For much of Thursday night’s ultimately emphatic victory over Newcastle United, it appeared that the Blues were going to turn in the type of home effort that fans have witnessed on several occasions already this season. Everton came out fast, looking to press the visitors high up the pitch and almost immediately began to reap the benefits, fashioning a flurry of chances between the third and eighth minutes. All seven efforts were either blocked or inaccurate and the initial storm subsided, with the Magpies actually the first to register any attempts on goal, managing a pair of decent shots around a quarter of an hour in.
Everton responded with another surge of attacking pressure a few minutes later, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin was unable to convert from a couple of presentable positions. The nagging feeling started to grow that the team may be repeating past failings in front of goal at Goodison Park, as the shot count and xG (Expected Goals) totals continued to climb, yet with nothing concrete to show for them. The pace of the game slowed a little, becoming less frenetic, but before the half ended Calvert-Lewin inexplicably fired high from point-blank range, firming up the notion that the Toffees could be en route to blowing another winnable home match.
The hosts went in at the interval having largely dominated proceedings - though visiting boss Eddie Howe puzzlingly stated that he felt his team had edged the opening period. That’s not what the naked eye saw; or the statistics, for that matter. Although the Magpies commanded possession, much of it involved harmless passing in non-dangerous areas of the pitch. They managed only nine touches in the opposition’s box, a third of Everton’s total, were outshot 13 to five and in xG terms, by 2.13 to 0.56. He was correct in suggesting that the game was poised, however, which was a cause of consternation for many watching home fans.
Taking Full Advantage, Finally
The Blues came out with renewed energy to start the second half: an encouraging sign, as all too often this has mystifyingly not been the case. But, following another half-chance from Calvert-Lewin in the 50th minute, the team appeared to to tire and Newcastle were able to gradually assume control. However, the Geordies were unable to capitalize, with Alexander Isak anonymous and the usually lively Miguel Almiron ineffective. In-form ex-Toffee Anthony Gordon seemed their most likely route to goal, but his shooting was erratic. Still, for a 20-minute spell Everton were flat and unable to regularly get into the final third in any numbers.
At this stage, it seemed that the hosts would be forced to hang in and to settle for a draw, which coming in wouldn’t have been considered a bad result - taking into account the quality of the opposition - but given the number and quality of chances they’d created would have had to be viewed as yet another squandered opportunity. Unexpectedly, the Blues found a second wind and went again, pressing the Newcastle backline and this time Kieran Trippier, as consistent a player as you’ll ever see, was forced into a terrible error.
Dwight McNeil, fresh off opening his account for the season on Sunday, was in confident mood and took full advantage with a sweetly struck effort. The Magpies attempted to rally, but minutes later Trippier was again put under pressure near the sideline, this time by Jack Harrison and again the Blues were clinical in punishing the mistake, Abdoulaye Doucoure showing that he can still contribute to the attack from a deeper midfield position. This setback visibly rocked the North East outfit, who suddenly looked like a side that had fielded the same ten outfield players for the fourth game in 12 days.
A Huge Moment
With the game in the bag, it was left for Beto to put a final exclamation mark on Everton’s performance. The Portuguese striker has cut a forlorn figure, with his league goal drought showed no sign of ending and his minutes on the pitch in short supply in recent weeks. The man is clearly an emotional character and is desperate to make his mark on Merseyside, that much is obvious.
The pace and raw power he displayed in rampaging down the pitch, shrugging off defenders before finishing adroitly, was impressive. He’ll never be the most polished of operators and clearly lacks the all-round game of Calvert-Lewin, but that play demonstrated his assets, just what he can bring to the team. Getting that first goal will be massive for the big man, who has proven himself to be a solid performer in a top European league - Serie A- and whilst his history suggests he is hardly lethal, he can be a regular goal scorer for the Blues.
Beto will still have to take a back seat behind Calvert-Lewin, who certainly could and should have scored on Thursday, but it’s interesting to note that both of his strikes for the club - he was introduced as a halftime substitute against Doncaster Rovers, in the Carabao Cup - have come from the bench. It’s encouraging to know that he can affect a game when not starting, but with renewed belief and a crowd supportive of an honest character who wears his heart on his sleeve, more big performances should follow.
Stats provided courtesy of fotmob.com