Chelsea’s Premier League title challenge suffered a major setback as Everton snatched a 1-1 draw, while Liverpool kept pace with Manchester City after a 3-1 win over Newcastle.
Thomas Tuchel’s side were without Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi after the latest Covid-19 outbreak to rock the Premier League.
Ben Chilwell, currently injured, also tested positive, while Kai Havertz was unable to play after feeling ill before the match.
The Blues were already without Mateo Kovacic as the Croatia midfielder recovers having contracted the virus earlier in December.
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Shorn of so many key players, Chelsea laboured to break down stubborn Everton until Mason Mount netted midway through the second half at Stamford Bridge.
Despite dominating from start to finish, Chelsea were punished for switching off at the back when Jarrad Branthwaite grabbed Everton’s equaliser with 16 minutes left.
It was the 19-year-old defender’s first goal for Everton in just his third Premier League start.
Failing to beat a struggling Everton side decimated by injuries and illness was a hammer blow on a difficult day for Chelsea.
Having led the table for several weeks, Tuchel’s third placed team are now four points behind leaders Manchester City.
Chelsea have won only two of their last five league games as they lost ground on City and second placed Liverpool.
The Reds lost Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho to positive cases of Covid before kick-off as a surge of infections across Britain threatens to bring the season to a temporary halt.
Liverpool were further rocked when Jonjo Shelvey opened the scoring against his old club after just seven minutes.
But Newcastle remained mired in the bottom three for a reason as goals from Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah turned the game around before half-time.
Alexander-Arnold’s thunderbolt four minutes from time rounded off an eighth consecutive win for Jurgen Klopp’s men as they closed to within one point of leaders Manchester City.