Following Burnley’s comeback win over Watford on Saturday, the pressure was squarely on Frank Lampard’s side, and the significance of the game was demonstrated by the scenes around the pitch before kick-off, as Everton fans lined the streets to await their team’s arrival.
Everton went on to win the game courtesy to Pickford’s heroics and Richarlison’s second-half strike seconds after the restart.
Everton are remain in the bottom three, but they have a game in hand on Leeds United and Burnley, giving Frank Lampard’s team five games to salvage their season. If Pickford can maintain this level of play, they will be difficult to beat.
Story of the match
Within the opening ten minutes, both teams had attempts on goal, with Anthony Gordon’s free-kick going over the crossbar and Mason Mount’s long-range effort failing to test Pickford.
Chelsea surged into the game after withstanding early Everton pressure, controlling possession. However, they struggled to gel offensively and failed to register a single shot on goal in the first half.
Meanwhile, Everton were capitalising on the furious Goodison Park atmosphere, putting in an unbelievable shift throughout the park.
Gordon had the finest chance for Lampard’s side, but he pulled a 20-yard attempt wide of the post as the two teams went in equal at half-time.
The major concern at halftime was whether Everton could maintain their first-half pace.
It only took 59 seconds of the second half for Richarlison to chase down an Azpilicueta clearing on the outside of his own area, and the loose ball fell to Demarai Gray, who teed up his teammate to beat Edouard Mendy and give Everton the lead.
Moments later, the advantage could have been increased, but Vitaliy Mykolenko flew wide with just Mendy to beat.
Then came Pickford’s heroics, as he produced a brilliant goalline save to deny Azpilicueta and then, in the following phase of play, he took a full-body shot from Antonio Rudiger to hold Chelsea at bay.
He was soon at it again, this time with a one-handed stop from a Ruben Loftus-Cheek drive, but with the pressure mounting and nerves frayed, Everton defended firmly in an attempt to retain a clean sheet.
They needed their goalie again in the seven minutes of extra time. Everton hung on for a crucial victory thanks to Pickford’s superb stop on a Kovacic attempt.
The result meant two things in the larger perspective:
Chelsea is yet to confirm their place in the top four, as the other two London clubs – Arsenal & Tottenham are right on their heels!
And also, there is an undying motivation and fighting spirit in the blue half of Merseyside!