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.
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 has not scored in the league since October but Tuchel entrusted him with an important role as Chelsea’s false nine. His intelligent movement put him in a position to earn the second-half penalty that Jorginho converted.
“We deserved to win, we controlled it completely,” said Tuchel.
“Second half we increased our level and had a lot of dangerous attacks.
“Very pleased with Kai. It was the trust we gave him. He used that trust. He is a player who has all the ability to be a dominant figure in the attack and he stepped up.”
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.
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.
“You see the quality of the players. It is a pleasure to be on the sideline and work with the team. Everybody in the club is doing everything to compete at this level,” Tuchel said.
Everton’s first away league defeat since November was a significant blow to their hopes of a top-four place.
“We have to be honest, we are not at the same level as Chelsea,” said Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti.
“We cannot play an open game against this kind of team.
“We are looking to fight for Europe. We are disappointed for this defeat but no tragedy.”
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.