Frustration on Poppy Day

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Poppy cupcakes at Chelsea

Blues manager Morrie Sarri endured the most frustrating match of his managerial stint in SW6 on Remembrance Sunday, as Everton forced a 0-0 draw.

An ill-tempered encounter (there were five bookings by half-time, and ref Kevin Friend is not an especially card-happy man-in-black) saw both managers take positives, and negatives.

On the plus side for Chelsea, the unbeaten run goes on… but it feels like two points dropped as the Blues had the best of the opportunities. For Everton it was a useful away point.

The match, which saw the appearance of poppy-shaped cup cakes in the press lounge at the interval, came just a couple of days after the long haul home from beating BATE Borisov in the Europa League in Belarus, and there was evidence of a lack of freshness in the first half.

That game was characterised by endless crab-like side-to-side movement, and the Poppy Day duel between Chelsea and Everton began much the same.

Marco Silva’s side came to frustrate and confound, and attempt (largely successfully) to deny Chelsea the up-tempo rhythm they prefer.

The avalanche of little passes, jinks and flicks that usually power the Blues’ attacks were snuffed out by hard tackles and aggression, and Chelsea didn’t have answers.

With the Toffees trying to strike on the break, after drawing Chelsea forward into attack, the game only really came alive in the second half.

Alvaro Morata came close, Marcos Alonso was a whisker wide with a free kick, Willian’s shot just missed, and Eden Hazard fired, but Jordan Pickford was equal to it.

The bad-tempered tackles and shoves on the pitch were matched, verbally, by sniping between Sarri and Silva in their respective technical areas, with fourth official Andre Marriner arguably the busiest of all the referees, keeping the peace on a day when Chelsea pensioners paraded, vast poppy banners were unfurled and a minute’s silence was scrupulously observed.

For all Chelsea’s attacks, the goal simply wouldn’t come. Even when Cesar Azpilicueta crossed and Morata struck the ball into the net in the 72nd minute, it was ruled out for offside.

Pickford was booked a minute later for time-wasting. It summed up a tetchy, irritable afternoon.