Chelsea cemented their grip on fourth place in the Premier League as Kai Havertz finally delivered an influential display in their vital 2-0 win against top-four rivals Everton on Monday, AFP can report.
Havertz has endured a disappointing first season following his £70 million ($96 million) move from Bayer Leverkusen last year.
But the Germany midfielder was given a rare start by Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel and he responded by playing the key role in both goals at Stamford Bridge.
Havertz’s shot was deflected into the Everton net for a Ben Godfrey own goal in the first half.
The 21-year-old hasn’t scored in the league since October, but Tuchel entrusted him with an important role as Chelsea’s false nine and his intelligent movement put him in position to earn the second-half penalty that Jorginho converted.
Chelsea are now four points clear of fifth-placed Everton, although West Ham would close the gap to two points if they beat Leeds later on Monday.
The west Londoners are unbeaten in 11 games in all competitions – winning eight times –- since Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard in January.
Their renaissance under Tuchel is a credit to the former Paris Saint-Germain boss, who is the first manager to see his side keep a clean sheet in each of his opening five home Premier League games.
On current form, Chelsea look a good bet to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish, while they still have aspirations to win this season’s competition after beating Atletico Madrid 1-0 in the last 16 first leg.
Everton’s first away league defeat since November was a significant blow to their hopes of top-four place.
Tuchel made five changes from the 1-0 win against Liverpool last Thursday as Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi came in.
Making way for Havertz was Mason Mount, whose superb performance and clinical finish had inspired the victory at Anfield.
But Tuchel’s tinkering didn’t unsettle Chelsea and they dominated possession from start to finish.