London: Chelsea lifted Antonio Conte’s spirits ahead of the crucial final days of the transfer window as goals from Cesc Fabregas and Alvaro Morata sealed a comfortable 2-0 victory over woeful Everton on Sunday.
Conte has spent the last few weeks grumbling about Chelsea’s failure to land his top transfer targets, and with the window closing next week, the Blues boss is hoping to bolster his depleted squad with several signings.
Against that troubled backdrop, it was essential Chelsea signed off before the international break with three points to keep in touch with Premier League pace setters Manchester United.
The champions achieved that aim with ease as Fabregas opened the scoring in the first half at Stamford Bridge before Morata bagged his second goal since his club record #58 million ($74 million) move from Real Madrid.
Conte’s men have now won two in a row following their shock opening-day defeat against Burnley, but they won’t have many less demanding victories than this one against a lethargic Everton side who barely broke sweat.
Although Morata scored again, the Spain striker was a diffident figure for long periods and Conte knows Chelsea’s hopes of more silverware rest on him being given extra options to juggle the demands of a gruelling season.
Everton’s first league defeat of the season was a frustrating end to what had been a positive week for Ronald Koeman’s men after they drew at Manchester City and qualified for the Europa League group stages.
Back from suspension, Fabregas came in for Tiemoue Bakayoko and was immediately in the thick of the action when Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye escaped with a yellow card after catching the Spaniard with a crude studs-up lunge.
Quickly monopolising possession, Chelsea threatened an early goal as William’s penetrating run teed up Morata in the penalty area.
But Morata opted to pass and the chance was gone when Pedro lifted an ambitious bicycle kick over the crossbar.
David Luiz took a direct approach moments later, bringing Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford into action for the first time with a low strike from just outside the area.
Pedro followed suit with another long-range effort that had Pickford sprawling to his right to save.
Chelsea’s relentless pressure was rewarded in the 27th minute.
Fabregas flicked a pass to Morata and timed his run perfectly to receive the Spaniard’s headed return ball in stride, nudging in front of Leighton Baines to guide a deft finish past Pickford for his first goal of the season.
Although Everton had a draining Europa League assignment at Hajduk Split on Thursday, even that couldn’t completely excuse a desperately uninspired display.
It was only a matter of time before Chelsea made them pay again and it was Morata who delivered the killer blow in the 40th minute.
After referee Jon Moss played the advantage following a foul on Victor Moses, Cesar Azpilicueta had time and space to whip over a pinpoint cross and Morata punished the flat-footed Everton defence with a header beyond Pickford from 10 yards.
Pedro almost made it three just after half-time with a curling effort that whistled wide before Everton finally carved out a chance.
Sandro Ramirez had only Thibaut Courtois to beat when he raced onto Wayne Rooney’s pass, but the striker’s miscued shot was in keeping with his side’s limp performance.
Normal service was soon resumed as Chelsea peppered Pickford’s goal, with Pedro shooting wide and Moses firing too close to the keeper.
Despite Chelsea’s commanding position, Conte remained typically hyperactive on the touchline.
A calmer head will be required when he returns to the transfer maelstrom.