A stunning triple save by Jordan Pickford in added-on time protected a hard-earned point from a game that ebbed and flowed in both directions. The Blues lead through Abdoulaye Doucoure, get pegged back and fell behind to a bizarre own goal before a strong second half saw them draw back level with Arnaut Danjuma netting his first Premier League goal.
The Blues returned to South Yorkshire again following their successful trip to Doncaster in midweek, to face promoted Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in this lunchtime kick-off.
The Blades were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Lincoln City following a penalty shootout last Wednesday and like the Blues were still awaiting their first points of this Premier League campaign.
Having steered the Blades back into the ‘big time,’ manager Paul Heckingbottom was still looking for his first win of the season and advised that loanee defender Luke Thomas was immediately in contention to face Everton when he advised, “Luke has got a top pedigree, he’s a good young player who also has a wealth of experience at Premier League level with Leicester City. What also impressed me was that he was hungry to come in and is keen to get started.”
Thomas joins nine other summer acquisitions for the Sheffield club, including Tom Davies formerly of Everton and who Heckingbottom spoke of in glowing terms saying, “Tom is someone we have admired for quite a while and he’s been desperate to come and play at Bramall Lane. We kept in constant contact but we got our man and we’re delighted that he is now a Sheffield United player because he is someone who provides valuable Premier League experience.”
Heckingbottom commented, “We’ve had a decent transfer window, added some character, depth and firepower with Cameron Archer who’ll start against Everton, we now need to build confidence and a result today would go along way to doing just that.”
Disappointingly for Tom Davies, he wasn’t included on the Blades team sheet when Paul Heckingbottom advised his starting line-up as: Foderingham, Ahmedhodzic, Egan (c), Robinson, Baldock, Souza, Norwood, Hamer, Larouci, McBurnie and Archer
Following up on the Carabao Cup success at Doncaster with a positive performance and result at Bramall Lane was paramount for Sean Dyche and he advised his media gathering that his options to face Sheffield United were increasing. The boss advised that new signing Beto is “ready physically to go again this weekend and desperate to be involved.” The manager also advised that both Dwight McNeil and Dominic Calvert-Lewin had outside chances of being involved as McNeil “returned to training with the group on Thursday after recovering from the ankle injury he picked up at Stoke,” and that DCL is “touch and go,” following news that the facial injury he sustain at Villa Park won’t need surgery. He added that both should be fully fit after the upcoming international break.
Looking at the opposition, Dyche advised, “I went to their game against Man City, and they’re an outfit who’ve worked very hard to get to where they have, they work as a unit and work very hard. They’re new to the division and will have their crowd behind them, so we’ll have to be aware and take our chances better than we have in the first three games.”
Asked about transfer rumours doing the rounds, Dyche commented, “There are a few clubs circling a few of our players. Alex Iwobi is one of them. Him and Tom Cannon are in similar situations but, nothing is agreed yet. The Club has to look at the business side of it. Money is not free-flowing so it has to be looked at. If anything happens with those two, we’ll see what we can do next. We’re obviously monitoring situations in terms of avenues we can go down but, you need the finances to bring players in.”
As we now know, the late movements of the transfer deadline day saw Tom Cannon sign with Leicester City, Alex Iwobi move to Fulham and Neal Maupay re-join Brentford on a season-long loan deal, and all without any further replacements being acquired.
With the players available to him Dyche, managing his 450th game, settled on this starting eleven to try and blunt the Blades: Jordan Pickford, Nathan Patterson, James Tarkowski (c), Jarrad Branthwaite, Ashley Young, James Garner, Amadou Onana, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Arnaut Danjuma and Beto.
On a warm, sunny Saturday lunchtime at a packed Bramall Lane, our referee was Andy Madley.
Garner was fouled inside 15 seconds of the Blues kicking off and he sent the free kick too short and it was easily cleared. Patterson put a good cross in as the Blues started positively, pressuring the home defence into a couple of hurried clearances. Patterson felled Archer with a needless push in the back to gove the Blades a chance to get the ball into Everton area where Ahmedhodzic was penalised for a push.
Patterson conceded the first corner of the game denying McBurnie, Jarrad Branthwaite heading the centre from Baldock clear. Branthwaite was booked for a foul on Hamer after a loose ball from Young set the home side on the attack and the free kick to the back post found Egan in way too much space, Pickford saving the header comfortably.
Another poor ball from Young was picked off by Hamer and immediately threaded through the middle for Archer who was well marshalled by Tarkowski at the expense of a throw-in. The first effort by the Blues saw a shot from Beto deflected behind for a corner from the right that Young sent to the back post where Onana had a free header and at the second attempt, Abdoulaye Doucoure netted from close range to bag the Blues first goal of the season and a 15th minute lead.
Doucoure released Danjuma into space with a 4-on-2 advantage, Danjuma chose to shoot rather than play in a team mate, his shot being deflected out for another corner from the right that was cleared. Everton looked keen to build on their lead with Beto driving into the Sheffield area before being blocked. A poor ball from Gana Gueye was picked off by Larouci who drove forward on the left to send a shot straight into the midriff of Pickford.
The home side came again with Hamer and Baldock combining to get away from Young and Pickford went low to his left to turn a shot from Hamer round the post for a corner that was cleared. Everton countered but a poor cross by Patterson was cleared long downfield and Pickford was quick off his line to get the ball away.
