Everton 3 - 2 Watford
Where there is life there is hope and Everton put the defibrillator paddles to their season today with an impressive recovery from a seemingly impossible position to beat Watford in what eventually became an adrenaline-fuelled encounter at Goodison Park.
Afterwards, Leighton Baines remarked, rightly, that it wasn't anything to get carried away by but, by the same token, this was a momentous result and a potential turning point in the season. Had Everton lost this game it would have represented a sixth successive defeat in all competitions and dealt another crushing blow to morale.
It's hard to escape the feeling that despair might have started to really tighten its grip on both the fanbase and the players and, perhaps, hastened a panicked move by the hierarchy for someone like Sam Allardyce to try and bail the club out through a protracted fight against relegation.
Indeed, the ingredients for chaos, instability and a death spiral down the drain into the depths plumbed by Sunderland last season and Aston Villa before them were already there — unforgivably incomplete business during the transfer window, long-term injuries to key players, a disastrous start to the season, the manager sacked, and, now, two experienced players having to be disciplined for their lack of commitment to the cause.
Throw in a 2-0 deficit an hour into a must-win home game and it's a wonder that Everton didn't implode on yet another occasion this afternoon as Goodison was silenced just eight minutes into the second half.
But there is a defiance and a determination about Everton Football Club when the chips really are down that persists and it emerged in that second period, typified by a gangly former outcast who handed them a lifeline and sparked life back into a home faithful that would roar the Blues on to a thrilling victory.
Oumar Niasse is unlikely to ever become the prolific successor to Romelu Lukaku that many doubted he was when Roberto Martinez purchased him from Lokomotiv Moscow last year but what he lacks in raw talent he makes up for in heart and a never-say-die attitude.
The Senegalese striker ran himself ragged chasing defenders, lost causes and forward balls all afternoon and it was he who made the most of what looked to have become a 50-50 ball from Ademola Lookman to score and halve Everton's deficit just three minutes after Christian Kabasele had put Watford into what looked to be an unassailable lead at 2-0.
As the Blues grew in self-belief, it was a 20-year-old bearing an outsized burden for his tender years who levelled when Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed home at the far post seven minutes later and an older head in the form of Leighton Baines who despatched a perfectly-struck penalty to win it stoppage time.
Fittingly, fortune favoured the brave — and the sprited — on an afternoon of high drama under the early-evening lights of the Grand Old Lady. Heurelho Gomes had saved what little Everton had thrown at him prior to the 53rd minute but he was forced from the field looking dazed after several minutes of treatment in his goalmouth after being pole-axed in an accidental collision with Niasse's knee.
The incident that handed Baines a match-winning spot-kick owed much to Lady Luck as well. Jose Holebas lost his footing as substitute Aaron Lennon drove past, upending the Blues' winger and leaving referee Graham Scott with little option but to award a penalty.
And when Jordan Pickford's attempted last-ditch tackle on Richarlison conceded a penalty at the other end, the young goalkeeper wasn't even called upon to be the hero deep into 12 minutes of injury time. Instead, Tom Cleverley dragged his kick from 12 yards wide of goal. When results aren't going your way, sometimes the little things go against you so Everton won't be complaining too much about a little rub of the green.
Not surprisingly, this wasn't a good Everton performance; when you're one place off the bottom and winless in six weeks they rarely are. With an over-reliance on the long ball for extended periods, it was a game that Unsworth's men never really had control of but, having named another questionable team that omitted Nikola Vlasic and Sandro Ramirez completely, featured Niasse (who hadn't covered himself in glory at all in the defeat at Leicester) up front with Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson and sacrificed any natural width, the stand-in boss was rewarded for positive changes after half time.
In a first half almost entirely bereft of genuine goalscoring chances, the hosts struggling to impose themselves on the contest in any meaningful way. Understandably nervy but generally toothless, they were let down by a poor display from Rooney who was a mix of partially successful link-man and, after one successful slide tackle, occasionally aimless aggression. He gave the ball away more than he did any good with it and it was no surprise that he was the one who made way for Calvert-Lewin midway through the second half.
He was, however, involved in Everton's best move of the half. Niasse and Davies combined down the right channel and Rooney helped the ball square across the Hornets' box where Baines was arriving. The full-back evidently had too much to weigh up his options and elected to a placed effort that was at easy height for Gomes to beat it away.
