Frank Lampard and Everton suffered a third consecutive defeat as a first half curling shot from Almiron settled the outcome in a game that Newcastle had by far the better of and Everton came up woefully short from.
Another day, another game on the road and another chance for Everton to prove the critics and sceptics wrong if they could throw a spanner in the works of Eddie Howe and his resurgent Newcastle United outfit.
And current statistics would point towards the Toon resurgence continuing as to date they’ve posted the best defensive record in the Premier League with just nine goals conceded; have only one loss on their record away at Liverpool and with only one home loss in their last fifteen games at St,James’s Park, they came into this game as the clear favourites.
Speaking about the improvement Newcastle are enjoying, Eddie Howe said, “The collective ambition is to be a really good team in and out of possession. It’s an ever-changing thing – we can’t rest on our laurels or take what we’ve done at this point for granted. And every challenge is so unique in the Premier League, so now we come up against an Everton team that will give us a different test to the one we just faced at Old Trafford but hopefully, it’s one we will come through.”
And on the kind of task he expects from the Blues he added, “They’ve made progress. I’d say the games we had against them last season were both very tight, difficult games for both teams – not a lot in it. We anticipate a very similar test. I think they have improved. They’ve recruited well, and they’ve got a real physical edge to their side now. They’ll be threats on transitions, set plays, they’re a physical team, so we’re going to have to stand up to that physical test. But at home, with the crowd, I’d back us to do that.”
Howe had ongoing injury issues with goalie Karl Darlow, midfielder JonJoe Shelvey and forwards Alexander Isak and Alain Saint-Maximin but, was expected to include Fabian Schaer in his squad, from which he duly named his starting line-up: Pope, Trippier (c), Schaer, Botman, Burn, Longstaff, Guimaraes, Joelinton, Almiron, Murphy and Wilson.
Everton manager Frank Lampard was looking for an immediate bounceback from his players after the losses against Manchester United and Tottenham when he commented, “The players have to be robust and keep their confidence. We are stronger than we were last season. We’re different. At the moment, with the feeling we have, I don’t think we’ll be disrupted by the two defeats. Behind closed doors, can we analyse those games and be better? For sure. But we have to have belief in ourselves.”
He continued adding, “Newcastle are a robust, hard-working team and I always admire those attributes in a team. We feel we have those [qualities] as well. We know we are steps behind of where they are, but there is a level of optimism around here because people see little shoots of improvement. This will be very tough match in front of us. It’s an evening game in front of a tough crowd. There will always be a big atmosphere, so let’s show some personality there.”
And highlighting that his squad is still in a state of rebuild he noted, “Our midfield is new, sometimes the frontline has looked new, and there are a lot of things that are coming together. All these things are part of our process. It’s important for us to be very balanced about it. We knew we were coming into a tough run of games, but it’s about how we can apply ourselves best. Against Tottenham, a lot of the game plan and tactical nature of the team was spot on, until they get that goal and change the face of the game. We’ve come steps in the right direction, but there is never time for complacency because there is a lot of work to do.”
With Anthony Gordon available again having served his one game suspension and with Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Garner looking to break into the team from the outset, Lampard named his starting eleven: Pickford, Coleman (c), Coady, Tarkowski, Mykolenko, Onana, Gana Gueye, Iwobi, Gray, Gordon and Calvert-Lewin.
On a cool Tyneside evening, our referee was Tony Harrington.
Everton kicked off defending the giant Leazes End where the travelling fans were packed to the rafters literally after scaling the umpteen flights of stairs to reach their seats, and inevitably the home fans targeted Jordan Pickford with boos and abusive chants from the outset.
Newcastle with the first shot saw Guimaraes fire well over the bar and a couple of minutes later, Dominic Calvert-Lewin was yellow carded for a clumsy challenge on the Brazilian. Botman found Murphy wide on the left and he cut in to bend a shot just too high and out for a goal kick. Onana with some calm defending denied Almiron on the end of a Newcastle counter and through the opening ten minutes, the game had been fairly even.
Gordon appeared to be fouled by Burn and needed attention to his right knee after Botman collided with him as he went down hard and with no free kick awarded, a drop ball saw Iwobi pass the ball back to Pope in the home goal.
A training ground free kick routine by the home side saw Wilson send a header in on target but, with nothing like the direction or power needed to beat Pickford who gathered easily. Anthony Gordon with a clever play drew a foul from Murphy ahead of a through ball for Almiron seeing Pickford quick off his line to clear downfield and the Blues win a free kick for a foul on Gray. Play was halted after a coming together between Wilson and Onana saw the big Belgian go down and the referee calmed things down without the need to brandish any cards.
