Defending champions Chelsea slipped further in the Premier League title race as the Blues were held to a 0-0 draw by a determined Everton side at Goodison Park on Saturday.
With striker Alvaro Morata suspended for the trip to Merseyside, Antonio Conte opted to start winger Eden Hazard as a false-nine and despite dominating for large swathes of the tie, the visitors lacked that vital cutting edge in front of goal.
Jordan Pickford was in inspired form between the sticks, flying out to make vital stops either side of half-time to deny Contes’ men.
Everton defender Phil Jagielka made two goal-line clearances in quick succession to stymie the hosts and at haul-time, it seemed only a matter of time before the Blues would find the opener.
Interestignly, Everton made two changes at half-time as ‘Big Sam’ sought to mix things up. Sandro Ramirez and Ashley Williams came on but it remained one-way traffic, with the home crowd fearing a Chelsea goal was imminent.
It wasn’t to be, however, for Everton continued to defend resolutely and deny their fancied opponents time and again.
On the other end, Thibaut Courtois was a virtual spectator as Sam Allardyce’s men did not have a single shot on goal over the course of 90 minutes, perhaps lacking penetration without in-form striker Wayne Rooney, who sat out the tie with an illness.
Considering Liverpool drew 3-3 with Arsenal on Friday night, Chelsea had the perfect chance to extend their lead over the fourth-placed Reds while at the same time managing to trim the gap between themselves and the Manchester clubs (City and United) but failed to do so with a stuttering performance against opponents that didn’t show much attacking verve.