We were never going to do it the easy way, were we?

Paul Traill 16/05/2022 5comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 2 - 3 Brentford
It’s torment for us but we must be comedy for everyone else. This head wreck of a season is finally edging to its conclusion, and we’ve still no idea how it will pan out. What a maddening day at the game. How much more unbearable can this season become?

I headed over quite early as I wanted to catch up with the Ruleteros Society, who were celebrating their 20th year at the Ship and Mitre in the city centre. I couldn’t find them, however, and was sat having a beer and some lunch reading a magazine when who walks in but Andy Burnham. I sat and chatted to him and his friend for 30 minutes or so before Gaz arrived, picking me up and parking up at around 2:45 pm. What a nice fella, and great Evertonian.

We bought a few beers from an off-licence and made our way to join the masses on Goodison Road. It was a brilliant atmosphere there, almost festival-like. We were too far away to really see the team bus arrive, but it was good fun nonetheless.

When the team arrived there were blue flares everywhere. Dan had purchased a few and handed them out to us. I opened mine up and then dropped it, and in scurrying around to pick it up I managed to get a face-full of blue smoke. Once the fanfare had died down somewhat I looked over at Dan and said “Eh Dan, you’ve got a bit of that blue stuff in your hair there”. He just laughed and said “You should see you!”

I took a look at myself on my phone and my whole face was covered in blue. Like a Smurf. I had to go and wash my face and we made our way to The Spellow, though not without what felt like every passer-by, of which there were literally thousands, all laughing at my expense. You could only laugh back, so ridiculous was it. “Aye lad, you’ve got some blue on you there” I heard several times.

Once cleaned up, such was the queue at the bar, we went straight into the ground for a beer before the game. With no phone signal down there, I didn’t actually get the team news until we took our seats just a few minutes prior to kick-off. I had no idea that Michael Keane was missing with illness, Jarrad Branthwaite replacing him… for 18 minutes at least.

I was also surprised to see Andre Gomes recalled in place of the injured Fabian Delph. I thought Allan was a safer bet but I’m loath to criticise Frank for trying to be positive. And Dominic Calvert-Lewin came in to replace Demarai Gray. I certainly had no complaints with that either. It felt a bit more like a 4-4-2 to me than the 5-4-1 we have become more accustomed to lately… maybe it was a bit of both.

The crowd were fabulous, as too were the players. We started very brightly and were right on the front foot, causing problems and creating opportunities. Richarlison passed up a decent chance though it wasn’t long until we scored. Great pressing from Anthony Gordon forced the mistake from Mads Bech Sørensen.
Anthony took the free-kick himself, it looked as though Richarlison had shanked it in though it turns out that Dominic Calvert-Lewin managed to get the last touch. Despite the result, who knows, maybe that’ll be an important goal. Dominic seems to be quite the purple-patch goalscorer, maybe this is the beginning of a few more goals in the last two games. Here’s hoping.

Everton were in complete control of the game, were easily the better team and the crowd were buoyant. And then out of nowhere, a big hoick upfield and, in the blink of an eye, Ivan Toney was the wrong side of Jarrad Branthwaite. They collided and Michael Oliver quickly released the red card from his pocket. Goodison Park was stunned. I don’t think Jarrad felled intentionally, but if you allow your striker to get the wrong side of you, you’re asking for trouble, and though I was upset at the time, having seen it back you can’t complain at the decision.

Being at the other end of the pitch I wasn’t aware of the foul in the penalty area on Richarlison by Kristoffer Ajer. Back in the car on the way home later, Dan, who has a significantly better view than me in the Top Balcony, was saying he thought it was a foul at the time, while we looked at a few photos of the incident.

It wasn’t until I later saw Match of the Day that I realised the scale of the injustice. If you watch the replay, you’ll see that Michael Oliver has a very clean view of the incident, and why he didn’t point to the spot, I don’t know. Nevertheless, why isn’t the VAR telling him to go and have a look at it? I mean, it's acceptable to have one of our players booked and then the VAR get involved and change it to a red card instead, so why not this?

This had an enormous impact on the outcome, and twice this season against Brentford a clear shirt pull in the penalty area has been ignored both by match and VAR officials. We would likely have been 2-0 ahead with 11 vs 11, but instead it's 1-0 10 vs 11. It’s a real outrage and as we’re all aware, it’s far from the first time we’ve been wronged by officiating this season.

Brentford’s equalising goal was as frustrating as it was preventable. We’d cleared the first ball from the corner, and I felt Andre Gomes didn’t cover himself in glory in not reaching the second ball. You sensed danger as the ball just wouldn’t clear. I wondered how Yoanne Wissa’s drive made it all the way through and into the net. It was only when I saw it later on the highlights that I realised it was actually a cross that deflected in from Seamus Coleman. It was very unlucky, but I felt preventable in that we had the chance to clear our lines. Fortune wasn’t our friend.

Then, to add to the drama, we were awarded a penalty which Richarlison duly converted to put us back ahead. Watching him do that slow stuttering run-up was a real nerve-shredder, followed by an explosion of joy. Everton ahead of the break. Time to take a deep breathe… or a gulp of cider in my instance.

