LONDON: Chelsea missed their COVID-stricken first-choice strikers as they suffered another setback in their Premier League title challenge when they were held back to a 1-1 home draw by Everton on Thursday, leaving the Blues four points clear of leader Manchester city left behind.
Chelsea failed to convert early dominance into goals before Mason Mount broke through in the 70th minute when he got a pass from Reece James and blasted past Jordan Pickford.
Mount had missed one of the European champions’ many chances in the opening period when he was denied by Pickford’s stretched foot. But his goal was his fourth in four league appearances for the Blues.
The visitors tied the score within four minutes of Mount’s attack when Anthony Gordon drove a looping free kick to the far post and 19-year-old Jarrad Branthwaite stuck out a boot to turn the ball in for his first Everton goal.
Chelsea, which tied with Manchester United and Burnley in recent home games and lost to West Ham United, struggled to advance without Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi, all of whom tested positive for nL1N2T12K4 for COVID-19. [nL1N2T12K4]
Kai Havertz was also unwell and was waiting for the results of a test.
Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel said the result was “hard to swallow” but added he would not use the absences as an excuse for failing to keep up at the top of the table.
“I think in the first half we missed great opportunities to put things right and in the second half we didn’t find the rhythm consistent,” he told BT Sport. “We gave it away with one free kick.”
Everton had improved even more than Chelsea with Demarai Gray and Salomon Rondon joining a list of injuries including playmaker Richarlison and centre-forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
That gave opportunities to young players, including 20-year-old striker Ellis Simms who made his debut as a center striker.
Both teams had two goalkeepers among their substitutes as a sign of the devastation in their ranks.
“Great character shown, we’ll be back in a lot of games. The way they worked deserved something,” said Everton boss Rafael Benitez. “We’ve had too much bad luck with injuries. The response from the team has been fantastic.”
The draw put Chelsea in third place with 37 points behind Manchester City on 41 and Liverpool on 40 points after beating Newcastle United 3-1 at Anfield on Thursday nL1N2T13BO. [nL1N2T13BO]
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