At the other end, Richarlison really should have broken the deadlock when Andre Gray easily shrugged off Phil Jagielka and the Brazilian forward raced away, drawing Pickford too far off his line and opening up the goal once he had gone around the ‘keeper. Thankfully, he could only find the side-netting.
He wouldn't have to wait much longer to make the breakthrough, however, because the second period was just 32 seconds old when he scored. Gray was involved again near the half-way line, rolling Jagielka's central defensive partner Michael Keane with what looked to be an illegal shove and with three red shirts bearing down on just two blue, the forward passed to Richarlison who rounded Pickford again and slammed a shot inside the near post to hand Watford the lead.
Everton's response looked to have yielded an equaliser just seven minutes later and Sigurdsson may still be wondering how he didn't manage to notch his first Premier League goal in royal blue. Excellent work by Niasse took him inside the fullback on the Toffees' right and he picked out his Icelandic team-mate in the centre but Gomes dived to his right to parry the shot away.
Rooney chipped it back into the six-yard box, Gomes was there again to bat it away but was caught by Niasse, sustaining a nasty cut to the eye and an almost certain concussion that required his replacement by Osteris Karnezis.
That unwanted change for Marco Silva looked to have been rendered insignificant just a few minutes after the match restarted, however. Watford won a corner on their right and when the resulting set-piece was swung in, Kabasele rose effortlessly above Jagielka to head powerfully down past Pickford.
Everton needed something quickly and got it through Niasse who stole in ahead of Holebas, toed the ball past the on-rushing Karnezis and was set to roll it into an empty net when he was taken out by Kabasele. His fall onto the ball carried it over the line, though, and Unsworth's men were back in it.
Rooney was immediately withdrawn with Calvert-Lewin coming on and within six minutes he had made the second breakthrough. Kenny's attempted drive was blocked behind for a corner and with the Gwladys Street End roaring him on, Baines lofted a deep corner to the back post where Calvert-Lewin, Zorro mask and all, nodded accurately home to score his first League goal of the campaign.
It was to Unsworth's credit that, no doubt sensing that the tide was now with Everton, he made one final bold move with 85 minutes on the clock but a significant amount of added time to come. Off went Sigurdsson and on came Lennon and just five minutes later he won the all-important penalty.
It was a moment that was so nearly cancelled out 10 more minutes into injury time as Watford piled on the pressure and forced a save from Pickford that was immediately followed by his foul on Richarlison. Thankfully, an awful miss from the spot by Cleverley ensured that this was to be Everton's day.
Whether it's a result that buys Unsworth a bit more time remains to be seen. It seems unlikely — on the basis of those first three defeats since Ronald Koeman was sacked, the board may already have assessed their shortlist and made the decision to appoint someone else in short order over the international break. Regardless, “Rhino” deserved to finally oversee a victory, especially one as stirring as this.
And whoever gets the role on a full-time basis will at least be able to point to a benchmark in terms of performance and attitude now and know that despite there being a number of young and inexperienced players in the ranks, there is talent and desire there that just needs to be harnessed and deployed in the right way.
At the very least the stomach for a fight was in evidence in a game that will live long in the memory and, hopefully, act as a line in the sand in a season that was threatening to descend into unthinkable calamity. Remember, remember the 5th of November, indeed.
Reader Comments (44)
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1 Posted 06/11/2017 at 07:43:26
I'd like to see Niasse in the starting line-up for the next few EPL games, even if it is just for the energy he can provide. if he's a diamond, he is a very raw one but we have to give him credit for his effort and attitude.
Rooney was a worry! Too often too slow to the ball, leading to rapid counter attack positions for Watford. Something quite noticeable was also that regularly our players were getting in each others' way and on quite a few occasions we would see 2 or 3 Everton players going to the one Watford player as they were building attacks, leaving too many unmarked opponents. In fact , this seems to be a common fault this season - we're leaving far too much room for opposition players to either be in or move in to.
Regardless, Phew! A win at last! Well done Unsy and the team.
