Resolute Blues battle out another priceless home win

11/03/2023 0comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 1 - 0 Brentford

Dwight McNeil scored with just 35 seconds gone and it proved to be enough as Everton dug in to claim three precious points

Everton recorded a 1-0 victory under Sean Dyche for the third time in four home games as Dwight McNeil’s superb early strike proved enough to end Brentford’s impressively long unbeaten run.

The Bees had not lost in 12 Premier League matches coming into this weekend and had their eyes on an unlikely European qualification place but though they demonstrated why they have been such difficult opposition in what became an increasingly panicked second half from the Toffees’ perspective, Dyche’s men held firm.

Everton had set themselves on their way to what was a vital victory when Dwight McNeil put them ahead with just 35 seconds on the clock and they could have been out of sight by half time had David Raya not made two smart saves and Video Assistant Referee, David Coote, not scandalously overturned a Demarai Gray goal that would have made it 2-0 at the break.

Jordan Pickford and Seamus Coleman combined to deny Rico Henry and McNeil hacked the ball away from under his crossbar with Ethan Pinnock lurking following a mistake by the goalkeeper as the Blues put in a magnificent defensive stand in the second half.

Article continues below video content

Vitalii Mykolenko was available again after missing the 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest through illness but with Dominic Calvert-Lewin absent once again, Dyche named an unchanged starting XI that saw Ben Godfrey and Michael Keane keep their places at the back and Gray lead the line up front.

And Everton got off to the perfect start, breaking up a Brentford attack from kick-off and launching the ball forward quickly, with Alex Iwobi slipping it inside to Abdoulaye Doucouré who moved it on to McNeil approaching the opposition box.

The winger, reborn under his former manager at Burnley, exhibited close control before firing a crisp shot across Raya and into the far corner. It was a lovely finish but it behooved the home side to ensure that they kept pushing to increase their lead against a very difficult opponent.

Keane had a chance to double the lead when Gray fired a deep free-kick into the box that the defender could only head well wide when a glancing effort might have steered it home before Amadou Onana spurned a gilt-edged chance, side-footing disappointingly wide from Iwobi’s fizzed cross from the byline.

Brentford began making inroads of their own around halfway through the first period, trying to catch Everton out by drawing the press and then hitting balls down the channels for Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo.

The latter forced a first save from Pickford in the 24th minute that the England keeper initially spilled but then gathered at the second attempt while Toney was inches away from equalising with a header from a cross from the Bees’ right a minute later.

Six minutes after that, Pickford was called upon again to beat away an effort from Toney with two fists but 12 minutes from the interval, Gray almost made it 2-0. Everton counter-attacked well and Gray ended the move by driving into the area and aiming a shot inside Raya’s near post but the goalie did well to divert it wide with an out-stretched leg.

From the ensuing corner, Iwobi must have thought he had scored from just a couple of yards out but Raya was there again to save with his foot and Onana mis-kicked the rebound wide.

The second goal that the Blues were so keen to get arrived three minutes before half-time, though, when Toney fouled the excellent James Tarkowski in the centre-circle, Pickford fired the free-kick forward, Keane headed it into the area where Pinnock hooked the ball off the line but only into Gray’s chest and into the net.

That should have been that for the half but despite taking a long look at an inconclusive replay, Coote decided to overrule Simon Hooper’s decision on the field to allow the goal and ruled it out.

If Dyche had hoped that his men could retain the initiative and try and pad their lead in the second half, he would be disappointed as Brentford, spurred on by the much-lauded Thomas Frank, seized control of the contest almost from the restart and were almost level within two minutes.

Aaron Hickey drove a dangerous ball across the six-yard box from the visitors’ right and Henry arrived to try and convert but both Coleman and Pickford were there covering the line, with the defender appearing to make the vital block from point-blank range.

Keane had a routine headed chance saved, Gray shot straight at Raya after taking a high ball down with his chest while, in between, Coleman stretched to head over his own bar with Toney lurking.

With 20 minutes to go and Everton dug in, determined to protect the lead while hoping to catch Brentford on the break, Toney bought a very cheap free-kick right on the edge of the box but his direct effort caught the wall and deflected behind.

Pickford made a mess of coming for the resulting corner, leaving his goal empty apart from McNeil who got to the loose ball ahead of Pinnock and whacked it clear.

Kevin Schade then rose at the back post in the 79th minute but Godfrey did enough to ensure the substitute could only head wide but it would be the Londoners’ only real chance until Raya came forward for a corner in stoppage time and planted a header well off target.

The win, combined with defeats for Nottingham Forest and Leicester and Leeds United’s home draw with Brighton lifts Everton out of the bottom three and into 15th place for the time being and offers hope once more that they have enough to win their battle to avoid relegation for a second season running.


How to get rid of these ads and support TW

© ToffeeWeb