Thomas Tuchel was left to rue a “freak result” as Chelsea wasted a hatful of chances before conceding a 74th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 Premier League draw with Everton.
Jarrad Branthwaite poked home Anthony Gordon’s free-kick to stun an otherwise-dominant but highly profligate Chelsea, who had moved ahead through Mason Mount.
The Blues spurned a glut of gilt-edged opportunities to slip four points behind leaders Manchester City in the Premier League title race, and have now picked up just 12 points in their last seven top-flight matches.
Chelsea were without Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi due to positive Covid-19 tests, with Kai Havertz ill and another possible coronavirus case.
Ben Chilwell tested positive for Covid too but is already out with knee trouble, while Mateo Kovacic should finish isolating on Friday but must then ease back after a hamstring strain.
Chelsea are still slated to face Wolves at Molineux on Sunday despite football matches falling foul of Covid cases up and down the country, leaving Tuchel determined to plot a route back to form for the stuttering Blues.
Asked if Chelsea find themselves in a blip or a rut, Tuchel replied: “I would be more concerned if we were totally out of form and always conceding the first goal and struggling to come back.
“Maybe that would be easier to analyse; I don’t think it’s so easy to analyse our situation.
“I saw teams struggle at West Ham, but for us all our huge problems came more or less out of nothing, for all three goals.
“I can go on: against Leeds we were under control, a good first half, then we score, and then the game gets out of our hands.
“Today, please: it’s a freak result for this kind of match. So where to point the finger and where to start?
“There are some facts that we concede too many goals, that we give away too many leading positions, this is a part of that.
“But we are very honest and very critical. But for me, it’s not so easy to analyse why we’re dropping points.
“It was the same against Burnley at home, the investment we put in for getting goals is so huge.
“I can never say we don’t play with full effort, discipline and ambition, we do. And especially throughout first half and big periods of second half we do.
“But it slips and we get punished for not getting a lot wrong. It’s a bit awkward and strange to analyse.
“We could be sat here talking about a 3-0 win that would be fantastic because of the players we missed, but again it is mistakes that has cost us.”
Asked if Chelsea had wanted the game postponed due to the Covid cases, Tuchel added: “No we did not discuss one second about it.
“I don’t even know the rules and am not interested in knowing them, I just prepare my team. We knew at 12 who was ready to play and who was out.
“And the focus is always for the guys who play. Whether the game gets called off or not is none of my business.”
Teen defender Branthwaite’s first senior goal for Everton scrambled the struggling Toffees a vital result.
Travelling fans unfurled a ’Rafa out’ banner before kick-off but were toasting the Spaniard after a hard-fought albeit fortuitous draw for a side missing as many as 11 senior players due to injury and illness.
Asked if this proved his most important result at the Goodison club, Rafael Benitez replied: “You can say that, because we have so many issues, with injuries, with illness.
“The way the team played, reacted when we conceded, showed character. It’s a great point, not just the point but the way we claimed it. Everyone realised how important and how difficult it was afterwards.”
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