Everton secured a point from their first trip to the Amex Stadium thanks to a late penalty from Wayne Rooney after another largely disappointing performance that will do little to quell the angst and frustration currently being felt by many Everton supporters
Brighton manager Chris Hughton looking for a third home win on the bounce lined up: Ryan, Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner, March, Stephens, Proepper, Knockaert, Gross and Murray.
Everton in much need of a win to appease a fan base in danger of losing patience saw manager Ronald Koeman again stick with his seemingly preferred two defensive midfielders in selecting his startling line-up: Pickford, Baines Jagielka (c), Keane, Holgate, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Vlasic, Sigurdsson, Rooney and Calvert-Lewin.
Referee for the afternoon was Michael Oliver.
A patient opening to the game saw Everton having plenty of the ball, but the pace of the game was somewhat pedestrian for the first ten minutes or so until a strong challenge by Duffy on Rooney set the home side away and Schneiderlin had to get back quick to dispossess Murray before he could get a shot away.
A Sigurdsson free kick into the area saw the Brighton goalie Ryan punch clear whilst flattening one of his central defenders and Phil Jagielka.
The best chance of the opening twenty minutes came as Sigurdsson, playing more centrally, found Vlasic and he laid the ball into the path of Gueye whose low shot was turned away by Ryan at the expense of a corner with Rooney closing in.
Another Sigurdsson free kick, this time from the right, was flicked on by Jagielka but Calvert-Lewin couldn’t steer the second header on target to test Ryan in the home goal.
A midfield give-away from Gueye gave Brighton the chance to get forward to win their first corner of the game off Holgate from which Knockaert had a shot blocked and the follow-up from Dunk was put behind by a brave block from Keane.
As half time loomed with the home side increasing in confidence slightly and enjoying a bit more possession, Evertonians everywhere were hoping the second half would see a marked increase in the pace of the game and much more attacking intent from the visitors.
Half Time: 0-0
No changes to either side during the break, we could only hope for a change in self-belief and confidence together with an increase in concentration and pace to try and get some momentum and domination of the game.
Good work from Vlasic and Holgate on the right saw the Ryan make a decent save from Holgates’ fierce shot and the Brighton defence clear in something of a panic. Vlasic with a nice turn and cross found DCL but again his header didn’t have enough on it to overly trouble Ryan, but at least Everton had made a couple of half chances.
The game though was still largely turgid viewing, Everton with more possession but doing precious little with it, Brighton with less of the ball, but more direct.
Dunk was booked on 66 minutes for a needless pullback on Rooney giving Everton a free kick which led to a foul on Holgate about 25 yards out. Baines, Sigurdsson and Rooney discussed the options with the Icelander sending a poor low free kick harmlessly wide of the target.
Substitutions began on 69 minutes with Oumar Niasse replacing Gana Gueye and Brighton three minutes withdrawing March for Izquierdo Mena and Huenemeier replacing the injured Shane Duffy.
DCL shrugged off Bruno to get to a cross from Rooney, but again the shot lacked power and Ryan gathered safely.
Everton were denied a penalty when Sigurdsson clearly had his shirt pulled by Gross, but Michael Oliver – with a clear line of sight – somehow failed to see the infringement.
DCL climbed well to get to a long ball from Schneiderlin and find Niasse with the header, but the Senegalese fired high wide and not at all handsomely.
Almost inevitably, Everton shot themselves in the foot as with just eight minutes left on normal time, Bruno got down the right flank to cut back for Izquierdo whose effort rebounded off Keane to fall nicely for Knockaert to fire home from twelve yards.
Everton got a much-needed lifeline five minutes later when DCL went down from a blatant elbow from Bruno and Wayne Rooney gleefully converted the spot kick low to the left hand corner much to the relief of the travelling fans behind the goal.
With four extra minutes signalled, the game was there to be won if either side were to show any real ambition, and Koeman withdrew Rooney and to add Tom Davies and Kevin Mirallas for the final throws of the dice.
Mirallas was booked for a stupid, blatant ankle tap on Dunk before forcing Ryan into a late double save and see the game out.
Full Time: 1-1
Personal thoughts on today.
For me once again, Everton showed very little in terms of leadership on the field. There is no one or two players who truly stand up to be counted, who can take the game by the scruff of the neck and get the rest playing with more confidence.
Even Wayne Rooney, with all his experience, doesn’t currently seem capable of performing the ‘leader’ role, right now he is one of many players struggling in a team overloaded with ‘followers’.
Manager Koeman persisting with Gueye and Schneiderlin smacks of safety-first, defensive negativity to me, Davies with Gueye would be my preferred option as Tom offers more energy and right now more offensive tendencies than Schneiderlin.
It was better seeing Sigurdsson playing in a more central role, but his free kicks lacked the quality we’ve been waiting for and are still waiting for.
More worrying for me is the massive lack of pace, drive and ambition in the teams that Koeman has selected in recent games, if not all season. We look inhibited, slow, ponderous and that does not pose any opposition any real threat. Only Nikola Vlasic seems to play without inhibition, let’s pray that continues.