2 Posted 06/11/2017 at 08:06:58
3 Posted 06/11/2017 at 09:16:25
4 Posted 06/11/2017 at 09:21:25
It seems pretty clear at the moment we try to shut out and concede possession for an hour (don't trust our centre backs? Or are our subs too lightweight/inexperienced to make an impact in the first half?) then bring some pace on as they tire. Niasse had no chance of getting into the game until DCL came on with two on him, then they both scored, I think we could think of making those changes earlier. Rooney was too often the cause of (threatening) breakdowns rather than a creator/linkman across the front/striker, he was trying to do everything.
Nonetheless - we CAN score good goals without a main striker, Niasse HAS got ability that catches defenders out though not as a target man for the long ball (all the opposition has to do is stop him turning). I would be happy with Unsy till January, though I have to say that was not the case after 60min.
5 Posted 06/11/2017 at 10:03:49
6 Posted 06/11/2017 at 10:13:03
Yesterday, he was asctually playing on the left of a front three. But it looked like a 451, because he, and Sigurdsson to be fair, were both racing back. He was charging up and down that left flank all of the first half. I would like to see the yards covered stats, because he really put a shift in, maximum effort for sure.
His passing is superb, his touches too. But what seems to happen, to me, is that he tires. Some players seem to tire gradually, and slowly they start to become less effective. Rooney just seems to blow up, and suddenly he cannot pass, his touch is gone and then he seems to play on adrenalin and starts diving into tackles he does not need to make, and should not be making.
I thought Rooney did ok the first half. Second half he seemed to tire quickly, and then he seemed like he was trying too hard.
What we need to do with him, is somehow to persuade him to play upfront and only upfront. To play his position only. Sure cover the flank, but the left forward should not be diving into tackles on the left of his own box.
7 Posted 06/11/2017 at 10:15:00
We cannot continue to put our key buys into roles they are not adapted to to facilitate other players who are coming to the end of their careers.
8 Posted 06/11/2017 at 10:28:41
9 Posted 06/11/2017 at 10:48:42
Have I missed some news about Ken Buckley? Haven't seen a report from him for a while.
10 Posted 06/11/2017 at 11:16:32
Niasse was just wonderful with his energy (yeah so what if he isn't the most gifted ?) and the masterstroke of the 3 subs with their combined energy totally swung it for us, a brilliant day indeed.
11 Posted 06/11/2017 at 12:07:10
Agree with Steve on Wayne. He really was running up and down the pitch at the beginning. Then, just like that, he looked shot.
The win was the best part. But have to add, that Goodison roar (and mine) got so loud there, my wife sat down to watch the last half-hour. And laughed at the end at her white-haired old man acting like a little kid. Ah well.
I wonder what effect Mirallas and Schneids getting the boot had on the squad?
12 Posted 06/11/2017 at 12:11:58
Let hold off who is avail right now ? I don't feel any younger this morning !!
13 Posted 06/11/2017 at 12:18:53
However, we cannot get by with luck as we did yesterday. Our major deficiencies still remain and we can only hope whoever takes the helm can iron them out sooner rather than later.
Watford will have gone back down the road and wondered how they lost that but for us, well the result was far more important than the way we got it.
Palace have got pace to spare and against our defence there is only one winner. I just hope our luck stays in until we get a few more points on the board.
On the players, well if they don't want to give everything for the shirt then bin them. I would sooner give young Beni a chance, mistakes and bad days and all, than a no effort Schneids.
14 Posted 06/11/2017 at 12:43:15
15 Posted 06/11/2017 at 13:04:02
16 Posted 06/11/2017 at 13:16:10
17 Posted 06/11/2017 at 13:24:45
18 Posted 06/11/2017 at 13:25:10
Defensively we were again a complete shambles. Pickford creates problems by rushing prematurely off his line, clearing the ball erratically and palming the ball to the feet of opposing forwards. Keane is too ponderous and weak to be a top class central defender. That he has now been drafted into the England squad says everything about the paucity of decent centre backs currently available.
In central midfield we have improved in recent games but still lack the ability to control a game for sustained periods, looking wide open when we lose possession. It was disappointing that yet another manager saw fit to select both Rooney and Sigurdsson in the same starting eleven. Neither can get around the pitch to any effect and the inclusion of both deprives the team of any pace or width to support the attack. Taking them off allowed us ultimately to win the match but we will rarely be as fortunate as we were yesterday.
