Everton snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Wednesday night with some shambolic defending that saw them concede early, get pegged back after a brace of spot kicks from Richarlison had put them ahead and then fall behind late to again deepen the threat of relegation.
Ten games to go and after the loss at West Ham, the trip to Turf Moor took on even greater importance for Everton Football Club. A victory would open up a six-point gap over the Clarets but, another loss would pull the East Lancashire outfit level on points with just nine games to play – could the stakes get any greater?
It’s an equally important game for Burnley too as manager Sean Dyche outlined saying, “It’d be a big thing for us to beat them. We certainly want to get something from the game and winning would obviously be another shift forward. We’ve got to earn it, I can’t re-enforce that idea enough. We’ve got to work for it, show the desire, the commitment but also the quality of performance to go and win.”
He went on to stress the need for a solid mental application from his players, “It’s a very important game, we’ve got 10 important games now. We went in there [the Manchester City game] a little bit out of kilter with the usual league programme because of the enforced break and I thought that it showed through a bit in the first half more than the second. That mentality from the second half is going to be important for us to have moving forward.”
And he further emphasised the importance of retaining their hard-earned Premier League status, “The job is to make it happen. You can’t wait for things to get given to you in the Premier League because they don’t get given to you, it’s a very difficult league. We’ve had to earn every inch of our life in the Premier League [so far] and we’re keep doing that over the next seven weeks and 10 games.”
Burnley had a number of squad issues to deal with as skipper Ben Mee, midfielder Johann Berg Gudmundsson, defender Erik Pieters and striker Matej Vydra were all doubts for the visit of the Blues although defender Nathan Collins was available having served a one-match suspension. Ultimately, Dyche named his starting line-up: Pope, Roberts, Collins, Tarkowski (c), Taylor, Lennon, Westwood, Brownhill, Cornet, Rodriguez and Weghorst.
Everton manager Frank Lampard too knew the outcome of this fixture could have a huge impact on the fight for Premier League survival when he admitted to being ‘calm and excited’ ahead of a game he dubbed ‘a big deal’ and he alluded to the task ahead for his team when he noted, “Burnley make it very difficult, they are very physical and tough to play against. They work hard off the ball and have a certain style, which is difficult to combat. We have to be up for the basics of the game, in terms of physicality, and do those things [compete and work off ball] right to get the result.”
And in similar vein to his opposite number, Lampard underlined the need for an exemplary mental approach to the game saying, “Solidity is a trademark of Burnley’s, they are never easy to beat, they don’t concede many goals and are very effective in what they do. But I don’t want to undersell them, they have individual qualities and good individual players. Our mental approach is very important, the game is a big deal. We are fighting… To try to stay in the league and with every game that goes, it becomes more intense. The mental and physical preparation is key and the squad will be very focused and understanding of what we’re going into.”
With midfielder Allan and defender Michael Keane both suspended, and loanee Donny van de Beek injured along with Nathan Patterson having had his season ended by the need for an ankle injury operation, joining Andros Townsend, Yerry Mina and Tom Davies all on the unavailable list. Skipper Seamus Coleman was hoping to be passed fit to play after illness as was Fabian Delph after a horrendous run of time out injured.
And the manager was clearly hoping the former England midfielder could yet play an important role in the end of season run-in when he commented, “Fabian Delph is back in the squad, which is good news for us. He’s been working hard to get back in there. It’s a position where, obviously, we haven’t got a lot of players in the squad – that natural defensive midfield position. He’s played in there throughout his career and even as a left-back a lot at Manchester City, so he has those attributes and thought processes in terms of playing which we haven’t got much of. Trying to keep him fit in this period is crucial for us and everything I’ve seen from him here shows he’s desperate to get back and desperate to help.”
With many Evertonians feeling this was even more than the proverbial six-pointer, and many watching on TV from behind the sofa and chewing finger nails down to the bone, Lampard set out his stall naming his starting eleven: Pickford (c), Kenny, Godfrey, Branthwaite, Mykolenko, Holgate, Doucoure, Iwobi, Gordon, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.
