A superb team performance from Everton saw them halt the Seagulls flying start to the season and maintain their own unbeaten start, with Brazilian midfielder Allan having an outstanding game and creating both goals, a first half strike from Demarai Gray and an argued over penalty converted by Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Having safely negotiated the Carabao Cup tie in midweek, it was back to Premier League action and the long trip to Sussex to the Amex Stadium and the challenge posed by Graham Potter and his Brighton and Hove Albion side. Brighton with two wins from two sat proudly in fourth place with Everton just two points and three places behind in seventh, adding a nice degree of competition to remain at the top end of the table.
With crowds back to make their presence felt at games, Brighton chairman Paul Barber was quick to comment on the effect his fans have made in the early stages of the new season when he said, “We were thrilled to see supporters in every area of the Amex last weekend for the first time since February 2020. We knew that you would generate a great atmosphere and reception for the players, and we were all rewarded with a very good team performance and a second league win of the season as we beat newly promoted Watford 2-0. When we add our midweek Carabao Cup success at Cardiff City to the mix, it’s been an excellent start to the season.”
Graham Potter is now in his third season as boss of the Seagulls and has built a squad that play to his demands with energy and a directness that causes defences problems. Coming into the game, he was looking at employing a back three with former Everton defender Shane Duffy now back with Albion after a frustrating loan period last season north of the border with Celtic.
On the injury front, Potter had to wait on late fitness tests to see if midfielder Enock Mwepu and forwards Neal Maupay and Danny Welbeck could recover from shoulder and thigh issues respectively to feature either in his starting line-up or take places on the bench with Potter commenting on Friday, “Neal trained this morning and we need to see how he reacts to that, but we will have to see closer to the game. It’s the same with Danny, but he might be able to feature on the bench. Enock is a lot better than he was yesterday, so there’s an outside chance of him being involved on Saturday.”
Potter eventually revealed his starting eleven to be: Sanchez, Webster, Duffy, Dunk (c), Moder, Gross, Lallana, Bissouma, MacAllister, Trossard and Maupay.
Despite his sides good start to the new season, in his Friday press gathering, Everton manager Rafael Benitez needed to pour cold water over the rumours circulating regarding the imminent future of Brazilian striker Richarlison amid alleged interest from French giants PSG. And did so calmly but emphatically saying, “We are not considering selling him. He is our player and we are really pleased with him, really happy. Hopefully he can score a lot of goals this season for us.”
Assessing the first three games, Benitez added, “It could be better, it could be worse. Overall, the reaction and commitment of the players, the desire, and sometimes the way we were playing, I am happy with that. I know we have to improve things but at the same time I think everybody understands how difficult the transfer window is for us and how difficult the Financial Fair Play rules are for us. Still, we have time, we are working on that until 31 August [transfer deadline day]. We have plenty of time to try to do something.”
In the shirt time since his arrival at the club, the Spaniard has had a lot to deal with and he summed it up remarking, “And – with players who have been at the Olympic Games, the Euros, the Copa America – everything has been a little bit confused at the beginning, with a new manager, too. So, I think we are doing well considering all these things and I am sure we will improve in a lot of issues. At the moment, it is one step at a time and we have to be sure we have a strong team to play against Brighton.”
On injuries and player availability for Brighton, Benitez restricted himself to confirming that Fabian Delph wouldn’t play having picked up a shoulder injury; and after Saturday morning fitness tests opted for this starting line-up: Pickford, Coleman (c), Holgate, Keane, Digne, Townsend, Allan, Doucoure, Gray, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.
For this final game of August and on a lovely south coast afternoon, the Premier League appointed Jonathan Moss to be our referee.
With both managers setting their sides up in 4-4-2 formations, were we in for an afternoon of attacking, attractive footie with goals a-plenty, especially for the sold-out visitors section amongst the Amex crowd. Trossard with an early issue needed treatment inside the opening sixty seconds and was okay to carry on. Trossard again went down after taking a clearance from Keane in the face from short range as the early exchanges saw both sides negating each others efforts.
Albion goalie Sanchez launched the first real attack with Keane defying Trossard at the expense of a corner that saw Richarlison back to clear the ball to safety. Everton responded with Gray and Richarlison getting forward and Lallana steering a Coleman cross out for a throw-in. Maupay span away from Doucoure and shot from distance, the effort always rising and clearing the Everton crossbar without troubling Pickford. The Blues saw Demarai Gray leave the field after 12 minutes to receive some treatment for a knock before returning to the field. A good move saw Digne send Gray into space on the left to cross into the area for Townsend but, he couldn’t get a shot away and Brighton broke down the other end to see Maupay lay the ball into the path of MacAllister, his shot deflected for a corner off Keane, the set piece easily defended.
Some good defensive work saw the Blues clear another Brighton attack leading to Bissouma fouling Richarlison to prevent the Brazilian from getting beyond the halfway line. Everton won their first corner as a cross from Coleman went behind off Bissouma with Everton appealing in vain for a penalty, Digne sending in an inswinger that Sanchez caught confidently. Through 22 minutes with Brighton having had more possession, Everton needed to find a way to provide DCL with some service from width. Another stoppage saw Bissouma go down in centre field but he too was okay to carry on, after receiving some treatment.
The first real save of the game came from Sanchez getting down quickly to his left to turn a shot from Townsend around the post for a corner, after Allan and Doucoure had broken up a Brighton move in midfield – the set piece very disappointingly going straight into the hands of the home keeper.
