LONDON, March 19, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Ellis Simms grabbed a last-gasp equaliser as struggling Everton boosted their fight for Premier League survival with a dramatic 2-2 draw against Chelsea on Saturday.
Sean Dyche's side were moments away from a damaging defeat until Simms scored his first goal for the club to stun Stamford Bridge into silence.
Everton's show of defiance came after they twice trailed in west London.
Joao Felix had put Chelsea ahead early in the second half with his second goal since joining on loan from Atletico Madrid in January.
Abdoulaye Doucoure's equaliser was followed by Kai Havertz's third goal in his last three appearances as the German converted penalty in the closing stages.
Simms was on loan at Championship side Sunderland earlier this season, but the 22-year-old showed he could be Everton's saviour in the relegation battle with his crucial leveller.
Everton are now two points clear of the relegation zone after extending their unbeaten run to three games.
"We threw Ellis in against Liverpool and he struggled a bit but he's maturing into it. He's got pace and power and it was a nice finish," Dyche said.
"A lot has been made of lacking strikers here but I've said all along it's a team mentality. There is certainly talent. We're laying down a base to work from."
It was a bitter pill for Chelsea to swallow as Graham Potter's team squandered the chance to clinch a fourth successive win in all competitions.
"We thought we played well enough to get the three points but ultimately if you don't defend well, you don't get the result," Potter said.
"We lost duels in the box and when you lose the duels, there is danger. We have to do better."
The match was marred by homophobic chanting from Everton fans, who could be heard singing "Chelsea rent boy".
It was announced in January that clubs could be charged by England's Football Association if their fans sang the offensive song.
The UK's Crown Prosecution Service defined the term as a hate crime last year.
That was an ugly side to a memorable match that started with Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic volleying just wide from the edge of the area.
Hampered all season by a lack of cutting edge, Chelsea had scored more than once in just two games in all competitions in 2023.
- Sting in the tale -
Netting three times at Leicester in their previous match had given Potter encouragement that he had solved Chelsea's attacking woes.
There was undoubtedly more vibrancy about Chelsea and Felix rewarded their territorial dominance in the 52nd minute.
When Ben Chilwell's cross deflected to Felix just inside the Everton area, the Portugal star seized his chance with a low drive that beat Jordan Pickford and cannoned into the net off the far post.
Felix's first goal in seven games was nearly followed by an Everton equaliser moments later when Michael Keane headed wide from Demarai Gray's free-kick.
It was a warning Chelsea failed to heed as Everton equalised in the 69th minute.
Conjuring a goal straight from the Dyche playbook, Everton struck from Dwight McNeil's corner as Ben Godfrey flicked on and Doucoure nodded home from close range before Havertz could clear off the line.
Chelsea were back in front seven minutes later as Reece James' run was halted by Godfrey's trip and an equally clumsy challenge from James Tarkowski in the area.
Havertz scored a crucial penalty in the Champions League last-16 win against Borussia Dortmund recently and he coolly sent Pickford the wrong way from the spot for his ninth goal this season.
But there was a sting in the tale in the 89th minute as Doucoure picked out Simms' surge into the Chelsea area.
The striker shrugged off Kalidou Koulibaly's weak challenge and hit a low shot that crept under Kepa Arrizabalaga to salvage a point in heart-stopping fashion.