At the half: Everton, Chelsea staging thriller

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An entertaining first half for the purists has Everton leading Chelsea 2-1 at Goodison Park, with a promising second 45 minutes on the docket.

James Naismith wasn’t in the starting lineup, but has both Everton goals and could be the center of controversy. Nemanja Matic had a gorgeous answer for Chelsea.

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Muhamed Besic had to come out of the match before it was nine minutes old after twisting an ankle, bringing on Naismith. The latter was fortunate avoid discipline when he viciously kicked a falling, out-of-bounds Branislav Ivanovic.

And moments later, he took Everton into the lead. Brendan Galloway started a movement along the left side before drifting into position to send a great cross in for Naismith, who raced past John Terry and flashed a header home. 1-0.

Everton looked rampant, as Arouna Kone and James McCarthy each could’ve doubled the lead in the following minutes.

Naismith was the one to make it 2-0. Given room outside the 18 to unleash his left, the 28-year-old Scot buried a low drive past Asmir Begovic.

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It’s the first time Chelsea has allowed two or more goals in five-straight matches since… 1991.

Matic made sure Chelsea would go into the break in better shape. He had even more time and room to operate than Naismith, and just pummeled a knuckling left-footed shot into the upper left corner. Not sure what the ball did to deserve that cruel blow, but Chelsea was within one.