Everton took the trip down the East Lancs Road and against all the odds returned home with a point. The hard earned point against Manchester City was met with optimism and pride which have been in short supply this year. The festive period games continue three days later with Everton welcoming Brighton and Hove Albion to Goodison Park for a Tuesday evening match under the lights.
Everton have won 4 of the last 5 home matches against Brighton. Unfortunately, it was in their last game which happened almost exactly one year ago that the Seagulls flew into Goodison Park and took all three points with a 3-2 victory. Two goals from Anthony Gordon were cancelled out by two goals from World Cup winner Alexis MacAllister with Dan Burn also scoring for Brighton.
Before this match, Brighton had never won away from home on a Tuesday in the Premier League in nine previous attempts (D2, L7). Their last away top-flight win on a Tuesday was in 1983.
Frank Lampard made two changes to the Everton side that earned a battling draw at Manchester. Dwight McNeil and Tom Davies replaced Ben Godfrey and the suspended Amadou Onana who received his fifth yellow card on Saturday. Anthony Gordon and Michael Keane were unavailable because of illness and injury respectively, but Yerry Mina made the bench. Ellis Simms started the match on the bench.
Brighton had Midfielder Moises Caicedo back after being banned for the defeat by Arsenal. Brighton gave returning World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister a fitness test and he only made the bench but Adam Webster and Danny Welbeck remain sidelined. Midfielder Moises Caicedo returns after being banned for the defeat by Arsenal. Forward Deniz Undav, who missed their last match for personal reasons, is still unavailable.
The rain was teeming down as the fans paid their respects to Pele and all those connected to the club who have been lost this year. Everton lost the toss and had to attack the Gwladys Street End in the first half. They started the game on the front foot and gained controlled possession with Brighton happy to absorb the pressure.
It was Alex Iwobi who was the first to challenge Alexis Sanchez after Tom Davies had headed the ball back into the box. It was Tom Davies who was back on the ball and had another shot which forced another save. They were using the high press which was causing problems for Brighton.
Brighton started to get some possession and it was a good cross from Solly March that was met by the top of Kaoru Mitoma’s head but it went over the bar much to the appreciation of the Evertonians in the ground. A foul by Dwight McNeil who was caught in possession led to a free kick outside the box. The resulting free kick was well handled by Tarkowski. It was Kaoru Mitoma who got the Seagulls on the board when he was left wide open out on the right. Patterson was left in his wake and Mitouma slid the ball into the gaping net. Fifteen minutes in and the challenge was greater.
Brighton had taken control of the game and Everton started to find it difficult to get open. Demarai Gray looked like he was going to repeat the great goal he scored at City but the Brighton defenders blocked his shot. The ensuing corner saw Sanchez bobble the ball but recover in time under the pressure of Calvert Lewin. Brighton then went down the field and had a ball from March strike the bottom of the post.
The referee, Andre Marriner, was uninterested in the tackles that were being inflicted on Idrissa Gana Gueye. Everton then sprung forward and it was a fingertip save by Sanchez that denied Calvert Lewin. The end to end action continued with the play being broken up by fouls and delaying tactics. Everton were losing the midfield battles and the Goodison crowd was starting to share their objections to the display.
At the 30th minute mark, a long diagonal ball made it out to Gray who had the cross blocked. The corner was meekly met by Tarkowski who headed the ball well wide. A foul was finally called on Brighton but Everton were struggling to make the final pass which would cut open the Brighton backline. It was a Patterson cross that finally made it to Calvert Lewin but a mistimed jump took the power out of the chance.
A great cross from McNeil forced Sanchez to scramble and keep the ball in play. Everton continued to apply pressure in the last five minutes of the half. The game flared up after Mitoma went down and Everton played on. Ferguson didn’t like that and decided to cut Gueye down to stop the play. He received the first yellow card of the game for his efforts. Two minutes were added and it was Demarai Gray who was finding a way through to force a save from Sanchez.
The second half started with no changes to either team. It was Brighton who had the first sight of goal but March put the ball well over the top. The game was very stop/start and both teams were struggling to get back up to speed and string a few passes together. The lead was doubled when Samiento took the ball to the line and Ferguson happily tapped in the goal.
The third goal took only 2 minutes to happen. Solly March walked the ball across the top of the box and slotted the ball into the corner with no one attempting to stop the move. Goodison was irate.
The gifts kept on coming and the serious lack of quality was on full show as Gana Gueye short-changed Pickford on a back pass following a corner and Pascal Gross happily accepted the present and chipped Pickford. The boos rang down with the score 4-0 at the hour mark.
Changes that should have been made at the start of the half were finally made by Lampard. Abdoulaye Doucoure and Isaac Price were brought on for Davies and McNeil. Sarmiento was withdrawn and the Brighton fans welcomed their World Cup hero Alexis Mac Allister. After Patterson injured his knee, Seamus Coleman was brought on and Idrissa Gueye was withdrawn only to have Neal Maupay come on to bolster the forward line.
The chances continued to be presented to Brighton. The ball finally fell to the feet of Demarai Gray who skyed the ball into the Park End. Ferguson and Veltman were replaced by Tairiq Lamptey and Julio Enciso. It was Enciso who was next up in the shooting gallery but he had his shot stopped by Pickford. Brighton were passing the ball around like they were playing a school boys team. Shoulders had dropped and the finger pointing was prevalent.
The last fifteen minutes arrived and Adam Lallana was on for Mitoma and Solly March was replaced by for Brighton. By this point there were as many staff on the Everton bench than fans in the stands. Ellis Simms was brought on with 10 minutes to go to replace Calvert Lewin. What a welcome for the returning loanee.
Brighton were happy to play out the game and Everton didn’t have the flow to create any chances. That was until extra time when Iwobi was taken down by Sanchez. A penalty. Demarai Gray stood up and thumped the ball into the top corner to break the duck. Well taken. Thankfully, that was the last kick of the ball and the whistle was blown to end the misery. The derision from the fans was clear and the lineup of stewards along the Gwladys Street end was indicative of the need to protect the Everton players from their own fans.
After the great result against Manchester City, the big question was whether the team could continue the high intensity and commitment that they showed at the Etihad Stadium. This was the first of two home matches in a critical run of games that brings Southampton to Goodison after an FA Cup trip to Manchester United which takes place on Friday.
For the first twenty minutes Everton were controlling the game but not creating any clear cut chances. They were pressing intermittently which seemed to have no clear plan other than when the fans were getting upset. After the second half started, the game was absolutely thrown away by Everton with mistake after mistake leading to three goals in just 6 minutes. The die was cast and the rest of the match was done and dusted.
Calvert Lewin was isolated for much of the match because of the way the Blues were set up. Gray and Iwobi were playing very wide which gave no support for Calvert Lewin when the ball was sent up the field. Everton were the most dangerous in the first half when Demarai Gray was cutting inside and forcing Brighton to come out to challenge him. The impetus to drive forward was virtually non-existent. Lampard has to decide if he is going to sit back and counter attack or commit to get support for Calvert Lewin.
There will be much discussion over the next few days about Lampard. Our home record is a huge problem and the identity of the team is non-existent. The fans frustration was clearly on display and the inquest will surround the role that Lampard is playing in the poor results. He has not been backed in the transfer market and it would be unfair to cut his time short without giving him that support. The question is whether trigger happy Moshiri can keep his cool and provide the necessary signings to turn the season around. The new stadium may be his legacy but that will be overshadowed if the opening of the stadium happens in the Championship.