Joelinton was the next to foul Onana and this time the yellow card was waved and rightly so. Gray won the Blues first corner on the left side and he took it to find Dominic Calvert-Lewin who put his header just over the crossbar but, a decent effort for the centre forward. Newcastle countered and Coleman defended well to deny a cross from Wilson reaching Murphy. Newcastle were enjoying slightly the better of the possession but, Everton were defending resolutely until right on the half hour mark, Newcastle opened the scoring as Wilson laid the ball back to Guimaraes to find Almiron and the Paraguayan bent a shot into the top corner beyond the reach of Jordan Pickford.
Once again, Everton would need to come from behind and they were lucky not to fall two goals behind as a flowing move by Newcastle ended with Guimaraes sliding his shot across the face of goal and wide of the far post. It was all Newcastle now as they smelt blood and Tarkowski needed to concede a corner as Almiron tried to find a teammate in the six-yard area. Murphy with a cross to the back post for Burn saw Pickford punch the ball behind for a second corner to the home side that was thankfully poor and wasted.
Trippier found Guimaraes and again the Brazilian found the time and space to pick his shot only to see it again miss the target wide of the far post. Everton needed to get some possession and take the pressure off the defence only the midfield were being out-competed by Newcastle who were pressing and closing down quickly and denying the Blues any quality time on the ball.
Into the final five minutes of the half and Newcastle won another corner as Tarkowski denied Longstaff, the cross to the near post finding the head of Burn but he couldn’t direct his effort on target. Anthony Gordon took a tumble and had words with Joelinton who must have suggested he had taken a dive, and the Blues number ten was booked (AGAIN) for his reaction to whatever Joelinton had said.
Two added minutes were announced and other than Schaer picking up a yellow card too, nothing else transpired, sending the teams to the dressing room with the home side ahead and comfortably so.
Half Time: 1-0
Willock replaced Joelinton for the start of the second half for Newcastle, Frank Lampard resisted the opportunity to shake things up with a change or two.
Newcastle went straight back on the offensive before Demarai Gray got forward down the left flank, gained the area and cut a great ball back just begging for someone to arrive and bury it… and there was nobody there to make the most of a glorious opportunity. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was ruled offside as he broke forward onto a through ball from Iwobi as the Blues tried to get a foothold on the game. A counter broke down in midfield and allowed Schaer to go forward and find Almiron for a cross that found Wilson and it needed a good block from Coady to get the ball clear.
Schaer was needed to do some defending as Onana burst forward to feed Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the Newcastle defender putting the ball out for a throw-in that saw Iwobi caught offside. On 54 minutes, Wilson found Almiron in space to cut inside again and curl a shot from just outside the area over the bar. Dominic Calvert-Lewin won a free kick as Everton got forward but, a poor ball from Gray saw the ‘attack’ break down far too easily. Almiron needed some treatment after a tumble having been tackled well by Amadou Onana.
The travelling fans were doing their utmost to spark the Blues into some more sustained possession and pressure on the home goal but, the Blues were finding it hard to break through the Newcastle midfield who were proving a tough nut to crack as we passed the hour mark with just the one goal separating the teams. Gana Gueye was booked for impeding Wilson after carelessly losing possession, the free kick from Trippier sailing through the Everton area and out for a goal kick despite a slight touch off the head off Seamus Coleman.
Frank Lampard was imploring his players to be more assertive, urging them to press Newcastle but, it was the home side who broke at pace through Willock and Wilson to win a corner at the Gallowgate end that Onana headed clear and the follow-up cross sailed behind.
Twenty minutes to play and Newcastle looked to make more changes when Schaer went down and needed treatment. On 73 minutes, Murphy and Almiron were duly replaced by Anderson and Fraser respectively while Neal Maupay and James Garner came on for the Blues replacing Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Alex Iwobi.
A foul by Gordon on Anderson gave Newcastle a free kick wide that Trippier found Willock with, his header going wide, and another change on 79 minutes saw Dwight McNeil replace Demarai Gray. Into the final ten minutes and it was now or never time for the Blues however, it was Newcastle winning a corner that saw a weak header easily held by Pickford.
Everton got forward to win a left wing corner that Garner took but the home side cleared and countered quickly through Wilson and Willock firing well over the bar. The next Newcastle attack saw Anderson cross from the left to find the head of Willock who couldn’t direct it on target. Wilson was replaced by Wood with four minutes to play.
Anderson won the home side another left wing corner to eat up more valuable time, Trippier swinging it into the near post but Everton cleared and leading to James Tarkowski being the fourth Everton player booked for a foul on Fraser. Could Everton find a late, late equaliser as six added minutes were announced?
Everton cleared another Newcastle corner after Coady blocked a shot from Anderson behind and when Onana did get forward, Newcastle were back in numbers to clear. A clash of heads for Garner and Fraser saw more time added on as both received some attention from the respective medical staff.
And it was the roars of the home crowd that greeted the final whistle on another disappointing result for Frank Lampard, Everton and the tremendous travelling supporters.