Brighton 1-5 Everton

Blues in the pink shoot down Seagulls. ​

A quite incredible start for the Blues gave them the confidence to go and play and boy, did they play in a stunning first half that shook the Amex to its foundations. A brace from Abdoulaye Doucoure and a Dwight McNeil induced og were the three chances that hit the onion bag with James Garner seeing an opportunity for a fourth before the break denied. And despite a second half revival from the home side, the Blues recorded their best away win in many a year as Dwight McNeil capped a Man of the Match performance with a second half brace.

Brighton maintained their extraordinary season in midweek with a last-gasp penalty winner over Manchester United to keep them well in the hunt for European football next season – in complete contrast to Everton who went into this clash languishing still in the bottom three and still desperate for points.

The Seagulls have games in hand on the RS – one place above them prior to kick off – and having already won 4-1 at Goodison back in January, were looking to complete a first league double over the Blues to further boost their European ambitions. Their skipper Lewis Dunk, speaking after the victory over Manchester United, insists his side will not lose focus, if anything, they’ll be even more determined when he said, “I’ve said it before we need to be ruthless. That’s the next level. We were ruthless on Saturday in a 6-0 win (over Wolves). So we need to be ruthless on more occasions than not. Tonight we weren’t but, Alexis put the penalty away. We kept fighting right to the end and it paid off.”

He continued adding, “Last-minute winners, you can’t beat them, so it’s a great feeling. There is still a long way to go. We have six massive games. The league table will change a lot in the next few weeks. We have another massive home game on Monday against Everton, a different test to United. They are battling for their lives and we are battling for Europe. We have to want it more than Everton and need the fans to be as loud as ever to keep us going.”

Brighton started the season under Graham Potter but when he was lured away by the big bucks and bright lights of Chelsea, and playmaker Leandro Trossard left to join Arsenal, the Seagulls didn’t panic… they stayed calm and appointed Italian coach Roberto De Zerbi and he slotted in seamlessly and if anything, took the south coast outfit to another level. Under De Zerbi, Brighton have become of the teams to watch as they play with flair, pace and no shortage of skills and are now deservedly looking to push on again and qualify for Europe.​
Brighton had injury concerns over exciting young centre forward Evan Ferguson and Pascal Gross with coach Roberto De Zerbi having said he wouldn’t take risks with either player, and he’ll definitely be without Adam Lallana, Jakub Moder and Jeremy Sarmiento but, was hoping Joel Veltman might recover in time. With Europe and a double over the Blues to play for the Italian coach named his starting line-up: Steele, Caicedo, Webster, Dunk (c), Estupinan. Gross, Mac Allister, Buonanotte, Undav, Mitoma and Welbeck.

Everton came away from the King Power last Monday with a hard-earned and well deserved point but, the loss of skipper Seamus Coleman to what, at the time, looked a season-ending challenge cast a shadow over the result. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Alex Iwobi claimed the goals in a 2-2 tie with the Foxes and a penalty save by Jordan Pickford from James Maddison just before half time proved crucial.

Speaking on Thursday, Sean Dyche was keen to highlight the 23 chances created against Leicester when he said, “It was good to see some of the messages from myself and coaching staff being delivered by the players, it reaffirms to them that we are on the right track. I know we aren’t in the league table but, there was a lot of good in that performance. It showed a lot of the work we have been putting in.”

He continued, “We didn’t get the full reward in terms of the three points but, we got the reward in terms of the feel-good factor from the performance. And rightfully so I thought. It’s not easy on the road or in the Premier League, full stop. But on the road, definitely not. Yet, we gave a very thorough performance there. But it’s parked very quickly because, it doesn’t guarantee the next one. We have to make sure we use it wisely, lock in all the positives, and we have to go and deliver it again. It can’t just be once every few games, there has to be consistency.”

The Blues boss was also keen to highlight the effort from DCL since his return to the side noting, “Players come back from injuries in different ways. The goal was to get him back at a fitness level that could handle the Premier League, which he has shown he is doing. I thought he put in a really good physical shift on Monday, but there was quality, too. He found the goal from the penalty spot, but some good movement to get another chance that got away from him. But I want him in there. I am not bothered if they miss, it is part of the game. But it’s getting in there. In terms of his physical presence and the way he was running, that’s a good sign. He’s been training very well, too.”

