Everton missed out on the chance of their first Premier League victory as a poor defending at a late Brentford corner gifted the hosts an equaliser. Anthony Gordon had given the Blues a first half lead and the hosts hit the woodwork three times but, it was the problem that haunted Everton all of last season that cost them the victory.
With three games played in the new Premier League season, Saturday’s hosts Brentford began the day in a healthy eighth place after a one win, one draw, one loss opening to their campaign, compared to the one draw and two loss beginning for the Blues.
In their last home game, the Bees stunned not only their opponents Manchester United but, most of the football community with the directness, fluidity and sheer pace of their attacking as they completely dismantled the opposition with a devastating opening 35 minutes that saw them race into an unassailable 4-0 lead. The only surprise on the day was they didn’t go nap or even more against United. So Everton were well aware of the threats posed by Thomas Franks side in this the Blues first visit of the season to the capital.
Brentford like Everton have had some early season injury issues to contend with and Franks advised his media briefing of the progress of the players concerned noting, ”Kristoffer Ajer played an hour on Friday as he steps up his comeback from a hamstring injury. Sergi Canós remains a couple of weeks away while Ethan Pinnock (knee) is also out. Mikkel Damsgaard is not ready to start but, Mads Roerslev and Keane Lewis-Potter have both overcome issues following our midweek win over Colchester United and could feature against Everton.”
Previewing the game Frank indicated how thorough his preparation is when he said, “I’ve watched the three games Everton have played in the league, and I think they played a good and even game against Chelsea. It was a penalty that decided that game and it could have gone either way. Against Villa, they showed again how difficult they are to play against – they gave very little away. I think they were unlucky not to come away with a 2-2 after the Digne own goal. They deserved more against Nottingham Forest, but when you go a goal down in the 81st minute and then come back it’s a good point. They are very solid and difficult to break down, and they have a lot of pace up front.”
And determined to build on the six points his side took from the Blues last season, Frank named his starting line-up: Raya, Hickey, Jorgensen, Mee, Henry, Dasilva, Norgaard (c), Jensen, Mbeumo, Wissa and Toney.
Everton eased past Fleetwood Town in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday after securing our first point with the late equaliser against Forest. And since Tuesday, all the talk has been about transfer activity with any number of players being linked with moves to Goodison and talk of players leaving in sales and loan moves. The only definite departure news since the trip to Fleetwood was that of Dele Alli to Besiktas in Turkey on a loan deal. Alli had failed to live up to expectations following his arrival from Spurs and lack-lustre performances appear to have convinced the Director of Football, manager and coaching staff that his future lay elsewhere. Conversely, the only confirmed arrival came late on Friday evening and disappointingly too late for him to feature at Brentford was that of forward Neal Maupay from Brighton on a three-year deal.
Speaking on Thursday, manager Frank Lampard had some encouraging news when he advised, “Dominic Calvert-Lewin will train next week. I think he is slightly ahead of schedule. We must be calm, because we can’t push him at this stage. He is working really hard and with great focus out on the grass. If he trains in the middle of next week, will it make him available for the Liverpool game? That will be tough. But hopefully we can start looking at the games after that, if all goes according to plan.”
The boss also confirmed that, “Tom Davies we hope is in contention [for the Brentford match]. He had a small feeling in his groin in the warm-up before Fleetwood – he pulled out of that game but hopefully he’s in the squad for Saturday. Other than that, we’re pretty much where we were going into the Fleetwood game. We got some good minutes into some players on Tuesday, either those returning from injury or lacking fitness and game time, so that was a big bonus.”
His first game as Everton manager was a 4-1 FA Cup tie win over Brentford and hoping to replicate that kind of performance and result to earn what would be the Blues first ever win over Brentford in top-flight league football, he named his starting eleven: Pickford (c), Patterson, Holgate, Coady, Tarkowski, Mykolenko, Onana, Iwobi, McNeil, Gordon and Gray.
Our referee at the GTech Community Stadium was John Brooks.
Amadou Onana made his full Premier League start in what looked like a 3-4-3 formation for the Blues with Patterson and Mykolenko pushing forward to support the Belgian and Alex Iwobi in the midfield, and as usual, a sold-out travelling fans section making all the early noise in the warm sunshine.
An early shot from distance by Hickey took a deflection that nearly caught Pickford out, the England number one doing enough to shovel the ball behind for a corner that he then got an excellent clearing punch on to clear the early Brentford threat. Some good possession ans steady build-up play saw the Blues knock the ball around quite well before a stray ball from Tarkowski went out for a goal kick.
A long ball from Pickford found Mykolenko who quickly played in McNeil to slide a ball through for Gray, the trouble was Gray hadn’t anticipated the pass. Brentford countered at lightning pace and Henry played a ball across the Blues area for Mbeumo who curled his shot wide of the target – a glorious opportunity wasted for the home side.
Another decent build-up eventually saw Gordon find Alex Iwobi for a shot that Raya saved comfortably enough and the opening ten minutes had Everton enjoy decent possession but, they’ll need to be wary of the home sides pace on the counter attack.
Following a long ball by Pickford that saw Gray and McNeil get touches, good pressure from Gordon saw him take a shot that was blocked and Everton stayed on the attack to win their first corner on the right. McNeil took and his former Burnley team mate Mee cleared and the Bees quick break broke down as Tarkowski and Patterson tidied things up at the back.
A second corner from the right was won as Everton but, came to nothing and the home side went Route One with a long ball from Raya and a shot from Jensen cannoned back off the post and Everton then countered themselves with Gordon curling a shot straight into the arms of Raya.
