They say that 2-0 can be the most dangerous scoreline in football; that uneasy position for the leading side that can be upset so quickly if they allow the other team to shift the momentum by getting a goal back. Add in Everton’s exasperating propensity to shoot themselves in both feet and some typically poor refereeing from Lee Mason and you have the recipe for what unfolded at St James’ Park today.
This was the quintessential game of two halves; the first had one wondering where this imaginative and purposeful Everton has been the past three months while the second left you cursing the mental fragility and abysmal game management that this Blues team under the current manager continues to exhibit.
The winning goal was a travesty of poor officiating and the muddied waters of the modern offside rule but the maddening aspect of this game wasn’t that Everton lost it, it’s the manner in which they tossed away a 2-0 lead and crumbled at the first sign of concerted pressure. A crumb of comfort could have been taken had Ayoze Perez’s winner been chalked off as it should have been but there would have been very little margin between a 2-2 draw and a 3-2 defeat in terms of how deflated Evertonians felt at the final whistle.
It was depressingly reminiscent of the draws at Wolves and Bournemouth and also brought to mind Watford’s defeat by the same scoreline at Goodison Park under Silva in 2017 when David Unsworth was in temporary charge. Injury to Heurelho Gomes in that match was a contributory factor in the Hornets’ collapse but it was a bumbling display by the Portuguese’s current goalkeeper that underpinned part of today’s calamity.
Jeered and booed throughout by the Toon faithful, Jordan Pickford lost his head trying to wind them up and, having escaped punishment for a howler in the first half by saving Matt Ritchie’s penalty, he failed to check himself in the second period and ended up contributing enormously to a damaging defeat.
Had the England international been sent off in the 29th minute for rugby-tackling Salomon Rondon in an attempt to atone for a horrible misjudgement of Ritchie’s cross, it wouldn’t have been all that surprising. Perhaps because he was unsighted, that he and his assistant felt that the ball was going away from goal or that Kurt Zouma was retreating into his goalmouth to cover, the referee elected not to show Pickford a red card for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity but the moment of madness could have cost the Blues their 1-0 lead 11 minutes after Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed them in front.
That 18th-minute goal had been a thing of beauty and exemplified the invention and drive that Everton showed for much of the first 45 minutes. Bernard, whose earlier back-heel to Lucas Digne had carved out an early first half-chance for Gylfi Sigurdsson, combined with the Frenchman again with a lovely reverse pass that Digne chipped into the centre for Calvert-Lewin to glance home in accomplished fashion.
A Magpies goal against the run of play would have been somewhat galling but Pickford, who wasn’t even booked for cleaning out Rondon in his penalty area, would redeem himself by saving what was an admittedly poor spot-kick from Ritchie to preserve the 1-0 advantage.
And when Everton doubled their lead a minute later, it appeared as though the penalty save had provided an irrevocable turning point in the game. Bernard was involved again, threading a pass to Calvert-Lewin whose attempted cross was headed out only as far as André Gomes who showed great strength to hold off his man and ping the ball across goal from wide on the right.
Martin Dubravka could only palm the Portuguese’s cross into Richarlison’s path and the Brazilian, preferred to Theo Walcott following his energetic cameo in the Merseyside derby, was on hand to stab the ball home from close range.
The urgency of their situation and the home fans’ ire at Mason and his officials combined to fuel a flurry of activity late in the half from Newcastle who, apart from an early chance when Pickford punched a clearance straight to Perez and the Spaniard looped a header over the bar, hadn’t really threatened all that much.
Perez was released in behind a somewhat flat-footed Kurt Zouma by a pinged ball over the top from a Magpies defender but Pickford came up big with a smart one-handed save.
2-0 up and coasting at the break, all Everton had to do was continue what they had been doing and that is what Silva claims the instructions were. And initially, it looked as though they would do just that as Bernard popped up in the Newcastle box early in the second half but shot well wide trying to bend a shot on goal.
