West Brom 0 - 1 Everton
They say that the ability to win ugly when it’s required is the sign of a good team. If that’s true then this Everton side under Carlo Ancelotti is turning into a very good one. It’s just that they look anything but at times and this hideous yet hugely gratefully received win over Sam Allardyce’s West Bromwich Albion was further evidence that whatever this is, it’s littered with talent, is confoundingly inconsistent, yet capable of grinding out results with maximum efficiency. It’s taking years off the life of it’s supporters in the process with these stressful, razors-edge matches but hopefully the pay-off will be worth it in the end!
In the final reckoning, these two sides had exactly the same number of shots (11), efforts on target (3) and corners (3) over 90 minutes and but for a stray foot in stoppage time, would have ended precisely even on goals scored as well. One team has its eyes on the Champions League and the other is desperately trying to drag itself to Premier League safety but the margins were disconcertingly fine on the night.
But ultimately, Everton briefly occupied fourth spot at the end of it, they currently sit five points off second place with a game in hand and travel to fourth-placed Chelsea on Monday knowing that they tend to perform better on the big occasions against the big teams. This evening at the Hawthorns, against Big Sam’s potential spoilers, was all about three points however they could be achieved so as to keep the club in and around the Champions League places.
In that sense, as was the case against Southampton on Monday when the Blues managed just one shot on target all game, it was job done; move on. For the third match in succession, a Richarlison goal proved decisive and at other end, Jordan Pickford’s tour of redemption continues with another fine display in which he was, perhaps, as instrumental in securing the points as his Brazilian team-mate.
The key to this victory, however, might well have been Ancelotti’s first two second-half substitutions and his insistence that Gylfi Sigurdsson take the all-important corner that led to the goal rather than Lucas Digne. Everton were visibly labouring when the decision was made to introduce Allan and Sigurdsson to the fray within six minutes of each other either side of the hour mark. The Brazil international midfielder had been withheld from the starting XI as a precaution following his return after three months out against Saints just three days ago but his ability to sit at the base of a diamond and patrol in front of the back four made an enormous difference.
Sigurdsson, meanwhile, replaced the tiring Abdoulaye Doucouré and not only made an almost immediate impact with an assist for the goal but provided plenty of cover dropping back to help out his defence as well. It was another important contribution from a player finally showing his importance to the squad on a consistent basis.
Ancelotti’s starting line-up had been a nod towards rotation and an opportunity to hand Bernard and Alex Iwobi rare starts while James Rodriguez, Tom Davies, and Seamus Coleman remained sidelined with the minor knocks that kept them out against Southampton. Iwobi was deployed as a wing-back opposite Lucas Digne ahead of back three of Michael Keane, Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate but despite being a willing runner, the Nigerian struggled to impact the contest in the final third, guilty — but by no means alone — of poor end product.
Indeed, Everton’s delivery into the box was pretty awful, particularly in the first half and, as has become standard in recent weeks, the opposition were finding men in forward areas with a good deal more ease. Mbaye Diagne was the beneficiary of one chipped cross into the box from Conor Gallagher and the Senegalese striker’s header might well have found the top corner had Jordan Pickford not leapt brilliantly to bat it away with his opposite glove.
This was the first time Allardyce had come up against his former club and his new charges seemed determined to prove a point on his behalf with an enterprising opening. Diagne had another chance in 17th minute after André Gomes had become the latest Everton player to give the ball away in what was a sloppy opening from Ancelotti’s side but, thankfully, he hooked the ball over the bar.
The Toffees finally settled around the midway point in the first half and when Dominic Calvert-Lewin chested the ball off to Richarlison, the latter forced the first save from Sam Johnstone with a heavily deflected shot that was routine to gather.
Godfrey had a shot of his own deflected wide after a rampaging freight train-esque run from the back before a really nice move of rare penetration involving Bernard and Calvert-Lewin ended with Richarlison’s shot being blocked and sent spinning onto the roof of the net.
