Wolves came with a plan, executed it almost flawlessly and returned down the M6 with all three points, the only bright spot of another miserable afternoon for the Blues being a sumptuous strike from Andre Gomes.
After a workmanlike victory over hapless Huddersfield Town on Tuesday, the Blues retuned to Goodison to take on last season’s runaway Championship champions, Wolves.
Marco silva had injury and suspension issues to contend with with when looking to select his side with Lucas Digne out following his straight red card at Huddersfield, while Leighton Baines and Idrissa Gana Gueye both faced late fitness tests on rib and groin strains respectively. Yerry Mina was also unlikely to feature having left the Millwall cup tie at half time.
The main talking point in his pre-match press conference surrounded the on-off transfer to PSG of Gana Gueye and Silva commented, “When a club like PSG comes in, it is normal he starts to think about his future, but now he has stopped, the market is closed and I don’t have doubts we will see the best Idrissa again.”
Leaving it as late as he could to name his side, Silva eventually smitten HS team sheet thus: Pickford, Baines (c), Zouma, Keane, Coleman, Davies, Gomes, Walcott, Sigurdsson, Richarlison and Tosun.
Opposite number Nuno Espirito Santo had no such injury concerns and was able to include Willy Boly in his selection thoughts, the defender having served a three-game suspension.
But following the January transfer window, his squad is smaller than at the start of the season and he noted in his press briefing, “I’m not concerned. This is the way we should go with a small squad and back-ups, giving every player the chance to have minutes, because we believe this is the best way to improve and become better.”
With six wins in their last ten games, the visitors arrived at Goodison two points and one place better off than Everton in the standings, so a win would see the Blues leapfrog above them.
Trying to maintain their current advantage, Santo selected his side in a back three formation: Patricio, Otto, Boly, Coady (c), Bennett, Doherty, Neves, Dendoncker, Mountinho, Raul and Jota.
Our referee, for this repeat of the opening day fixture, was Lee Mason.
The opening five minutes were played almost entirely in the Wolves half with the best half chance being a lofted ball from Davies that Richarlison was unable to control for a shot.
On wolves first attack they were awarded a penalty as Doherty twisted and turned in the box, drawing Baines into the foul, Neves stroking home the spot kick.
Everton again had most of the ball for the next five minutes till a long ball from Coady saw Jota get free only to collide with Pickford who’d raced off his line to gather the ball.
On 15 minutes, Andre Gomes was booked for a foul on Raul as a bit of frustration came to the fore with Wolves beginning to spray the ball around confidently.
A giveaway by Davies gave Wolves another chance as Raul pounced to feed Dendoncker and it took a smart stop from Pickford to deny him with Gomes clearing the danger.
The Blues best move so far came on 23 minutes as Coleman, Davies, Walcott and Sigurdsson all combined with the latter feeding the ball neatly for Walcott to see his short range shot blocked.
The Blues drew level on 27 minutes with a stunning finish as they spread the ball left to right and Andre Gomes fired a terrific rising shot into the top corner, giving Patricio no chance.
Gomes was then lucky not to see a second yellow as, unseen by referee Mason, he fouled Jota. The next Wolves raid saw some fine defensive work by Coleman to stay with Jota and force him away from goal on left side.
The Goodison crowd were incensed by referee Mason when he called Walcott for a quick throw-in ahead of Baines leaving the game on 36 minutes to be replaced by Jonjoe Kenny.
Mason further enraged the home fans by booking Keane for a tangle with Jota and from the free kick, Moutinho clipped the ball to the near post for Raul to steal in a plant a header low into the corner of the net for the half-time lead.
Half Time: 1-2
Barely three minutes into the second half, Neves went down off the ball and after treatment was substituted by Saiss. Wolves skipper Coady was booked on 55 minutes as the Blues had started at a quicker pace but struggling to find any quality end product.
Marco Silva made his second change on 59 minutes sending Ademola Lookman on at the expense of Theo Walcott.
The game had turned scrappy with Wolves seemingly happy to soak up the Everton pressure such as it was, and looking to counter at pace.
Ans their tactics proved right as on 65 minutes, they broke down the right through Jota and despite the first effort being blocked, the ball fell nicely for Dendoncker to lash into the roof of the net from six yards.
A black cat joined the game from the Gwladys Street and evaded more tackles than the two teams put together before exiting to the Park End car park.
Calvert-Lewin came on in the 73rd minute as Silva threw an extra forward on, withdrawing Seamus Coleman. Wolves threw bodies in the way of a Keane shot after a Sigurdsson free kick was only half cleared.
Tom Davies saw yellow as Wolves looked to get forward through midfield as the visitors prepared to replace Jota with Costa on 76 minutes.
DCL was rather crudely upended just outside the Wolves penalty area, but the free kick from Sigurdsson came to nothing.
Large numbers of Blues fans decided enough was enough and made for the exits with ten minutes still remaining as Bennett flattened Richarlison with referee Mason waving play on.
A late flurry by the Blues saw Kenny work the ball to Richarlison on the left, his strong cross found Lookman who gave it back to Kenny to cross for DCL to head on target, but Patricio gathered comfortably.
The fourth official indicated seven extra minutes and Boly took a shot from Davies in the nether regions to see another small delay.