Frank Lampard’s players can only have spent Saturday afternoon on the sofa, resting their legs, given the extraordinary energy and endeavour coursing through this performance.
If they’d switched on their television sets 24 hours ago, they’d have seen news of Burnley’s late comeback victory over Watford.
Events at Vicarage Road could have been deflating. Alternatively, there was the potential for Everton to rally, to deliver a stirring and compelling response in what is developing into a tit-for-tat battle for Premier League survival.
And Everton, driven on by an incredible Goodison Park support, from the rousing reception to piercing whistles as seven added minutes reached their climax, produced a fabulous display, brimming with running and aggression and intent.
Richarlison’s goal to decide the match, 60 seconds after half-time, represented Everton’s performance in microcosm. There was pressing and harrying and bravery, allied to cool headeness in the clutch moment.
The Brazilian closed down Cesar Azplicueta, controlling a ball from Thiago Silva on the edge of the Chelsea box.
Demarai Gray could see which way this was going and was alert to pounce.
Referee Kevin Friend did both Everton and Azpilicueta a favour by playing an advantage – the defender would likely have been red carded for a tug on Gray in his desperation to recover – and Richarlison slid his finish into the far corner.
Jordan Pickford saved brilliantly from Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger in quick succession as Chelsea summoned a mighty effort in pursuit of an equaliser.
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COLEMAN SENDS MESSAGE AFTER CRUCIAL EVERTON WIN
Everton had chances to add to their lead, too, but ultimately, Richarlison’s eighth goal this season was worth three points that hoist Lampard’s side back within striking distance of both Burnley and Leeds United.
The fuse was lit on this game long before kick-off when the Everton team coach rolled down Goodison Road, sandwiched by Evertonians, creating a wall of noise, as they vied for position in the congested street.
There was another tumultuous welcome to coincide with the first chords of Z-Cars, the deafening ovation paired with banners draped from the Upper portion of the Howard Kendall Gwladys Street End variously hailing Pickford and bearing the Club’s Nil Satis demand above the inscription Our Motto is our Standard.
The decibel levels didn’t abate in a hurry. They increased, if possible, when Anthony Gordon hurried back to relieve a surprised Marcos Alonso of possession.
Gray bearing down on Azpilicueta, a forerunner for events immediately after half-time, to prevent the Chelsea captain knocking a ball down the line was equally well received.
Chelsea’s players, deprived of a good night’s sleep, reportedly, were afforded no rest on the field.
Rudiger, the rapid, giant of a German defender, found the going especially tough in the opening half.
He was booked after 17 minutes for cynically halting a Seamus Coleman dash down Everton’s right – Coleman’s ambition was illustrative of Everton’s outlook, the Irishman scampering forwards in recognisable style despite a position in a back-three, Alex Iwobi adopting wing-back duties.
Back to Rudiger, who was mindful of his yellow card after misjudging a crafty Richarlison flick.
Abdoulaye Doucoure, consequently, was at liberty to progress into the penalty box – but the Frenchman’s delivery was mopped up by Silva at the front post.
Undeterred – Everton’s default setting all afternoon – the hosts came again.
Gordon collected a throw-in from the right and spun away from a pair of challenges, only to swat the attempt past the post on the right.
Everton surfed the wave of emotion crashing around Goodison from kick-off.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek couldn’t resist a challenge on the surging Gordon inside 10 seconds. He got it all wrong, the Chelsea player, but Gordon’s free-kick from 25 yards or so crashed into the wall.
Richarlison, a striking long ranger in front of a four-man midfield, was unable to gather in an Iwobi ball over the top after three minutes.
And the sense that Chelsea heads were scrambled grew in credence when Kai Havertz tried and failed to dribbled around Doucoure close to his own corner flag.
There was half a penalty shout from the home team after 11 minutes.
Lampard has been very candid about a readiness to compromise his footballing ideals in the current, pressing circumstances.
So we saw Mason Holgate unfurl a long throw from the left that caused concern in Chelsea’s defensive ranks.
Time and again the away team tried to clear and time and again the ball came back in one fashion or another.
Iwobi eventually skipped around Timo Werner to stab a high ball to the back post. Mina contested it with the spiky Azpilicueta and felt aggrieved over the contact that felled him. Friend saw nothing wrong.
Were Chelsea up for a fight, given their apparent immovable grip on third spot?
You bet they were.
In stoppage time at the end of the first half Silva vacated his penalty area with the urgency of an Olympic sprinter to block Doucoure’s shot.
Much earlier, inside three minutes, Thomas Tuchel, the Chelsea manager, was a cat on a hot tin roof in his technical area, furious over Alonso’s dawdling in possession.
And every Chelsea advance, inevitably, heightened nerves among the majority inside this thrumming stadium.
Mason Mount was over with a dipper from 25 yards after eight minutes and, on 24 minutes, the excellent Loftus-Cheek carried the ball through the middle of the park, his final pass leading to the ball bouncing around Everton’s penalty area for an interminable period.
It was take two from Loftus-Cheek shortly before half-time, another powerful surge capped with a pass left for Werner, holding his run.
Coleman covered the best part of 20 yards at pace to intercept the cross and Doucoure applied the block to deny Alonso on the follow up.
One minute after half-time, Richarlison and Gray combined to burgle Azpilicueta, who was absolutely furious with himself, for the Brazilian’s fourth goal in five Premier League games.
It could have got even better for Everton three minutes later. The ball was shipped from right to left, Gray and Gordon linking to find Doucoure.
His pass found the man over, Mykolenko, unattended but firing off target at the near post.