Rafael Benitez, however, had clearly told his men to up the intensity and increasingly favour longer balls in an effort to unsettle Everton’s infamously erratic defence and it almost paid dividends 11 minutes after the interval when Rondon out-muscled Michael Keane and, with Pickford in “no man’s land”, the big striker bounced a shot a foot wide of the post.
Having ceded much of the impetus to their hosts, Everton tried to break away in the 65th minute but Bernard couldn’t dribble his way past two striped jerseys, Ritchie’s back-heel to Bobby Hayden took the Brazilian out of the game and within seconds the ball had been clipped to the edge of the Blues’ box.
Perez nodded it back to Rondon, he returned it to his strike partner and then made a run to meet Perez’s chipped ball over Jonjoe Kenny where he half-volleyed past Pickford to halve the deficit.
Three minutes later, the otherwise impressive Bernard sent a clearance straight to Ritchie and his cross was back-headed narrowly over by Paul Dummett as Everton wobbled.
Although playing increasingly on the counter-attack, Everton regained their composure somewhat and could have put the game to bed with around 20 minutes to go. First, Calvert-Lewin engineered space for a shot in the Magpies’ area but drilled his effort inches wide; then, Sigurdsson sent Richarlison into the clear for a one-on-one confrontation with Dubravka but an awful first touch from the Brazilian allowed Dummett to get across and slide-tackle the ball out for a throw-in.
Silva had already decided by that point on the “Moyes sub” and he withdrew Richarlison in favour of another centre-half in the form of Yerry Mina but that failed to address the lack of control in midfield where, perhaps, Morgan Schneiderlin would have been a better substitution. Everton failed to register a shot on target in the second 45 minutes and found themselves pushed further backwards.
The result was more Newcastle pressure and, aided by referee Mason becoming ever more lenient on the home side in terms of ignoring a series of apparent fouls on Everton players, they assailed the visitors’ defence and scored twice in the space of three minutes, starting in the 81st.
Miguel Almiron, who had hitherto been mostly contained by Everton despite his pace and movement, unloaded a swerving shot from 25-plus yards and Pickford parried it straight to Perez who had followed it in and had the simple task of stroking it home.
2-2 and there was an air of inevitability of what was to follow given how Everton had gone to pieces as the second half had worn on. Rondon half-volleyed narrowly wide from the angle a minute later and Dummett tested Pickford again with a stinging shot of his own that the keeper finally pushed away from goal rather than in front of it but a minute after that Newcastle grabbed their controversial winner following the resulting corner.
The initial set-piece was cleared but the ball was dinked over the top as the Everton defence moved up, catching four striped shirts offside in the process. The assistant’s flag stayed down, however, and Rondon knocked it on with his thigh to Perez who couldn’t miss in front of goal.
Ademola Lookman was already on for Bernard and Kenny, a late replacement in the line-up for Seamus Coleman who came down with an illness before kick-off, was taken off in favour of Theo Walcott but there would be no last-minute heroics from a Blues side that was mentally defeated. Another sorry capitulation and the question marks over the club’s immediate future reappear.
Just as was the case under Roberto Martinez, the Silva project is only going to succeed if the manager can demonstrate an ability to learn from past mistakes and develop the nous to successfully manage games. That is the gamble in hiring a young, largely unproven manager — you put your faith in a dynamic and progressive coach to evolve.
Silva was let down badly by his goalkeeper who veered like a pendulum from brilliant to ridiculous over the 90 minutes and his outfield players did him few favours by allowing themselves to be bullied and over-whelmed by a team that simply wanted it more in the second half.
The manager has to take his share of the blame, however, for his failure to control the game. The decision to alter the shape by throwing Mina on so early was a poor one and, once again, it revealed a worrying lack of awareness and savvy from Silva who desperately needs to demonstrate clear progress over the final eight matches.