Knowing full well that games are running out and a result at the Amex could be vital, Dyche named a change in the centre of the Blues defence with this starting eleven: Jordan Pickford (c), Nathan Patterson, Yerry Mina, James Tarkowski, Vitalii Mykolenko, Alex Iwobi, James Garner, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Dwight McNeil and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Our referee at a damp Amex Stadium was Simon Hooper.

The first half saw the Blues, once again their pink away strip, attacking the end where their noisy army of travelling fans were stationed having once again sold out their allocation of tickets – outstanding support as always.

And WHAT A START for those fans and Blues everywhere as Alex Iwobi picked off a ball in midfield to find DCL who span beautifully away from Dunk to take a couple of paces forward and cross perfectly into the path of Abdoulaye Doucoure to bag the opening goal in just 34 seconds.

Everton defended the first Brighton raid with Mina heading an Estupinan cross clear and the follow-up cross from Mitoma just to high for Welbeck to make anything of arriving at the back post. Garner with a long ball down the left channel tried to release DCL but, Dunk was alert and able to get the ball back to Steele who cleared downfield.

Another left wing cross from Mitoma was headed clear by Mykolenko as the home side clearly, in the opening exchanges, seemed to fancy their chances against the right side of the Everton defence through Mitoma and Estupinan overlapping. Iwobi down the right for DCL saw his cross cleared and Mina was lectured for manhandling Undav in midfield. Iwobi caught Mitoma and the Blues successfully defended the free kick with Mina clearing a low shot to midfield.

Gana Gueye with a vital block on a shot from Mac Allister after Mitoma had skinned Patterson and found him with a neat pull back. Everton countered with McNeil finding Mykolenko on the overlap to send a decent cross into the Brighton area with Steele getting to it just ahead of DCL. Good work defensively by McNeil earned a free kick for a foul by Buonanotte, Pickford launching it long and slackness at the back by the home side gave DCL a shot that he slightly snatched at and it went wide of the far post.

Webster through the back of DCL earned a free kick but, too much verbals from Mina saw him booked for dissent inside 18 minutes. Mitoma drew a free kick from Patterson to give the home side another chance to cross and Esupinan failed to trouble the Blues defence. Brighton were playing very much a measured game through the midfield, noticeably upping their tempo in the final third of the field. Dunk was booked for a foul on DCL as the Blues number nine again span away from him, Pickford out to almost the halfway line to launch the free kick forward where Tarkowski was ruled offside.

Doucoure with a good 50-50 tackle in midfield released McNeil and his shot was blocked away for a corner off Webster, that saw Doucoure lay the ball off to Gana Gueye who saw his hot charged down and as Brighton looked to counter as speed, Gana Gueye was booked for what some would call a cynical foul. Everton were showing they could get at Brighton and Doucoure laid a ball off to McNeil who jinked around one defender to shoot, his shot though was blocked and cleared.

Approaching the half hour mark and the Blues were good value and proved it with a quite stunning second goal… a counter attack started by Doucoure finding McNeil who scampered down the left flank before crossing into the area where Abdoulaye Doucoure arrived to hit a magnificent volley from 12 yards that Steele never stood a chance of saving.

McNeil conceded a corner as Brighton tried to hit back as the travelling fans exulted at the other end of the Amex. The corner failed to produce but as Brighton came again, Tarkowski with an excellent piece of defending prevented Welbeck getting to a knockdown from Mitoma. And blow me down, Everton went down the other end with Doucoure seeking a hat trick, the ball to him from Iwobi was too strong but, McNeil got to the bye-line and sending the ball low into the six yard area, it deflected into the Brighton goal off Steele and nobody on this world or Fullers Earth had seen this scoreline coming 0-3.

It was all Everton now and another powerful surge froward by McNeil had the Brighton defence hurriedly retreating to prevent him finding DCL to his right. Mac Allister won a free kick 25 yards out that came to nothing and further calm and steady defence from the Blues continued to frustrate the home side into the final five minutes of this extraordinary first half. Patterson conceded a corner that saw lame, half hearted appeals for a penalty waved away and the added-on time board signalled three extra minutes.

Mykolenko was caught by Buonanotte who was fortunate not to be booked and Pickford again sent the ball long for DCL to take on his chest before appearing to catch Mac Allister and he was booked for the challenge. The final action saw Everton again going forward and Garner was denied as he got to another left wing cross from McNeil only for Dunk to block his shot and referee Hooper called time on a stunning half of football from Everton.

