Everton claimed their first Premier League away victory for 11 months last night on Tyneside as Wayne Rooney scored his 5th goal in his last 4 games to preserve Sam Allardyce’s unbeaten start as the Toffees boss.
It was nearly a nightmare start for the Blues as the pacey Deandre Yedlin got past our unconvincing stand-in left back Cuco Martina. Martina clumsily tripped Yedlin on the edge of the penalty area, the Toon army wanted a penalty but referee Martin Atkinson gave a free kick. Newcastle were clearly hungry to bounce back after a demoralising home loss to Leicester City on Saturday. They were pressing forward relentlessly looking for the opening goal with a series of dangerous crosses being cleared or collected by Jordan Pickford. All the pressure didn’t bring any real threats to the Everton goal and it was the Blues who would have the first clear chance of the game as Jonjoe Kenny and Aaron Lennon combined well before Lennon squared for Gylfi Sigurdsson. The ball was behind the Iceman, preventing him from getting a shot off so he instead laid it off for Idrissa Gueye, but he fluffed his lines and skewed his effort wide.
Matt Ritchie tried his luck from outside the area on the 20 minute mark which stretched Pickford but the young keeper gathered relatively comfortably. That sighter from the former Bournemouth man almost did the trick as five minutes later he thundered a brilliant effort off the Everton post after pouncing on a poor defensive header from Ashley Williams. It was the closest either side had came to opening the deadlock, however less than a minute later Everton got the game’s opener.
Lennon flicked a brilliant ball into the feet of Dominic Calvert-Lewin who played a neat one-two with Wayne Rooney before crossing into the area for Lennon. The small winger managed to get a decent header on target but it was straight at Newcastle stopper Karl Darlow who looked set to gather the ball. Instead he fumbled it straight into the path of Rooney who gobbled up the chance and poked Everton into the lead in his typical predatory style. This was Rooney’s 15th goal vs the Magpies to make them his most-scored-against side in the Premier League.
Newcastle were keen to get back level before the break and Yedlin was causing yet more problems for Martina as he cut in and got a shot off, but Pickford dealt with it comfortably. Just minutes later Mikel Merino came even closer as he unleashed a rocket from all of 30 yards which whistled past Pickford and almost shattered he upright before bouncing clear for a goal kick, and even at this early stage things seemed going in Everton’s favour. Before the break Everton had a chance to extend the lead after some brilliant work down the right from Kenny gave him the space to cross for Sigurdsson who, unmarked, should have done much better than head straight at Darlow.
After the break, the hosts were looking determined to get back into the game however they lacked quality in key areas and their attacks more often than not broke down before they ever really threatened Pickford’s goal. Their best chance came after Shelvey’s shot was blocked and looped up into the air only to drop to the tall figure of Florian Lejeune who nodded a header tantalisingly across goal but no one could apply the finishing touch and Everton were given another big break.
In all honesty Newcastle never came close again. They are a side full of endeavour and perseverance but severely lacking in quality. They failed miserably to break down the Everton defence which is already looking all the more confident after just a couple of weeks of discipline from notorious defensive mastermind Sam Allardyce. A LOT of people had their doubts about him when he got the job but no one can doubt the impact he has already had, he has organised the then-worst defence in the league and has the players gelling and combining much better when going forward.
The Blues had a couple of chances to seal the deal with Sigurdsson ballooning a good chance over the bar from the edge of the box and Williams powering a sublime header at goal from a wonderful Sigurdsson free kick only for it to be superbly saved by Darlow who went some way to making up for his earlier error. Shelvey would receive his 2nd yellow and 2nd red card of the season for a cynical late challenge however the game would finish at 1-0 and Everton had their first away win since Feburary.
It’s hard not to feel excited going forward now we have a manager who knows when to get forward and when to sit back, who manages the game minute by minute and meticulously studies his opponent so there is a solution for every threat. It feels like something really good is starting, the players look the happiest we’ve seen them in some time, defensively solid and creative up top. Given time and bit of money in January then all may not be lost this season, going into the busy festive period on a five game unbeaten run with four clean sheets will help to keep confidence sky high and allow us to continue climbing the table, starting next Monday night at home to struggling Swansea City.