Chelsea fail to break Everton as Allardyce extend unbeaten run

Willian takes on Jonjo Kenny as Chelsea probes the Everton defence at Goodison Park
Willian takes on Jonjo Kenny as Chelsea probes the Everton defence at Goodison Park

Everton maintained their unbeaten run under new boss Sam Allardyce with a dogged defensive display to hold champions Chelsea to a goalless draw at Goodison Park.

The ninth-placed Toffees have now not lost in six Premier League games, five of those since Allardyce took charge.

Captain Phil Jagielka cleared off the line from Tiemoue Bakayoko and Willian in quick succession to frustrate the visitors, who were without suspended top scorer Alvaro Morata.

Chelsea dominated, but struggled to breach the Everton back line and found goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in good form when they did.

The 23-year-old England World Cup hopeful saved smartly from Pedro’s effort in the first half and tipped a low Eden Hazard drive wide after the break.

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Substitute Ashley Williams then headed against his own crossbar as the Toffees at times rode their luck to keep a fourth clean sheet in six games.

Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side stay third following the draw, two points behind Manchester United, having lost just once in their past 11 league games.

Toffees prove tough to beat

Allardyce has promised his Everton players Christmas Day off, saying he hated having to come in for training on 25 December as a player, calling it “a complete waste of time”.

The former England boss will feel it is a well-earned break for his side, who were without Wayne Rooney against Chelsea because of flu, while defenders Mason Holgate and Williams started on the bench because of illness.

Rooney has enjoyed a revival since his return to Goodison, scoring 10 goals in 16 league games – the quickest he has reached double figures since 2011-12.

Williams has recovered from a shaky start to the season under Allardyce’s guidance and youngster Holgate has impressed alongside him.

But Allardyce has instilled a solidity among this Everton side that means they are hard to break down whoever starts at the back.

Michael Keane, returning to the side, was superb alongside Jagielka and the captain’s double block on the line in the first half epitomised Everton’s refusal to lose under their new boss as they restricted Chelsea to few clear-cut chances.

The hosts did, however, miss the subtlety Rooney brings to the their direct approach under Allardyce, with his experience and composure to hold the ball up in attack.

But, despite having no shots on target, Everton remain unbeaten in six games with Allardyce’s run now including draws against Chelsea and Liverpool.

Without top-scorer Morata due to suspension, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte again opted for Hazard to lead the line rather than place his trust in out-and-out striker Michy Batshuayi.

Hazard occupied the role in last week’s win over Southampton, with Morata recovering from a back injury, but his natural tendency is to drop deep and that meant much of Chelsea’s play was in front of Everton’s backline.

The visitors created space in wide positions through wing-backs Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses, but found Everton’s well-drilled defence equal to that route of attack.