By Peter Hall
LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) – A first-half penalty from Italy midfielder Jorginho was enough to earn Chelsea a 1-0 win at Everton on Saturday to get their new Premier League campaign off to a positive start.
Chelsea peppered the home goal with 13 corners in the first half but looked set to be frustrated as the interval approached, only for Jorginho to convert from the spot after Ben Chilwell had been fouled to give the visitors the lead.
It was redemption for Italy midfielder Jorginho, who saw his penalty saved by Everton and England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during the Euro 2020 final last July.
A brilliant save from Edouard Mendy early in the second half to deny Abdoulaye Doucoure preserved Chelsea’s advantage, and that was as good as it got for a disappointing Everton, who only survived relegation by the skin of their teeth last term.
England forward Raheem Sterling could have marked an impressive debut with a late second but saw his close-range effort deflected just wide.
It mattered little as Chelsea, following a close season of upheaval after the sale of the club to an investment group led by LA Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly, saw out the three points with ease.
“A win is a win, that’s what we play for,” Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said. “It is important to build confidence and belief now. We are open for improvement and criticism, but there are good things to take away.
“We got three points, we got a clean sheet. From here we go. We didn’t take the risks we normally do in the last 25 meters.”
Coach Frank Lampard called for better from his Everton team this term in his pre-match program notes, but a woeful pass from Ben Godfrey saw him forced off injured having made a last-ditch recovery tackle after just 15 minutes.
Everton later confirmed that Godfrey had been taken to hospital as a result of a lower leg injury.
Mason Mount had Chelsea’s first effort on goal moments later, with Pickford forced into a fine save.
Sterling did have the ball in the net towards the end of the opening period, but he was correctly flagged offside.
A lengthy first-half stoppage time ensued as a result of Godfrey’s injury, and in the ninth minute added on, Jorginho netted what proved to be the winner following Doucoure’s clumsy tackle. It means 18 of Jorginho’s 20 Premier League goals have come from the penalty spot.
The second half was a cagey affair of few chances, with Everton lacking the necessary quality, especially in attacking areas, as they slipped to their first opening-day defeat since 2011-12.
“I thought we played well against a tough opponent,” Lampard told the BBC. “I thought the penalty was the only difference between the teams.
“One tiny lack of focus and they got their goal. I felt a draw would be a fair result.”
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Christian Radnedge)