A combination of Pickford and the woodwork preserved Everton’s lead after 58 minutes.
Alonso swung over a cross from the left, Havertz cushioning the ball in the path of Mount.
The strike hit the inside of Pickford’s right post, sending the ball across goal and back into the penalty box off the left post.
Azpilicueta’s eyes lit up as he spied an opportunity to atone for his earlier lapse – but Pickford broke the Spaniard’s heart with a fabulous reaction save to turn the ball behind.
The big screen in the corner of Goodison replayed the save about 60 seconds later, prompting a spontaneous round of applause from all four sides of the ground.
Pickford couldn’t watch because he was prone, receiving a check after throwing himself at Rudiger’s ferocious hit from close range and saving with his face.
Chelsea’s pursuit of an equalising goal underlined the impression of a team desperately keen to avoid returning south empty handed.
The managers traded substitutions in an attempt to wrest control, Everton introducing Allan and Salomon Rondon, in turn, for Delph and Richarlison, while Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech were added to Chelsea’s catalogue of nippy, inventive forward.
Still, it was Loftus-Cheek posing the greatest threat to Everton’s lead and Pickford had to apply a strong right hand to turn over a rising strike from his England teammate.
Gray had the chance to put the game to bed with five minutes remaining but his effort grazed the bar, while a low Gordon delivery travelled across the face of goal untouched.
Gordon, then, opted to do it himself, Everton countering as a breathless game reached its climax but the shot beaten out by Edouard Mendy at the foot of his near post.
A frenetic additonal period featured Pickford saving low from Mateo Kovacic, a half-time replacement for Jorginho,and the teams freely trading possesion and territroy.
But when it was all done, it was Everton's players beating the turf in delight, celebrating three points the prompted unbirdled and extented scenes of joy following the final whistle.
Big Two’s Big Moments
If ever there was an example of big players standing up for their team in big moments it was supplied inside 14 breathless minutes of this match.
The argument for Everton boasting superior quality to rivals in the fight for Premier League survival often begins with mention of either end of Frank Lampard’s team.
Everton have England’s goalkeeper and Brazil’s number nine.
And here both men performed – as they consistently do for their club – in a manner befitting their respective standings.
Richarlison was his usual one-man package of industry and aggression, boasting a remarkable appetite for the ugly side of the game.
Here, we saw exactly why Richarlison repeatedly pursues apparently lost causes, the reason he sprints and chases when it might appear wise to leave something in reserve.
It is for moments like the one when he stole the ball off Cesar Azpilicueta, taking one touch too many on the fringes of Chelsea’s penalty box.
Richarlison then had the presence of mind to continue a forward run, as Azplicueta tangled with Demarai Gray, and the sureness of touch to roll the ball beyond goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
It was Richarlison’s fourth goal in five Premier League matches, the model of a key player putting his hand up when his team desperately needs decisive input.
Pickford has been among Everton’s best players this term, consistently reliable, at times outstanding.
He was both of those things in this contest. Unflappable and confident under pressure, the epitome of a reassuring presence.
When Everton required something out of the ordinary after Azpilicueta turned a rebounding ball towards goal, Pickford produced a wonderful reaction save.
In the next passage of play, when less-focused minds might have drifted, he produced a courageous stop at close-range from Antonio Rudiger.
The German couldn’t believe he’d been denied. Regular Everton watchers removed their hearts from their mouths and observed they’d seen it all before from their England number one.
Mykolenko Flourishes… Again
The shift to a back three for Everton provided Vitalii Mykolenko increased licence to raid on the left side of the field.
Mykolenko is something of a bolter in terms of his growing importance to Everton and this was a sixth successive Premier League start for the Ukranian.
It was the first time in those half-dozen games he operated as a wing-back, however.
The advanced role saw Mykolenko collect possession close to halfway from a first-half Jordan Pickford throw. The next pass sent Demarai Gray chasing through on goal, albeit the forward had set off on his run too early.
Similarly, Mykolenko’s position enabled him to defend on the front foot. He was touch tight to Kai Havertz when the German collected a pass in Chelsea’s attacking third – and eventually won a free-kick from the frustrated visiting forward.
Mykolenko is unrecognisable from the figure who confessed to experiencing inhibiting pre-match nerves ahead of playing against Hull City seven days after completing a New Year’s Day transfer from Dynamo Kyiv.
Mykolenko actually did okay in that Cup tie four months ago – there was one goalline clearance, for instance – but the growth in confidence and stature in the meantime are evident.
His defending is sharp and assured and he adds balance and thrust on the overlap.
Mykolenko’s adaptation to Premier League football has been complicated by off-field matters.
It is difficult to separate the issues in his homeland from Mykolenko’s opening months as an Everton player.
But the 22-year-old has shown tremendous fortitude and maturity and an ability to mentally compartmentalise different strands of his life.
Concentrating solely on the football, Mykolenko had to wait for Frank Lampard’s reign to enter its third month before gaining a foothold in the team.
He did very well starting at West Ham United four weeks ago and subsequently received very good reviews for performances against Manchester United and Leicester City.
Indeed, Mykolenko was man of the match for a few judges’ money after a notable role in frustrating United’s pursuit of a leveller at Goodison Park.
This was another step up in last week’s Merseyside derby and Mykolenko relished his task in combat with Mohamed Salah.
The imperative of Everton’s league position meant this was another high-stakes affair for a young man thrust into a high-pressure environment.
Mykolenko, fit and focused and disciplined, embodied the performance of an Everton team to which he is increasingly integral.