The best chance of the half came eight minutes before half-time, though, when a ricochet landed fortunately for Calvert-Lewin but, having seized on the loose ball, he could only shoot straight at Johnstone who stopped the effort with his leg. Richarlison then had the last chance before the interval when the keeper comfortably saved his scuffed shot from just inside the penalty area.
As they had done the first, West Brom started the second half in the ascendency with three early chances, the first for Matheus Pereira was saved low by Pickford, the second was squandered by Diagne when he nodded Darnell Furlong’s flick-on over from close range and the third was when Conor Gallagher flashed a shot dangerously across the face of goal from the angle.
Everton were struggling for tempo and fluidity and it wasn’t until the subs were made that they made the decisive breakthrough, albeit following a set-piece. Sigurdsson’s corner was cleared back to him by Diagne and the Icelandic international had time to curl a beautiful cross back into the six-yard box where Richarlison powered home a header.
A later chance for Calvert-Lewin provided by Lucas Digne from the left that the striker scooped over was really the only other opportunity that the Blues carved out as they dug in to resist a late assault from Allardyce’s team.
And with Godfrey racking up defensive blocks and clearances as the most visible bulwark against West Brom’s late charge, it that looked as though the home side’s efforts would be fruitless until a momentary lapse in concentration almost cost Everton in the dying moments. Keane lost Diagne as the ball came in from the Baggies’ right and the on-loan striker controlled it well before sweeping into the top corner and wheeling away in delight at a last-gasp equaliser.
Thankfully for Everton, the referee’s assistant had spotted that the forward was offside and a check by Video Assistant Referee, Michael Oliver, confirmed that Diagne’s foot had been ahead of the last defender and Everton escaped with all three points.
With every victory, the belief is clearly strengthening in this Everton side even if, again, the margins have been razor thin and the performances something of an examination of supporters’ psychological endurance. Even accounting for key injuries, you still feel the team is playing well within itself and that bodes well for when Ancelotti will need them to dig a little deeper in the coming weeks in order to achieve something truly remarkable.
With 12 games left and no one else, apart from Manchester City and Chelsea, showing much consistency in results, the door remains open for the Blues if they can just keep on winning. The trip to Stamford Bridge looks a challenging one given how well Thomas Tuchel has settled into life down there but Everton will fancy themselves against anyone at the moment. And that’s all you can ask for at this stage of the season.
Reader Comments (47)
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1 Posted 05/03/2021 at 07:14:58
The key thing for Everton this season will be to keep Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin and perhaps even Godfrey. Next season, with just a couple of new faces, we could be some team. We're not there yet but we're progressing towards it.
2 Posted 05/03/2021 at 07:43:44
3 Posted 05/03/2021 at 08:09:28
Signs of creativity were there for Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin to get on the end of and we fought hard when we lost the ball.
Chelsea away next will also be a tough game and perhaps a ‘Dogs of War ‘ approach will be needed. We have players in form, let's hope we can get a result.
4 Posted 05/03/2021 at 09:03:55
We rode our luck last night just like we did last Monday evening but we got through. In fairness, we were without Seamus, Tom and James all of whom might have started, we were also without Olsen and Mina and we tried to rest Siggy and Allan for Monday.
We need to get some of our injured players back for Monday. I have no doubt that if we can reach the levels achieved against our neighbours, congrats to them on the new record, then we can get a result on Monday evening.
You have to say that it's been some response since the Fulham loss.
5 Posted 05/03/2021 at 09:22:20
He said, 'No, we're playing inconsistent, drab, error-strewn WINNING football...' with a huge smile on his face...
Ah well, the exuberance of youth!!
6 Posted 05/03/2021 at 09:27:30
7 Posted 05/03/2021 at 09:32:18
8 Posted 05/03/2021 at 09:49:32
9 Posted 05/03/2021 at 09:51:22
I thought it was interesting to read that Everton were looking to extend Kings loan period, well he has been here a month and is only brought on with minutes left in the game. That doesn't tell me that Carlo would extend his stay.
