Everton were beaten 3-2 by Brighton despite a stellar performance from Anthony Gordon.
The young, energetic winger scored his first ever senior goals for the club with two second half strikes.
However, it wasn’t enough to salvage anything from the match after an Alexis Mac Allister brace and Dan Burn header meant the Seagulls returned to the south coast with all three points.
After a Covid-19 outbreak throughout the league caused three of their matches to be postponed, the Blues’ last outing had seen them earn an improbable point at Stamford Bridge with a threadbare squad.
Having been forced to field a weakened side away at Chelsea, the Toffees were almost back at full strength to face Brighton with Seamus Coleman, Demarai Gray and Allan all back in the starting XI as well as Dominic Calvert-Lewin after four months out.
Just three minutes into the match, Brighton took the lead through a well-worked move finished off by Mac Allister.
The Everton defenders were evidently bamboozled as Neal Maupay met Joel Veltman’s cross from the right and nodded it down for the Argentinian and he made no mistake. All too easily the visitors were ahead.
It got worse 18 minutes later as Rafael Benitez’s side were again caught out at the ack, this time by a corner routine which involved Enock Mwepu flicking a header over at the front post for an unmarked Burn to meet.
The Blues were sinking without trace but were handed a lifeline within a minute of Brighton’s second as Gordon was bowled over in the box and a VAR check saw the hosts awarded a penalty.
However, this opportunity was spurned as Calvert-Lewin fired the spot kick over, skimming the bar on its way into the Park End, meaning no goal for the England international in his first match back.
After going in at half-time trailing 2-0, the Blues came out the blocks stronger and on 53 minutes Gordon had pulled one back with a shot from the edge of the area that deflected in via former Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana.
Goodison was buoyed by one of its own securing a huge personal achievement but the Toffees’ hunt for an equaliser remained fruitless before Brighton restored their two-goal cushion with a screamer from Mac Allister in their first attack of the second half.
Five minutes later, Gordon bagged his second of the day, finishing off a neat move but it wasn’t to be enough, and the Blues slumped to their ninth league defeat of the season.
It was another case of Everton taking too long to get going and while the rustiness of over two weeks of no matches may have played a part, the sloppiness of the defending for all three goals was inexcusable.
Abdoulaye Doucoure had a rare off-day, often giving the ball away while Calvert-Lewin struggled to get involved, evidently lacking in match sharpness.
Gordon was undoubtedly the only real shining light and while it wasn’t a horrific performance all things considered, the erratic nature of the Everton defending as they let up three goals at home to Brighton was definitely a cause for concern.
The January transfer window is now open and while the Toffees still wait for the return of Richarlison, Yerry Mina and Andros Townsend from injury, they are also crying out for new additions.
Vitaliy Mykolenko has arrived; there needs to be more in the next few weeks.