Evertonians have seen this movie before, though; Martinez proved unable to improve and paid for it with his job and Silva appears to be heading in the same direction. After this latest collapse, you find yourself wondering not how long it’s going to take for things to turn around but how long this will all play out before its inevitable conclusion — a few weeks; months; a couple of years?
(The title of this report was changed post-publication – Ed)
Everton throw away a tremendous two-goal lead through a ridiculous combination of sloppiness from the players and stupidity from manager Marco Silva who hopelessly failed to protect a 2-1 lead with his substitution of Richarlison by Mina after a fantastic first half in which the Blues had taken a two-goal lead and Pickford had saved a penalty!
Marco Silva makes two changes: Gomes is back in for Schneiderlin while Richarlison replaces Walcott. Lookman is on the bench.
Coleman was named in the starting line-up but was either ill or injured in the tunnel and was withdrawn from the warm-up, Jonjoe Kenny stepping in to replace him, with Davies coming onto the bench.
There was goalmouth action almost straight from the kick-off by the home side, Everton pressing, Richarlison going down in the are to what looked like a kick, Sigurdsson firing the loose ball at Dubravka. Calvert-Lewin then almost put Richarlison in as Everton pressed well.
Almiron got a really good run down the Newcastle left but his cross went right through, as the home side responded. Everton yielded the early initiative, Gueye even dispossessed just outside the Everton area.
A lovely move of one-touch passing down the left was worth a goal but Sigurdsson stabbed the final ball at a defender without testing Dubravka. A brilliant cross deflected up and Pickford had to improvise with a diving punch that was headed back wide. Time for Pickford to attract local ire with an awful goal-kick into touch.
Sigurdsson and Richarlison looked to get down the right but the final ball was blocked too easily. Gomes returned the ball crossfield, finding Richarlison. To the other side and a brilliant ball bym Bernard to Digne was crossed nice and simple, onto Calvert-Lewin's head, a perfect glancing header well away from Dubrovka and a fine goal to put Everton into the lead.
Newcastle seemed enlivened by the setback, and pushed Everton back without really threatening. Calvert-Lewin tried to be too clever with a deft touch and lost the ball. Kenny was then guilty of losing the ball and Everton switched to the other side, Digne doing a long throw flicked on but Richarlison was easily denied. Sigurdsson tried to pick out Richarlison, winning a corner that was worked back to Sigurdsson and his cross blocked.
The tempo became frenetic with both sides switching possession, Newcastle pressing but Everton standing firm without using the ball well enough to relive the pressure, Calvert-Lewin and others guilty.
Then a moment of sheer unadulterated craziness from a certain Jordan Pickford, who inexplicably misjudged a cross under zero pressure from ayone, the ball flying up off his hands, he then rugby-tackles Rondon to stop him from scoring... a clear penalty, might almost have been a red but for Zouma covering the path to goal. Ritchie fired straight but a brilliant save by Pickford with his legs, and then saving the follow-up, Barcodes screaming for blood.
And Everton really then stuck in the knife, straight up the other end, Calvert-Lewin trying to cross, Gomes picking up the ball and succeeding with superb low cross Dubrovka could only push out 2 yards to the poaching Richarlison who finished with aplomb. Fantastic stuff from the travelling Blues!
Some good play form Kenny and Richarlison won a dangerous free-kick right-hand corner of the Toon penalty area and Digne delivered it well to the far post but Dubrovka snapped it out of the air and fired Newcastle into attack, Perez getting behind the Everton defence and forcing a fine save from Pickforsd, and the follow-up rebound.
Lascelles saw yellow for a silly barge on Richarlison, who was severley woounded bu the afront. Sigurdsson's ball as short and Kenny needed two bites to keep the ball, it eventually finding Bernard who scampered past his man but crossed straight to another home player. Everton were really pressing well, and Sigurdsson seemed to go over but no penalty. Richarlison got free but Bernard sloppily prodded the ball forward to a defender when it seemed that playing it away from him might have seen further forward progress toward the vulnerable Newcastle goal.