I know it seems like a really negative post after getting another 3 points on our travels, and as I said in the first line of this post I am delighted to be in the mix for a top 4 spot. But I think we will need to improve a lot if we are hoping to get a Champions league place. Again Keane and Godfrey look very assured at the back and Richarlison is back to his best. Also Allan made a big difference when he came on, he spots and cuts out any danger before some of his teammates are aware of the danger, I believe him staying fit for the rest of the season will be pivotal to us challenging the top 4.
10 Posted 05/03/2021 at 09:59:26
I was really surprised by Carlos set up last night. Gomes in a midfield two was never going to work for me. Once Allan came on and we went into a diamond we looked a lot better.
11 Posted 05/03/2021 at 10:26:36
What we are now seeing is what the RS and MU have been doing for years- play well below par but find a way to win. Score a fortunate goal, have key decisions go in our favour, have one player who rises above the rest and grabs or creates a goal. There really is no cause to be negative here- we should celebrate the fact that this team is starting to develop character, players like Godfrey,Keane,Holgate,DCL and Richi who will dig in and keep going, not to mention the excellent Doucoure who admittedly needs to improve his passing but is perpetual motion and never gives up.
DCL is being starved of chances at the moment and missed a golden opportunity last night, but he is putting himself about and creating space for Richi who is on a great run now.
Our back four must be one of the best if not THE best in the country especially with a fully fit Allan in front of them. Chelsea will be a tough game but we do seem to raise our game for the big boys this season and it is a game made for James to strut his stuff.
I cant believe that anyone expected a game last night any different to what it was. Sam sends teams out to be solid and tight and very few teams play well against them. We did well but will need James and Tom back for Chelsea with Doucoure re-energised..
Phil- your reference to John Hurst is very accurate- he didnt have Godfrey pace but he used to glide past players as if they werent there- smashing CB and very unlucky never to get an England cap when he was at his peak.
Final comment- what a save by Pickford from that header- very few keepers would have the agility to get to that.
12 Posted 05/03/2021 at 10:38:08
Mark D, I also thought that last night. I love our old away kit. I can still see The Holy Trinity strutting their stuff.
13 Posted 05/03/2021 at 10:51:22
That team knew how to win even when not playing well!
14 Posted 05/03/2021 at 11:01:38
15 Posted 05/03/2021 at 11:05:43
Actually, make that fourteen scrappy 1-0 wins, because were also going to win the FA Cup!
16 Posted 05/03/2021 at 11:43:49
17 Posted 05/03/2021 at 12:17:38
And yes there were some very scrappy wins that season. Forest at home I remember with Tommy Wright scoring the only goal of the game.
Dave#13 - just texted our former school mate. Being gentle as he is a red rather than a kopite (the latter live near you, whereas reds live near me)
"Purina have withdrawn from negotiations with Liverpool to be their shirt sponsors fearing contravening the 2011 Trade Descriptions Act.
They wanted promote Winalot on the Liverpool shirt."
As I said when we were top in September - let's enjoy it while it lasts.
18 Posted 05/03/2021 at 12:30:57
We are well ahead of schedule at the moment and Carlo has made no secret of his view that we need another transfer window before he will consider us ready for an assault on the Top 4. I will be amazed if we manage it this season but if we dont I will take great comfort from the fact that the team is starting to take shape and is now showing some guts and determination.
I now have pride in what we are doing which is a great change to the sense of embarrassment when I was watching a side where several players did not seem bothered. Siggy is a prime example- all of a sudden he is being played in a more favoured role and he is doing well- still nowhere near his price tag but having been very critical of him earlier in the season I can now see that he is trying hard and making a decent contribution.
A right back and a creative midfielder will work wonders in the summer.
