Last weekend’s draw at Manchester City was supposed to be the springboard from which Everton could revive a campaign that has started flagging of late; a backs-to-the-wall performance laced with some individual brilliance at both ends of the field to build confidence for games like this at Burnley that they simply dare not lose. Unfortunately — undeserved as it may have been — lose they did.
The early-season optimism that was pervasive on the back of a four-game winning streak and a second-place spot among the front-runners has given way to mounting frustration and acceptance of the fact that Ronald Koeman didn’t simply wave a magic wand to cure the ills that had set in over the past two years.
Five games without a win in all competitions has certainly reset expectations now, with eyes already trained on January to see if the new manager can fill a couple of key roles in the side that are clearly lacking at the moment — namely a player that can pull the strings in midfield and open up opposition defences with a key pass or a moment of magic and another capable of taking some of the burden for goalscoring off the shoulders of Romelu Lukaku.
Yannick Bolasie stepped up at Turf Moor, ironically enough taking the ball off Lukaku, pulling Everton level with almost an hour gone and setting up a push over the final half hour to win the game. With a bit more luck, less determined defending by Burnley and a touch more guile in the final third, Everton might have been celebrating a victory; as it is, fans are left poring over another setback.
That issue of creativity — or the lack thereof — is one that has come to fore over what is a worsening run of results in recent weeks and it was certainly a glaring one in the first half of this game.
Everton started well and had forced Tom Heaton into a save, the first of a number of saves he would have to make over the afternoon, from Kevin Mirallas after he had seized on a defensive error and fired goal-wards from 12 yards out. And the Blues remained on the front foot for most of the first half hour but though they would have Burnley under pressure in both halves, when intensity and pace didn’t suffice, they lacked the ability to carve their hosts open when Sean Dyche pulled his men back behind the ball.
So often, this was a display that was crying out for movement and tempo but the pleas from the travelling fans in that regard would go unanswered for long periods, especially in the first period. Too often, the defence — usually Phil Jagielka, who had his worst game for a long time — had no route out from the back other than a clipped ball forward aimed in the direction of Romelu Lukaku, an agricultural approach that produced mixed results and frequently handed the ball back to Burnley, particularly with no-one running behind looking for the second ball.
Not that the Clarets were able to do much with it. They, too, were overly reliant on their own target man, Sam Vokes, but it was via a rare fluid move along the deck, arguably their best of the half, that they took the lead late in the first half. Scott Arfield, who was fortunate to still be on the field after testing referee Mike Jones to the limit with a series of cynical fouls over and above his yellow card in the preceding 40 minutes, danced past the uncharacteristically lead-footed Ashley Williams and stabbed a weak shot that bobbled off an Everton leg. The deflection wrong-footed Maarten Stekelenburg, however, who could only push the ball meekly into the path of Vokes who had the simple task of prodding it home from close range.
It was a harsh reminder for Everton that you have to make your superiority tell in the form of goals and that you can be punished in the Premier League for switching off even for a moment. The Blues had unquestionably been the better side up to that point, going close when Bolasie finished a move by bicycle-kicking wide, forcing Heaton to parry away a bouncing effort from Lukaku and then a stinging effort from Ross Barkley.
Recalled to the side after sitting out against Manchester City last weekend, Barkley was, on balance, one of the brighter lights for the Blues and he certainly vindicated his inclusion but there were still times where he delayed a pass too long or there just wasn’t enough movement around him to open up lanes for a killer ball.
Having gone into the break a goal down, a robust response was clearly required in the second half and Koeman got it in terms of greater purpose from his charges and a more physical approach to match that of their hosts. Lukaku in particular — the target of further but unwarranted criticism in the wake of what was a very harsh defeat — became more adept at holding the ball up and bringing team-mates into play as Everton swarmed forward at times looking for an equaliser.
It almost arrived when, not for the first time, Idrissa Gueye and Gareth Barry combined to snuff Burnley out in the centre-circle and the ball was sent forward quickly by the Senegalese to pick out Mirallas but his cross was just too heavy for the sliding Lukaku to connect.
A move of similar speed and incision a few minutes later yielded the equaliser, however, when this time Barry collected after Gueye’s interception and sent Bolasie and Lukaku away, with the Congolese international taking the ball off his team-mate and belting a shot across the ‘keeper and into the far corner. The away end erupted in celebration, followed by inevitable renditions of the “Yannick Bolasie” song and clenched-fisted demands that Everton now finish the job.
To be fair, in the context of an abysmal refereeing performance from Mike Jones, who constantly broke up the flow of the game with fussy decisions when he made them and neglected his duty entirely on other occasions, and the limited game-changing options on Koeman’s bench, they made a pretty good fist of attempting to do so.
Coleman combined well with Gueye down the right, skipped inside and looked to have slid a perfect ball behind the defence for Lukaku to tap in but Michael Keane got a crucial toe on the ball to put it behind. Mirallas had a somewhat unconvincing header blocked at the back post and there were a couple of “nearly” moments after Gerard Deulofeu came on for Mirallas where the ball was pinged into the feet of Lukaku in the box but Everton just needed it to break in their favour.
Unfortunately, their intensity died a little in the last five minutes after Gueye went off in favour of Tom Cleverley — the former had spent quite a few minutes intermittently messing with his boot so might have taken a knock — and on another day, the Blues might have left Turf Moor with a draw and some pointers from which to work on following a patchy but occasionally spirited display.
Their inability to deal with another high ball, however, this time from Heaton’s lofted free kick in the 88th minute, and Burnley benefitting from some fortune when Johann Berg Gudmundsson's snapshot came off the crossbar straight to Arfield, condemned them to defeat. The Clarets’ midfielder executed what was, admittedly, a tidy first-time finish back across Stekelenburg’s goal to spark jubilation in three sides of the ground and the rapid emptying of the David Fishwick Stand as demoralised Blues trooped out into the gathering gloom.
While he is under no illusions after two full campaigns in England about the fact that there are no easy games in the Premier League, Koeman will be wondering how Everton lost that game given the extent to which Everton dominated the match and how poor Burnley were. That Dyche’s men managed just three shots on target told its own story but so did the fact that they scored from two of them in terms of the Blues’ defending when it counted.
The Dutchman will be pragmatic, no doubt, about the fact that his side were unfortunate, will file this one away as an undeserved loss and move on to concentrate on getting back to winning ways against West Ham but he will also have gathered further evidence of where he needs to strengthen in January and then next summer beyond. For Evertonians who dared to dream of an instant transformation under the new man based on those early results, the reality that there are few quick fixes and that Koeman was right about his two-year time horizon has set in.
Burnley went ahead off a soft goal after it looked like Everton were taking control of the game. Bolasie stole the ball off Lukaku to equalize with a great shot but the visitors could not get the second, yet Burnley did in the final minute.
Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley returned to the starting XI as Ronald Koeman rung a couple of changes, with Lennon, Cleverley, Deulofeu, and Funes Mori on the bench. Leighton Baines is out injured.
Neither side looked in control from the off as possession was squandered freely, leading to Bolasie making a run and stumbling over the ball that ran free and Mirallas nipped in, turning brightly to fire but straight at Heaton. Nothing came from Barry's short corner.
The visitors got forward and won another corner that was delivered poorly by Mirallas. Bolasie tried an overhead kick from the edge of the area that flew wide. Ward came in too strongly on Williams and hurt himself, somehow winning a free kick that Everton had to defend.
Barkley tried to get the attack going with a couple of crosses from the left but nothing came of them. Coleman and then Gueye tried from the other side but Burnley were marking tightly and shutting down the spaces. Some incredibly scrappy play finally saw the ball drop for Lukaku who fired hard to Heaton's left but the keeper parried it and Mirallas could not get to the rebound.
Barkley then made great space and fired but again it was within reach of Heaton's punch. Everton were doing much better, though, stringing together passes and running with purpose at the home side. But a poor Barry giveaway put them under immediate pressure. Stekelenburg had to be alert to punch away a cross off Vokes's head. Arfield was in cynically to stop Coleman.
In attack, Coleman, Bolasie and Gueye contrived to play silly triangles while Lukaku stood and waited for the cross that never came. Lukaku then seemed to get a glimpse but was immediately closed down. At the other end, Vokes did well to turn and shoot under pressure from a group of yellow shirts, and Everton reverted again to slow build-up passing, Bolasie winning another corner that Mirallas put into the mixer.
Gueye got carded for absolutely nothing as Arfield lost his balance and crumbled in front of him. Barkley then ran into Kightly and got a free kick that was swung deep to the back post where Williams was penalized for climbing all over the defender.
A dreadful free-kick taken by Jagielka led to a foul and free-kick to Burnley and unwanted pressure that Stekelenburg thankfully stopped. At the other end, Mee somehow prevented Lukaku from getting a shot in. Gueye's dreadful forward ball, wildly overhit as Hendrick came in, saw another ridiculous card shown to the Burnley player this time.
Arfield, already on a yellow, kicks Barry as he passes back, a clear yellow card that the ref bottled. Burnley attacked and got in a decent cross that Williams was able to defend but the break stopped at Lukaku's clumsy hold-up play that lost the ball.
Burnley drove through after a fine touch from Gudmundsson and Stekelenburg looked to have saved a soft shot by Arfield but his weak parry just set up an easy tap-in for Vokes. Shocking goal to give away.
It was painfully frustrating stuff at times, Coleman getting a card for holding back Arfield. Gueye had a chance to cross in but put it sloppily behind as the half ended poorly for the visitors.
Better play from the restart saw Bolasie cross but it was too high for Lukaku. A shot from Barkley followed Mirallas's corner, saved easily enough by Heaton. They looked to work the ball around the Burnley area, but Oviedo's touch for Barry was wasteful.
Lukaku did well in the hold-up role and Barkley stutter-stepped across the area, finally getting sandwiched flinging himself down. No chance of a spot-kick, said Mike Jones, but he was keener to give Coleman a final dressing down as the Everton mand could not get out of Arfield's way. That free-kick led to a corner that was defended away and led to something of a counter-attack that was just not fast enough, allowing the impenetrable Burnley defence to reform for the throw-in.
Everton looked to construct more incisive passing moves but they were having a tough time of it chiselling anything out until Gueye played a great first-time ball to release Mirallas whose cross really should have been meat and potatoes for Lukaku but was 2 feet in front of him and went harmlessly through for a goal kick.
More Everton pressure won a corner but Williams was called for his role in the far-post mêlée. But the ball did break thanks to a fantastic forward ball that Lukakau picked up and strode forward with but Yannick Bolasie literally stole the ball off his toes and lashed in a fearsome shot that beat Heaton all hands down, a tremendous goal that Lukaku will feel was his all along! Very strange!!
That goal turned the game, and raised the tempo all around. Arfield clashed with Barry as he seemed to be looking for a second yellow. Everton pressure built relentlessly, a great touch from Bolasie giving Coleman rare access down the channel and a lovely cross to Lukaku's feet was just nicked away by Keane to deny the Big Man a simple tap-in.
Lots of Everton pressure as the visitors went for the winner with some decent attempts to vary the play and the point of attack but the finesse and close control needed to beat a resolute Burnley defence seemed lacking at times. Another fantastic inviting cross, this time from the left, got a vital touch from Heaton to deny Lukaku at the far post. Deulofeu replaced Mirallas who had done little to impress.
Deulofeu won a corner but no-one had held back for the second ball. Gueye fired in a low shot straight at Heaton. The yellow shirts swarmed into the Burnley area, with Jagielka joining the attack, but the ball just would not fall for them, Bolasie firing in a great effort in a surprise attempt that forced a good fingertip save from Heaton.
Deulofeu played in a corner after a long break for treatment to Ward, followed by subs that included Cleverley on for Gueye as the minutes ticked away, Burnley's rearguard determined to resist all challenges. Burnley saw a little more of the ball, Everton unable to string together the passing accuracy needed to break into the spaces created. But Barkley then Lukaku could not make meaningful shots when in good advanced positions.A free-kick for Burnley, Everton couldn't clear... a shot from nothing, lashed against the bar by Gudmunsson bounced off the bar and sat nicely for Arfield who powered it first time into the ground, bouncing over Stekelenburg and into the Everton net to stun Koeman and the travelling Blues. Valencia on for Jagielka with 2 mins of added time remaining but the game was lost in the final minute.
From My Seat: Burnley (A)
Another three o’clock kick-off on a Saturday so we had a leisurely run up, had a look around and nothing seemed to have changed since we were last here two years ago. It seems to me one of those places that time sort of stands still. Nice friendly people and always a good welcome in the ale house.
The teams were pored over as they arrived and no major shocks, just two changes, including Barkley for Cleverely. Most approved of that and we all hoped Ross could finally find some form and run the show. He had a good go I will give him that.
They kick off and right away we win the ball back and attack which saw Burnley have a mix up at the back which allowed Mirallas a shot on goal but straight at the keeper. We kept up the pressure and a ball up to Lukaku saw him execute an exquisite turn and in one movement leave his man and sweep the ball to Bolasie whose shot was blocked for a corner. From the corner the ball was worked back to the taker Mirallas who had his shot blocked but it went back to Bolasie who fired in an overhead kick wide.
Burnley worked a breakaway and Lukaku was back to help defend but made a hash of an attempted clearance which resulted in a melee in our box and we scrambled out for a corner which, when taken, the Burnley man shot over bar. All this before the 15-minute mark and really it told the story of the game. Everton would have all the attacking; Burnley would have breakaways that we would not defend well and so it was.
I noticed we were trying a different corner routine today with Barry standing close to the taker who was Mirallas and he would pass to Barry who would then try and find the best ball to get us in on goal but I think it needs a tad more practice as it was no more successful than any other we have taken. It maybe the start of something, who knows. I checked my watch with around 20 minutes or more gone and more of the same taking place. Everton attacking well and reaching the edges of their box but always breaking down at the last for a variety of reasons. Poor touch, shot off target or straight at keeper, lack of care and vision plus a lot of damned good Burnley blocks.
From the half-hour mark Burnley started to look more of a threat and it started with a terrible free kick from Jags who tried a ten yard pass to a Burnley player instead of one of ours. This led to a bit of panic as Burnley now looked for an opening and worked the ball wide but our man Stek coming out well and gathering to relieve the pressure. We went up the other end and Lukaku looked clear onto their keeper but a defender slid in and took the ball off his toe. Another poor free kick by Jags gave the ball to Burnley who broke forward but Oviedo did well in tidying up his mess.
No doubt Burnley were gaining in confidence as, although we had all the attacking, our failure to hit the net was giving them that feeling they could nick one. Lo and behold, Lukaku failed to take the ball clear from the half way line and Arfield profited, running on goal with a shot which he seemed to scuff but our keeper seemed bewildered by the miss-hit and went down a bit late, only weakly parried the ball into the path of Vokes who netted. Oh, the disappointment. Stek, saint last week sinner this week, eh?
From the goal we looked visibly shell-shocked, which was reflected in our passes being without much conviction and were either too strong or too weak. This led to a bit more panic when they attacked and Coleman was soon booked for a daft challenge. I thought I will be glad for the H/T whistle but not half as glad as Big Ron. The whistle went just as another miss-hit cross sailed wide. How apt, I mused.
H/T 1-0 down
The H/T chat wasn’t very constructive as that feeling of we have been here before many times and know only too well that feeling of disappointment laced with, ‘Here we go again’
We were first out for the second half and we were full of hope that the H/T team talk would see us mount the fight back and gain all the points. Well it should have done but...
From the off we attacked and earned a corner and again we used our new routine, Mirallas short to Barry who looked up and found Ross on the edge of the box. He got a shot in but not a very good one and the keeper easily dealt with it. We got to around the hour mark and it had been all Everton. Surely a goal is on the way I thought as we gain a free kick. Mirallas took it and gained a corner as the travelling faithful reached full voice in support of our lads. You might say trying to suck the ball in. The corner came over, the whistle went, Ashley was deemed to have fouled. Drat.
Just a minute later and Barry found the pass of the match to slide Lukaku through on goal and then the comedy bit as Lukaku found Bolasie running alongside him and had the temerity to outmuscle him and speed on goal and hit a shot across the keeper and into the net. The roar was heard in Spellow Lane, L4. I believe that was his first goal for us. The fans sang the Bolasie song and many other chants. Now we could turn our superiority into more goals and a win—well we should have done but...
Everton attacked and attacked again but that final ball or piece of magic in the box was absent and move after move ended in sorrow rather than a goal. I think one now could have opened the flood gates but getting one was proving elusive. Time was ticking on and we put a move together where I thought, "this is it". Coleman and Bolasie combined and made ground up our right, Coleman overlapped Bolasie who fed him in at just the right moment and Coleman from the by-line put in a great cross that looked like a tap in for Lukaku until a sliding Burnley centre back got his toe to the ball a fraction before Rom and a corner was all that great move was worth.
Clock ticking down fast, it was all Everton but a determined Burnley threw heads and bodies in where angels fear to tread. With 15 minutes to go both teams made subs. For us it was Deulofeu for Mirallas. Deulofeu was soon running at them and either getting a good cross in or a poor one which was a shame as he was seeing plenty of the ball. We were peppering their goal now and doing everything but score.
Bolasie tried a long range thunder bolt to try to catch the keeper off his line but the keeper did well and got back and tipped over. Burnley made another sub and Flanagan came on and the whole travelling end booed — I wonder why? Then Big Ron subbed Gueye for Cleverley. I didn’t quite understand that one as I thought it weakened us a bit in midfield but Gueye could have a twinge or tweak I suppose.
With the clock ticking, we continue to pepper their goal. Lukaku shot, Barkley shot, Bolasie shoot, among others, but all shots are either blocked or deflected as we go into 4 minutes of added time. All of a sudden I felt cold as we gave away a foul near the half-way line and their keeper sent everyone forward and prepared to take the kick.
I came over with a horrible feeling that said to me, ‘surely we can’t give it away now’. The keeper took the kick. I seemed to view things in slow motion as first we half-cleared and the Burnley lad shot and hit the bar with some pace and came out into play but straight to the Burnley man Arfield who hit it back into the net. I joined in with the hush then finally realised we had LOST.
I don’t remember much after that. Oh yes for two minutes Enner Valencia replaced Jags. A horrible feeling. We battered them to a 2-1 defeat.,MotM – Barry and Gueye were as good as any.
Well, that game will take some forgetting but all we can do is hope that Big Ron and his staff can work wonders with what we have now and try to strengthen window by window. On today’s showing we are a few players short even for the short term. Still crazy game this football and in a league where anyone can match anyone and consistency is fleeting who knows?
See you for breakfast in L4 a week tomorrow and hope it is our day.
UP THE BLUES
With last weekend's draw at Manchester City having lifted optimism again following the disappointments against Bournemouth and Crystal Palace, Everton travel to Burnley looking to further their case for European qualification in Ronald Koeman's first season in charge.
The Blues have gone three Premier League games without a win but remain well-placed four points off the top ahead of the trip to Turf Moor where expectation will be high that they can pick up three points that would put them back in the mix among the front-runners.
Leighton Baines is set to miss out again with a hamstring strain after feeling the effects from a behind-closed-doors friendly and might not be back in contention until next month. Assuming Koeman doesn't alter his formation to a back three, that should see Bryan Oviedo continuing at left back in an unchanged back four.
It's midfield where there might be at least one change, with the manager hinting in his pre-match press conference that Ross Barkley could be recalled after missing out against City. In that instance, Gerard Deulofeu or Tom Cleverley are the likelier candidates to make way. Aaron Lennon, meanwhile, is fit again but is unlikely to feature in the starting XI.
Burnley are an unpredictable side and have been a bit of a mixed bag at home so far this season, losing to Swansea and Arsenal but beating Liverpool and Watford handily. They were beaten soundly at Southampton last weekend, with a consolation penalty giving the 3-1 scoreline a more respectable air than would have been the case had the Saints held on to a three-goal advantage.
Sean Dyche's side can be physical and uncompromising when they're in the mood, though, and in Tom Heaton they have a highly-regarded goalkeeper who is starting to attract more attention from bigger clubs. They will be without experienced Belgian midfielder Stefan Defour, though, after he suffered a hamstring injury last weekend which will weaken their potency in midfield.
On paper, Everton should be too strong for the Clarets but the onus will be on them to prove their worth as top-four contenders by following up the draw at the Etihad with victory.
Referee: Mike Jones
Last time: Burnley 1 - 3 Everton
Predicted line-up: Stekelenburg, Coleman, Jagielka, Williams, Oviedo, Barry, Gueye, Cleverley, Barkley, Bolasie, Lukaku