times for the Blues than any other full-back.
Everton Giant Tommy Wright previously led the way on 308 and Phil Jagielka says both achievements are testament to his colleague’s quality and dedication.
“Leighton is fantastic, a great professional,” he said. “It’s not just his defending, he’s had a lot of goals and a lot of assists as well.
“I’m sure he won’t make a big deal of it, knowing the type of person he is, but it’s a fantastic achievement and hopefully I can try to catch him.”
4. Progression under Koeman
While the end result was unfavourable, for large parts of the game Everton more than matched the league leaders.
Indeed, the outcome of the contest may have been very different if Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s early strike had found the net rather than the post and up until Pedro’s stunning opener on 66 minutes, the two teams went toe-to-toe in an even contest.
In truth, the final scoreline was harsh on the Toffees, but the competitiveness shown, particularly in the opening hour, and the fact the defeat brought to an end a run of eight consecutive league wins at Goodison at least shows progression from the 5-0 defeat in the reverse fixture, a result that sparked a five-game winless streak, back in November.
Speaking after the game, Koeman said: “I think we did well. We started well and we were a bit unlucky in the first minute by hitting the post. We made some mistakes in possession and that made them really dangerous at times in the first half, but I think we did a good job up until it went 1-0.
“After that, it makes it more difficult to create chances and then, of course, if they get a little bit more space then they are a team who can kill the game with the second goal. The third goal was high quality [showing] the offensive side of Chelsea. Maybe we didn’t deserve the defeat by three goals, but that is football."
5. Youngsters maturing with every game
Youngsters Tom Davies, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Mason Holgate were all named in the starting line-up for the visit of Chelsea, and all three came out of the weekend with credit.
Davies imposed his combative style on Chelsea’s dangerous attack, with his crunching tackle on Diego Costa.
Calvert-Lewin hit the post in the opening two minutes and looked a threat from out wide, while Mason Holgate produced another assured performance at right-back.
Discussing the trio, Koeman said: “It was really positive. I think they will have learned a lot, much more than I can coach them. To play on the pitch against a team like Chelsea, they will see the high quality.
“They did well, there is no criticism for our young players. It was difficult without five or six senior players today, but they did well.”