19 Posted 05/03/2021 at 12:56:17
On last night's game: I am saddened that Gomes has been singled out as the whipping boy "de jour"; I thought he had a reasonable game, sticking to his remit of recycling possession and playing the occasional ambitious ball forward. Again, I see him as an Ancelotti project; I think he is trying to bring him back to a level where he is comfortable in dominating possession the way he did pre-ankle break.
Also, I think that the main reason for our painfully labored play stems from the inability of any of our back four to bring the ball out of defense: Keane, who is tasked with this by way of high confidence, takes all the time in the world to decide what to do next, by which time the opposition is in shape. The last ones who could do a reasonable job there were Heitinga and Stones. Hence I think Branthwaite will have a role to play next season (unless we sign someone else/better with this skillset).
20 Posted 05/03/2021 at 12:57:59
Bernard - I like him but I have always thought he hasn't the stature to play in the premier league. Unless you are someone exceptional like David Silva you need power and pace. At 5'5' easily muscled off the ball
Gomes - he has great vision and can produce a killer pass but is far too slow and gets caught on the ball too often. Wonder if he is still thinking of or feeling about the shocking injury.
Doucouré - too inconsistent for me. First touch and final ball often poor. Puts in a shift though.
Iwobi - what more can I say that I havn't said before. We were conned into buying him. Must have a good agent. In my opinion completely useless. Again last night runs around like a headless chicken and his crossing has to be the worst I have seen from and Everton player.
I know we were without James and Tom but Carlo needs to strengthen midfield again at end of season if we are to do any better. Crying out for a couple of proper wide players with pace. I'm sure he knows this.
It did get better when Allan and Siggy came on though. Be interesting too see Gbamin if we ever do!
I think we have the basis of a top four side with a few tweeks here and there.
21 Posted 05/03/2021 at 13:56:46
Sigurdsson is a great player to have on the bench but not, IMO, as a starter. With an improved MF next season he will be a squad player.
Doucoure I really like but I think hes running on empty, hence the recent mistakes. Hell be in most starting XI next season.
Bernard is another player I admire but like Gomes, too slow. Hes also too diddy for the prem and unlike Shakira and David Silva doesnt have the body strength to survive.
22 Posted 05/03/2021 at 17:49:06
The progress made in 12 months is better than I anticipated. It started by addressing gaping holes in our midfield. This has served two-fold. Our previously beleaguered defence now most of the time has a midfield in front of it that protects it. And, the players we had, for example Davies and SIgurdsson, have responded to training and playing with Doucoure, Allan and James around them.
Next step; a creative midfielder but not to replace anyone, to add more competition. Full back cover and more competition up front.
If we add 3 or 4 like we did last summer who build on what we have already, I for one will be as pleased as I was last summer.
23 Posted 05/03/2021 at 18:23:21
Were just about doing enough, but with the injuries and pivotal returning players like Allan still getting up to speed any win is welcome.
The defence is sound. Richarlison and DCL have goals in them. Top four chances is all about the midfield three of Allan, Doucoure and Davies staying fit and James Rodriguez creating some magic to win tight games. They get a lot of criticism but Gomes and Siggurdson are good to have in the squad and are really trying for the team.
When Allan came on last night you could immediately see there was better cohesion and shape in the team because of it. A cool unfazed head with athleticism in that position is worth its weight in gold. Tom is learning off a great player and it is an ingredient of his improvement.
Also we could do with some directness, pace and penetration from the right wing. Iwobi has been a massive disappointment in this regard. He was a lost soul last night, contributing nothing at all. There were big opportunities for him during the game, against a team struggling for confidence, he fell way short. Maybe Josh King should be starting there?
Bernard is too lightweight for he league and struggled to make much impact again. Trust in both him and Iwobi has got to be wearing thin now.