With the two sides appearing well matched and largely cancelling each other out – a poor clearance from Sanchez was picked off by Townsend who fed Doucoure who feinted before shooting well off target – it was looking like the team that could improve their tempo and speed of movement would benefit. Everton nearly worked the opening goal as Richarlison latched onto a loose ball to feed Coleman on his right and his cross went behind DCL, Brighton only partially clearing and Richarlison shooting high over the bar. Everton had increased their tempo, now they needed to find the killer final ball or shot to be on target.
Brighton with some extended pressure saw Everton stand firm and defend calmly before breaking themselves with Doucoure and Gray combining with Brighton smuggling it clear. But, Everton came again and took the lead with a simply terrific goal… Allan won the ball in midfield and picked out a pass into space for Demarai Gray to race onto at pace, beat his marker and finish clinically with a low shot to give Sanchez no chance on 41 minutes.
Allan again at the centre of things getting forward to lay a backheel pass into the path of DCL, his shot going across the face of goal and out for a goal kick. Everton had done well in the first half, keeping Brighton at bay and growing into the game and finishing the half the stronger. Into three added-on minutes and Keane sent Gray away down the left again to win a corner off Gross, the cross going long and the second effort from the right saw Sanchez claim well under pressure. Webster with a decent run forward for the home side saw Holgate clear easily and the Blues deservedly led at the break with Jordan Pickford not having made a save.
Half Time: 0-1
Brighton with a half time change, MacAlister replaced by Veltman, while Rafael Benitez stuck to his starting eleven who’d done well in the first 45 minutes.
Bissouma and Richarlison got involved in some unnecessary bickering, ref Jonathan Moss not over-reacting and calming things down with a fatherly word in both their ears. Maupay to Trossard to Veltman saw his cross find Trossard and his mishit shot was partially cleared and Brighton won a free kick just outside the area on a foul given away by Doucoure, Gross striking a fierce shot through the Everton wall and Pickford making a good stop, Doucoure getting back to get the ball away for a corner that led to a rising shot from Veltman that cleared the bar.
The home side had started the second half quickly in their eagerness to get back on level terms, Everton needed to stay calm and composed at the back and ready to counter at pace when possible. Allan with another slide rile ass found Coleman to burst into the box and go down under pressure from Veltman, referee Moss immediately pointing to the penalty spot. Rcharlison and DCL got into something of a discussion over who would take the penalty, Richarlisob claiming the ball and eventually Seamus Coleman making the captains call to give the penalty to Calvert-Lewin, much to the disgust of Richarlison. After things calmed down, Dominic Calvert Lewin smashed the spot kick low to the keepers right for his third goal in three games and on his 150th appearance for the Blues.
Brighton reacted by withdrawing Lallana in favour of Danny Welbeck with just over 30 minutes to play. Pickford pushed away a Trossard shot ahead of Bissouma being the first player booked for a foul on Andros Townsend as he looked to launch another Everton attack. Richarlison was then booked for a foul on Bissouma – maybe he needed to be taken off to calm himself down – with Rafael Benitez talking to Alex Iwobi on the touchline as he prepared to warm up.
Richarlison put Sanchez under pressure latching onto a poor back pass, the Brighton keeper lucky to get the ball behind off the Brazilian for a goal kick. Twenty-five minutes to go and whilst not a classic, this was a game you couldn’t take your eyes off. A Trossard free kick was deflected wide for a Brighton corner, Doucoure and Richarlison working the ball clear with two headers leading to a break that saw a Gray shot blocked and cleared. DCL needed some treatment on his right thigh and Everton chose not to risk injury and he was quickly withdrawn and replaced by Alex Iwobi on 69 minutes.
Lovely one touch passing involving Richarlison, Gray and Iwobi almost worked a serious opening, Brighton relieved to smuggle the ball clear of their penalty area. Brighton made their second change, Richards making his debut replacing Moder on 72 minutes. Good defending by Holgate saw him block a Trossard shot as the Belgian twisted and turned to create a shooting chance. The travelling Evertonians on the Amex crowd were enjoying their day out, superb vocal support again to boost the team to defend their lead.
Into the final quarter of an hour and Everton were defending well and countering through Iwobi to find Richarlison on his right hand side, his shot go just wide of the near post. Doucoure and Iwobi launched another raid Doucoure stretching his leg to gain the Brighton are and shoot, Sanchez saving well and gathering the loose ball before Gray could get to it. Pickford knocked a shot from Trossard down and gathered it safely before anyone else could arrive as end to end football was bringing an exiting climax to the game.
Gross found Welbeck with Alan defending brilliantly and Everton made a second change, Andre Gomes getting the final ten minutes and Demarai Gray getting a standing ovation from the travelling Blues support as he slowly left the field.
Brighton still looking to attack saw Bissouma find Maupay but, he couldn’t direct his shot on target. A lovely ball from Richarlison sent Iwobi free down the left to junk inside and win a corner as his shot was deflected behind, and as the ball was part cleared, Gomes hit a firm shot that Sanchez gathered at the second attempt. Everton had late appeals for a penalty for a clear hold by Trossard on Richarlison, found by Iwobi again, turned down by both the referee and VAR. Five added minutes were signalled as Maupay down feigning a knock to the face to no avail, and the home fans streamed away from the stadium for the proverbial ‘early dart’.
Gomes won another corner for Everton to eat up some valuable seconds and the time eating exercise continued with Iwobi before the ball was worked wide right and eventually Brighton got it clear only to waste the late chance to hurt Everton. All the noise was now coming from the travelling Blues as Allan found Digne and his long range effort was charged down, and the final whistle heralded great scenes as the players enjoyed the reception they received for a thoroughly well deserved and executed victory.