After Fulham’s thrashing of Leicester earlier on Monday, Everton knew that they could take a giant step towards Premier League safety by securing a result against high-flying Brighton at the Amex Stadium. However, picking up three points would be a challenge – as Everton’s woeful away record has seen them pick up just one win away from home this season.
BRI: Steele; Gross, Webster, Dunk, Estupinan, Caicedo, Mac Allister, Buonanotte, Undav, Mitoma, Welbeck
EVE: Pickford, Patterson, Mina, Tarkowski, Mykolenko, Garner, Gueye, Doucoure, Iwobi, McNeil, Calvert-Lewin
A good start was imperative for Everton in their battle to avoid relegation, and it was Abdoulaye Doucoure who provided it as he scored one of the fastest Premier League goals of the season. Alex Iwobi slid a ball into Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who turned Lewis Dunk excellently before crossing into the path of Doucoure – who tucked it away with just over 30 seconds played. Everton fans were in dreamland!
You’d have thought that Brighton were not about to lie down easily – coming into this game as clear favourites, the Seagulls remain in a battle at the opposite end of the table as they continue to chase the possibility of making history and securing European football for next season.
With Everton defending deep and soaking up Brighton pressure, the opportunities to counter attack were becoming increasingly visible – especially with Brighton’s build up play lacking the usual quality through midfield. The feeling of a second Everton goal was almost inevitable – something that hasn’t been said too often this season!
More sloppiness from Brighton led to Dwight McNeil having acres of space down the left hand side, and Doucoure made his trademark third man run from midfield into the box before volleying the ball into the near post. It was an excellent finish from the Frenchman, and not many people could say they predicted the Toffees leading by two goals within half an hour.
It was about to get even better for Sean Dyche’s men. Another counter attack saw Iwobi release Calvert-Lewin, who then found a simple ball back to McNeil that allowed him to fire a dangerous ball across the near post. It was a poor mistake from Jason Steele, as the Brighton ‘keeper turned the ball into his own net after it zipped across the wet surface.
The whole emphasis was on Brighton going into the second half and their boss Roberto De Zerbi wasn’t shy in ringing the changes, making four half-time substitutions. These changes helped the Seagulls to regain control of the midfield and most importantly stop the reoccurring counterattacks from Everton. Suddenly, Brighton had a focal point in Evan Ferguson and slowly they were turning the screw – sustaining huge waves of attacks.
Just after the hour mark, the crossbar came to Everton’s rescue twice in the space of a minute – thwarting efforts from Ferguson and Mac Allister. It seemed like it was going to be one of those days for Brighton.
The defining moment of the second half came through a wonderful reflex save from Jordan Pickford to deny Mac Allister once more. After clearing the resulting corner, Everton counterattacked with the same pace and power their front three had shown all afternoon – and Iwobi provided another perfect pass into McNeil who rounded Steele to made it four.
A rare clean sheet wasn’t to be for Everton and Pickford, after Mac Allister found the back of the net on his third attempt. Kaoru Mitoma’s effort came off the post, ricocheting off the Argentinian into the back of the net.
An amazing away day performance by the Toffees was topped off by McNeil, who lashed a left footed strike into the roof of the net deep in stoppage time. They now sit two points above the drop zone with three games left to play – including a tough encounter against Manchester City next time out. On the other hand, Brighton will be disappointed with the result as their top four hopes drift away – but the possibility to qualify for European football is still very much alive.