24 Posted 05/03/2021 at 19:14:15
Lewins chance last night was a point in case imo, because a fresher player would have definitely moved towards the ball, when the chance arose, instead of waiting for it to spin across his body, which is not to make any excuses for Dominic, because the best players always get to the ball early, and this is why I personally think Gomes, is struggling at times?
25 Posted 05/03/2021 at 19:17:27
26 Posted 05/03/2021 at 19:19:49
27 Posted 05/03/2021 at 19:26:31
28 Posted 05/03/2021 at 19:27:57
29 Posted 05/03/2021 at 20:01:28
We were in cruise control for much of the game whereas they were in overdrive but a blind man could see the difference in quality. We could always step up a gear but West Brom were flat out.
30 Posted 05/03/2021 at 20:10:54
I still believe this is by design to compensate for the small lineup and limited qualities of that lineup. Game management and limiting possession for possession sake seem to be the order of things. Their ability to convert when they get forward could be more cutting edge but they're at least getting to the final third with a look on goal rather than getting there and not timing properly with support.
31 Posted 05/03/2021 at 20:12:17
32 Posted 05/03/2021 at 20:22:12
Oddly enough we beat Albion twice in that season too and oddly enough I think at Goodison the result was 5-2 and at the Hawthornes 1-0 Alan Ball scored 4 in that Goodison game.
Please correct me if I am wrong.
Will it be deja vu (going to Wembley again ? )
33 Posted 05/03/2021 at 20:47:48
34 Posted 05/03/2021 at 21:01:30
As others have stated, it's been obvious for ages that our big problem is in midfield, which Carlo improved & will want to improve further. The lack of pace, strength & creativity in MF has increased pressure on the defence and starved the strikers of opportunity - it also doesn't contribute enough goals.
For the summer, a first choice RB is essential - Seamus OK as back-up for another season. We definitely need two quality quick & strong midfielders who chip in with 5 or more goals each.
Gomes is a liability - far too slow for this league, hence gets caught in possession &/or gives the ball & cheap free kicks away - never scores. His first instinct is to pass backwards, and often puts team-mates under pressure. Nothing to do with his horrible injury. Must be off-loaded.
Iwobi's versatility may make him ok as a squad player?
Bernard flatters to decieve - must be offloaded.
Doucoure very energetic, which we needed, but looking very tired now - not surprising given some of those he's playing with - a good squad player. Sig - makes valuable contributions, but his days are numbered, mainly owing to lack of pace & energy. Tom D - a good player getting better every season, very energetic (compared to all except Doucoure) and looks to turn & play forwards.
I fear that most PL clubs will have player burn-out problems next season, and think the signs of this are already evident:-
Very little pre-season before this season. Compressed schedule this season. Stupid multi-country Euros this summer (should have been cancelled last summer, not postponed), S.American tournament & Olympics this summer, ridiculous venue for World Cup this coming winter.
35 Posted 05/03/2021 at 21:06:14
36 Posted 05/03/2021 at 23:55:28
In attack the quality of Richarlison stands out with his bullet header and recent shots taken. The limitations of Calvet Lewin are also apparent with poor shooting ability and reverting to flicks, which is never good in a attacker. He does cause bother to defences, but need to concentrate on Ancelotto one touch recommendation, he does have limited ability beyond that, other than the occasional header when he gets in position.
The defence is solider, but Pickford is still prone to mistakes. The biggest step forward is in Mentality. Long may it continue.
37 Posted 05/03/2021 at 00:21:43
You don't need pace to be a good player. But you do need the ability to see the game quickly and make decisions just as quickly.
The manager is getting every drain out of this limited squad. Those who expect players to perform like robots who run on rechargeable batteries given the way games are coming think and fast I can only assume haven't played the beautiful game to a certain standard.
At my level (decent, nowhere near professional), the culmination of the season was a 4-team play off in 5 days. Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Against the top teams at that level. Brutal. You never ended the week with the same team or squad you started and those who played all 3 fixtures more than felt it physically.