The priority in the coming games must be to sort out the team as a defensive unit with the aim of recording a couple of clean sheets away from home. I remain unsure if Unsworth has sufficient experience and pragmatism to do that with this mixed bag of a squad consisting of old players past their best, expensive misfits and young players not yet ready to play every week.
19 Posted 06/11/2017 at 13:27:03
Michael Keane for example continues to show some abysmal positioning and tendency to watch the ball and not his man. For example go the 20 min highlights on the OS and go to around 13:14 and you will see a moment when Gray spins Jags to get in behind and meanwhile Will Hughes saunters into the box. Keane is so busy watching the ball 30 meters away that he is no within 6 ft of Hughes who would have had the easiest header, totally unmarked had Gray's cross not been a foot too high. I hope someone shows the clip on repeat to Michael and says 'stop worrying about the ball 30m away (!!) and concentrate on the players in your vicinity running into scoring positions as all semi- decent centre backs should do'. He's got a long way to go before he convinces me that hes a £30m defender.
20 Posted 06/11/2017 at 13:31:21
21 Posted 06/11/2017 at 13:56:54
This will give the decision makers time to see if 'Our Dave' has got what it takes as well as discovering which of the Dyche/Howe/Silva 'beauty parade' can last the course.
The best we can hope for 2017/18 is survival.
22 Posted 06/11/2017 at 14:46:12
We need a big commanding CH in January, someone who can play alongside Keane and also teach him how to play with a proper, solid partner.
Jags has done fantastic for us over the years but is past it as is Baines, Kenny is bedding in nicely now as well but until we replace Jags and Baines (and godawful Williams!) we are going to see more of the same.
But for today its a massive relief !
23 Posted 06/11/2017 at 15:43:40
Add to that the fact that the players were in a state of collapsed morale after Koeman's reign of terror, at an all time low after the Arsenal defeat, and I honestly wonder just what people expected from Unsworth. I doubt ANY manager could have come in and achieved an immediate run of positive results. Everyone seemed happy to see small signs of revival at first under Unsworth but frustration at two cup defeats and one in the league quickly turned to dissatisfaction.
We shouldn't expect miracles.
24 Posted 06/11/2017 at 15:52:56
There are lots of reasons why this horrific start to the season buried our collective heart but we need to thank David Unsworth for finding the program that will kickstart our heart.
I will never think it was a smart move to fire Koeman but I do have to admit that while the results have not been great under Unsy we have seen for the first time this season glimmers of spirit and ease on the ball not quite joy but less fear from the players.
We are fragile and brittle at the back I think the sudden aging of Bain's. Williams and Jags has been one of the fundamental problems that has rippled through a team that was given a mountain of a fixture list to start the new season with. We just never got unpacked.
I have not given up hope on any of the new signings I hope Klaasan and Sandro can be eased into the team and can become the players that we expected. Give Unsy till the end of the season maybe we only get into the top 10 but incorporate the players we have get them playing in a style that we can build on. I hope we will not even contemplate bringing an old hack like Allardyce or a young hack like Dyche. Lets continue to kick start our hearts.
25 Posted 06/11/2017 at 15:55:40
26 Posted 06/11/2017 at 16:21:22
But when the chips are down, our inferior manager manages to get it right, and our hopeless centre forward batters his way through fouls and demoralisation. Meanwhile, Mourinho is losing it and the ManU fans are starting to see the side of Lukaku that many of us loathed - great at scoring the third and fourth goals in a 5-0 win, crap at fighting for success.
Everton FC is currently a shambles with a terrible mix of over-the-hill, too-young, overpaid imported players without a clue as to how to play as a team. However, as Joe Royle showed (and maybe the great 80s team also did) you don't need to have the world's most talented collection of prima donnas (interestingly, it literally doesn't make sense to have more than one prima donna, but ManU - and maybe Liverpool - have quite a collection), to win. You need "the stomach for the fight"; that's what Leicester had.
I think Unsworth could be very important for this club in regaining its soul and its connection to the fans. Remember that in 1967 Celtic won the European Cup with every player born within 30 miles of Glasgow. I'm pretty sure that they weren't all the best players in the positions they played, indeed I suspect it's quite likely none of them were. So what could it have been that drove them to win?
27 Posted 06/11/2017 at 16:21:29
Question , who's the worst buy for the huge amount spent? Schneiderlin? Klaassen? Sigurdsson? For me Schneiderlin just about wins it, but I'd accept that Sigurdsson looks totally disinterested and Klaassen looks like a park footballer asked to play semi-pro. it's beyond him.
