Mason Holgate admitted Everton paid the price for a sluggish first 45 minutes at Stamford Bridge - but says the Blues can still be optimistic about their start to the 2017/18 campaign.
Ronald Koeman’s men earned a 1-1 draw at Manchester City last Monday night but couldn’t follow that performance with another result on the road as first-half goals from Cesc Fabregas and Alvaro Morata saw Chelsea run-out 2-0 victors on Sunday afternoon.
Having travelled to Croatia to book a place in the Europa League group stage by completing a 3-1 aggregate win over Hajduk Split on Thursday, it was Everton’s third away outing in seven days.
And while frustrated with the way the Toffees came out of the blocks against Antonio Conte’s champions, Holgate took encouragement from a more disciplined second-half display.
“I think we just had a slow start,” said the 20-year-old. “The first half we’re a bit disappointed with what we were like on the ball.
“I think we were bit slow on the ball and we made a few decisions which meant we didn’t really get hold of possession and that put us under a lot of pressure.
“Obviously when you come away to teams like Chelsea and you’re not firing from the start, you get punished.
“That was shown in the first half because we went 2-0 down but I think in the second half we came out a lot better, kept the ball a lot and created a few more chances. Ultimately, though, we left it too late.”
Holgate now heads off on international duty as one of SIX Everton players named in Aidy Boothroyd’s England Under-21 squad.
The young Lions, who also included Tom Davies and Under-20 World Cup winners Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Jonjoe Kenny, Ademola Lookman and Kieran Dowell in their party, face European Championship qualifiers against Holland and Latvia.
And despite Everton’s unbeaten start to the season coming to an end in the capital, Holgate insists the Blues have given themselves a solid launchpad to kick on for the rest of the campaign.
“Sunday was the first game we’ve lost all season,” he added. “We’ve been in Europe, we’ve played three games in the Premier League now, so I think we feel we’ve got a good squad, we’ve made a lot of good signings and, ultimately, I think we should be going for a top four or top five finish this season.
“In the changing room, and as a squad, that’s what we think we’re good enough to do, so that’s what we’re going to try to press to do.”