Much to the dismay of any Evertonians, the Premier League saw fit to appoint Mike Dean as the referee.
Burnley in a conventional 4-4-2 formation while Everton looked like a 4-3-3 with Gordon looking to push up alongside Richarlison and DCL, and defending the end where the ever-loyal travelling legions were camped and in good voice.
And Mike Dean inevitably made his mark on proceedings by showing Mason Holgate a yellow card inside three minutes despite him clearly winning the ball in a tackle with Cornet. Everton defended an early Burnley corner but the counter attack fizzled out tamely on a misplaced pass from Alex Iwobi. A left wing surge by Taylor was halted by a solid tackle by Jonjoe Kenny only for Burnley from the throw-in to work a shooting opportunity for Westwood who bent his effort well wide of the far post.
Brownhill was booked for pulling Richarlison back as he looked to get away on a ball from Iwobi after Mykolenko had broken up a Burnley raid – DCL getting caught offside on the free kick. Mykolenko did well to deny Lennon at the expense of a corner that Cornet swung to the back post where Collins arrived to give the Clarets a 13th minute lead with a calm sidefoot finish – absolutely disastrous defending once again in the six yard area.
Lennon won another corner on the right as Burnley looked to press home their early advantage, Cornet again with the set piece to the near post where Richarlison headed away and Doucoure completed the clearance. Fifteen minutes gone and Everton really needed to calm things down and look to get forward and blow me down – Gordon took a ball from Kenny to beat Westwood and down in the area and Mike Dean awarded the penalty. VAR checked it and the decision stood, and Richarlison calmly rolled in the equaliser to send the away support into raptures.
Two goals inside the opening twenty minutes, heats pounding all over Turf Moor and in Tvland, and it was back to being anybodies game – which team would garner the composure to take charge. Brownhill was penalised for a challenge on Doucoure that given he’d already been booked meant he was a little fortunate not to see a second yellow card. Doucoure won a ball in midfield and with DCL going right, he picked out Richarlison on the left and he cut in to see a shot deflected away for a Blues corner from their right. But the corner kick from Gordon went out of play – another wasted opportunity to put the home defence under pressure.
Iwobi latching onto a loose ball from Weghorst fed Richarlison and he tried to find DCL after his shooting lane was closed off, Burnley smuggling the ball clear. A nice Everton move saw Richarlison get forward and via Doucoure get the ball to Gordon and his shot hit Cornet in the nether regions much to the amusement of Blues who gleefully encouraged him to, “don’t hold ‘em, count ‘em”.
Everton had responded well since drawing level and were looking more confident as we reached the half hour mark, closing down quicker in midfield and Gordon, in particular, pressing forward to hurry Burnley into hasty clearances. A Burnley attack did allow Lennon to get wide and cross Doucoure got back though to head clear and skipper for the night Jordan Pickford gathered easily. Richarlison with clever footwork got away down the left to cross into the area but, too deep for DCL and Gordon. Everton kept coming forward and another cross from the left was hastily cleared by Burnley.
Everton were now seeing much more of the ball, Mykolenko again getting forward onto a ball from Iwobi played a lovely little dragback and was felled by Lennon. Referee Dean waved it off but, VAR again looked at it and called referee Dean to the touchline to review the video footage… and he rightly reversed his decision to award the Blues a second spot kick. Richarlison again stepped forward to take responsibility and equally as coolly, the Brazilian sent Pope the wrong way and the Blues led five minutes before the break.
Burnley tried to get back into it by winning a corner that Pickford punched clear and Alex Iwobi got back to deny Lennon and hook the ball clear to midfield. The travelling fans were now really making their voices heard with ‘Super Frankie Lampard’ echoing around Turf Moor.
Three additional minutes were announced and Kenny did well to defend a cross from the right from Lennon at the expense of a corner, that Richarlison headed away for a corner from the right. Cornet again with the inswinger and some headed pin ball eventually saw Richarlison hook the ball clear. Burnley desperate to get level before the break kept coming and Cornet won another corner off Mykolenko and once again Richarlison cleared and the whistle to end an eventful first half was heard.