Half Time: 0-3

Four Brighton changes for the start of the second half as March, Enciso, Ferguson and Colwill replaced Buonanotte, Undav, Welbeck and Webster, while Everton, not surprisingly remained as we were. March with an early cross to the near post saw Pickford prevent Gross getting to it. Pickford then denied March pushing his hot up and Alex Iwobi clearing but, a very different start to the second half as Brighton looked to mount a fightback.

Everton weathered the early Brighton surge and with the three goal cushion could look to catch Brighton on the counter attack as they strained to get forward to reduce the arrears. March and Gross worked the ball to win a corner off McNeil that the Blues defended, clearly this looked to be becoming a much different half of football than the first. Everton though weren’t looking rattled although a mazy run by Enciso had hearts in mouths before Ferguson was called for fouling Mykolenko in the Everton area.

Doucoure was booked for protesting too strongly that Brighton were stealing too many yards at a free kick and more resolute defence prevented the home side from gaining anything from the set piece. March won a free kick near the right wing corner, and Mykolenko denied Ferguson at the expense of a corner that was headed clear by DCL. Pickford with a terrific save denied Ferguson on the end of a cross from Gross, not knowing the offside flag had been raised… and we hit the hour mark with the Blues still enjoying their first half lead.

McNeil conceded another corner as Brighton continued to look for March on the right flank, Mina with a header to send the ball behind for another corner from the other side and Everton maintained their composure at the back to clear their lines. It was becoming one-way traffic now however, the Blues were staying calm as Mina headed a shot from March to safety. Ferguson showed quick feet to get away from Garner and drew a fingertip save from Jordan Pickford that went for a corner off the crossbar and Mac Allister saw his header from the corner hit the woodwork.

Spirit of the Blues rang out again as the travelling fans got behind the team who were coming under increasing pressure. March fed Gross for another cross that Mina headed clear and when Brighton came again, they won another corner that they wasted with a cross that sailed harmlessly out for a goal kick.

Twenty minutes to play and for all their pressure since the restart, Brighton hadn’t breached the Everton defence as they seemed too pre-occupied with targetting the left side of the Everton defence where Dwight McNeil was giving good cover to Vitalii Mykolenko in dealing with March and Gross. A rare, for this second half, Everton foray forward saw them eat up some time and win a free kick for a foul on Gana Gueye. Mykolenko conceded a corner that led to a stunning save from Jordan Pickford to deny Mac Allister and Everton cleared to break effectively with Dwight McNeil showing extraordinary awareness and cool to race into the area to get to a ball from Alex Iwobi and then dance around both Dunk and Steele to net the fourth.

As the home fans began to stream away, another deafening rendition of Spirit of the Blues rang around the Amex, that even a consolation goal from Mac Allister on 79 minutes couldn’t quieten.

A Caicedo shot took a nick off Mina to win another Brighton corner and Patterson took no chances heading a deep cross behind for another that saw Mitoma hit a volley that deflected behind off Colwill for a goal kick. Patterson did well to match a run from Mitoma to win the ball and clear and then headed another cross from Dunk behind for a corner that Tarkowski and Doucoure got clear. Gilmour, the fifth Brighton substitute saw a shot charged down, and we passed the 85-minute mark with the Blues in the pink to the tune of a three-goal margin – Good Times !!

Amadou Onana and Neal Maupay were late changes for Idrissa Gana Gueye and DCL respectively ahead of another quality save from Pickford to deny Ferguson, Mykolenko putting the loose ball behind for a corner that was defended with a punched clearance by the England Number One who then flattened Mac Allister in trying to get back on his line.

Six added minutes were announced as Caicedo fired a shot over the bar after a nice lay off from Ferguson, and the travelling Blues again raised their voices for the final push for the points and only the second victory away from Goodison Park all season but, what a great victory at the perfect time.

Brighton failed to make anything of another corner and it was now just a case of playing out the remaining time although, Everton perhaps could have done better with a late break but, that’s just me being picky. With the rain still drizzling down, nothing was going to dampen the mood of the travelling fans and another late break saw Alex Iwobi release the undoubted Man of the Match Dwight McNeil to crash a glorious fifth.

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