London, Aug 7 (IANS) Jorginho’s first-half penalty got Chelsea’s Premier League campaign off to a winning start, as Thomas Tuchel’s men overcame a stubborn Everton to claim a 1-0 victory at Goodison Park.
Having been left without a striker through Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s knee injury and Salomon Rondon’s suspension, Frank Lampard’s hosts sat deep and successfully frustrated Chelsea early on, reports DPA.
Meanwhile, Darwin Nunez scored one goal and set up an equaliser for Mohamed Salah as Liverpool twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at Fulham in their first Premier League game of the season.
Everton’s resistance was finally broken when Jorginho converted from the spot on the stroke of half-time, and the Toffees were unable to find a way past Edouard Mendy despite an improved showing after the break.
That meant Chelsea won their Premier League opener for a third consecutive season despite failing to produce a fluid performance on Merseyside.
Everton suffered an early blow when Ben Godfrey was carried off with a serious lower-leg injury, but they forced Mendy into the first meaningful save through James Tarkowski’s 24th-minute header.
Chelsea debutant Raheem Sterling was denied by the offside flag 42 minutes in, having stabbed home after Jordan Pickford fumbled N’Golo Kante’s effort, but Chelsea made their dominance count nine minutes into a lengthy bout of stoppage time.
Abdoulaye Doucoure hauled Ben Chilwell down as the wing-back burst into the area, allowing Jorginho to convert neatly into the bottom-left corner as Pickford went the wrong way.
Everton found Mendy in inspired form as they looked to respond after the break, with the Senegal stopper denying both Demarai Gray and Doucoure with strong saves.
Ten minutes of additional time were signalled after a medical emergency in the crowd required a brief stoppage, but Chelsea’s experienced rear-guard stood firm.
Earlier, Aleksandar Mitrovic headed top-flight new boys Fulham into a deserved first-half lead, but Nunez came off the bench to equalise at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
Mitrovic restored the Cottagers’ lead with a penalty after he was upended by Virgil van Dijk with 18 minutes remaining, but Salah poked in from close range after Nunez laid the ball into his path to salvage a point before Jordan Henderson hit the woodwork in stoppage time.
It is a record six consecutive seasons Salah has scored in Liverpool’s opening match of a Premier League season, but they did not do enough to win it and also lost Thiago Alcantara to a hamstring injury.
Fulham were much better side in the first half and deservedly took a 32nd-minute lead, when Mitrovic rounded off a slick move by rising above Trent Alexander-Arnold at the back post to powerfully head home Kenny Tete’s inviting cross.
Liverpool looked flat, but Luis Diaz came close to equalising before half-time when he rattled the far post with his left foot from inside the penalty area.
Nunez and Harvey Elliott replaced the ineffective Roberto Firmino and an injured Thiago six minutes into the second half.
Things almost went from bad to worse for Jurgen Klopp’s side when Neeskens Kebano’s venomous drive struck the post, before Marek Rodak denied Nunez from close range as the game opened up.
Nunez levelled 64 minutes in, though, benefiting from a stroke of luck as he failed to make contact with Salah’s cross attempting a flicked finish, but the ball struck Tosin Adarabioyo before going in off the striker’s foot.
Diaz and Nunez had opportunities to put Liverpool in front, but Mitrovic restored Fulham’s lead from the spot against the run of play.
Salah spared Liverpool’s blushes with 10 minutes go, when he was left with a simple finish after Nunez had the awareness to set him up following an Alexander-Arnold pass and Henderson almost snatched all three points when he hit the crossbar.