Breathe. Everton wins their first competitive game of the new campaign in a painstaking 1-2 victory over bottom of League Two Doncaster Rovers.
Morale has been pretty low lately at Everton, and with good reason. No wins, no goals, and a long injury list have put the fanbase on edge as a huge week where Everton play two league games sandwiching this cup match against Doncaster. The blues received a lifeline in the signing of Udinese striker Beto, with many considering him the first serious signing up top Everton have made in years.
The side was heavily rotated for the away clash in the cup, with Michael Keane, Ben Godfrey and Vitali Mykolenko all coming into the starting eleven. Additionally, Youseff Chermiti made his first stop up top at Everton, with Danjuma partnering and at times playing off him as a front man. It is safe to say these line up changes did not lead to success for Sean Dyche and company, as Doncaster absolutely took it to Everton in the first half. Everton created .13 xg in the first half while Rovers piled forward time and time again.
Chermiti and Dobbin were particularly ineffective in their roles in attack, with Dobbin failing to build on a decent performance against Wolves, and Chermiti really struggling to get ahold of the match up top. Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey often looked unsure at the back. There’s really not a lot to say about the first half, Onana looked dominant in the midfield when he was on the ball, but once again he found chances to impact the game few and far between. To make matters worse, Doncaster finally did capitalize on the waves of momentum they had in the first half in the 44th minute. Tommy Rowe crossed in and Joe Ironside got his head to it to beat Pickford and make it 1-0, he was probably offside, but with no VAR the goal stood and Everton and their supporters went into the locker room suffering a near fatal gut punch.
Sean Dyche, clearly dismayed at the abhorrent performance in the first half, opted to make a video game style triple substitution at halftime, bringing on Idrissa Gueye, Ashley Young, and Beto for his Everton debut in place of Nathan Patterson, Lewis Dobbin, and Yourself Chermiti. It did not instantly get better for Everton, as Doncaster continued to control the match and play through the visitors’ defenders for large portions of the second half.
However, when new signing Beto began to exert his authority on the game, things changed in a hurry. After narrowly missing a couple of chances, Beto opened his Everton account in style. Doucoure put in a good through ball and the striker made a great run off the defender before placing a beautiful finessed finish in the back of the net to level the match. Everton’s first goal of the new campaign. Following Tarkowski’s introduction for Mykolenko, Beto once again made his mark 9 minutes later as he crashed a thunderous header off the post after towering above the defenders attempting to mark him. Moments later, Danjuma came alive and smacked the crossbar with a strong effort. Then in the 88th minute, after Maupay had been introduced, and with a humming front line of Beto and Danjuma, Everton found the winner. Maupay got involved and managed to play in Danjuma, who cut inside the box and composed himself well before firing into the near corner to beat the keeper and put Everton ahead for good. Spirit of the blues rang out in the away section and Everton supporters let out a massive sigh of relief as victory was finally achieved in the new campaign.
Putting aside the ghastly first 60 minutes of the match, Everton fans can hang their hats on what was a truly robust performance from the new signing up top. His influence on the match was heard early and often, with the attack as a whole improving as he imposed his will on the match. A sight for sore eyes, a focal point in attack, and perhaps finally something to be positive about. Dwight McNeil and Dominic Calvert-Lewin being back in contention for the match against Sheffield United, according to the gaffer, is another huge bit of positivity heading into the International break. Perhaps, there is light at the end of the tunnel, either way, it just feels good to win one.