Everton were back home for the visit of Newcastle United who were sitting pretty in the Champions League places again. The return of Anthony Gordon was eagerly anticipated by the boo-birds around Goodison. Everton had struggled recently against the Magpies and last year they did the double over the Blues with the corresponding fixture last year ending with a 4-1 score. Evertonians around the world were looking for a change in the script.
Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin was fit after missing the win over Nottingham Forest with a minor calf issue. Seamus Coleman returns for his first match since his injury in May. However, Amadou Onana, who is back in training after a calf injury, is rated “touch and go” to play by manager Sean Dyche.
The big news for Newcastle was the absence of goalkeeper Nick Pope who faces four months out as the shoulder he injured against Manchester United last weekend requires surgery. The Newcastle team had several long term injuries with Callum Wilson, Harvey Barnes, Jacob Murphy and Joe Willock all missing the match.
The Goodison crowd was up for this one and the noise was deafening. The game plan for the Blues was to press early and press often. The game kicked off and the Blues were executing the plan beautifully. In the first ten minutes Everton had 6 shots but none on net. The first real chance fell to Kieran Trippier who had a free kick on the edge of the box but Pickford handled it easily.
At the 10 minute mark the FFP protest continued as Evertonians showed their displeasure with the Premier League.
Everton continued to push forward and a nice move by McNeil led to a cross that Calvert Lewin met but could not get it past Dubrovka. Moments later it was Harrison driving forward and a nice pass into the path of Calvert Lewin forced a very good save from the Newcastle keeper. The Goodison crowd were eating it up and loving every minute.
Newcastle finally got hold of the ball in the 25th minute and tried to slow the game down with more possession. At this point Everton had had 25 touches in the opposition box with Newcastle recording only one.
Newcastle had another free kick and this time it was Branthwaite who cleared the ball but it fell to Almiron who volleyed the ball well over the top. A nice break from McNeil was fed to Harrison who returned the pass but the shot went narrowly wide. The counter attack saw a VAR check for a possible handball by Gueye but it was turned down.
Idrissa Gueye finally was given the yellow card after several warnings from the referee. The Everton press continued to be applied but Newcastle were getting some joy down the right side with Trippier often the provider of crosses into the Everton box. This time it was Isaak at the end of it but his header went narrowly wide.
The biggest chance of the match dropped into the path of Calvert Lewin who was wide open on the 6 year line, chested the ball down, turned and volleyed the ball over the net. Calvert Lewin was dragged to the ground by Trippier and the resulting free kick from McNeil was delayed as the VAR checked to see how Tarkowski ended up with two huge scratches on his arm.
Three minutes of additional time was announced and that was then extended when Fabian Scharr and Jarad Branthwaite collided and needed attention from the medical staff. The minutes drifted away with neither team getting anything before the half time whistle blew. A half of chances missed for the Blues. Would they regret that fact. They had an xG value of almost 2 goals with nothing to show for it.
The second half kicked off with Everton attacking the Gwladys Street End. A lovely bit of passing with McNeil in the middle of it all gave the Evertonians what they wanted and the first corner of the half. McNeil delivered and Dubrovka fumbled the ball and fell onto the post as he pushed the ball out for another corner. Chaos ensued but they could not get the ball in the net.
Newcastle slowed the game down again but Everton kept on chasing. The biggest cheer of the night rang down after Anthony Gordon skied the ball into the Park End much to the delight of the crowd. It was lovely to see him smiling and enjoying the banter with his former teammates.
Newcastle were starting to pick up the pace and their control was starting to grow. With 30 minutes remaining there was still lots of time left and allowing the Magpies to press was going to be a problem. A Pickford pass to Tarkowski was intercepted by Gordon who should have done better. Pickford took the low shot easily and sent Everton on their way. Calvert Lewin was again the target man but his header looped over the bar.
A quick break from United saw Isak weave down the wing and then put the ball into the path of Gordon who tried for the corner but missed by a long way. More cheers, more smiles. A worrying moment for Everton saw Seamus Coleman leave the pitch and be replaced by Nathan Patterson. It was hard to say that there was anything visible other than an errant boot from Gordon which caught Coleman on the inside of the calf.
The pressure was building and the Everton resolve was growing. It was one way traffic but there were still very few real chances for the zebras. Everton were buzzing around the net and it was nice to see Doucoure on the end of a cross but his jump was poorly timed and the power was lacking.
Everton’s keeper took a clearance kick and seemed to injure his knee. A delay of three minutes ensued but the England number one was back in the goal to continue. The break seemed to distract everyone because Kieran Trippier made an awful mistake and allowed McNeil to nick it off him and he drove to the net. The shot that resulted was incredible and Dubrovka had no chance.
Goodison erupted. Everton were out of the relegation zone. Would they still be there in 10 minutes.
Newcastle were desperate and started to throw everyone forward. It was a scramble but was there going to be any quality. Calvert Lewin received a yellow card for a professional foul and moments later he was withdrawn for Beto. A solid 85 minutes for the striker. Everton were on the front foot and Harrison had a pop but the shot deflected over the goal.
Incredibly, it was Kieran Trippier who made the huge mistake again when he tried to make a pass but this time it was Harrison who blocked it, passed into McNeil whose shot was saved then fell to Doucoure who plastered the ball into the corner of the net.
The 4th official signalled 10 minutes of extra time which was ridiculously high and was booed vociferously by the 39,000 Evertonians in the ground. Newcastle struggled to get anything going as Everton pressured the ball al over the park. Anything that got close to the Everton box was quickly mopped up by either Branthwaite or Tarkowski.
It is not often we hear Ole’s ringing around Goodison Park but that happened and the perfect ending to the game arrived with the final pass getting to Beto who drove strongly and then slotted it through the legs of Dubrovka. Unfortunately, VAR wanted to look into it and in the end the cheers changed to ole, ole, ole, ole, Beto, Beto. 3-0
Everton Man of the Match: Dwight McNeil: There were many strong performances today but it was the winger who scored for the second game in a row and set Everton on their way to victory. His quality of finish and his all action performance was excellent.
The continued absence of Amadou Onana forced Dyche to shuffle his pack again. With the welcome return of Seamus Coleman it allowed Ashley young to take up a place on the right of midfield with Harrison more central and McNeil in his usual position on the left. This put Doucoure back next to Gueye as the shield for the back four. The more central position of Jack Harrison gave him a greater chance to get involved in the play and be able to drive forward and use his great vision to spread the ball around the pitch. Ashley Young was also free to drive forward with the knowledge that Coleman was behind him to provide the cover that he needed.
Throughout this season we have talked about the finishing of the team and the defensive solidity. Today was no different. We were competitive and we were in the game. Thankfully, the defense held solid and the chances finally started to go in! Three goals against a very good Newcastle team should be applauded.
The return of Anthony Gordon was much anticipated and the young winger was enjoying every moment of the match. The Everton graduate played a mature game and did not let his emotions get the better of him even though that was a distinct possibility. Thankfully, he left his shooting boots at home and he was unable to deliver the killer blow against his old team. He is a talent that we will regret losing for many years but he saved us financially and will always be a Blue deep down inside even if he kisses that bloody zebra badge on his chest.
Today was a great game that will be remembered by many. We have the solidity at the back and we are not putting the ball in the net. Dyche said that we have been doing things right for a long time but we weren’t finishing. Today we did and we will bounce right on to the next match against Chelsea. Another great moment at the Grand Old Lady.