Everton were forced to settle for a disappointing point against Huddersfield Town following a largely lacklustre display at Goodison Park.
The Blues fell behind for the first time this season when, almost inevitably, they conceded from a corner 11 minutes before half-time but an almost immediate reply looked to have set the stage for them to go on and win the game in the second half.
In a frustrating echo of last season's attacking woes, however, Marco Silva's side failed to register another shot on target all game and the contest petered out to a 1-1 draw.
Shorn of the suspended Richarlison and a growing list of injured players that included Idrissa Gueye, Phil Jagielka and new signings Bernard, Andre Gomes, Yerry Mina, Silva opted for a formation with two strikers in the form of Cenk Tosun and midweek goalscorer, Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Kurt Zouma made his first start in the Premier League alongside Mason Holgate, as did Lucas Digne who replaced Leighton Baines at left back.
Everton started brightly enough and forced an early corner before Zouma was the surprise origin of a bouncing shot from distance that whistled narrowly past Jonas Lössl's right-hand post.
It was a rare sight of goal, however, for a Blues team that almost wholly lacked imagination despite enjoying the bulk of the possession. Given the absence of their more inventive outlets, the onus fell very much on the shoulders of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Theo Walcott to provide the cutting edge in the final third but both struggled to fulfil the brief.
For their part, the Terriers' chief threat was coming from Philip Billing's long throws into the box but it was from a 34th-minute corner that they scored, capitalising on a weakness to flicked-on set-pieces that Everton appear no closer to resolving under Silva's penchant for the zonal marking system.
Billing was the recipient of the ball unmarked in front of Jordan Pickford's goal and he headed home to make it 1-0.
To their credit, Everton were back level in less than 90 seconds from the kind of accurate delivery from the flanks that was so conspicuous by its absence for the rest of the game.
Digne it was who whipped the ball in from the left to pick out Calvert-Lewin and he guided the ball home via the goalkeeper's out-stretched glove to level things up.
The rest of the game was an exercise in futility for Silva's men as they tried vainly to pick their way past an organised Huddersfield rearguard. The further loss of Walcott to a hip injury after an awkward fall in the second half didn't help matters, although it did afford Ademola Lookman a decent runout and it was he who almost fashioned a goalscoring chance for Sigurdsson.
Great work by the young winger on the right ended with him firing the ball low into the six-yard box but it was just too far ahead of the Icelandic international's toe.
Generally, though, for all their dominance of the ball, Everton weren't able to do much with it and as the one on whom many no doubt put their hopes as the one capable of producing some magic, Lookman didn't have much of an impact, although his lack of playing time will have been a contributory factor.
Neither Seamus Coleman, Digne or Leighton Baines after he came on to replace the Frenchman in the closing stages were ever able to get down the flanks on the overlap to the byline and it made for predictable fare from the opposition's perspective who kept their hosts contained for the most part.
Calvert-Lewin had a couple of other headed opportunities, one in particular that he might have done better with, and there were further headed chances for Zouma and Tosun, the latter coming from substitute Oumar Niasse who hooked a cross back in front of goal but the Turk couldn't react in time to get underneath the ball.
Silva's assessment afterwards was an acknowledgement of where his team fell down on an afternoon where many expected Everton to collect all three points having failed to pick up the win should have done at Bournemouth last weekend.
It was a day when the side as a whole failed to really get going and it was difficult to pick out a strong performance from the bunch but. Zouma was probably the one that stood out the most.
The Portuguese described it as “a tough day. We controlled possession but in these games we need more creativity in our game.”
The two-week international break until the visit of West Ham will hopefully give some of those players carrying minor knocks to recover in time to be available for selection. With Richarlison due to serve the final match of his three-game ban and Andre Gomes unlikely to be fit, the big hope in that regard will be for Bernard to overcome the issue that precluded his involvement this weekend.
More importantly, the manager will get time to work more with his players to hopefully drill them better on the defensive side when it comes to set-pieces and try and draw more creativity out of a group of players that can do better than was on show today.
Everton went behind all too easily off another corner but responded immediately through Calvert-Lewin, yet they could not break through again in a dreadful second half.
Tom Davies, Lucas Digne and Dominic Calvert-Lewin retain their places after good performances against Rotherham United in midweek, with Leighton Baines dropping to the bench. Gana, Mina, Gomes, Bernard, Jagielka, Keane and McCarthy are all injured; Richarlison is suspended.
The bench also features Tyias Browning, Kieran Dowell, and Ademola Lookman.
The expected pattern of the game was evident from kick-off, Everton passing the ball around and looking to probe forward, through the massed and solid defence, but Walcott and Sigurdsson almost got through with some clever flicks, winning an early corner that almost led to a counter.
An early yellow card for Billing, a stretching lunge catching Zouma deep in Everton's half. there was a little more open running with Calvert-Lewin seemingly clipped but not getting the free-kick. Meanwhile, Huddersfield were quite prepared to come out of their shell with pace as soon as they secured the turnover.
Zouma stepped up into space and fired off a very fine strike that bounced inches wide of Lössl's post. But, apart from that, the close interpassing and movement off the ball was breaking down well outside the Huddersfield area.
Better structured attacking ended with a dragged shot across goal from Captain Coleman; Huddersfield countered weakly and the game patter resumed, Tosun almost but not quite making a killer through-pass. Walcott sent in a high cross and Tosun was clearly pushed over by Zanka, but well off the flight of the ball. A good cross in at the other end was heading for Mounie and Pickford punched away the danger. But nerves were jangling a little each time the Trotters advanced toward the Gwladys Street, such was the openness and pace on show.
Coleman was easily dispossessed as Everton tried to advance but were allowing themselves to be thwarted a little too easily, needing a little more guile to break things down and create a meaningful opening, Davies lucky not to be booked for a loose tackle from behind.
Despite good work by Davies winning the ball back, Coleman produced another overhit cross. Calvert-Lewin was extremely lucky with a rash studs-up, over-the-ball lunge that would have been a red had he made contact. Tosun almost got inside the area before he let fly, a little too early, high and wide.
Digne pulled out a better cross from the left but it was never on for Walcott who was clipped. Key passes by Calvert-Lewin and then Tosun found defenders rather than the intended attacking targets, while Schnederlin slid in a little too aggressively but was again not shown a possible card.
The long throws from Billing on the left were causing Everton some concerns, a Mooy shot winning a corner, the visitors pressing hard. Another corner all too predictably ended up in the Everton net for another shocking zonal marking disaster, Billing the man to head home unchallenged.
The response, however, was immediate: a fine cross in from Digne headed well by Calvert-Lewin and forced past the keeper's limp-wristed save to level things once again, and demonstrate very clearly that there was a way through this Huddersfield defence.
Walcott's shot spun away for a corner that Digne powered in brilliantly and it looked like Zouma must connect. Walcott was caught in the follow-up, landing on a defender's leg. But he recovered well enough to put a decent cross onto Calvert-Lewin's head, the execution disappointingly lacking control or direction.
The half was played out with little more incident, Referee Atwell blowing a little early as Coleman set to cross, ending a slightly frustrating half, Everton dominant but still level.
The game resumed with Everton again trying to play close-control football but crucially failing with key passes too easy for defenders to pick off and immediately swing into counter-attack, Mounie quick to warm Pickford's gloves with a decent shot on target.
Hogate got himself booked for a shirt tug as Walcott went down again, and was substituted, Ademola Lookman coming on to a nice welcome from the Goodison Faithful after a firm word or thirty in his ear from Marco Silva, and taking up a psoition wide right. An early substitution from Siva, albeit forced.
But Huddersfield again came forward far too easily, Mounie and La Para(?) getting in eachother's way. Everton were trying to play football but it just was not working, and they were losing the ball far far too easily. The crowd decided they needed to up the ante with some rare vocal encouragement but it just was not happening, Huddersfield able to interrupt the play seemingly at will. Davies, late with a lunge, saw yellow.
Lookman had a chance to run forward with the ball but checked and turned back... really frustrating. Sigurdsson was fouled, his deep free-kick met by three Everton players, Zouma offside. Then it was the visitor's turn for their own free-kick routine, Everton defending a little better, Pickford catching the weak header.
Davies tried to break the mould but overhit his chipped pass straight out of play. Coleman had plenty of space on the other side but again overhit his cross straight out of play. The sloppiness seemingly endemic at this point Another set-piece chance, out wide left, saw Digne curl his cross straight to Lössl. /p>
Digne tried the long-throw routine with no greater effect. Lookman was unable to dribble through three defenders but foced another chance and a great cross in that you could have wafted in with yer cap, Tosun and Calvert-Lewin both inches away from scoring.
Time to ring the changes: Baines and Niasse on for Sigurdsson and Digne, with 15 mins or so left to rescue 2 vital points going missing. But Calvert-Lewin passes the ball directly behind Baines and out of play. A spell of the sloppy head-tennis ended in Zouma heading behind for another Hudderfield corner, Davies getting the important first touch, and there was a corner down the other end for Baines to swing in, CL heading over, his heading style again in question as he lets the ball hit his head rather than providing any direction with his neck muscles.
Tosun got inside the well-defended Huddersfield area but was easily dispossessed. Baines and Calvert-Lewin again failed to interchange cleanly and another forward move was thwarted. But Niasse did better, winning a corner, Niasse clipping the ball back from deep and Tisun having to improvise his header, flying over.
The 4 minutes of added time brought no additional urgency and those vital 2 points evaporated into the overcast Goodison air, a really poor display all round from a makeshift Everton side suffering heavily from injuries.
Scorers: Calvert-Lewin (37'); Billing (35')
Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Holgate [Y:55'], Zouma, Digne (76' Baines), Schneiderlin [Y:85'], Davies [Y:63'], Sigurdsson (76' Niasse), Walcott (57' Lookman), Tosun, Calvert-Lewin.
Subs not Used: Stekelenburg, Browning, Kenny, Dowell.
Huddersfield Town: Lossl, Lowe, Kongolo, Schindler, Zanka [Y:89'], Hadergjonaj [Y:73'], Billing [Y:4'], Mooy, Diakhaby (60' Kachunga), Van La Parra, Mounie (92' Depoitre).
Subs: Mbenza, Williams, Pritchard, Schofield ( Durm).
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Gaz rolled up a little early and so we were in the pub…a little early, for drinks before our what-we-hoped-to-be routine win versus Huddersfield Town. Liverpool already in the lead by the time we got to the pub, and despite more comedy goalkeeping from a Liverpool goalkeeper, that they stayed. I do worry about them this season.
A raft of injuries and a suspension was highlighted by a young substitutes bench. Dominic Calvert-Lewin got the nod on the left wing, with Ademola Lookman included amongst the substitutes. A game we all expected, and very much hoped, we would win going into the international break, but a bit of you always felt Everton could “do an Everton” and not seize the opportunity, as proved to be the case this afternoon.
We’re going to have to start timing our walk to the ground better than we have so far this season. We literally only just made kick off, getting to our seats just as Stuart Attwell blew his whistle to begin the game at a packed Goodison Park with an impressive following from Huddersfield Town.
The game never got going in any capacity. Huddersfield Town were more than happy with the draw from the outset, but Everton didn’t do near enough to get the better of them and though a solid effort from the Terriers which was well worthy of a draw, they’ll have to work a lot harder than that for other points at other stadiums this season. One shot on target for Everton, from Calvert-Lewin’s goal, tells it’s own story. Huddersfield Town meanwhile had six.
Our inability to defend corners again disadvantaged us, Philip Billing this time the recipient of our horrible zonal marking. We really need to get a handle on that and quickly as it’s costing us a goal per game. Thankfully we levelled the scores within two minutes, with Huddersfield Town probably still switched off. Lucas Digne with the ball in, well headed home by Dominic.
Though we didn’t carve out anything too clear cut, we did come close on a few occasions. In the first half Kurt Zouma nearly put us ahead with a quite brilliant bouncing effort from distance which only just flashed wide of Jonas Lossl’s right hand post. Cenk Tosun, with no other options narrowly missed target with a fierce angle drive, and then in the second half substitute Ademola Lookman’s ball just evaded Gylfi Sigurdsson; and from a Leighton Baines outswinging corner, Calvert-Lewin headed over.
The substitutes baffled many, removing Gylfi, perhaps our only player on the pitch capable of producing something out of nothing confused me. Needless to say the substitutions failed to yield an equaliser, and as the game stretched out you felt we were less and less likely to get the three points. It was as frustrating a final 10 minutes as I can remember with the game constantly being stopped for free kicks in what was a poor performance from Attwell. We trudged off unbeaten, yet disappointed at full time.
Though we deserved nothing more than we got today, there’s a sense amongst Evertonians that we should be at least a couple of points better off, but I guess we’ll just have to make sure we kick on after the international break.
While a disappointing display, we can’t overlook the number of absentees from our squad, many of whom would be in the team if available. Yerry Mina, Phil Jagielka, Michael Keane, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Andre Gomes, Barnard, Theo Walcott (who limped out of today) and Richarlison. That’s a lot of talent, some of which I believe would have helped unpick Huddersfield Town’s stubborn resistance. Idrissa Gana Gueye was particularly notable by his absence in my opinion. Nobody wins the ball back and keeps the play moving quite like he does and I’d perhaps like to have seen Beni Baningime given that opportunity today as he’s a player of somewhat similar ilk.
A bad draw then, but blimey, if you’d have heard some of the maniacs calling Radio Merseyside post match you’d have thought we’d have been relegated today. A poor performance, the worst in five games, but we all need to understand that this is going to take a lot of time, perhaps a number of seasons to get right and a great deal of patience is required…something that seems in increasingly short supply with the modern day supporter.
Pickford: Did what he had to pretty well and was quick off his line on a few occasions. 6
Digne: Did OK. Good ball in for the goal but like the team, seemed a bit bereft of ideas before he was substituted. 6
Holgate: A few poor moments but generally OK otherwise. 6
Zouma: Looks a very good, full-blooded defender. Strong and aggressive in the tackle and very dominant. Could be a great defender for us this season, and after that, who knows? My man of the match. 7
Coleman: Desperately out of form and I’d say needs to improve or get used to a bit of time on the sidelines to give Jonjo an opportunity. 5
Schneiderlin: Did OK. While he’s not shy to tackle I don’t quite see him in that holding role which Gueye specialises in. 6
Davies: Did OK. Was doing more than most to try and force something as the minutes ticked by. 6
Calvert-Lewin: Took his goal well and full of effort, but couldn’t offer enough creativity from the left. 6
Walcott: Went down injured early on and couldn’t quite run it off before coming off early in the second half. I really hope that’s not a serious injury. 5
Sigurdsson: Not his most effective game but it wasn’t for lack of effort. WIth Tom Davies on a yellow card, it seemed short-sighted to me to take Gylfi off when we were chasing the game. He’s always capable with a free kick, or an opportunity around the box and I thought it was a bad move to take him off at that stage. 6
Tosun: He’ll have to start getting amongst the goals soon otherwise he’ll be finding himself under pressure and Everton will be looking for an alternative in January. Pace is clearly missing from his game and, as Ste mentioned at the match, without this, you wonder where he fits into this system. That said, he does work hard Cenk and was a bit starved of service in this one. Though he’s struggling for goals, you feel that once he gets one he could very well get on the goal trail. Hopefully the rest of the September games will provide these opportunities for him…and he will take them. 6
Lookman (for Walcott): Made a good immediate impact and then faded somewhat. Unlucky not to have produced the winner with a wicked cross which Sigurdsson couldn’t quite turn in, but not a bad contribution. 6
Baines (for Digne): A straight swap for Digne and one I agreed with as I felt Lucas’s impact in the game had faded. Unfortunately Leighton couldn’t really make any further inroads down the left. 6
Niasse (for Sigurdsson): I also felt bringing NIasse on was the right decision, it was the sort of game in which his nuisance value might just have paid off, I just didn’t think it should have been at the expense of Gylfi. As always with Oumar, his effort was there, but unfortunately he never got that opportunity. Kieran Dowell might have been another good attacking option, but maybe Marco Silva was concerned that would upset the team balance. Anyway, not bad from Oumar. 6
Everton play the last in the batch of fixtures before the first international break of the season as Huddersfield Town come to Goodison Park.
It's also the second of three successive home matches following Wednesday's 3-1 win over Rotherham United in the Carabao Cup and preceding the visit of West Ham United in a fortnight's time, two Premier League encounters that provide Marco Silva's side an excellent opportunity to put more points on the board.
There is a very real feeling that Everton should be up there with the clutch of clubs that have taken maximum points from their opening three fixtures. While the failure to hold on to a 2-1 lead at Wolves owed partially to the mitigating circumstances of Phil Jagielka's sending off, the surrender of a two-goal lead at Bournemouth last weekend was less forgivable.
At issue has been a general failure to manage matches from winning positions in those two away games as well as defensive vulnerabilities to crosses and set-pieces. If there was a desire to see things changed further in the back four, Michael Keane's injury and Lucas Digne's impressive display in the cup in midweek could usher in at least two defensive alterations to the team that started at Vitality Stadium.
Keane is out for the next month which, combined with Yerry Mina's foot injury leaves Silva down to the bare bones in terms of centre-halves. Phil Jagielka is eligible again after serving a three-match ban but he has succumbed to injury himself, a knee cartilage problem that will sideline him for another three weeks.
As was the case against Rotherham, it means that Mason Holgate and Kurt Zouma will partner each other in the centre and given Leighton Baines's sloppy concession of a penalty against Bournemouth, there is a strong case for including Digne from the start against the Terriers.
Injuries have also affected Silva's plans in both attacking and defensive midfield where Richarlison is absent for the second game of his three-match suspension, Idrissa Gueye is ruled out with a knee injury and Bernard is also missing with a minor knock.
It means that the manager's options are limited but he should be able to field a side capable of overcoming Huddersfield who were despatched in routine fashion by a shot-shy Blues team under Sam Allardyce just a few months ago.
With no Richarlison and Ademola Lookman doubtful with a knock, there are no obvious candidates to play wide on the left, which perhaps creates another window of opportunity for Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
The young striker's brace against Rotherham has surely put him front and centre of Silva's thinking and a striking partnership with Cenk Tosun is a good bet this weekend, although Digne could just as easily be deployed in left midfield with Baines continuing at left back..
Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday 1 September 2018
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Last Time: Everton 2-0 Huddersfield Town
Predicted lineup: Pickford, Coleman, Holgate, Zouma, Digne, Schneiderlin, Davies, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Tosun, Calvert-Lewin