All the good work and feelings gained on New Years Eve evaporated on Tuesday night as Brighton weathered the early Everton attacks to put on a masterclass of counterattacking and deadly finishing to rout the Blues with embarrassing ease.
Coming quickly after the well-deserved point gained at the Etihad, Tuesday evening brought Brighton to Goodison for the first home game of 2023. The Blues needed to make at least one change to the team as Amadou Onana, having picked up his fifth booking of the season, missed out serving a one-match suspension. Anthony Gordon and Yerry Mina were hoping to in contention following bouts of sickness but, Michael Keane was unlikely to even make the bench having incurred a knee strain.
One of the stars of the draw with Manchester City was Ben Godfrey and having been out of action since the opening day of the season, he was naturally delighted to have completed his first ninety minutes and in such a competitive game. Speaking first about the time away from training and playing he noted, “It felt good to be back. It’s always difficult when football gets taken away from you through injury – it was one of the toughest periods of my career but, I’m thankful for the people around me who kept me going and all the hard work is worth it in the end to be back out there with the boys.”
Turning his attention to the draw with City he added, “The point and performance can be massive for us. The game the other day (Wolves) didn’t go our way and it was heartbreaking to lose so late on. To have the character that we’ve shown today, to come to a tough place and leave with a point is big for us. They have quality players – it is what it is. As a defence we have to do everything to keep them out, regardless of who we’re up against. I thought today as a team and as a defensive unit we were reasonably solid.”
And looking ahead he remarked, “Consistency is key for us now. We’ll enjoy today, realise how important our character and hard work is to getting a positive result, then go and do it again. It’s so important that we show the same fighting spirit in our next games now, starting with Brighton.”
Manager Frank Lampard will know that the draw at the Etihad needs to be built upon and going in search of a much-needed victory, he selected his starting elelven to face Brighton thus: Pickford (c), Patterson, Coady, Tarkowski, Mykolenko, Iwobi, Gana Gueye, Davies, McNeil, Gray and Calvert-Lewin.
Losing Graham Potter to Chelsea hasn’t derailed the strong start to the season by the Seagulls as under Italian manager Roberto De Zerbi, the south coast outfit have maintained form to sit comfortably in a mid-table tenth place with 24 points accumulated prior to their New Years Eve loss to league leaders Arsenal at the Amex Stadium.
Despite that reversal to the Gunners, Brighton are in good form having won three of their last five games and a win at Goodison could see them climb to seventh in the table so another competitive encounter was very much on the cards. In team news for the Seagulls, De Zerbi confirmed that neither Adam Webster nor Danny Welbeck will play any part in the game but, he did have Moises Caicedo available after a one match suspension and Argentinian World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister too following his return from celebrations in Buenos Aires.
Brighton captain Lewis Dunk thinks the Seagulls can continue to improve and push on in the second half of the campaign when he said, “I think it’s been a really good year. We achieved our top finish in the Premier League last season and we have started this season really well. We’re building something good and hopefully 2023 can be even more successful. I think you saw on Saturday, despite losing to Arsenal, with the way we kept going that we have got a great group of lads, and we’ve shown for a long time that we will fight for each other right to the end.”
He continued, “It didn’t go our way against Arsenal but there were a lot of positives. We’ve got a long way to go under this manager but, we’re taking steps and we’re enjoying it. We didn’t start quite well enough, and you can’t beat a team like Arsenal conceding four goals like we did, which was frustrating.”
With plenty to play for, Brighton boss De Zerbi selected his starting line-up: Sanchez, Veltman, Dunk (c), Colwill, Estupinan, Caicedo, Gross, March, Sarmiento, Mitoma and Feguson.
Our referee was Andre Marriner.
With rain pouring, Goodison gave a minutes applause in memory of the Brazilian great, Pele who graced the Old Lady back in the 1966 World Cup and when play began, in a change from the norm, Everton were attacking the Gwladys Street End in the first half.
Sanchez in the Brighton goal was called on early to deny Alex Iwobi after Dominic Calvert-Lewin had reacted quickly to feed him following a free kick from Demarai Gray, the visitors defending the resulting corner. Everton were closing down quickly and more pressure led to nice turn by Iwobi and the ball came nicely for Davies to shoot from distance but, straight at Sanchez. The first Brighton attack of any note saw the Blues defending solidly until March got to the bye-line on the right to cross deep for Mitoma to get his header all wrong and the ball sailed high and wide of the target.
Brighton had weathered the early Everton attacks and struck just before the quarter hour mark as Caicedo played a ball diagonally crossfield that beat Patterson to find Mitoma and the Japanese international quickly gained the Blues area to score from close range with the Blues rearguard torn asunder.
Everton tried to respond quickly with Gray cutting in off the left to send in a low cross that was turned behind for a corner that Gray took and Sanchez gathered at the second attempt under pressure from Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Brighton countered quickly and Mitoma, found by Estupinan, crossed for Ferguson to hit a sweet volley on the turn that beat Pickford only to come back off the post – an escape for Everton that they would need to capitalise upon.
