Man Utd 2-0 Everton

Blues pay the high-priced penalty.

Evertons’ failure to convert chances into goals cost them dearly as poor challenges on Garnacho by both James Tarkowski and Ben Godfrey gifted the home side two first half penalties, converted by Fernandes and Rashford.

As an Evertonian born and bred in Salford, for me there is no better place to record an away victory than Old Trafford however, particularly since the inception of the Premier League, it has been a very unhappy hunting ground for Blues of our persuasion.

The Manchester club have stuttered throughout the season, at times looking like they could again become a serious force to be reckoned with while, at other times, looking like a thoroughly disjointed squad with little or no faith in the manager at the helm. But, it’s their inconsistency all season that Everton were hoping to capitalise upon even though despite losing 16 of their 38 games played in all competitions this season, United still sit a respectable sixth place in the table and under Dutchman Erik Ten Hag, have still to lose to Everton.

In the build-up to this early kick-off, United had injury concerns with a number of players with Rasmus Hojlund, Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka all ruled out but, there was better news with Marcus Rashford and veteran defender Jonny Evans being passed fit having both been substituted in last weekends loss to neighbours City.

Aiming for a (embarrassing from the point of view of Evertonians) 41st PL win over Everton, Ten Hag named his starting line-up: Onana, Dalot, Varane, Evans, Lindelof, Mainoo, Casemiro, McTominay, Fernandes (c), Garnacho and Rashford

For the Blues, it was now seriously overdue that a winless streak going back ten games came to an end, Everton needing to start registering points again to avoid being dragged back into the relegation scrap as we enter the business end of the season. And not since a Bryan Oviedo strike secured three points way back in 2013 have the Blues beaten United on their own pitch.

The paradox facing Sean Dyche is having a team that creates a more than reasonable amount of chances but that has a massively disappointing ratio of converting them into goals and game winning situations. He faced up to the issue saying, “We are showing the right signs, everyone knows that. But the frustration is actually taking the moment. We are getting into key areas in key moments, and the story of the season so far really is not taking chances but, as I always reference, it is a team responsibility.”

He continued adding, “It’s not about one player. Obviously, generally, strikers are referenced, but it is a team responsibility – other people are getting chances as well. And we have got to keep doing that, that’s for sure. That is another challenge because it is not easy to create a lot of good chances in football, but we are doing that. So we have got to at least maintain that and add the detail in the final moment.”

Desperate for both an improvement in performance and a positive result, Dyche named the same starting eleven that began against West Ham last weekend: Jordan Pickford, Ben Godfrey, James Tarkowski (c), Jarrad Branthwaite, Vitalii Mykolenko, Jack Harrison, James Garner, Amadou Onana, Dwight McNeil, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Beto.

On a very cool afternoon, Simon Hooper was the duly appointed referee.

A decent start by the Blues saw them pressing United back and Dwight McNeil won the games first corner inside the first 90 seconds, Evans heading the first cross clear before a second cross by McNeil saw Godfrey and Beto foiled by Onana. The first attack by the hme side saw Amadou Onana clear easily from Dalot and Everton countered to make the most of a giveaway by Casemiro for Beto to feed Doucoure and the United keeper Onana make a flying save to grab his early cross.

The Blues won a second corner from their left on six minutes, that Fernandes hooked clear and a long ball found Rashford with Harrison getting back to concede a first corner for the home side, that saw Pickford save from Casemiro. On nine minutes, Rashford fed Garnacho in the area and when he checked back, the challenge by Tarkowski caught him and the referee didn’t hesitate to point to the penalty spot. Fernandes found the bottom corner despite getting a full length dive to his left by Jordan Pickford and against the early run of play, the Blues were behind.

Everton tried to respond immediately with McNeil shooting just wide, Varane fed a decent ball to Garnacho wide on the right who then fed Fernandes who put a wild effort miles wide and high. The goals had settled United down after an edgy start and it was now up to the Blues to hit back, and Mykolenko found Harrison for a shot that went narrowly wide of the target.

Evans whined about being caught in the face by Beto, VAR ruling there was nothing in it and Everton continued to press United back in their own half and another cross from McNeil was just too for Harrison to get on the end of. Passing the midway point of the first half with Beto finding McNeil to feed Mykolenko whose shot was deflected behind for another Everton corner from the left, the ball to the back post just too strong for Tarkowski to direct his header on target.

The United keeper beat away a fierce shot by Garner after a one-two with Amadou Onana, the Belgian then unable to fire a follow-up shot on target – Everton were again making plenty of chances, they just needed to find some way to finish them.

United were awarded a free kick three yards outside the Everton area after Onana was penalised for catching Garnacho that saw a yellow card shown, Fernandes bent an excellent set piece shot over the wall that saw Jordan Pickford make a spectacular save. Excellent defending by Branthwaite denied Mainoo found by McTominay played into space by Fernandes before Everton countered and McNeil saw another low shot go just wide of the far post.

On 32 minutes, United players and fans howled for a penalty for hand ball as Mykolenko fell awkwardly in heading a ball from Casemiro away, VAR again ruling in the Blues favour. A quick break by United saw McTominay find Garnacho and after skipping away from Garner and Onana, he was caught by Godfrey and the home side had a second penalty. Doucoure was yellow carded for disputing the decision before Rashford with the pathetic stuttering run-up sent Pickford the wrong way and the Blues had another mountain to climb.

