Magnificent Everton run riot at Brighton to boost survival hopes

08/05/2023 comments  |  Jump to last
Brighton 1 - 5 Everton

Dwight McNeil bagged a brace and forced home another off Jason Steele as Everton destroyed Brighton at the Amex Community Stadium

Everton blew much-vaunted Brighton away on their own ground, registered their biggest win in 4½ years and lifted themselves out of the relegation zone with a counter-attacking masterclass at the Amex Community Stadium.

Abdoulaye Doucouré set them on their way with a brace inside the first half hour and a rampant Dwight McNeil scored twice and forced home a third via goalkeeper Jason Steele as the Blues withstood intense pressure from the home side in the second half while Roberto De Zerbi’s side tried manfully to overturn a 3-0 half-time deficit.

Alexis Mac Allister scored a somewhat fortunate consolation goal for the Seagulls shortly after the visitors had extended their lead to a stunning 4-0 with 15 minutes left but there would be no fairytale comeback for Brighton whose European hopes took a hit with what was their heaviest defeat of the season thus far.

For Everton, the result was a remarkable reverse of the match between these two teams at Goodison Park in January when Brighton tore them apart on the way to a 4-1 win that drove another nail into the coffin of Frank Lampard’s tenure as the Toffees’ boss. It was also their best result on their travels since beating Sean Dyche’s Burnley by the same scoreline under Marco Silva in December 2018 and one that should provide a real shot in the arm ahead of their final three games of the current campaign.

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With Dyche finally caving and dropping Michael Keane back to the bench, Yerry Mina came into the team for a rare start at centre-half alongside James Tarkowski while Nathan Patterson came in at right-back for the injured Seamus Coleman and James Garner kept his place in central midfield.

And Everton got off to the perfect start with a goal after just 33 seconds. Patterson got an important block to intercept Kaoru Mitoma’s attempt to knock it past him, Dominic Calvert-Lewin executed a perfect pirouette to take Alex Iwobi’s pass around his marker and after driving into the box, the striker crossed perfectly for Doucouré to knock it in assuredly at the back post.

Brighton were making a point of trying to find Mitoma wide on their left to take advantage of Patterson’s inexperience and the Japanese had some early success before the Scot gradually got the measure of him as the contest wore on.

Mitoma’s cross to the back post in the fourth minute was just too high for Danny Welbeck who could only glance it wide but it was Everton who nearly scored again in the 26th minute before they actually did three minutes later.

Adam Webster made an excellent block to deny McNeil’s goal-bound effort but it was the winger who was the architect for Doucouré’s second as he raced away down the left flank, spotted the Mali international free on the other side of the penalty area and found him with a perfect cross that Doucouré volleyed home brilliantly.

Remarkably, it was 3-0 six minutes after that and the goal came from another superbly-executed breakaway. Iwobi’s ball into the box was a little too far ahead of Doucouré but he kept it alive and found McNeil who took it to the byline and attempted to drive it across the face of goal. The cross caught Steele’s out-stretched leg, though, and bounced in.

McNeil squandered yet another promising counter when he just failed to find Calvert-Lewin as the pair raced away in a two-on-two and Garner must have thought he had registered his first Premier League goal when he side-footed wide of the keeper from close range but Lewis Dunk got in a crucial block that ensured Brighton’s deficit was only three at the halfway stage.

De Zerbi responded by making four changes at the interval, throwing on exciting young striker Evan Ferguson and the tricky Julio Encisco and for the first 15 minutes of the second half it was one-way traffic towards Jordan Pickford’s goal.

The England keeper stood tall, however, saving bravely at his near post inside the first minute of the restart, parrying Enciso’s fierce drive up and behind to safety and then brilliantly turning a Ferguson header onto the post with a one-handed save at full stretch.

Another half-time substitute in Solly March saw a powerful drive stopped by Mina’s head before Ferguson turned the Colombian and grazed the crossbar with a shot via Pickford’s fingertips and, from the ensuing corner, Mac Allister thumped a header off the face of the bar as Everton just about kept their clean sheet intact.

Dunk dropped a header wide of the far post shortly afterwards and Pickford made another top-drawer save to palm Mac Allister’s header away before Everton defied all expectations by scoring a fourth.

Iwobi surged down the left flank this time and drew one defender to him that opened up the space for McNeil to steal into and when the Nigerian found him with a perfectly-weighted pass, the former Burnley man faked to shoot, turned inside the last man and keeper and walked the ball into net before wheeling away in delight.

Brighton reduced their arrears to three again almost immediately when a deep cross from the right was met by Mitoma sliding in and though he could only steer the ball into the post, it bounced into Mac Allister and then into the empty net to make it 4-1 with 11 minutes to go.

The Amex Stadium had started to empty at 4-0 and those that remained did not get to witness a miraculous recovery. Mitoma’s volley might have ricocheted in off Levi Colwill but it bounced over instead and Pickford made one more save to deny Ferguson from close range but it was Everton and McNeil who put the icing on the cake in stoppage time.

Once more it was a counter-attack, this time sparked by sub Amadou Onana’s ball from inside his own half that released McNeil who used Iwobi in the middle as a decoy before leathering it inside the near post and into the top corner of Steele’s goal.

A quite stunning result against a very good side who could still have mathematically moved as high as fifth if they won their games in hand lifts Everton out of the bottom three, taking full advantage of Leicester’s 5-3 defeat at Fulham and Leeds United’s loss at Manchester City over the weekend.

Next Sunday’s clash with the new League leaders at Goodison Park promises to be a Herculean task of even bigger proportions but Dyche’s men have given themselves a great chance of preserving the club’s top-flight status providing they can produce this kind of form in their final three fixtures.


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