Defeat dashes Chelsea’s top-4 hopes

March 19,2019

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LIVERPOOL: Maurizio Sarri endured a frustrating afternoon as his Chelsea side’s second-half collapse saw them suffer a 2-0 Premier League defeat at mid-table Everton.

Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson, converting after his own saved penalty, scored the goals at Goodison Park on Sunday that halted Chelsea’s recent good run and weakened their bid to secure a top-four finish.

Brazilian Richarlison struck in the 49th minute, after Sigurdsson’s right-wing corner had been met by a powerful header from Dominic Calvert-Lewin which Kepa Arrizabalaga saved well on his goal-line.

But the Everton forward reacted first to force the rebound over the line from close range, a goal that came largely against the run of play.

Arrizabalaga had saved a good effort from Andre Gomes seconds earlier and did likewise in keeping out Sigurdsson’s 71st-minute penalty, awarded after Marcos Alonso stood on the foot of Richarlison.

But the Iceland international kept his composure from the rebound, completing the routine task of tapping the ball into the open goal.

It was a major turnaround following a first half of almost complete Chelsea domination.

Eden Hazard was unfortunate not to give the visitors an early lead in a dominant opening 45 minutes against an Everton side who have struggled for form and results in recent weeks.

After six minutes, Ross Barkley and Gonzalo Higuain combined neatly to set up the chance which Hazard curled against the right-hand post, with the ball rebounding to safety.

When Higuain was presented with another glorious opportunity just seconds later, denied by Everton centre-back Yerry Mina making a late move to put off his opponent, Chelsea looked well in control.

It remained that way for the majority of the opening half with Barkley, booed lustily by Everton supporters every time he touched the ball, clearly relishing a return to his former club.

Barkley’s protracted departure from Merseyside, and his refusal to sign a new contract as a move to Chelsea neared, has clearly tarnished the England midfielder’s reputation with Everton fans.

But his influential first-half display, and Chelsea’s initial superiority, suggested he would enjoy a successful return, for half the game at least.


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