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Stoke City 0-1 Everton: Match Report | Sloppy and Sluggish but Onana nabs the winner

Danjuma starts but the Toffees still look awful in pre-season action

Stoke City v Everton - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton and Stoke City were goalless at the break in what clearly looked like a preseason game, with both sides making unforced errors by the bucketful and showing a serious lack of goalscoring intent.

Starting Lineups

The Blues lined up in Sean Dyche’s preferred 4-5-1 formation from last season, with England #1 Jordan Pickford between the sticks, James Tarkowski captained the side alongside Michael Keane as the centrehalves, and the Ashley Young and Nathan Patterson as fullbacks.

The midfield trio was Idrissa Gueye with James Garner and Abdoulaye Doucoure; Dwight McNeil and Alex Iwobi lined up as the wide men with Arnaut Danjuma making his first start for the Toffees up front.

Match Report

The hosts begin their Championship campaign next weekend and looked the better prepared side for long stretches of the first half. Everton barely got out of their first half for the first ten minutes as Stoke won an early corner and pressed the visitors looking for the opener. Young had to make a desperate late challenge that earned him an early yellow card as well.

Everton though made things a lot harder for themselves throughout the first half, with player after player misplacing passes or getting caught out of position. The Blues commentary team raised an observation about the players looking ‘leggy’, and that might have been the most charitable thing we could have said about Everton.

You could take your pick of any one of the Everton starting lineup and point out at least a couple of mistakes they made, such was the level of incompetency on show. If Dyche was seething half as much as the fans were, then the halftime talk in the dressing room would have certainly rung clear throughout the corridors of the bet365 Stadium.

Doucoure missed an early chance when his volley from close range was charged down, but that aside there was little else for chances as crosses into the box weren’t met by any blue shirts.

Stoke won what felt like a dozen corners, most of them on the near side, Everton’s left, but were unable to take advantage of the Blues’ incompetency.

A late dangerous challenge on a breaking McNeil from Stoke’s Enda Stevens earned him a booking, with both Garner and the captain squaring up to the offender in anger. The freekick from Young was good with a header played back into the box, but the ball was cleared and that was that for the first half.

The second stanza started with a number of changes across the board - Jarrad Branthwaite, Amadou Onana, and Neal Maupay came on for Keane, Garner and Danjuma respectively. Everton showed more intent to begin the half, but that quickly dissipated.

Pickford was forced to make a smart save from a narrow angle before another couple of Stoke shots and crosses were blocked in the box. The tactic of hitting long aerial balls to Maupay might sound daft on paper or on this screen, and looked exactly that in execution as well. The one opportunity that did fall to him in the box thanks to a fortunate ricochet, the Frenchman sent where just about every one of his shots usually goes, Row Z of the stands.

Stoke City v Everton - Pre Season Friendly - Bet365 Stadium Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

At the hour mark Alex Neil made a slew of changes to conserve his players ahead of their season opener, and the clash was pretty much over as a contest. Then things got almost worse for the Blues - McNeil had a shooting chance on the edge of the box but tangled with a Stoke player and went down in a heap clutching his left lower leg. After some medical attention he was able to hobble off with Lewis Dobbin coming on for him at the three-quarter mark of the game.

Branthwaite and Patterson both were forced to make goal-saving challenges late on to preserve the clean sheet. Everton snatched at any chances they got, usually from outside the box, while lazy defending meant they kept giving away freekicks from dangerous areas.

The Potters looked the more likely to score in the closing minutes but the Blues did get two more great chances, both fluffed by substitute Dobbin. First, Onana’s ball into the box was met by Dobbin coming in late, but he wasn’t able to make good contact and his shot went well-wide. Then he ran on to Tarkowski’s fantastic diagonal ball, but he slipped the ball under the onrushing goalie and wide of the near post and 0-0 it stayed.

Where the ref found six plus minutes to add on late on we will never know, but the Blues won a corner on the right in the 96th minute. Dobbin’s corner was poor, Iwobi put it back in the box, Branthwaite nodded it backwards, Tarkowski headed the ball across the goal, Onana gambled and slid in, and in the melee of limbs with the goalie, the ball trickled in in front of the cheering away support! 1-0, final score.

The Blues do have one more friendly next weekend, but you would really have expected a less disjointed performance from a squad that has spent this much time together over the last few weeks.

Quick Thoughts

On his first start, Danjuma didn’t necessarily blow anyone away, though part of that is the side’s overall dysfunction as well. With little service or support, it doesn’t matter who we have up there.

Branthwaite looked calm and composed in the middle of defence, but is Dyche going to have the confidence in him to replace Keane the first week of the season?

Stoke City v Everton - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

No Demarai Gray in the squad likely means he’s gone isn’t he? There have been rumours of Crystal Palace, West Ham, Besiktas and even a bid from Saudi Arabia.

Another week, and still no striker. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was back at training this week, but it’s looking more and more unlikely that he’ll be fit for the first weekend of the season. Just a fortnight to go now before the season opener against Fulham.