Everton welcomed the in-form seasiders to Goodison Park for what was sure to be a tricky battle. Would the Blues be able to put last weekend’s disappointment behind them and get back to winning ways?
Despite some calls for changes Marco Silva remained loyal to all eleven members of his what is now obviously his established first choice line-up. It was undeniable that certain players’ level of performance last week at Old Trafford was alarmingly bad, which in turn has led to debate about whether or not the squad still needs upgrading certain areas. The manager spoke out in defence of his team and its under-performers during the week, insisting that better communication is all that has been lacking.
Everton started this one brightly, enjoying the bulk of early possession and managing their first serious chance at goal after only 6 minutes. A lovely move coming from the right found Sigurdsson inside the penalty area, only for the Icelandic hitman to skew his shot off-target and away from the danger zone. A poor attempt at a finish for a player of his quality but the home crowd was successfully roused.
Goodison can sometimes seem like a gloomy, noiseless place when the football on display is not inspiring enough for a notoriously temperamental fanbase. The Grand Old Lady tends to respond when served up a fast-tempo, up-and-at-them style of play from the boys in blue. An early strike at goal was just what was needed to get the Evertonians sat in the stands fully involved in the game and behind their team.
Everton went close again just a few minutes later this time with the ball coming from the left-hand side. A lovely pass along the floor from Digne was latched onto by Gylfi but his toe-poked effort could only find the side-netting. Silva’s men were creating and keeping Brighton pinned inside their own half, a breakthrough seemed all but inevitable. Indeed it was.
During one of their rare ventures forward Chris Hughton’s side managed to win themselves a corner. It was cleared away and picked up by Sigurdsson, who lifted his head and immediately began an Everton counter-attack. Bringing the ball forwards at least 50 yards by himself and then linking up with Bernard, whom then swiftly returned it, our no.10 played a neat pass into the path of Richarlison who pinged it past a helpless Mathew Ryan. It was truly a sublime goal, one that Evertonians could only dream of witnessing their side score last season. I myself have replayed it at least a dozen times since.
However, Brighton have proven themselves already this season to be tough customers who don’t capitulate in the face of adversity. The men wearing the green away shirts admirably gathered themselves and, perhaps sensing some complacency from the hosts, successfully took their chance when it came.
Winning another corner in the 33rd minute the Seagulls instead went short this time and Solly March’s cross into the penalty area landed in the six-yard box. Centre-back Lewis Dunk managed to get above Zouma and powered a header past a powerless Pickford to bring the visitors level. Everton were left stunned, for all their dominance they hadn’t been in the lead for even ten minutes.
The rest of the first half played itself out in scrappy fashion, Brighton retreated back into their shells but Everton’s confidence appeared shaken. Richarlison at one point went down hurt but the Brazilian continues to prove he’s no wimp. Though he looked in some considerable pain, the club’s record signing insisted that a substitution was not necessary and was soon back on the field leading the line.
The interval offered Marco Silva the opportunity to reassure and re-invigorate his players, they had been playing some excellent stuff and only a momentary lapse in concentration had cost them. Whatever words he said at half-time had the desired effect, Everton came out for the second period looking exactly as they had done before conceding the equaliser.
Barely two minutes after the restart the Blues came within a whisker of restoring their lead. Idrissa Gueye found himself with room outside the box and had a pop himself but his strike could only rattle the post and then roll away from goal. Bernard reached it first and delivered the ball back across the the face of goal but Walcott, who looked very motivated all game, was unable to steer his effort into a gaping net.
Disappointment from those chances didn’t last long for the home side.
Only another two minutes later Everton’s players were forward in numbers again and Andre Gomes, impeccable again, managed to harry the ball to the feet of Seamus Coleman. The Irishman, one of the main players on the receiving end of criticism recently, lashed a thunderous shot into the corner of the Gwladys Street net. His ensuing celebration gave away what his feelings are about what is currently being said about him.
Coleman has been at Everton for almost a decade now and in that time he’s gone through a lot of ups and downs. Experiences that have helped him grow from a naive pup to the consummate professional and gentleman we all know him as today. The doubts some have in his ability has clearly stung him, to cup his ears at the crowd and roar in defiance after restoring Everton’s lead was obviously his way of addressing his critics.
Whether you fully back Coleman or would prefer it if a new right-sided full-back was brought in, Seamus has made it abundantly clear he’s in no mood to give up his spot in the team. Good on him for having a competitive attitude like that, who really wants a player who doesn’t get motivated by (constructive) criticism? We’ve had plenty of those in recent times, weak-minded individuals who sulk and then sneak away rather than stand up and be counted.
Brighton this time were unable to rally and hit back, in all honesty Everton never looked like conceding again. The Blues however, and Richarlison in particular, weren’t finished in their business for the day.
In the 77th minute Dunk spoilt his own performance with a poor cross-field pass intended for his partner, former Evertonian Shane Duffy. Richarlison, ever alert to a possible opportunity, pounced on this mistake and intercepted. His first touch took the ball past the powerless Duffy and allowed him to sprint clear. Goalkeeper Ryan came out to in an attempt to block but our no.30 wonderfully rounded him and then nervelessly slotted into an open net from the angle. Game, set and match.
The last 10 minutes played out without incident, the only notable occurrence being Yerry Mina being brought on for the last few minutes to finally make his club debut. Surely we’ll see more of him this Tuesday in the club’s arranged friendly with Kenyan side Gor Mahia.
Overall it was splendid day at the office for Everton. Back to winning ways after last week’s frustration and in doing so serving up arguably the best performance we’ve seen yet under this new manager. The players are all smiling, the style of play is looking great on the eye and supporters have re-established our bond with the team. And yet Sam Allardyce continues to moan all over the airwaves about why he was “dumped”. It’s because you’re shite Sam, and because what we have now is boss. Deal with it.
Next week’s trip to down to the capital to take on undefeated Chelsea will no doubt be a difficult task but Evertonians have no reason to feel daunted. In the words of Chris Hughton;
“(Everton are) a team who have spent big but brought in quality players and at times that really showed today. They’re a top team and I think they will push that top six, they look strong.”
Rich praise from a wily, old campaigner who’s seen it all in the Premier League. Everton have now set a standard they must strive to meet each and every week. If we play that regularly then there is no side in this league we should fear.