Instead, it was Newcastle attacking, Digne getting whipped out by Schar at the far post, who then demanded Digne get up, losing his head, causing plenty of unwarranted agro. The half ended in a crescendo of boos from the seething Toon Army, who felt things were definitely not going their way. But it had been a pretty good one for Everton despite numerous mistakes all over the field.
A lovely piece of skill by Gomes by the corner flag saw Everton putting the toon under early pressure after the break, the Blues looking very cocky but Calvert-Lewin misjudged Sigurdsson's simple ball inside and Newcastle attacked with pace, a great low cross put behind by Zouma, the corner coming to nothing, Pickdfford taking his time switching sides to take the goal-kick, much to the annoyance of the crowd.
Some nice forward passing was maddeningly ended when Digne passed it straight to a black & white shirt from 3 yards. Kenny was beaten down the Everton right and fouled his man, seeing yellow, and giving away a dangerous free-kick fired in over everyone.
Everton looked good for a few passes each time they got the ball but sloppy play too often ending promising moves for the Blues. A lovely touch from Bernard should have brought better but Newcastle put a long ball over the top, Rondon looked offside and Everton in panic mode scramble back and watched his effort bobble inches past the post.
Another lively Everton attack saw Digne taken down as he crossed. Everton kept getting forward well, Digne's cross blocked behind for a corner, Sigurdsson's delivery fantastic but Zouma was denied by Dummett's strong header. Next Everton attack down the right but Richarlison's cross was absolute rubbish.
Yedlin took out Bernard right in front of the technical areas but no yellow card. Everton wasted the free-kick completely. Digne took a ball to the gonads and rolled around in agony. There was danger from the corner and Everton survived the first phase and the second but not the third, Rondon finishing off a deflection that beat Pickford.
Everton were living a little dangerously CL blocked out Lejeune, who went down holding his face, and was a bit lucky not to get booked. Newcastle pressed hard for the equalizer, winning a corner, Bernard cleared straight to an attacker and a great cross in was headed behind by Dummett. Schar booked for dissent.
Barnard did better to cross into the middle of the Newcastle area were Sigurdsson and Calvert-Lewin fought over it, Calvert-Lewin firing narrowly wide. A fantastic ball out to Richarlison, whose first touch was horrible, a golden chance outrageously squandered. Silva brought on Mina in place of the profligate Brazilan, presumably secure with the narrow the one-goal margin.
More Newcastle pressure and another corner, ending in a goal-kick, Everton not looking too convincing any longer, having allowed the pendulum to swing in favour of the home side. Everton had lots of space to play but kept putting the ball to opponents' feet. And the next turnover ended up in the Everton net, Perez reacting first to Pickford's save from Almiron. Really, really poor from Everton to let them get back into the game.
And from the restart, the ball was immediately out wide to Rondon who had the time to fire goalward, his shot just wide. Another corner falls to Doummet, Pickford saving the fine strike very well, but Everton rocking under the pressure, and in the follow-up from the corner there was Perez to hammer home surely the winning goal. Absolutely shocking defending of a lofted ball pumped back into the Everton area, the Blues screaming for at least five Newcastle players offside but not given, Pickford caught on his line in the headlights.
Everton attacked but with no conviction, Sigurdsson handballs and, from the free-kick, the Toon swarmed forward again, Silva's response? Walcott on for the last 5 minutes. Shocking from Silva, as the games was lost and 5 more minutes of added time played out to underline the most embarrassing of losses for the Everton manager who was livid with the match officials over the non-offside decision for the deciding goal.
Scorers: Rondon (65') Perez (81', 84'); Calvert-Lewin (18'), Richarlison (32')
Newcastle United: Dubravka; Schar [Y:70'], Lascelles [Y:42'] (46' Dummett), Lejeune; Yedlin, Ki (79' Shelvey), Hayden, Ritchie; Almiron, Perez; Rondon.
