Everton halt COVID-hit Chelsea


Chelsea missed their COVID-hit first-choice strikers as they suffered another setback in their Premier League title challenge when they were held to a 1-1 home draw by Everton on Thursday, leaving the Blues four points adrift of leaders Manchester City.

Chelsea failed to turn early dominance into goals before Mason Mount made the breakthrough in the 70th minute when he took a pass from Reece James and fired past Jordan Pickford.

Mount had missed one of the European champions’ many chances in the opening period when, clean through, he was denied by Pickford’s outstretched foot. But his goal when it came was his fourth in four league games for the Blues.

The visitors drew level within four minutes of Mount’s strike when Anthony Gordon floated a looping free-kick to the far post and 19-year-old Jarrad Branthwaite stretched out a boot to turn the ball in for his first goal for Everton.

Chelsea, who drew with Manchester United and Burnley in recent home games and lost at West Ham United, struggled to make further inroads without Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who all tested positive for COVID-19.

Kai Havertz was also unwell and was awaiting the results of a test.

Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel said the result was “hard to swallow” but added that he would not use the absences as an excuse for the failure to keep pace at the top of the table.

“I think we missed big chances in the first half to get things straight and in the second half we did not find the rhythm consistently,” he told BT Sport. “We gave it away with one free-kick.”

Everton were even more patched up 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 at centre-forward.

Both teams included two goalkeepers among their substitutes as a sign of the devastation in their ranks.

“Great character shown, we are coming back in a lot of games. The way they worked we deserved something,” Everton boss Rafael Benitez said.

“We have had too much bad luck with injuries. The reaction of the team was fantastic.”

The draw left Chelsea in third place on 37 points behind Manchester City on 41 and Liverpool with 40 points after they beat Newcastle United 3-1 at Anfield on Thursday.

COVID-hit Liverpool bounce back and win

Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold scored with a spectacular strike as they overcame the loss of three players to suspected positive COVID-19 tests and conceded an early goal to beat Newcastle United 3-1 in the Premier League on Thursday.

Liverpool move onto 40 points from 17 games, one behind leaders Manchester City who beat Leeds United 7-0 on Tuesday.

With Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones ruled out for the hosts, Jonjo Shelvey struck the opener for Newcastle against the run of play in the seventh minute, with a swerving, dipping drive past unsighted keeper Allison Becker at Anfield.

The lead lasted 14 minutes before Diogo Jota fired home the rebound after Martin Dubravka saved his initial header to level, with Newcastle’s players complaining the ball should have been put out of play as Isaac Hayden was down injured in his own box.

Mohamed Salah put Liverpool ahead four minutes later, equalling Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy’s record of 15 consecutive Premier League games with a goal or assist by blasting home the rebound from a Sadio Mane shot.

Newcastle improved dramatically in the second half, showing a defensive resolve that has been absent for much of the season, but in the last 10 minutes, Liverpool started to turn the screw.

Dubravka had to get down smartly to save from Mane in the 81st minute and Jota had a close-range shot blocked before the Newcastle keeper pulled off another super stop from Naby Keita.

There was nothing he could do three minutes from the end of normal time though as Alexander-Arnold took a touch on the edge of the box before firing a rocket into the top corner.

“I’ve been waiting for that for five years, waiting to hit it clean like that,” Alexander-Arnold told BT Sport.

“I’ve had a few from the edge of the box … I’ve caught that one sweet and it’s just nestled in the top corner.”

The England fullback said he and his teammates had done their best to ignore the possible positive COVID tests at the club as the games come thick and fast over Christmas.

“We’re focused on our football until we’re told otherwise. We’ll be in there every day, recovery again tomorrow and make sure we’re fit for Sunday,” he said.


“We’ve got a big game, going down to Tottenham – it’ll be an interesting one but all we can do is focus on that and prepare for the game.”

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