It’s six days since Carlo Ancelotti took his first training session as Everton’s new manager. Thanks to the opportunity of two games in the space of as many days, he already has six points on the board and, depending on what happens between Arsenal and
Manchester United Chelsea tomorrow, the Blues could be starting 2020 in the top half of the Premier League table.
That feels like an awfully far cry from how Evertonians were feeling on the 5th of December following a third successive defeat and humiliation in the Merseyside derby that had left the club sitting in the relegation zone with three more of the “big six” still to play in successive games.
Duncan Ferguson, of course, played his part, rousing a squad depleted of personnel and morale to a win and a draw before Farhad Moshiri landed one of the biggest fish possible as Marco Silva’s successor.
It’s very early days but the contrasts between the vastly experienced Italian and a comparative novice in the form of the Portuguese are already evident, not least in terms of tactical shifts and game management, both of which elements lay at the heart of this 2-1 victory at St James’s Park.
It’s hard not to draw the distinctions between this result and the corresponding fixture on this ground last season. On both occasions, Everton were winning 2-1 with 25 minutes to go but where, in March, Silva’s side collapsed in the final 10 minutes and went on to lose a match they had been leading 2-0, this time Ancelotti’s charges held on in disciplined and increasingly assured fashion to secure the points.
It was a mostly professional away performance, particularly after Dominic Calvert-Lewin had slid the ball home to put Everton back in front after Fabian Schär had cancelled out his first-half opener. Ancelotti had initially withdrawn the tiring Moise Kean in favour of Fabian Delph with an hour gone but the manager proceeded to add Seamus Coleman for the willing but often ineffective Theo Walcott — Djibril Sidibé was pushed forward into right midfield as part of the reshuffle — and then Yerry Mina for Leighton Baines with 10 minutes left to deal with the aerial threat of Andy Carroll.
The veteran striker had already set up the equaliser with a largely uncontested header from a set-piece 11 minutes into the second half and with Everton conceding a number of frustratingly unnecessary fouls in dangerous areas of the pitch, a player capable of competing with Carroll was a welcome addition. It helped the visitors lock down the game and ensure that Steve Bruce’s Magpies lost on home turf for the first time since August.
With such a short turnaround between this fixture and the home game against Burnley on Boxing Day, Ancelotti made five changes to his starting XI, bringing in Baines, Michael Keane, Walcott, Tom Davies and Kean but there appeared to be little disruption from the display against the Clarets. Aside from the first couple of exchanges, where Miguel Almíron poked a shot wide and Joelinton shot weakly at Jordan Pickford, Everton would dominate the first 25 minutes, hogging almost 70% of the ball, and a spell of pressure that began in the 10th minute eventually told.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and Baines exchanged passes from a short corner routine which ended with the fullback swinging a deep cross to the back post where Kean made contact, Richarlison found the goal blocked by the goalkeeper and a defender so he laid it back to Mason Holgate but his side-foot shot was saved one-handed by Martin Dubravka who then bundled the ball behind as Calvert-Lewin tried to turn it home.
Keane was fortunate to be awarded another corner when he headed the subsequent corner off his shoulder and over the bar and when that set-piece was cleared, Baines was clattered outside the area by Almíron.
Sigurdsson’s direct free-kick cannoned back to him off the defensive wall, his shot on the rebound deflected off a defender and fell to Calvert-Lewin in front of goal and he picked his spot beyond Dubravka.
Everton had their tails up and Kean showed his turn of pace to race forward and cut the ball back for Walcott but his shot was blocked and the former Gunner might have expected someone to get on the end of his dangerous ball into the six-yard box that skidded across the face of goal and behind.
In between, Joelinton picked up a Carroll flick-on but Pickford saved near his right-hand post while Calvert-Lewin was sent sprawling by Fernandez in the box but nothing was given by the officials.
While Everton had been in confident mood for the first half of the first period, they relinquished the hold they had on the contest after that and Newcastle began to come more and more into the game.