I thought we were keeping our shape well in the second half, given we’d had to reshuffle. Seamus Coleman and Mason Holgate were digging in at centre-back and Alex Iwobi was doing just fine at right-back. It was a flat 4-4-1 basically. As we were protecting a lead, I was advocating replacing Andre Gomes with Allan to give us more bite in midfield, but we were doing okay, and almost scored a third when Dominic couldn’t quite connect with Richarlison’s fizzed centre.

And that’s what makes the manner of the goals we conceded all the more frustrating. I’d probably credit Brentford with a good set-piece than complain at Everton’s defending for the first goal. It was a clever move, one which they’d clearly noticed a chink in our armour from defending corner kicks. A good ball from Christian Eriksen and a brilliant near-post header from Wissa. I suppose it's the sort of goal that would likely only go in once in every ten as a lot needs to go right for that to find the corner, but fair enough, it did. 2-2.

Brentford’s third, and ultimately winning goal however was an awful one to concede, simply dreadful. Anthony Gordon completely lost focus and switched off. Young players. They learn the hard way but that was really slack and we paid the biggest penalty.

There was plenty of huff and puff from there on in, and the crowd kept pushing the players on, but there was to be no fairytale ending. On the contrary, our nightmare was sealed when substitute Salomon Rondon got himself sent off inside 4 minutes of coming on, for a brainless lunge on Rico Henry. I presume that’s the last we’ve seen of him.

I was a little perplexed by Frank Lampard’s substitutions. I could see what he was trying to do in getting Alex Iwobi higher up the pitch and central, but I felt that Dele Alli would have been worth a go. That all said, it was a failure to award us a penalty and individual mistakes which have cost us in the game. On another day, we might have won easily.

I was pretty angry on the way home, though once I’d finally caught up with the highlights, I immediately felt a bit more positive. We really didn’t get the rub from this one, either with officiating decisions or with luck. The Coleman own-goal was unpreventable. Things could have been so different.

So on we go. We’ve still got another crack at home. If we can keep 11 men on the pitch, we’ll be alright.

Man of the Match: Richarlison.

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Reader Comments (5)

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Alan J Thompson
1 Posted 17/05/2022 at 08:47:17
Paul, I would agree that nothing could be done with Coleman's oggie by any other player but firstly Gomes could have cleared the ball better to start with on the corner of the penalty box and then he stood watching when he could have got between the goal and the Brentford player and Coleman should not have anchored himself where he did and should have closed him down by getting a lot nearer to him.

On the other two goals, Richarlison seemed to bend from the waist rather than keep his eye on the ball and then for the third Gordon just ran alongside the scorer and made no attempt to win the header.

Otherwise, the only other things I could disagree with is drinking cider and wearing flares.

Danny O’Neill
2 Posted 17/05/2022 at 19:38:11
I'd go with Richarlison, Paul. He's one of those players we'll miss when he's gone.

We lacked a midfield. We were playing a diamond I think. I hate the diamond. It leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the park.

I thought Gordon looked tired. Iwobi again looked good and I'm increasingly liking Mykolenko, but I liked the look of him straight away to be honest.

I think I won't go to bed until 2 am this morning and will be up at 4 am having stared at the ceiling and being ordered downstairs.

David Bromwell
3 Posted 17/05/2022 at 20:50:01
I too have never been to a more frustrating match which started so well for me. My Son in law and two Grandsons were visiting from their home in Surrey. They have been supporting Brentford and had tickets for the game, and as the kick off time had been changed, Brentford refunded their money and gave them complimentary tickets. A great gesture from an apparently very well run club.

When we met at the Dixie statue after the game, they all said what a great game it had been. Wonderful atmosphere, Everton the better team prior to the sending off and absolutely loads of excitement.

I was pleased for them but distraught and whacked out and couldn't face watching Match of the Day. On reflection, I think young Branthwaite was tricked by a more experienced player who was quite happy to allow his young marker to trip him. Clearly the game changed at that point and I believe the manager should have withdrawn Gomes, instead he left him on and I don't remember him making another single contribution.

I cannot remember another week like this one and wonder just what will happen at the game on Thursday. I had thought we would have won the last two games which were in theory easier. But at the finish on Sunday, the players looked jaded and lost. I cannot think Frank will have too many options, I just hope Gomes doesn't start and if necessary he makes quicker and more decisive use of the players on the bench, where there should be a place for young Dobbin.

At least at the start it will no doubt be more of the same with the crowd in fine voice, I just hope and pray that we will still be singing at the end and Frank's hand will be sore and my life can get back to normal.

Jerome Shields
4 Posted 17/05/2022 at 20:51:01
Good report, Paul. Disappointing result with, as you say exceptional circumstances dictating.

If Frank can keep 11 players on the pitch, his plan may work.

John Raftery
5 Posted 17/05/2022 at 21:55:07
Gomes has never been able to get around the pitch. He possesses neither the pace nor the agility to disrupt opposition attacks. Ideally he would not have been in the starting eleven but I assume there were no other options.

I thought the players got carried away after our opening goal. At that point instead of chasing up the field the team should have been sitting tight, closing down Eriksen and above all not leaving the opposition’s top striker one to one with our least experienced central defender.

A similar approach against a Palace team with Gallagher, Zaha, Eze and Mateta will leave our back line badly exposed to counterattacks. Palace have only won ten league games this season, the same as us. The difference, and the reason they are sitting comfortably in mid-table, is they have drawn fifteen.

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