Everton 1-1 Brighton

Cruel deflection denies Blues victory. ​

An enthralling game at Goodison ended level as Brighton claimed a late, late equaliser via cruel deflection off Ashley Young to deny the Blues a victory that looked to have come their way through an early first half strike from Vitalii Mykolenko.

The Blues followed up their victory at West Ham with progression into the quarter finals of the Carabao Cup with a 3-0 beating of Burnley, and that was rewarded with a home tie in the final eight draw as Fulham will visit Goodison for a game to determine who will make it through to the semi-final stage.

Saturday though saw a return to Premier League action with high-flying Brighton the visitors to the Grand Old Lady. With three clean sheets and seven goals scored in the last four games, the Blues appear to turning a corner in terms of both results and converting created chances into goals. Intent on continuing and improving this trend, manager Sean Dyche selected a starting eleven that read: Jordan Pickford, Ashley Young, James Tarkowski (c), Jarrad Branthwaite, Vitalii Mykolenko, Jack Harrison, James Garner, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Dwight McNeil, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Brighton have impressed just about everyone with their continued improvement and the sheer nature of their football under Italian head coach Roberto de Zerbi and sitting in seventh place, the south coast outfit have become many neutral football fans preferred watch this season. Aiming to keep his side well in the hunt for the European qualification places despite the likely absence of Pervis Estupinan, Jakub Moder, Solly March and Danny Welbeck, de Zerbi named his starting line-up: Verbruggen, Veltman, Dunk (c), van Hecke, Adingra, Milner, Gilmour, Mitoma, Gross, Lallana and Ferguson.

On a cool November afternoon, our referee was Tim Robinson.

A magnificent banner displayed in the Gwladys Street as Goodison paid its respects to those who paid the ultimate price in conflicts down the years with the ever poignant rendition of The Last Post by a single bugler.

Brighton in their green and black striped away strip kicked off and spent over two minutes passing the ball around before Milner was adjudged offside, much to the amusement of the home support. Everton attacked much more directly with a cross from McNeil falling well for Doucoure with Verbruggen in the visitors goal making a good stop from his first time volley.

Mitoma, worryingly, showed James Tarkowski a clean pair of heels but his ball into the area was a poor one and the Blues cleared easily. And the next Brighton attack also saw them target the right side of the Blues defence, before a cross was headed being by Adingra.

The Blues were much more direct and effective as they opened the scoring in the seventh minute as a cross from the left by McNeil, found by DCL, found Vitalii Mykolenko and when his initial left footed shot came back to him, he lashed in the second effort with his right foot.

Through the opening ten minutes, the contrast in styles of play between the two sides was clear and obvious – Brighton passing around trying to pull Everton out of position probing for a weakness, while the Blues were hustling, bustling, giving the visitors scant respect and counter attacking with clear purpose.

Brighton hit back in the 14th minute following a free kick conceded by Branthwaite, as skipper Lewis Dunk got on the end of a perfectly flighted set piece from Gross to volley a stunning equaliser – Game On… or was it… as VAR took a full two minutes before deciding Dunk was a midges offside and most of those inside Goodison gleefully approved.

The bright start and the Brighton disappointment merely served to up the tempo another notch as Everton attacked and Gilmour was booked for dissent after a cross from Doucoure intended for DCL was cleared. The next Blues attack began as Gana Gueye won the ball in midfield to find Doucoure who released DCL only for him to be felled on the edge of the Brighton area for a free kick with Dunk the second Brighton player to be booked. James Garner took it but whilst clearing the wall, cleared the crossbar too.

It was proving to be an intriguing contest between the differing styles of play and reaching the half hour mark, again it was the solid defence and more direct approach by the Blues that nearly earned a reward as DCL got free only to screw his shot wide of the right hand post from the edge of the area. A great tackle by Branthwaite on Ferguson almost created another attack as DCL was found wide right and his ball intended for Doucoure was blocked into touch.

Doucoure was spoken to by referee Robinson after a pull on Veltman and then trying to delay the Brighton free kick that allowed the Blues time to regroup and stifle the visitors again. The crowd were enjoying baiting Milner and Lallana whenever the two former RS were on the ball, even more so when they made a mess of things. Pickford was alert and quick off his line to gather a chipped ball from Gilmour aimed towards Mitoma and still, Brighton played their steady game of possession trying to find a chink of the Everton back line. A foul by Mitoma on Harrison gave the Blues to chance to throw players forwards for the free kick taken by Pickford, his opposite number gathering a Tarkowksi header comfortably.