Skillful work by Jetro Willems tied Walcott in knots and helped him evade Sidibé to centre for Almíron around 10 yards out but the Paraguayan’s shot came back off the post to Carroll who turned the loose ball in but was flagged offside.
Isaac Hayden volleyed narrowly over the crossbar from Holgate’s clearance, Pickford beat Schär’s powerful drive away, Florian Lejeune curled an effort over and Almíron had the last chance of the half when he was played into space by Joelinton but he sliced his shot into the stands as Holgate came across to cover.
Everton emerged from the half-time interval keen to reestablish some momentum and they had an early chance through Kean who knocked the ball past his man in the box but a touch too close the keeper who close him down and blocked his shot. The Italian striker then sprinted away following Keane’s clearance at one end but Dubravka saved his low shot shortly before Newcastle equalised.
A soft decision by referee Lee Mason to award the hosts a free kick for Walcott’s raised leg on Willems set up a free-kick wide on the Magpies’ left which was lofted to Carroll at the back post where he rose above Sigurdsson to nod it down and Schär swept the ball first time inside Pickford’s far post.
The pendulum could have swung decisively in Newcastle’s favour at this point but it was Everton who threatened to score next and who went close through Kean whose half-volley was saved fairly comfortably by Dubravka before Holgate had a goal of his own waved away by the offside flag.
Just eight minutes after Bruce’s side had equalised, however, the visitors regained the lead. Richarlison won the ball back in midfield after he’d initially given it away with a loose flick, Walcott played him in down the right flank and the Brazilian surged past his marker into the area and slipped a teasing ball across for Calvert-Lewin who just needed to make solid enough contact to steer it over the goal line.
It was another reward for a player who, along with his Brazilian strike partner and the wonderfully versatile Holgate, has risen to the challenge these past few weeks and delivered on a consistent basis.
With a win that represents Everton’s 11th points from a possible 15 since Silva was sacked, things are certainly looking up for the Blues as they look ahead to 2020. With 22 shots on goal to add to the 21 they registered against Burnley, there is no shortage of attacking endeavour in the team now.
Ancelotti rightly pointed out afterwards that his team can and need to play better football and he was disappointed with the way they ceded the initiative back to Newcastle in the first half but he will be justifiably pleased with his return of maximum points so far.
The trip to Manchester City on New Year’s Day and the FA Cup date Anfield beyond pose altogether more difficult propositions but Evertonians will travel to both games with a good deal more confidence that their side can produce something on the home ground of the fading Champions and their apparent heits than would have been the case under Ancelotti’s predecessor.
There’s a long way to go with some key parts of the side that the new boss will eventually want to improve but the way things are going, it could be a happy new year after all.
Everton won for the second time in two days as Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored a goal in each half to inflict Newcastle's first home defeat since August.
The young striker grabbed a poacher's goal with 12 minutes gone after Gylfi Sigurdsson's shot had been deflected into his path and he was on hand to convert Richarlison's pass in the second period after Fabian Schär had equalised 11 minutes after half-time.
Carlo Ancelotti made a number of changes as expected because of the demands of having to play again so soon after Boxing Day which meant five changes and starting places for Michael Keane, Leighton Baines, Tom Davies, Moise Kean and Theo Walcott.
Alex Iwobi and Morgan Schneiderlin were ruled out but there was no place on the bench for Anthony Gordon, who traveled with the squad.
Keane was exposed for pace in the first minute but Almiron prodded wide under the defender's challenge and Joelinton had a tame shot on the turn easily gathered by Pickford before the visitors took control of the game.
A Baines cross in the 10th minute was blocked behind for a corner on the left and when the resulting corner came back to the fullback, his cross dropped to Richarlison at the back post, his layoff to a teammate ended with a shot blocked and Dubrabvka saved from Calvert-Lewin.
Keane was picked out from the next corner with a free header but he put it over via a Newcastle player. The next corner was cleared but Baines was fouled not far outside the box and though Sigurdsson's initial effort cannoned off the wall, the Icelander's follow-up shot bobbled off a defender and fell to Calvert-Lewin who slotted home.