Once again, the Blues responded with a McNeil shot being deflected behind for a corner and United’s Onana punched the cross clear. Pickford crossed the halfway line to launch a free kick into the United area that they cleared and after a decent run by McNeil and some good passing, Harrison sent an aimless cross wide with absolutely nobody in a Blue shirt anywhere near it. Everton got forward yet again with McNeil appearing to be caught by Casemiro before Godfrey saw a shot deflected behind for a corner that failed to trouble the home defence.

United appealed for a third penalty as a pull back by Garnacho caught the supporting arm of Mykolenko as he slid in to make a challenge and a minimum of four added minutes was signalled. Onana blocked a shot from Casemiro and Pickford saved a curling shot from Lindelof between his legs before McTominay again released Garnacho down the right, Jarrad Branthwaite again defending superbly to foil the Argentinian. Everton were unlucky not to reduce the arrears as Beto won the ball to find Doucoure and he relayed the ball onto McNeil and his effort on target was blocked to safety by Varane to being the first half to a close.

Football is at times a very cruel game and so it had been through this first half… Everton in general playing well but, paying the price for two poorly timed challenges that gifted the home side two converted penalties.

Half Time: 2-0

Neither manager made any changes for the start of the second half that saw Everton attacking the Stretford End with Onana gathering an early cross from Godfrey comfortably. A long ball from Pickford was well controlled by McNeil and was then worked left to right for Godfrey who sent a ball across the face of goal and too far ahead of Beto. Mykolenko got back to prevent a ball from Fernandes reaching Garnacho and the United captain then conceded a free kick that saw McNeil cross deep for Tarkowski and Evans clear a shot from Doucoure that McTominay had blocked.

Garnacho again found by Fernandes gained the Everton area before blasting high from eight yards under pressure from Mykolenko. Beto was crowded out by Casemiro and Evans as the Blues got forward again before McTominay played a ball far too strongly for Rashford to have any chance of getting on the end of.

The Everton bench were preparing changes with both DCL and Andre Gomes stripping off their anoraks and tracksuits. Everton got forward with Harrison finding McNeil in the area for Beto to have a poor effort blocked wide to Doucoure and his low shot to the near post was smuggled to safety by Onana in the home goal.

Fernandes got beyond Tarkowski to get to a ball from McTominay, and his cross for Garnacho coming in from the right to push his effort wide. Everton eventually made a triple chance with Lewis Dobbin joining DCL and Andre Gomes in replacing Jack Harrison, Beto, and Abdoulaye Doucoure respectively on 61 minutes.

Everton defended another United raid involving Fernandes and Garnacho, before Pickford tipped a shot from Garnacho just wide for a corner that saw a goalmouth scramble with Pickford finally grabbing the ball ahead of Evans. Lewis Dobbin won another Everton corner from the right that United managed to clear before Lindelof collided clumsily with Onana to concede a free kick dead centre 25 yards out. The shot from Gomes hit the United wall and Everton had to build from the back again leading a Dobbin snatching slightly at a shot that flew high and wide.

McTominay was yellow carded for a clumsy challenge on Amadou Onana and we passed the 70-minute mark with the Blues desperately in need of some offensive spark or a major league slice of luck. From the United perspective, they simply needed to retain possession and look to hit the Blues on the break, to utilise the pace of Garnacho who had been the standout player in a red shirt in what – to be honest – had hardly been an edge of the seat affair, that the 70,000+ crowd could barely bring themselves to make any noise about.

Branthwaite on a charge was hurt but, got up to carry on as Sea Dyche prepared a fourth change with James Garner to be replaced by Ashley Young on 74 minutes. A deep cross from Mykolenko was met well by Godfrey to head down for DCL who couldn’t reach it and the ball fell for Dobbin who blasted across the face of goal and out for a throw-in from the opposite side. McTominay headed a Gomes cross only as far as Amadou Onana to hit a well-executed overhead kick that his namesake in the United goal handled comfortably.

Amrabat replaced Mainoo with 12 minutes left to play in normal time and the Blues still striving to get on the scoresheet. A dreadful ball from Evans, indicative of the abject lack of quality in the home defence gifted the Blues another corner that saw DCL climb to head but, straight at Onana. Garnacho was withdrawn for a standing ovation from the home fans and replaced by Anthony. Pickford raced off his line to deny Dalot and the Blues countered with a deep cross from Young reaching Mykolenko who put his header wide.

A free kick midway inside the United half saw McNeil try to find Branthwaite, Onana in the home goal quick off his line to prevent the Everton defender reaching it. Tarkowski protested vociferously a free kick awarded against him for what he considered a shoulder charge on McTominay before Youssef Chermiti replaced Vitalii Mykolenko on 88 minutes. Dalot conceded a corner to the Blues a late chance and Onana beat away a shot from Andre Gomes and Lindelof cleared a follow-up cross intended for the head of Chermiti.

Four added minutes were announced and Anthony won a corner off Branthwaite as United looked in vain for a cherry-on-the-cake third goal. United won another late corner as a Fernandes effort was deflected behind, and they made no effort to use it offensively, playing it back to halfway just to eat up time. Rashford found by Fernandes was offside before going down over Branthwaite with the myopic home fans appealing for yet another penalty.

And that was that on another game that Everton played reasonably well in but our inability – for whatever reason, lack of composure, confidence or quality – to convert good chances into goals is becoming a serious, serious worry.

Full Time: 2-0

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