Brighton were now playing with confidence and Ferguson showed he was willing to tough it out with Tarkowski and on the next Brighton attack, he let fly with a rasping shot that just cleared the crossbar. Twenty-five minutes gone and Everton needed something inspirational and it nearly came as McNeil turned and crossed into the area where Sanchez again needed two bites at the cherry to ensure the save was made. Brighton again went down the other end at pace and won a corner that was played too long and sailed out of play.
Referee Marriner incensed the home crowd as Gana Gueye was penalised for a Sarmiento, the free kick seeing a shot from Gross charged down. McNeil sprayed a ball right to left for Gray who went for goal with Davies acting as a decoy, Gray winning another corner that sadly failed to produce. Gray on another charge was brought down to bring ironic cheers from the home support, McNeil taking the free kick too strongly for Tarkowski a the back post and the ball went out for a throw-in to Brighton.
Iwobi spread a ball wide right for Patterson to cross first time and find the head of Dominic Calvert-Lewin but, he couldn’t direct his header on target. Better from Everton as Patterson and McNeil got forward to put in a couple of crosses and a corner from the left found McNeil in space for a shot that March charged down and out, Sanchez making an easy gather of the ball from the second corner.
Less than five minutes left on the half and sections of the Goodison crowd were becoming frustrated at their sides inability to keep Brighton under pressure and tempers flared when Ferguson fouled Gana Gueye who reacted, the Brighton striker being booked for the tackle as two added minutes were signalled. Gray fired in a low shot from the corner of the area that Sanchez shovelled away and there were some boos at the sound of the half time whistle, mostly aimed at referee Marriner.
Half Time: 0-1
No changes by either manager for the start of the second half and it was Ferguson chancing his arm from just outside the area after brushing off a challenge from McNeil, his effort just too high. A twist and turn by Iwobi saw him cross deep for Dominic Calvert-Lewin but, the ball was too close to Sanchez and he moved the ball quickly to see the visitors double their lead as Sarmiento got free to cross for Ferguson to poke home from six yards on 51 minutes and set Everton a mountain to climb.
And it got even worse three minutes later as Brighton simply carved the Blues defence open to allow March to jink past Mykolenko and Tarkowski before picking his spot to give Pickford no chance.
McNeil overhit another free kick and Brighton broke quickly with Gross capitalising on an error by Gana Gueye to advance and chip the onrushing Pickford to make it NIL-FOUR on 57 minutes.
A chant of “Sack the Board” rang around Goodison and frankly, not before time as Lampard made changes on 58 minutes, Isaac Price and Abdoulaye Doucoure replacing Davies and McNeil.
Brighton were clearly in the mood for more and got forward again to win a corner on their left that was cleared, albeit with Patterson getting a knock on his right knee and needing treatment. Brighton made their first change replacing Sarmiento with Argentinian international Mac Allister on 62 minutes… Lampard countering with Seamus Coleman replacing Patterson, and a minute later, Neal Maupay came on for Gana Gueye.
Another decent attacking move by Brighton saw Jordan Pickford deny March with a good save, the England Number One sticking gamely to his task. Just before the 70-minute mark, the Blues got forward with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Price combining to set up a shot for Gray that cleared the crossbar. Enciso on as a substitute for Ferguson tested Pickford from 25 yards as Brighton again looked the more likely to add to their score and it took a late tackle from Tarkowski to deny Gross a shooting opportunity. Brighton were humiliating Everton on their own ground with some slick one touch passing and it led to a foul by Alex Iwobi that saw him booked.
Inside the final fifteen minutes and Brighton were queuing up to take shots before making more changes that I couldn’t be bothered recording in this report. Dominic Calvert-Lewin sent a shot wide after Iwobi had picked off an errant pass as some of the Goodison faithful made their way towards the early exit gates. Brighton put together another length of the field move that ended with Lamptey sending a shot wide of the near post, and Ellis Simms made his first appearance since returning from his loan at Sunderland as he joined the game on 83 minutes replacing the forlorn Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
The travelling Brighton fans were revelling in their sides superiority over Everton and thoroughly enjoying their long trek to the north-west… and Pickford with two more saves from Enciso kept the score at 0-4. Doucoure was booked for a kick out at Mac Allister just about summed up the desperate state of things.
Iwobi latching onto a loose ball to get away from Estupinan was scythed down by Sanchez to win an added-on time penalty – three minutes having been announced – and Demarai Gray slotted to at least prevent the Blues being nilled.
At the end of the day, this game perfectly illustrated that this Everton squad simply doesn’t have the required level of quality to be a force in the Premier League, and maybe not even a level of quality to see them remain a Premier League club. With just three wins all season, the pressure will again turn on manager Frank Lampard and his future could possibly be taken out of his hands in the aftermath of this terrible result.