Approaching the half hour mark and the Blues were coping well with whatever the home side were able to throw at them, and the home crowd were beginning to get a little frustrated, and that would have gotten worse had Danjuma done better with a snapshot from the left that went just wide. A good turn by Garner saw him find Doucoure but, his quick shot was charged down and cleared.
On 33 minutes, and almost out of nothing, Sheffield drew level as a cross from the right was controlled by McBurnie and laid perfectly into the path of Archer to send a precise shot into the corner of the Blues net in the blink of an eye.
Everton responded with Beto driving into the United area on the left to win a corner that Young swung to the back post for Onana with Larouci putting it out for another corner from the right. Again the ball went long but, the header from Tarkowski went wide and out for a goal kick. Beto showed his strength to dispossess Egan who felt the challenge and needed some treatment before play resumed with a throw-in to the Blues.
Into the final five minutes of the half and a good period of possession by the Blues eventually saw Beto play in Danjuma with Foderingham in the home goal bravely saving at this feet as the Blues forward closed in on goal. Four added minutes were announced and another disappointing cross from Patterson led to a free kick to the Blues for a foul on Gana Gueye. McBurnie cleared a ball into the box from Young and United countered with two quick passes to see the ball reach Archer – who wasn’t closed down by Patterson – to cut inside and curl in a shot that cannoned back off the past to hit Jordan Pickford and bounce back into the Blues net.
Football can be a very cruel game and Everton went to the dressing room ruing more chances created and not taken, some poor crossing and trailing thanks to that bizarre OG.
Half Time: 2-1
No changes by either manager for the start of the second half and after an aerial challenge with McBurnie that saw Branthwaite stay down, Beto got forward only to send a weak shot well wide across the face of goal. Good interplay between Danjuma and Beto saw the former pulled down on the edge of the area with Everton asking for a penalty and VAR going with the referees decision for outside the area, and Ahmedhodzic being booked for the foul. Farcical behaviour at the free kick as the United players lined up in front of the white line, Young complained, the ref drew a second line and Danjuma saw his effort hit the wall and cleared for a corner, that was cleared by Egan.
Beto got away down the right touchline to cross low into the area where it was thumped behind for another Everton corner that saw Young find Beto with Tarkowski unable to get to it while Branthwaite recovered his shirt that had been practically torn over his shoulders.
On 54 minutes, the bright start to the half by the Blues saw them draw level as finally, a decent cross from Patterson found Arnaut Danjuma arriving at the back post to finish competently in front of the travelling fans.
Everton came again and Young sent a cross to the back post that came out to Doucoure but, his shot lacked power and was easily held by Foderingham. A Blades attack saw a poor attempted clearance by Patterson picked off by Larouci who blazed high and wide.
Robinson won a corner for the home side off Patterson as we passed the hour mark, Pickford with an easy claim on the inswinger from Hamer. Larouci fouled Onana in midfield as Everton looked to break forward, the free kick seeing Doucoure penalised for a challenge on Baldock.
Larouci was the next to be fouled as he went down under a challenge from Garner and Everton brought everyone back to defend the free kick that saw Egan called for a foul on Young. Larouci went down again and clearly needed to be replaced, Luke Thomas the loanee from Leicester taking his place on 66 minutes, along with Basham replacing Egan in a double change for the Blades.
Baldock burst between Doucoure and Young only to run into Gana Gueye, half-hearted appeal for a penalty waved away, and the home side came again with Pickford making a big save to deny Thomas at the back post. Into the final twenty minutes and still all to play for, for both sides and Everton prepared to bring on Dwight McNeil. Doucoure was booked for a foul on Baldock and the free kick from Hamer was headed clear by Branthwaite, having another impressive game at the heart of the Blues defence.
Dwight McNeil for James Garner and Traore for Archer were 75th minute changes by both sides before Everton looked to get forward again and put the home defence under some intense pressure before it fizzled out. Basham through the back of Onana was lucky not to see a yellow card, the free kick just five yards outside the United area with Young bending it around the wall but straight at Foderingham.
Into the final ten minutes and next goal wins in territory, Everton trying to build their attacks, United looking more at Route One. Good work again by Branthwaite eased Traore off the ball before Baldock clattered into Young to concede a free kick. Sheffield were employing a high back line to catch Everton offside – could this be an opportunity to play a perfect ball in behind them for an onrushing forward ??
McNeil tried to find Danjuma and the home defence was happy to clear deep downfield as both sets of fans continued to bite fingernails. Another Blues attack saw Foderingham beat away a shot from Danjuma who was adjudged to have been offside. Animated activity in both technical areas as the off-field staff tried to determine a way for their sides to find a winner.
Concerted pressure by the home side led to Tarkowski blocking a full-blooded shot from Robinson and he was told to leave the field having been hit in the face, Everton hurriedly bringing on Ben Godfrey to ensure eleven players on the pitch for the resumption of play as six added minutes were announced, and Everton cleared upfield.
Godfrey flattened McBurnie to give the home side a late chance to send a ball deep into the Everton area, Pickford with an easy gather to then get the ball forward to see if Everton could forge a late winner. McNeil saw a shot charged down. Sheffield won a late, late corner on their right, that saw Pickford protect the point with a stunning save up onto the crossbar from a McBurnie header and then recover his ground to make a double follow-up save as the ball came back off a post and he finally hung on.
With the clock passing eight added minutes, Andy Madley finally called time on a pulsating game with the honours shared.