Onana conceded a corner on twenty minutes that was played to the near post, Pickford doing enough to prevent Norgaard from getting a telling touch. McNeil on a feed from Iwobi tried to bustle his way into the Brentford area before being closed down and seeing his shot blocked and cleared.
Everton struck in the 24th minute as a great diagonal ball over the Brentford defence from Tarkowski found Anthony Gordon and he controlled it, and took his time before clipping his shot past Raya and inside the far post.
As Brentford poured forward for an immediate equaliser, the Blues nearly got caught out dallying on the edge of their own area, both Iwobi and Coady missing the chance to clear the ball and Coady getting a kick on the ankle for his troubles. The next ball forward by the home side saw a flailing arm from Toney catch Coady in the face and he needed a wash of the magic sponge before resuming play. Half an hour gone and so far so good for Frank Lampard and Everton as the travelling fans roared them on.
Another ball over the top found Gray to win another corner as his shot was deflected behind, the set piece from McNeil going just to high for Tarkowski to get on the end of, and Wissa tried to squeeze between Holgate and Pickford to reach a ball from Hickey as the home side went long again. A mistake by Patterson gave Henry the chance to cross that saw Toney hit the post with his header and Wissa blaze the rebound high over the bar – a lucky escape for the Blues, phew!
Tarkowski headed a Jensen free kick out for a throw-in that Jensen then took and eventually crossed to the back post for Mbeumo to hit a weak shot that Pickford gathered easily. A nice passing move by the home side involving Norgaard and Dasilva saw a shot from Mbeumo go wide, the referee deciding it took a touch on the way out and awarding Brentford a corner that they wasted.
Into the final five minutes of the half and another long ball caught Everton ball watching and thankfully, Wissa completely missed his kick. Lampard and his coaching staff will need to speak to the defence about being more decisive with their decision making under pressure. More possession play by the Blues broke down as a ball for Mykolenko from Iwobi went out for a goal kick. Two added minutes were announced as another fine diagonal ball from McNeil picked out Mykolenko to find Gordon for a shot that Raya held. Good play from Onana and McNeil led to a shot from Iwobi that floored Mee and the half ended with the Blues ahead on the Gordon strike.
Half Time: 0-1
Neither manager made any personnel changes for the start of the second half and Wissa twice pressured Holgate in the early moments with nothing ensuing. Hickey on a charge was halted by Mykolenko and Gray and as Brentford built steadily through the midfield, Onana was penalised for a foul. Jensen chipped it forward towards Toney, Alex Iwobi getting back for the clearing header. Dasilva got to the byeline from a throw-in to force a moment of panic before Holgate steered the ball away.
Another lucky escape for the Blues came as another long throw-in from Jensen bounced up for Norgaard to execute an overhead kick that hit the crossbar and fell into the arms Jordan Pickford. Everton were living a little dangerously and as with the first half, the defence needed to be constantly alert as Brentford employed their high press. Wissa was booked for treading on the left ankle of Onana and then Toney went in late on Holgate and was lucky not to see yellow.
A great tackle by Onana saw Patterson feed Gordon to find Gray, the ball coming out to Gordon for a shot that was blocked and Mykolenko on the follow up won a corner that was played straight into the arms of Raya. A collision on the touchline between Gordon and one of the Brentford coaching staff momentarily raised tempers before things calmed down and we passed the hour mark with Z-Cars ringing around the GTech Stadium from you know who.
A great chase back by Iwobi after he thought he’d been fouled saw him dispossess Toney before more pressure from Brentford ended with Mbeumo firing wide from just outside the area. Another cross from Henry was cleared by Tarkowski and the home side prepared a three man change as the long throw-in was easily gathered by Pickford. Mason Holgate who’d taken a knock in the build-up went down with a right knee problem, the stoppage allowing the other players to enjoy a drinks break.
Holgate left the field to be replaced by Michael Keane in the 68th minute and Brentford sent on Janelt, Baptiste and Lewis-Potter at the expense of Norgaard, Wissa and Zanka.
Twenty minutes to play and Brentford won a left wing corner, Keane getting the initial ball out of the area but, it came straight back in and Pickford saved well from a Janelt header. Brentford were keeping the pressure on but weren’t overly working Jordan Pickford. And when the Blues broke, a great ball from Onana released Gray who delayed on the shooting chance and that allowed Mee to get back and defend at the expense of a corner that saw Tarkowski win the header but, was unable to direct it on target.
Brentford appealed for a handball against Alex Iwobi, VAR checked it decided it was accidental and more changes came as Danish international Damsgaard replaced Mbeumo and Tom Davies got the final 13 minutes as Amadou Onana got the early finish.
Mykolenko went down with cramp in his left leg after conceding a corner with a good tackle on Dasilva Pickford was yellow carded from the corner after time-wasting having failed to prevent a second that saw Keane and Davies work the ball away as we hit the 80-minute mark. Another Brentford corner was played to the front post, flicked on and Janelt in oceans of space tapped home the equaliser – poor, poor set piece defending by the Blues, the bane of last season rearing its ugly head again.
Salomon Rondon replaced Dwight McNeil and Ruben Vinagre replaced Vitalii Mykolenko for the restart with less than five minutes of normal time to be played. Five added minutes were signalled and it was now all Brentford as they poured forward for a winner and made a fifth change as Dasilva was replaced by Sorensen. Anthony Gordon was booked for cynically scything down Baptiste after Vinagre was caught upfield. As hard as they tried though, Brentford couldn’t find a winner and Hickey was booked for an agricultural challenge on Vinagre… and time slipped by.