90 minutes of football at even my level takes more than a day or two to shake off the stiff muscles and tight hamstrings. To do that 2 or 3 times a week repeatedly will take it's toll. The human body is the human body regardless of salary.
These boys are doing well, as is the manager.
38 Posted 06/03/2021 at 01:15:52
I'm not a huge fan of Rugby League but I have to say that the on-field commitment of players in that sport, and their total acceptance of the ref's decision, and their definitive, reliable use of VAR, puts Premier League football to shame.
Rugby Union and Cricket follow suit as far as I'm concerned, so why is the Premier League so far behind the ethos of every other major sport played in the UK and across the world?
Why is football governance still so amateurish?
39 Posted 06/03/2021 at 02:13:45
Lack of pace or little goal return could equally be said about Tom Davies.
Of course Andre Gomes is not exactly succeeding at the moment but dont make stuff up or tar and feather him for flaws that you dont talk about with your preferred players.
40 Posted 06/03/2021 at 03:29:32
Its a fair point VAR should be black and white. We have a ref, if theres a technologically assisted intervention it should be absolute. Ludicrously they cite hair width offsides as “clear and obvious errors” while flagrant fouls are reasonable oversights. Its a complete joke its just served to muddy the waters instead of improving the game
41 Posted 06/03/2021 at 04:47:52
We need some players gone in midfield so we can bring in some better quality. Davies is now a key squad player backing up Allan and Doucoure. But pretty much all the rest should be up for grabs for me except Richarlison and Rodriguez. Gomes, Iwobi, Bernard, Sigurdsson all have ability, but they are all fundamentally flawed. None of them would be signed by our rivals for the top 6, which says it all. My heart sinks whenever I see them in the team - in my head thats last seasons midfield. Even Sigurdsson- he has some good moments and takes set pieces. But hes had 25 shots in 25 PL appearances this season. One per game. He passes the ball once every 2.7 minutes (586 passes in 1,577 PL minutes), often backwards and sideways. His contribution is just not enough in open play. I can excuse his lack of tackling and heading as that is not his game. But as a creative midfielder, the ball is like a hot potato to him and he is simply not getting on the ball enough. He has to lead the exodus in the summer. I can only hope his recent headlines has attracted some suitors who might give us £10 million for him.
I get the impression that Carlo is laying foundations this year. He seems to be getting the best out of Pickford and the defence. Our defensive midfield looks strong, and we have DCL, Rodriguez and Richarlison in the attacking positions. 2/3 top quality additions to build on a very acceptable league campaign this year and we will be strong next season...
42 Posted 06/03/2021 at 07:49:15
43 Posted 06/03/2021 at 08:10:22
44 Posted 06/03/2021 at 08:47:17
Godfrey's huge frame whenever he forges forward is quite a sight!
Agree that watching our team plays either takes years off our lives, or works out our hearts a little too much!
Nevertheless, if that means we keep winning, then I believe all of us would gladly take the trade-off.
I think it's unlikely that we will witness a significant change in how we are able to improve, in terms of our fluidity while transitioning to attack, or growing in our ability to dominate and control the game.
If we can do well, get into Europe or top 4, we can have the post season to work on this.
In the meantime, that doggedness in defence, the discipline and then the desire to win, is what we hope will deepen, to get us across the line.
45 Posted 06/03/2021 at 10:12:17
46 Posted 06/03/2021 at 10:26:51
47 Posted 06/03/2021 at 15:11:31
It's not a coincidence what's happening. All luck evens out over a season for all teams just by the law of averages. We are where we are because of the manager we have, the players and commitment.
A more consistent commitment and one or two class additions to the squad, and I'm not saying any names as the squad has worked its balls of has put us back, deservedly, as the top Merseyside club, not team, we are a club with deep history and also in the cup and the run-in for Europe, this is the most exciting season for decade for true blues. Rejoice. Keep dissecting things in your comments, I love the passion. However, we are fucking back!!!!! COYB!!!!
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