Into the final five minutes of the first half and Goodison howled for a penalty as McNeil was felled in the area, VAR reviewed and decided against a spot kick and Gana Gueye was inexplicably booked. Four added minutes were announced and more jeers were aimed at Milner as he conceded a throw-in. Veltman ventured forward onto a ball from Adingra only to fire a cross too hard and fast across the Everton area and that was that.

A first half that had seen Brighton dominate the possession ended with the Blues ahead having made much more of their meagre share of the ball and with Verbruggen the busier, certainly early on, of the two goalies.

Half Time: 1-0

Driving rain greeted the players as they took to the pitch for the second half with former forward Watford Joao Pedro replacing Lallana for the restart, as Brighton tried to add more firepower.

Young conceded an early corner, the first of the game, and Dunk fouled Gana Gueye trying to get to the overhit cross. Tarkowski headed a chipped ball from Gilmour to safety as Brighton again began to see much more of the ball. Van Hecke prevented the Blues from winning their first corner as Garner tried to get on the end of a ball from Young. Despite the visitors again dominating the possession, Everton appeared quite content to allow them the ball, having determined that their defensive foundation and combative midfield could cope.

A foul by Doucoure, for which he was booked, on Gilmour gave Brighton a free kick just outside the area and it brought a top quality save from Jordan Pickford to deny Dunk with a shot aimed towards the top corner. The resulting corner kick saw DCL rise at the front post to head clear and as Brighton came again, Young stymied Mitoma with a good tackle.

An Everton break saw McNeil go down in the area with more unheeded appeals for a penalty and the noise levels increased noticeably as the home fans felt their help was needed as Brighton continued to pour forward. Harrison was caught by Milner as he tried to turn away after taking a pass from Branthwaite, Pickford sending the free kick long for Tarkowski who couldn’t direct his header on target.

Passing the hour mark and the game was really nicely poised – the Blues leading and defending manfully while Brighton weren’t (yet) giving up on their patient gameplan. Good work in defence by DCL saw him work the ball clear and the Blues continued to offer stout resistance to everything Brighton could throw at them.

With rain still falling and the temperature dropping, might the conditions eventually play a factor in the outcome as Brighton considered further changes. Mitoma got away from Young and when the ball came back to Gross, he blasted over from just inside the area. On 67 minutes, Gilmour and Ferguson were replaced by Dahoud and Fati to change the shape of the Brighton attack again.

Everton, through DCL, won their first corner with Dunk clearing the cross from McNeil, and we entered the final twenty minutes of this enthralling encounter. Everton were now pressing high up the field and nearly created a chance as Doucoure hurried Verbruggen into a clearance before Tarkowski blocked a shot and Pickford easily held onto a driven cross from Adingra.

Harrison getting forward got away from Milner to find McNeil and he saw his low shot go just wide of the near post, the Blues best effort of the second half so far. Doucoure on a surging run got the ball into the area for DCL only for Dunk to make a timely challenge to clear the danger. Into the final quarter of an hour and Gana Gueye broke away only for his cross towards DCL to be short of pace and Brighton countered and Branthwaite was booked for a slight pull on Fati, the free kick some thirty yards out and just left of centre, and again, it was Tarkowski with the clearing header.

Milner was substituted in the 79th minute by Buonanotte much to the delight of the home support and every successful challenge by the Blues or error by Brighton was loudly cheered as Everton looked even more determined to defend their lead to the bitter end. Tarkowski was the fourth yellow card as he scythed down Fati, taking one for the team and the free kick cross from Gross was low and easily cleared.

Just when it looked like all the hard work would reap its rewards, Brighton drew level as Mitoma turned away from Harrison and his cross was cruelly deflected over Jordan Pickford off Ashley Young to drop inside the back post to set up a tense finale.

Both sides were now looking to force a winner and it was Everton on the front foot in the dying minutes. Mykolenko saw a shot blocked and he then won a corner that saw Beto and Nathan Patterson replace DCL and Young before the set piece was taken, and Verbruggen held onto a header from Tarkowski.

Four added minutes were announced as Brighton got forward and Patterson conceded a corner that saw Harrison clear. Mykolenko and Garner got another Brighton raid away to safety and a late cross from Mitoma was way too strong and sailed out of touch on the far side. Pickford gathered a chipped cross and referee Robinson called time on an entertaining draw.

Neutrals watching this game would say the draw was the right result on the balance of play but for many Evertonians, this was a disappointing loss of two points when they had looked so comfortable for so long in the game.

Full Time: 1-1

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