Everton returned to Goodison Park after a midweek victory over Burnley in the Carabao Cup. Their last match against Brighton was the 5-1 thumping that jumpstarted Everton’s end of season push that guaranteed a place in this year’s Premier League. Coming into the game, Everton had won five of their last seven matches. Brighton, on the other hand had only one win in their last seven games.
Sean Dyche reported that Amadou Onana had been dealing with a tight calf after the Carabao Cup match. He missed the match with Idrissa Gueye taking his place and Arnaut Danjuma dropped to the bench. Ashley Young, who scored in the midweek win returned to the starting lineup after serving a one-match league ban. Seamus Coleman was playing for the under-21 side on Saturday. Dele Alli and Andre Gomes are still in rehab.
Brighton made five changes to the side that drew 1-1 against Fulham. Bart Verbruggen returns in goal, with Joel Veltman, Jan Paul van Hecke, James Milner and Billy Gilmour all coming in. Tariq Lamptey was fit to return but injured himself in the warmup. Pervis Estupinan was still sidelined with a thigh problem along with Jakub Moder, Solly March and Danny Welbeck who all have long term injuries.
Tim Robinson, the man with the whistle, got the game underway in what was only the 6th Premier League game of his career. Brighton controlled possession early with Everton willing to give them the ball. Everton had the first chance and only a solid save by Verbruggen prevented a goal from Doucoure.
Everton’s second chance was almost a carbon copy of the first chance. A ball into the box from McNeil was met by Mykolenko who took one shot that was blocked and then was able to connect on the rebound to get his first goal of the season. Goodison erupted and Everton’s confidence grew.
Brighton stuck to their game plan of possession based football. A foul by Jarrad Branthwaite led to a free kick which was taken by Pascal Groß and was met by Lewis Dunk who absolutely blasted the ball off the bar and into the net. A VAR check was done and it was chalked off for offside. The Goodison crowd booed the time it took but cheered the decision. Lead restored!
Moments later Calvert Lewin almost had the ball in the net but he could not reach the poorly headed back pass from Billy Gilmour. The game was end to end and very open and Billy Gilmour was given a yellow card for dissent. Dominic Calvert Lewin was then on his bike and was absolutely clatter by Lewis Dunk on the edge of the box. Yellow card for the big man and another chance with a deadball. Garner and Young lined it up but Garner put it over the bar.
James Tarkowski was then doing his best impersonation of a marauding Amadou Onana which the Evertonians loved. Brighton had almost 90% of possession after 30 minutes but it was Everton that were getting the chances. Calvert Lewin was the outlet pass several times which caused problems for the Seagulls.
Boos rang out as a potential foul on the edge of the box was not given. The replay showed that Veltman had been pushed by Calvert Lewin which then led to the contact with McNeil. At the end of it Idrissa Gueye was given a card for dissent. Four minutes of extra time was announced with Everton happy to play it out. Brighton had all of the ball but none of the chances. Job well done by the Blues. One area that needed to improve was Everton’s pass accuracy which was a poor 66%.
Adam Lallana was taken off by Brighton with Joao Pedro coming on in his place. Would the additional striker have the impact that Roberto De Zerbi wanted. An early corner for Brighton was well defended by the Blues. The game struggled to get into a flow with neither side getting an advantage over the other.
Brighton had the first real chance after Billy Gilmour was pushed down by Doucoure which resulted in a yellow card and a free kick. Lewis Dunk lined it up and Jordan Pickford made a fine save to deny the big centre back. Brighton were piling on the pressure with Everton struggling to get the ball out of their own half. Brighton were moving the ball around but their final passes were not getting through.
The Blues were absorbing the pressure and the Goodison crowd showed their support for the hard work. Too often, in this half, Everton were giving away the ball when they did get possession. Mitoma finally made it to the byline and his passback ended up on the boot of Gross but the shot was well over the bar. Gilmour was withdrawn in favour of Mahmoud Dahoud. The kitchen sink was definitely in play.
Everton had their first corner which relieved some pressure. Brighton were moving the ball faster and the pace was starting to cause Everton to struggle. The Goodison faithful were starting to show their nerves when Everton had the ball in the attacking area but Gueye didn’t cross the ball into the box. Moments later Dwight McNeil had a chance on the edge of the box but his shot went narrowly wide.
Everton got a second wind and Doucoure stretched his legs and put in a beautiful pass to Calvert Lewin but it was cut out by Dunk. Everton were breaking again but Gueye couldn’t get the pass to Calvert Lewin. Branthwaite was in the referee’s book for pulling back Pedro as the final fifteen minutes arrived. Mitoma had another chance but his shot was blasted high into the Park End. James Milner was taken off to a chorus of boos from the Evertonians with Ansu Fati and Facundo Buonanotte entering the game.
Dominic Calvert Lewin was brought down in the box but the referee was having none of it. The resulting breakout saw Tarkowski bring down Ansu Fati for a cynical tackle. It was a moment of misfortune when Mitoma put the ball into the box but the ball hit Ashley Young with the ball looping over Pickford to tie the game with 6 minutes to go.
The game immediately opened up as Everton tried to put pressure on the Seagulls. Calvert Lewin was fighting for everything. Abdoulaye Doucoure almost had the ball in the net. It was all action and Everton’s response to the goal was excellent. Beto and Patterson were brought on for Calvert Lewin and Young. Brighton took of Adina and put on Igor. An Everton corner saw Tarkowski rise above everyone but his header was easily gathered by Verbruggen.
Four minutes of additional time arrived and Everton’s resolve never wavered. A very competitive game that saw Mitoma put Everton under pressure throughout the match. A good point but it was certainly 2 points lost.
Everton Man of the Match: - Vitalii Mykolenko scored the goal and kept the Brighton attack down the right side under control throughout the match. In the final moments it was an excellent defensive play that ensured that the Blues would get a point for their efforts.
The Everton lineup announcement was the biggest surprise of the day. Amadou Onana was absent Sean Dyche clarified the reason and said that, “Amadou, unfortunately, has been playing with a really tight calf and it’s just been too much for him after Wednesday.” Without Onana, it fell to Idrissa Gueye to fill his boots which had not been so successful this season. Today, Gueye did an excellent job working to deny the Brighton midfield and breaking up the play. His calm head at times was exactly what was needed.
Today, patience was the key to Everton’s success. Brighton had 80% of the ball and throughout the game they would put 40 passes together which Everton were happy to allow. It was when a stray pass was made that the Blues would pounce and immediately turn possession into attack. Calvert Lewin was brilliant holding up the ball or flicking it wide to Harrison or McNeil. It was the balance of the attack down both sides that is having such a positive impact on recent results and today was more proof even though three points were not the result.
On Wednesday, Everton’s early goal was followed by a period where Everton’s press disappeared. Today, there was no dip in form following Mykolenko’s goal and the team stuck to the game plan. Half time allowed Dyche to remind the players of their job, however Brighton picked up the pace and the tiring legs of the Blues made the job more difficult. The team should be commended for their willingness to stick to the plan.