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Everton 1-1 Manchester United: Late VAR drama results in a draw

Three thoughts from Everton’s performance against Man Utd yesterday

Everton FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Dominic Calvert-Lewin continues to impress

It’s really quite impressive how much Dominic Calvert-Lewin improves week in and week out. Not long ago he was mostly just an energy guy, brought on to run his guts out and occasionally get a goal. But he is quickly developing into a quality striker.

Everton’s opening goal against Manchester United is a perfect example of the work rate that Calvert-Lewin has always shown. With David De Gea taking his sweet time dallying with the ball, Calvert-Lewin had the presence of mind to charge the United goalkeeper. De Gea’s clearance came a bit too late and Calvert-Lewin connected with the ball and it found the back of the net.

This was not the end of Calvert-Lewin’s impressive performance in the match. It took VAR to deny him another goal, but before that too the young striker’s runs were constantly giving the United defenders headaches. Even if his finishing can be a little poor from time to time, Calvert-Lewin’s play up top has really opened things up for Everton in the offensive end. His partnership with Richarlison has paid dividends for both players as they have benefited from the isolation found in single striker formations.

The damnation-redemption cycle of Jordan Pickford

Jordan Pickford has been getting a fair amount of heat for some of his recent mistakes. More than once this season, the young goalkeeper has allowed a goal that could be considered soft and this match was no exception.

United were struggling to get chances in the box and instead resorted to launching shots from outside the box. A Nemanja Matic effort careened off the crossbar early, but it was a dipping Bruno Fernandes strike that eventually drew United level. There is no doubt that this is a shot Pickford should have stopped.

However I do think some of the reactions to Pickford’s play are overblown. The goalkeeper is a position of which perfection is demanded. But in an often unpredictable game, this expectation can be unfair. Pickford undoubtedly has aspects of his game that he can improve on, but at 25-years-old he is still young for that position. Despite his mistake in this match, Pickford showed his worth late in the match with an absolutely insane double-save to keep the match level.

Match ends on dicey VAR call

It’s always a shame when a match is decided by a questionable VAR call. While I suppose the point of the system is to ensure that close games like this are decided fairly, this ending felt questionable.

Following the rules to the letter, I can kind of see how the referees reached their final decision. But in reality it still feels like Everton were robbed with this call. Had the ball been purposely kicked at Gylfi Sigurdsson only for him to lift his legs at the last second, an interference call would be totally justified. But it was the deflection it took off of Harry Maguire’s foot that made the call a little tougher. From the broadcast view it certainly appeared as if De Gea was leaning the opposite direction regardless of Sigurdsson’s position.

This call will surely be debated for the next few days, but it’s hard not to feel a little ripped off by the officials, especially when Sigurdsson was clearly fouled after taking his shot and a penalty should have been forthcoming if the offside call stood, but in the end the Blues got neither a goal nor a spotkick.