Everton buckle under Magpies' second-half pressure

Saturday, 9 March, 2019 0comments  |  Jump to last
Newcastle United 3 - 2 Everton

Jordan Pickford escaped a red card and saved a penalty in the first half but parried a shot straight to Ayoze Perez for the equaliser in the second before Newcastle scored a controversial late winner

Everton threw away a 2-0 lead and eventually lost 3-2 to Newcastle United in a match littered with controversy at St James' Park.

The Blues were coasting at half-time having survived Jordan Pickford's rush of blood to the head that saw him escape a red card for hauling down Salomon Rondon and save the resulting penalty in what looked like it might be the pivotal moment of the match.

Everton doubled their advantage shortly afterwards when Richarlison added to Dominic Calvert-Lewin's opener with a close-range finish but Marco Silva's men fell apart in the second half and were eventually beaten when Ayoze Perez fired home despite Rondon being in a clearly offside position.

The dubious nature of the winner will come as scant consolation to the visitors who looked to have put their poor form since early December to bed once and for all with a dominant first-half display on the back of Sunday's goalless draw in the Merseyside derby.

Silva had made three changes to the team that started against Liverpool, one of them enforced by illness to Seamus Coleman prior to kick-off. Jonjoe Kenny came in for the Irishman while André Gomes replaced Morgan Schneiderlin and Richarlison was swapped for Theo Walcott.

In a foretelling of what was to come in the second period, Everton had survived an early scare when Perez headed Pickford's punched clearance over the crossbar and they took the lead in the 18th minute through a well-worked move down the left.

Bernard fed Lucas Digne on the overlap and Calvert-Lewin glanced the Frenchman's perfect cross into the far corner with his head.

11 minutes later, however, Pickford badly misjudged a cross from the Newcastle left and flapped the ball to Rondon who was shaping to shoot as the goalkeeper rugby-tackled him, bringing him down and prompting referee Lee Mason to point to the spot.

With the home fans baying for a red card, Pickford escaped censure of any kind and he blocked Matt Ritchie's poorly-placed spot kick to preserve Everton's lead.

A minute later, it was 2-0. Persistence from Gomes allowed him to get to the byline and drive the ball into the six-yard box where Martin Dúbravka could only palm it into the path of Richarlison who converted from close range.

Pickford was called upon to make a good save five minutes before the break as Rafael Benitez's side tried to reduce the arrears, the former Sunderland man continuing to irk the home crowd by denying Perez who had been put in behind Kurt Zouma from a ball over the top.

Everton simply needed to keep playing after half-time the way they had been in the first but they increasingly allowed the Magpies to control the tempo and paid the price as the second half wore on.

They again escaped calamity in the 56th minute when Keane was out-muscled by Rondon, Pickford rushed off his line and the Venezuelan striker bounced a shot a foot wide of the post.

Then, when Bernard was dispossessed near the halfway line and Newcastle moved the ball quickly up front, Rondon and Perez exchanged passes to unlock the Blues' back line and the striker rattled a deflected half-volley past Pickford to make it 2-1 with 25 minutes left to play.

Newcastle went close to levelling matters three minutes later when Paul Dummett headed narrowly over following a corner but Everton seemed to settle themselves and almost restored their two-goal advantage when Calvert-Lewin drilled an effort inches wide at the other end.

Richarlison then wasted a gilt-edged chance to sprint on goal and perhaps claim his second when a dreadful first touch allowed the keeper to claim the ball and the Brazilian was substituted in favour of Yerry Mina.

The extra central defender couldn't prevent the hosts from turning the match on its head, though. With nine minutes of the 90 to go, Miguel Almiron lined up a powerful drive from 25 yards that Pickford parried straight to Perez and he tucked it home the equaliser.

Then, after Pickford had done well to push Dummett's half volley behind and Rondon and fired wide, Everton's defence appeared to have done its job in catching three striped shirts offside by moving up as a dinked ball was dropped over the top. Play was allowed to go on, however, and Rondon's nod on was swept in by Perez to complete the comeback.

The sickening reversal, only the fourth time in their history that an Everton team has lost after leading by two or more goals at half-time, condemned Silva's side to yet another defeat, denied the Blues a third straight win at St James' Park and stopped their recent mini-revival in its tracks.

It also drops the club back into the bottom half of the table following Leicester's win over Fulham and reopens the debate over Everton's psychological fortitude and ability to manage games.