A Kyle Naughton own goal just before half time saw Everton take a point from the Liberty Stadium against a spirited Swansea in a game that saw the Blues give the Welsh side far too much possession, despite match statistics that will suggest it was a very even contest.
The clash of the two most shot-shy teams in the Premier League wasn’t expected to set the pulses racing, despite the need for both clubs to go hard for the three points, Swansea to aid their fight to avoid the drop into the Championship, Everton to try and regain some semblance of pride from a woeful season.
Portuguese manager Carlos Carvalho has worked since he joined Swansea in crisis and in very real danger of relegation, but under his leadership the Welsh outfit have recorded seven wins in nine home games at the Liberty Stadium in league and cup games, but are on a three game winless streak going into this vital game against the Blues. For the home side, Carvalho selected his line-up: Fabianski, Naughton, Fernandez (c), Mawson, Olsson, Ki, King, Carroll, Narsingh, Andre Ayew and Jordan Ayew.
For the visit to south Wales, Everton manager Sam Allardyce made one change to the starting eleven that began last weeks ‘derby’ against Liverpool, the fit again Gana Gueye replacing Tom Davies who dropped to the bench. With the Blues seeking their first back-to-back away victories since (incredibly) September 2016, and Cenk Tosun looking for another goal to tie Wayne Rooney as the leading scorer on the road with four goals, Allardyce named his side: Pickford, Baines, Keane, Jagielka (c), Coleman, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Rooney, Walcott, Bolasie and Tosun.
Lee Mason was the referee allocated to this game on the first sunny Saturday of 2018.
A quiet opening to the game with the Blues looking to absorb Swansea’s attacking forays and hit them on the break. Carroll received a lecture for a stiff challenge on Rooney before Andre Ayew earned the games first corner that came to nothing. The home side though had slipped smoothly into gear to take the early upper hand in the sunshine with Ayew and Carroll causing Everton problems down Baines flank.
Swansea were really up for the game on the back of Southampton having fallen to Chelsea in the early kick-off and the Blues had to be alert to deal with the pace of Ayew and the following up of Ki that saw a shot from distance draw the first save from Pickford on 12 minutes.
Everton weren’t looking very coherent with passes going astray too easily and as the home side got froward quickly again, it was Rooney with a fine defensive tackle to prevent any real danger, before a wayward backpass from Keane almost earned the home side another corner.
A long ball from Rooney for Bolasie saw Naughton concede the Blues first corner kick that Swansea cleared for a lighting quick break that ended with Jordan Ayew seeing his shot deflected wide, and Tosun on the post made a vital goal line clearance to deny Andre Ayew from the resulting corner.
It was all Swansea now and Pickford did well to deny Ayew following a free kick against Rooney for a rather innocuous challenge. Everton were struggling to get a real foothold in the game with passes going astray too often with Sammy Lee far from impressed or happy watching on the touchline.
Narsingh showed Keane a clean pair heels with another quick charge forward, but his cross into the box saw no Swansea player on hand to make the most of it.
Everton finally woke Fabianski from his slumbers on 34 minutes with Bolasie trying his luck from long range that the former Arsenal keeper had no problem with. Referee Mason had a word with Wayne Rooney following a challenge on King before Keane had two bites at a Rooney free kick, the second into the side netting.
And incredibly, Everton took the take the lead on 42 minutes, somewhat against the run of play. Bolasie saw a shot saved by Fabianski, Gana Gueye was denied on the follow-up but an attempted clearance by Mawson came off Naughton to cross the line for a clear own goal confirmed by goal line technology.
Fabianski denied Tosun from adding a second before the half time whistle saw the Blues lead at the break courtesy of the Naughton own goal.
Half Time: 0-1
Introducing the Everton Mishmash!
Narsingh was replaced by Nathan Dyer for the second half, the Dutchman having twisted an ankle around the half hour mark of the first half.
Carroll wasted a glorious chance for an early equaliser as he got no power on his header and Pickford made a comfortable save to protect the Blues slender lead as the home side again started on the front foot. The Ayew brothers linked well again as Swansea sought the tying goals and Pickford was called upon again to deny Andre with a slightly edgy save.
A good break by Coleman saw him set up Tosun, but his shot was blocked and Swansea broke quickly again through Andre Ayew testing the speed of Jagielka who defended well to prevent a meaningful shot on goal.
Rooney with a right wing corner saw the ball cleared but Jordan Ayew racing out caught Baines and referee Mason had no hesitation in wielding the games first yellow card.
An error by Coleman gave the ball away to Olsson, but the Irishman got back to win the ball at the expense of a corner that saw Keane head clear as Swansea threw men into the box.
Abrahams replaced Ki on 65 minutes as the home side looked to add some height and pace to their attack. Olsson was beginning to test Coleman down the Everton right side as the home side increased their work rate again.
Everton made their first change on 69 minutes with Beni Baningime replacing Gana Gueye ahead of Dyer firing over when he really should have hit the target with Pickford livid at the defence for allowing him the space.
Michael Keane denied Jordan Ayew at the expense of a corner that Tosun again made a goal line clearance on, Everton failed to clear the ball adequately and when the ball came back again from Carroll, Jordan Ayew was on hand to fire home the equaliser on 71 minutes.
Coleman and Walcott made ground down the right linking with Tosun and the ball eventually fell for Coleman for a blistering shot that cannoned back off the crossbar as the Blues sought to regain the advantage.
Ramiro Funes Mori made his first appearance of the season on 76 minutes coming on for Yannick Bolasie in a defensively minded substitution that was not too well received by the travelling Blues support. The Argentine gave away a quick free kick and Abrahams wasted the chance to put his side ahead as a Carroll free kick was headed down for him and he blasted over from less than ten yards.
A clumsy challenge from Dyer brought down Walcott to give Everton a free kick in a good position, Rooney quickly claiming the ball from Baines but, curling the shot just too high.
Nikola Vlasic prepared to make a cameo appearance, following a delay for treatment for Baningime following another robust challenge from Ayew, the Croatian eventually replacing Rooney on 87 minutes.
Carroll lofted another free kick into the Everton box with Keane clearing only for the ball to come back in and RFM to concede a corner as three extra minutes were signalled.
Everton had a glorious chance to nick it in added on time as Walcott and Coleman combined again but Cenk Tosun got nothing on his header.