Calvert-Lewin then sent Kean away with a first-time layoff and the youngster cut it back for Walcott but the winger's shot was blocked.
With 18 minutes gone, Keane lost an aerial challenge with Carroll and Joelinton collected the flick-on but Pickford saved low at his near post while at the other end, Fernandez's apparent shove in the back on Calvert-Lewin as he tried to run onto Sidibe's pass wasn't punished with a penalty
Walcott was clipped by Lejeune setting up another dead-ball situation for Sigurdsson but he overhit the delivery and Newcastle cleared but once again Everton retained possession and Walcott's teasing ball across the face of goal went unclaimed.
Newcastle had the ball in the net following their best moment of the game, a teasing, twisting piece of place by WIllems who found Almiron in the centre and while his shot came off the post, it fell to Carroll in an offside position and the assistant raised his flag as the striker converted the rebound.
The Magpies stayed on the attack and when Almiron's cross was headed clear by Holgate, Hayden struck a volley that only just cleared the crossbar.
Newcastle had been buoyed by that, however, and they would dominate the contest for the rest of the half and Schar forced a good save from Pickford with a powerful shot that the keeper parried away before Lejeune curled a shot over from 20 yards.
With Keane caught high up the pitch in the 44th minute, Almiron was put in down the channel but Holgate came across and did enough to put the forward off and he sliced badly off target.
Kean won a corner early in the second half but no penalty was awarded when the ball struck Hayden's hand and an attempted curler by Richarlison was safely gathered.
Everton kept up the pressure though and Kean's first touch was slightly heavy but he still forced a blocking save by Dubravka.
The young Italian created his own chance again when he collected Keane's clearance but he wasn't able to unduly trouble the keeper who saved his shot at the second attempt.
Richarlison's deep ball searching for Kean was put behind for a corner by Lejeune but it was cleared and Davies picked up a booking for catching Willems as Newcastle tried to break.
Walcott was then penalised for what referee Mason weakly deemed to be a foul on Willems in a dangerous spot wide on the Magpies' left and when Carroll easily beat Sigurdsson in the air and knocked it down for Schar the defender lashed it past Pickford.
Kean almost replied straight away but despatched his half-volley too close to the keeper while Carroll tested Pickford at the other end with a crisp drive.
Holgate thought he had scored on the hour mark when Dubravka parried Richarlison's shot on the turn following Calvert-Lewin's towering header but the flag had gone up for offside.
Ancelotti withdrew the willing Kean at that stage and introduced Delph and within a few minutes, Everton were back in front. Richarlison powered down the right flank, crossed invitingly for Calvert-Lewin and the striker got enough on the ball to slide it over the line.
Sidibe's foul on Almiron handed Newcastle another set-piece opportunity to get Carroll into the game but Ancelotti took Walcott off for Coleman prior to the free-kick being taken and a penalty claim by the hosts was ignored for an innocuous push in the box.
After MIna had come on for Baines, Holgate won a corner with strong work but Davies snatched at his shot off a poor punch by the keeper and Mina looped a header over.
Mina was then adjudged to have wrestled Carroll down in the middle of the park but the free kick was cleared despite howls of protests from the home fans under the attentions of Sidibé.
Everton saw out the rest of the match with relative ease. Despite making two attacking changes that introduced Dwight Gayle and Christian Atsu, Steve Bruce was unable to affect the closing stages and the Blues recorded an important away win in a fixture they threw away last term under Marco Silva.
Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday, 28 December 2019
Newcastle Utd: Dubravka, Yedlin, Willems, Schar, Lejeune, Fernandez, Hayden, Shelvey, Almiron, Joelinton, Carroll.
Subs: Darlow, Gayle, Krafth, Manquillo, Atsu, S Longstaff, M Longstaff.
Everton: Pickford, Baines, Sidibe, Keane, Holgate, Davies, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Richarlison, Kean, Calvert-Lewin.
Subs: Stekelenburg, Delph, Digne, Mina, Tosun, Bernard, Coleman.
Referee: Lee Mason