Subs: Darlow, Manquillo, Kenedy, Diame, Joselu
Coleman Kenny [Y:53'] (86' Walcott), Keane, Zouma, Digne, Gueye, Gomes, Richarlison (72' Mina), Sigurdsson, Bernard (82' Lookman), Calvert-LewinSubs not Used: Stekelenberg, Schneiderlin, Davies, Tosun.
Referee: Lee Mason
Everton travel to the northeast this weekend looking to register successive away wins for the first time in two and a half years when they take on Newcastle United.
The Blues, who beat Cardiff City on their last road trip, could also notch a third consecutive victory at St James' Park having won there by a goal to nil under Roberto Martinez in 2015 and Sam Allardyce in 2017.
They face, however, a Magpies side who are on a four-game winning streak at home under Rafa Benitez, a run that included a 2-1 win over Premier League leaders, Manchester City, as well as more routine triumphs over fellow strugglers Cardiff, Huddersfield and Burnley.
That has helped lift Newcastle six points clear of the relegation zone and as many behind Everton coming into the weekend. Marco Silva's team, meanwhile, slipped back to 10th after Sunday's goalless Merseyside derby and lie six points off the top seven with nine fixtures to play.
Silva has suggested that he and his players should be regarding the remaining games like “cup finals” and while improving on last season's final position by one place and a possible Europa League spot are the summit Everton's achievements this season, there are many on the field and the dugout whose futures could depend on performances between now and mid-May.
The Blues emerged from the derby with plenty of credit in terms of attitude and application but their lack of cutting edge up front remains a concern and in that respect Silva appears no closer to finding a reliable combination of attacking players capable of consistently scoring goals.
In that vein, Silva says that reputation alone won't guarantee a place in his team but admits that Richarlison impressed him during his cameo against Liverpool and it could lead to the Brazilian's recall to the side this Saturday.
Having been substituted in the games against Watford and Cardiff, Richarlison was benched for the derby but replaced the largely ineffective Theo Walcott for the last half an hour and almost laid on a winner for Bernard and he could start in that wide-right role, allowing his compatriot to continue on the left.
Silva explained to the print media at his press conference that how players perform on the pitch and in training plays a large part in whom he selects from week to week.
“When I prepare for a game the names are not really important to me,” he said. “I have one week, 10 days or whatever to prepare for a game and they have to answer to me not just in the match but after and during the week. After that I will take my decision even if it is a really important player for us and Richarlison is.
“It is not just him. André Gomes did a fantastic season until a certain moment when, like the team, he has some up and down. He's an important player for us, a key player. When you are in a good moment and André is in a good moment he can give that extra quality for us as a team.
“He didn't play the last two games. It's not just Richarlison. If I take that decision then for sure Richarlison fully understands. He just has one solution — show to me during the 30 minutes he came in [in the derby] that he's ready again and show during the week that he wants his place in the team. That is everything he is doing.”
Gomes was also introduced as a second-half sub against Liverpool at the expense of Morgan Schneiderlin but his return to the starting XI isn't automatic either. Schneiderlin was guilty of a couple of potentially costly errors but Everton didn't concede with him on the field in either of the two games he has started so Silva has a decision to make over whom to pair with Idrissa Gueye.
In terms of availability, Phil Jagielka is a doubt and Leighton Baines is ruled out again with a back injury while Newcastle will be without rising young star midfielder Sean Longstaff (knee), defender Ciaran Clark (knee) and goalkeeper Rob Elliot (back).
With Watford away at Manchester City and Wolves travelling to Chelsea, there is scope for Everton to narrow the gap to both clubs if they can come away with a victory. The Barcodes' recent home form and increasing confidence, however, means it will be a difficult task but by no means impossible if Silva's men can carry forward their more assured displays over the past 10 days.
Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday, 9 March, 2019
Referee: Lee Mason
Last Time: Newcastle United 0 - 1 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Zouma, Digne, Gueye, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin