Ever since the Roberto Martinez fairytale started to turn sour, somewhere between the Europa League defeat in Kiev in March 2015 and the consecutive home defeats to Leicester and Stoke the following Christmas, the issue of Goodison Park’s atmosphere has periodically been a topic of debate among Evertonians.
Where the librarial milieu that away fans like to mock is concerned, there’s often a push-pull between those who feel it’s incumbent on the crowd to generate the atmosphere from the off and those who put the onus on the team to excite the fans. Then, of course, there’s the altogether more concerning toxicity that was prevalent at times under Bobby Brown Shoes and then Ronald Koeman, something that was brought into sharper focus by Nikola Vlasic last week when he spoke of Everton’s players being paralysed by fear.
There might not have been outright fear to this point among the Blues’ ranks this season but the psychology has been off kilter since the derby defeat at Anfield and concerns over Everton’s home form since has been reflected in the performances. While there may be a general consensus that Marco Silva is going to need time and a good deal of patience to rectify the problems sown during those two regimes and the interim Sam Allardyce tenure, it’s been fairly obvious that supporters have been hugely disappointed with the way in which yet another season came off the rails.
Under those circumstances, it probably wasn’t surprising that there was an air of uneasiness about the place when what was an important game against Bournemouth kicked off at the unusual time of 2.15pm. With no home wins since late November and on a run of just Premier League win in eight since then, the importance of three points here wasn’t lost on anybody.
By the time the hour mark approached, however, roused by an additional common enemy, the villain of the piece wearing black and an improving, more robust and committed display by the players, Goodison was a good deal more animated and half an hour later the Evertonian collective was celebrating a victory. An ugly victory that masked some continuing issues but a victory nonetheless which will hopefully inject some confidence into the Blues’ veins.
Silva has routinely asked for more aggression from his team and he got plenty of it today even if, spurred on by seething injustice at one of the most inept refereeing displays seen at Goodison in quite a while, André Gomes in particular threatened to cross the line on more than a few occasions.
Having been harshly yellow-carded when he reacted to the latest in a litany of bafflingly poor decisions by Anthony Taylor, the Portuguese dangerously toed a tightrope in the closing stages and was fortunate not to see red.
Ultimately, though, Taylor’s horrendous refereeing provided the focal point that roused the Goodison faithful from that uncomfortable silence that had enveloped the majority of the ground as Everton laboured through a fairly torrid first half hour. Where Bournemouth, a side on a run of 10 defeats from 13 coming into the game and five losses on the bounce away from the Vitality Stadium, were zipping the ball around comfortably at times, the Toffees struggled to string three passes together in the face of the visitors’ pressing.
Not surprisingly, all the openings in the first quarter of an hour were created by Eddie Howe’s team. First, Ryan Fraser popped up in acres of space on the far side of the box to collect an overhit cross from the right and Jordan Pickford benefited from Josh King’s failure to dig the ball out from under his feet and was able to make a close-range save.
Then, David Brooks easily evaded Gomes and went down in the box appealing in vain for a penalty and Jefferson Lerma hammered a shot over the bar before Brooks was played into a one-on-one situation with Pickford but struck his shot off the post with Goodison erupting in boos at referee Taylor for failing to bring the play back for an obvious foul on Kurt Zouma.
It was the first of many baffling and infuriating decisions by the official who ratcheted up Evertonian ire when he awarded Adam Smith a free kick for falling into Gomes on the edge of the box. Pickford was equal to it, pushing Junior Stanislas’s free kick behind but the England keeper, with his international boss, Gareth Southgate in attendance in the directors’ box, set the nerves jangling shortly afterwards when he gave the ball straight to the visitors and was relieved to see King head Fraser’s cross over.
Everton, largely passed off their own patch for 30 minutes, then gradually came to life, with Ademola Lookman, handed another start in place of Theo Walcott, leading the charge. It was his cross from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross that picked out Bernard in the centre but the diminutive Brazilian couldn’t put his header on target, and it was the same duo who reversed roles soon afterwards with Lookman just failing to control Bernard’s dangerous cross in front of goal.
Michael Keane would drop a header from a Lucas Digne cross onto the top of the crossbar late in the half before Richarlison, struggling to impact the contest as the loan striker, was finally awarded a free kick outside the box but Digne fired it into the wall.
In contrast to recent matches, whatever Silva said in the dressing room at half time had the desired effect of injecting some urgency into his players who emerged from the interval in more purposeful mood. And after Gomes had skied an immediate chance into the Gwladys Street End, Richarlison came within inches of padding this tally for the season.
The Brazilian’s header off Idrissa Gueye’s cross came back to him off a defender and his follow-up shot appeared goal-bound until Nathan Aké cleared it, literally off the goal line, and the chance was lost.
Steve Cook glanced a header onto the roof of the net at one end to remind the Blues that the Cherries remained a threat but the deadlock was broken at the other in the 61st minute thanks to a wonderful piece of individual endeavour from Digne.
An attempted Seamus Coleman cross off Lookman’s pass was blocked behind for another corner and when that delivery was nodded outside the box by the visiting defence, the ball was collected in stride by Digne. The Frenchman drove to the byline and, going away from goal, he expertly hooked a cross to the edge of the six-yard box where Zouma powered home his first Everton goal.
Bournemouth were unbowed, though, and an often bad-tempered affair remained nervily close until stoppage time, with the referee’s incompetence fuelling anger on both sides. Taylor awarded another dubious free kick, this time against Gueye even though he had clearly got a toe on the ball, leading to a furious reaction from Gomes who got booked for squaring up to an opponent in the aftermath.
Then, after Richarlison had headed a teasing Sigurdsson cross wide and Keane’s slip-up had let King in but the striker had smashed into the side-netting, Gomes escaped a second yellow when he easily could have walked for catching Cook after the ball had gone.
It said much about Silva’s faith — or dependence — on his compatriot that he left Gomes on the pitch until the final whistle because he looked like a red card waiting to happen in the closing stages.
Bournemouth were staging a last-ditch attempt to grab a point and Pickford was called upon to slide out of his six-yard box to block one effort and Keane made a brilliant saving tackle to deny
Fraser Gosling a minute or so later, the goalkeeper again required to get his body in the way to see the Cherries defender’s follow-up shot behind.
In between, Gomes had got away with a sly pull around Nathaniel Clyne's head just inside the Everton area that, had the officials seen it, would have resulted in his certain dismissal and a penalty to the away side but his transgression was only picked up television replays.
Yerry Mina was thrown on by Silva in injury time to bolster the defence but Everton remained jittery as Coleman mis-controlled and conceded another corner before a second set-piece seconds later ended in Pickford’s arms.
One last boot downfield from the keeper eventually ended with Lookman scrambling to his feet after knocking the ball infield and running into space down the left flank to collect Gueye's pass where he held up long enough for substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin to arrive about 16 yards out to stroke the winger’s pass into the net with a wonderfully composed finish.
It was a reminder of what the young striker can do at a time when Everton’s lack of cutting edge up front dominates the thinking. Calvert-Lewin has struggled to show the consistency required of a first-choice starter but can produce clinical moments like this one and chip in with important goals.
It was also pleasing that his assist was provided by Lookman, a reward and consequence of a man-of-the-match display that was the first concrete example of him demonstrating he can produce over the course of 90 minutes and not just as an impact sub.
More will be asked of him, of course, particularly next week at Southampton at away ground, but his undoubted natural talent, movement and eye for goal are the kinds of qualities that Everton are going to need over the remainder of the season.
What remains to be seen now, though, is what effect this result has on the nature of Everton’s performances going forward and whether it’s a fillip that can get them back to playing the way they were pre-Anfield. The lack of passing options, an over-reliance on getting the ball wide for crosses into the box and the disconnect that is often in evidence between the midfield and the two central forward players continue to be a concern and a challenge for Silva to resolve.
Lookman was the spark as a last-minute goal from sub Calvert-Lewin made the scoreline much more respectable than they deserved after this feisty fractious encounter that saw five yellow cards for the Blues.
The big news for Everton is that Ademola Lookman finally gets a starting place, with Theo Walcott dropped to the bench.
For Bournemouth, Callum Wilson and Dominic Solanke are injured; Liverpool loanee Nathaniel Clyne starts. Dan Gosling, former Everton player who failed to renew his contract, is also in The Cherries' starting line-up.
The visitors got things going and held the ball well enough to pose an early threat that was snuffed out by Bernard. Lookman was fouled but an early opportunity for Sigurdsson to swing something in was wasted as it bobbled through to Begovic.
An attack down the right for Bournemouth left you wondering how on earth Josh King failed to score after fed by Fraser in the 6-yard box. They won a free-kick on their next attack, Brooks getting clipped by Gana and wanting a penalty.
Another attack saw Lerma drive wide before Everton had a decent response with Lookman's shot blocked and Bournemouth broke at pace, Brooks getting in behind Keane and smacking the face of the post when he really should have scored.
A corner for Everton could not be converted by Zouma and immediately Bournemouth were on the counter, this time kept away from a shot on the fragile-looking Everton goal.
With Everton responding a little better to the Cherries' energy, Digne got a chance to cross with Richarlison waiting at the far post but the ball was defended away. At the other end, Brooks and Fraser were continuing to give the Everton defence something to think about.
Richarlison went down under Ake but no free-kick, much to he crowd's displeasure, as the lively pace of the game made it compelling but at the same time worrying how poorly Everton were controlling things, Pickford and Zouma almost getting in a pickle.
Gueye was called for some clumsy play on Smith, in a dangerous spot just outside the Everton area, Stanislas' free-kick placed cleverly round the wall forcing a diving nervey save from Pickford, the ensuing corner getting worked around to Gosling whose shot was well wide.
Richarlison could not get a whiff of the ball and Bournemouth were on them more like terriers than Cherries, looking to embarrass the erratic Pickford at every opportunity.
Everton broke down the right and a good cross from Lookman was headed wide by Bernard, with Richarlison waiting again. Everton could not break out, Bernard giving the ball away and Bournemouth getting another dangerous free-kick that spun away for a corner off Keane's head.
Everton mounted their best attack, the ball dropping for Lookman but he could not pull the trigger. The visitors ran Everton ragged again as the rain came down.
Everton were finally attacking with a bit more pace and intent, winning a corner, but it was repelled. But Digne fed Lookman again and another brilliant cross was admired by the Everton forwards from a distance, no-one in there to convert it. Digne was next to get forward as Everton finally looked better but overhit his cross very poorly.
A much much better Everton move, with Lookman the spark, won a corner, with Keane eventually glancing the ball onto the top of the angle. Everton continued to attack with much more desire and invention, winning a free-kick, Richarlison dropping rather too easily. Digne put it into the wall twice. Very poor execution from a strong position. The ball was worked around again and Sigurdsson pulled his shot wide when it should really be on target at least.
Incredibly, the first-half finished goalless, Bournemouth deserving something more than Everton who were frustratingly lethargic for the first half-hour.
Everton started the second half with far more determination, Sigurdsson swinging in a great cross that Bernard was too short for. Off a corner, Richarlison had three bites of the cherry, so to speak, the last one cleared incredibly off the line.
Then it was Bournemouth's turn to attack, a header skimming off the top of the Pickford's net. But Everton repelled that and were attacking again, Sigurdsson wasting a free kick with a lame chip that was easily countered.
A Sigurdsson corner went all the way over and Digne picked it up, running forward and crossing in to Zouma who planted a fine header past Begovic, a goal at last!
After some more good Everton pressure, Bournemouth broke at pace, Keane fouling Fraser but King surging forward and lashing a shot into the side netting.
Some silliness form Gomes, grabbing the ball again after a foul called, saw him and then Zouma carded. Utterly stupid. Everton had to defend and saw the ball shepherded behind harmlessly.
Everton were getting the ball forward with greater pace, but Bournemouth were still making a real game of it, looking for that equalizer. Richarlison and Sigurdsson showed some bite in chasing down the ball, then a strong barge from Gomes, could perhaps have been his second yellow card. He then stood on King's foot, never seen Gomes so agitated.
The free-kick saw havoc in the Everton area, Everton grateful to give away a corner as Bournemouth attacked, but Pickford took control and launched the ball upfield, Sigurdsson swinging in a cross for a diving header wide by Richarlison. Walcott replaced Bernard.
The frenetic pace of the game continued with the quality of play at best scrappy. Richarlison got a chance to run at Cook but drove his shot high and wide. He later went in the referee's book for a forearm in the face of Cook.
Calvert-Lewin replaced Richarlison, the rain torrential, this game with the feel of a good old-fashioned tussle lacking only the obligatory mudbath. Pickford had to be out smartly to deny Fraser. But a free-kick for the visitors was tipped away, and it came to Lookman on the break but he could not dig out the pass.
Bournemouth drove into the area and Gosling was denied expertly by Keane, at the expense of a corner, Mina replacing Sigurdsson before it was taken as the 5 added minutes lasted an age for the now desperate Blues.
Another Bournemouth corner needed a save by Pickford, who launched it upfield, Lookman fighting for it with determination then feeding Calvert-Lewin for a fine side-footed shot that nicked off Ake and slotted inside Begovic's goal to seal the points after a frantic fractious physical, helter-skelter encounter the scoreline really harsh on a very feisty Bournemouth side.
Scorers: Zouma (61'), Calvert-Lewin (90+5')
Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Keane [Y:65'], Zouma [Y:67'], Digne; Gueye, Gomes [Y:67']; Lookman, Sigurdsson (90+2' Mina), Bernard [Y:40'] (78' Walcott); Richarlison [Y:84'] (87' Calvert-Lewin).
Subs not Used: Stekelenburg, Tosun, Davies, Kenny.
AFC Bournemouth: Begovic; Clyne, Ake, Cook, Smith; Gosling, Lerma, Brooks; Stanislas (68' Mousset), King, Fraser.
Subs: Boruc, Surman, (82' Ibe) Daniels, Rico, Simpson.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Everton are back at Goodison Park for a third successive home game to start the year with Bournemouth the visitors as Marco Silva attempts to stabilise his team's teetering Premier League form.
The Blues have won just once in the league since beating Cardiff City on the 24th of November and a run that included two draws and five defeats in that time has left them in the bottom half and Silva facing the first serious examination of his tenure.
Last weekend's defeat of Lincoln ushered Everton into the fourth round of the FA Cup but it was far from convincing so this meeting with the Cherries, the Toffees' first game with a week's break since before Christmas, has taken on greater importance than otherwise would have been the case.
Silva's men need to put on a performance but of greater urgency is a win of any description to help inject some confidence back into the ranks.
The two teams come into the weekend side by side in the table and separated only by Everton's superior goal difference as their respective good starts have given way to more chequered form.
Bournemouth beat Huddersfield and Brighton in December but were beaten by five of the top six over the rest of the month, conceding 17 goals and scoring just two in the process. They then had to come back twice against Watford to draw 3-3 at home on New Year's Day before being dumped out of the cup by their near-neighbouring Seagulls. Given Everton's top-six aspirations, that run should hearten Silva and his charges as should Eddie Howe's injury concerns.
New signing Dominic Solanke won't be able to make his debut until next month because of a hamstring injury while Callum Wilson, Josh King and Ryan Fraser, all of whom have caused the Blues problems in recent years, are doubts.
Everton, meanwhile, have a clean bill of health, allowing Silva to carefully select his best line-up based on what he has witnessed since the derby defeat at Anfield.
Lucas Digne was fully for the cup game last weekend while Richarlison and André Gomes were deployed as second-half substitutes but all three will be drafted back into the starting XI. Michael Keane was also unused against Lincoln and could come back into the side at the expense of Yerry Mina who has yet to demonstrate the required consistency since making his belated debut.
Where Richarlison plays will be of particular interest to Evertonians given that Dominic Calvert-Lewin, so impressive at times when played up front, was hooked at half-time last Saturday and his replacement, Cenk Tosun, was similarly ineffective. Oumar Niasse, the two-goal hero of this fixture last season, is highly unlikely to be considered.
It would not be a surprise to see the Brazilian restored to a central striking role which would allow Bernard and Ademola Lookman, the two goal-scorers against the Imps, to continue on the flanks.
Silva admitted in his pre-match press conference that his side needs to be better over the second half of the season than they were in the first and a win over Bournemouth would certainly get things moving in the right direction again ahead of three consecutive away games over the remainder of January.
If nothing else, the Cherries have shown themselves to be very porous at the back in recent weeks so if Everton can get their act together from an attacking point of view, there should be goals to be had. Keeping things tight against whichever attacking unit Howe is able to field will be key as Bournemouth have a habit of not laying down, although their indefatigability is more in evidence at the Vitality Stadium as the Blues found out again to their cost in the reverse fixture in August.
Kick-off: 2:15pm, Sunday 13 January, 2019
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Last time: Everton 2 - 1 Bournemouth
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Kenny, Keane, Zouma, Digne, Gueye, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Lookman, Bernard, Richarlison