Half Time: 1-2
Sean Dyche resisted the temptation to make early changes and Frank Lampard saw no reason either to make any half time changes. And quick start by both sides saw Everton clear a Burnley free kick and then the home side funnel back to defend crosses from Kenny and Richarlison. A long throw-in saw Burnley win the first corner of the second half off Holgate and Lennon failed to get a meaningful cross in.
A miscued clearance from Doucoure put the Blues under pressure before Branthwaite hooked it clear, Cornet then with a cross from the left right through the six yard area, Lennon collecting to get to the bye-line and cross for Westwood who saw his shot deflect behind off Gordon but, a goal kick was awarded by the not quite as horrible as we first though Mr Dean.
Everton broke forward through Gordon to spread the ball left to Richarlison who jinked inside and then outside to evade Roberts before blasting his shot just wide of the near post. Gordon won a free kick in midfield that saw Godfrey booked for time-wasting, his sixth card of the season. Westwood then saw a shot blocked by Godfrey and the Blues broke quickly with Gordon floating a cross to the back post that hit the cross bar before going behind for a goal kick off Richarlison.
The quicker start to the half by Burnley brought its reward when Taylor got away from first DCL and then Kenny to get forward and cross low for Rodriguez to score from close range on 57 minutes.
A Gordon corner for Everton was headed clear and when he tried a second cross, again it was Burnley who reacted the better to clear their area. The game was really nicely poised now and a one-two between Iwobi and Richarlison nearly worked a close range opening. Everton with some pressure pinned Burnley in their own half with Doucoure miscuing a shot to find Kenny for a cross that saw a spectacular overhead kick by Richarlison bring a good save from Pope at the expense of a corner that Burnley cleared comfortably.
Mykolenko working forward again made space for across that DCL couldn’t direct on target, the striker enduring a frustrating barren patch at the wrong time of the season. DCL won a ball to find Richarlison who unselfishly found Gordon and getting to the edge of the area, his shot was deflected for a corner by Tarkowski that saw Branthwaite head over the bar as the heavens opened and rain cascaded from the skies.
Twenty-five minutes to play, could Everton keep Burnley and bay and find a winner?
Doucoure set Gordon away on the right to win another corner that came through to Mykolenko and his cross from the left was headed clear and the Burnley counter was successfully repelled. A good challenge by Godfrey saw him win the ball and race fifty yards to feed Richarlison, his ball then aimed towards DCL being blocked and cleared by Tarkowski.
Changes saw Lowton replacing Roberts for Burnley and Demarai Gray coming on for Anthony Gordon on 73 minutes, and entering the final quarter of an hour, Lowton was booked for kicking out at Richarlison. Gray to Richarlison and his cross was just too strong for DCL as Everton pushed forward in search of a winner. Burnley pressure led to a corner conceded by Godfrey and Pickford reacted well to palm a shot from Cornet over for another Burnley corner, Godfrey heading clear and Collins getting back into the Everton penalty area hit the side netting.
Weghorst was replaced by Vydra with just over ten minutes to play, Burnley looking to throw the kitchen sink at Everton in the dying minutes. Doucoure to Kenny and inside to Gray saw him get forward and win a corner as his shot was deflected behind. Gray took it himself long to find Mykolenko and Burnley struggled to get the ball away. Pope quickly off his line to clear to touch before DCL could arrive saw Everton keep the ball at the right end of the field and Burnley made a third change on 84 minutes, Lennon replaced by McNeil.
Burnley incredibly took a dramatic late lead as the defence was slow to react from a throw-in, the cross from Taylor miskicked by Godfrey and Cornet burying the second cross from Vydra.
Rondon for Holgate was the 86th minute last throw of the dice by Frank Lampard as Turf Moor celebrated and it was now the turn of Everton to try and throw everything forward for a late equaliser. Four added minutes were announced and Rondon with his first touch – taking a short range ball from DCL – saw his snapshot go narrowly wide.
Everton couldn’t find a way back and a game they were controlling had slipped away and the gap at the bottom was worryingly narrowed.