29 Posted 06/11/2017 at 16:49:32
I'd rather give him time than have some mediocre no-mark like Allardyce as manager.
31 Posted 06/11/2017 at 17:36:43
32 Posted 06/11/2017 at 17:52:04
Rooney, Schneiderlin, Klassen and Sygi could easily be singled out but I would be ready to admit that without good offensive penetration Everton have suffered badly.
Gana at Lyon, Sygi and Baines all missed what were open goals at times when scoring might have made a big difference.
When the so called strikers fail to get opportunities one hopes that experienced players from other positions can sometimes step up.
Everton have in recent seasons had people doing just that, like Seamus and Joleon Lescott but not so much now.
Gylfi was seen to be the new addition to do that but he has looked nothing like what he was.
33 Posted 06/11/2017 at 19:07:23
34 Posted 06/11/2017 at 21:23:26
35 Posted 06/11/2017 at 21:27:34
A fantastic line, and says succinctly everything I tried to explain in a long post elsewhere.
Encapsulates the very reason we should have some balls and wait before making a dangerous leap for another manager so soon.
36 Posted 06/11/2017 at 21:28:52
37 Posted 06/11/2017 at 21:31:52
38 Posted 06/11/2017 at 23:19:10
39 Posted 07/11/2017 at 05:04:31
I was always a supporter of Unsworth as player because he gave one hundred percent every game. As a manager of a Premier league I am still uncertain. Does really know the players? I just don't understand why he doesn't play Vlasic. I don't think he has had one bad game since he came. I would hate him to lose confidence. It is tough for any young player to regularly play well. It must be even more so if you are from a foreign country trying to adapt to the culture.
I would really like Unsy to succeed but He seems to be unsure of his lineups. With the present Everton bunch of players it must be very challenging to decide who should play where. He really might not have enough time to show what he has in his magic box.
40 Posted 07/11/2017 at 07:03:21
Instead we ended up going into our EL campaign without a recognised striker, so we were effectively hamstrung and hog tied before a ball was kicked. It's almost as if Koeman deliberately threw away our chances in Europe in order to make a point that we needed a centre forward, when we did in fact that one, but he happened to be on Koeman's black list, so the team was made to suffer. Just another example of Koeman's appalling arrogance and self before club.
41 Posted 07/11/2017 at 07:28:48
Not that I think we should sign him but a John Terry type of player would fit the bill for now.
42 Posted 07/11/2017 at 07:35:29
Sometimes mangers (whether on big $$$$ or not) need to analyse situations better than Koeman, in the case of Niasse. Koeman showed (to me at least) that he was not true value at Pds 6m pa. Mind you, I think this kind of money is obscene for anybody, who is not at risk of losing all in a business, and so there might be lots on here who disagree with me!?
44 Posted 07/11/2017 at 10:06:23
45 Posted 09/11/2017 at 10:46:29
Chris - 31. It's not so much that we beat them. It's the way we did it, plus of course the morale boosting tonic of the 3 points.
Those citing lack of experience as a reason not to give Unsworth a chance at least until the end of the year (and I have said it before on another thread) remember Zidane had no managerial experience other than with their reserves before taking charge of R Madrid. I realise obviously that we are not RM and Rhino is not ZZ, but you take my point I'm sure, and maybe see some parallels?
46 Posted 09/11/2017 at 10:59:23
We watched the match, as we watch all the Everton games, on TV in Johannesburg and never have I felt so dejected then hopeful then relieved and finally elated as we won 3-2. It brought back memories of that Wimbledon get-out-of-jail game.
As an aside, I see the Ken Buckley articles "From my seat" have been missing. Is he, god forbid, not well??? Loved reading all his match reports.
47 Posted 09/11/2017 at 11:22:32
Unsworth is steadily turning the ship around & changing the morale & attitude of the crew, whilst finding out which ones are up for the fight. There's a way to go yet, but we'll reap the rewards over the next couple of months if Unsworth is left in charge.
Whether he can then show enough until the end of the season to remain in post for the long term remains to be seen. However, in the absence of the big name touchline star that Moshiri would prefer, Unsworth is as good a bet in the interim as we're likely to get.
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