Burnley and Everton played out a well contested score draw to take a share of the points, with both goalkeepers putting in solid performances to keep the scores level.
After our annual Etihad humbling last week, the Clarets will have earmarked a home tie against an out of sorts Everton side as a massive opportunity to gain three points and take themselves out of the relegation zone, if only for a brief time. The Merseysiders had picked up less points than their opponents in the preceding five games, which had contributed to one of the worst runs of form in the entirety of manager Carlo Ancelloti’s career.
Sean Dyche chose to revert back to the front two that were so effective against Crystal Palace, dropping Ashley Barnes and moving Jay Rodriguez back to his favoured forward position, whilst giving a rare start to Robbie Brady. The Everton boss also made changes to the side that lost to Leeds last time out. Yerry Mina replaced the young Mason Holgate, and Fabian Delph’s introduction to the team meant the explosive Alex Iwobi was moved to the right hand side, where he was much more effective in the game against Fulham a fortnight ago.
The Clarets bossed a lot of the early proceedings with a great energy, especially in the centre of midfield, with Josh Brownhill and Ashley Westwood mercilessly closing down any loose ball or poor touch by the Everton men, and it was from the well-worked press that Burnley were able to force an early goal.
A poor touch from Abdoulaye Doucoure was quickly snatched upon by Westwood who found Robbie Brady in space just outside the penalty area. But as he shaped to hit it with his weaker right foot, I was almost expecting any shot from the Irishman to smack against the “Welcome Back Jordan North” banners along the foot of the Bob Lord stand.
BUT I WAS WRONG! The 28 year-old drilled the ball like an arrow past the outstretched arms of Pickford and into the bottom right corner of the Cricket field stand goal, giving Burnley the advantage after just three minutes.
It was a moment of quality that Burnley fans know Robbie Brady has in his locker but is seen all too infrequently as the last three seasons have been hampered with injuries and poor performances. Hopefully this goal can gve him the foundations to build upon so that we can see the Brady that was delivering regular goals and assists during the season where we achieved European qualification.
Burnley’s press was causing Everton all sorts of problems, as the midfield duo continued to dominate Allan and Doucoure in the opening stages. Another poor piece of play from Everton allowed Matt Lowton to fizz in a delightful ball which would’ve merited a second goal if not for Ben Godfrey’s crucial interception.
However, not long after, the Toffees were able to remind Burnley of the attacking talent they possess, as a drilled cross found Dominic Calvert-Lewin just outside the six yard box, who was able forced an effort goalwards. The league’s top scorer has already scored several goals from this position this season, but the Burnley keeper was able to twist his body to prevent the ball crossing the line.
On the half hour mark, an injury to Fabian Delph prompted Anceloti to shuffle his pack, bringing on Andre Gomes and switching the formation to 4-3-3. The change, although forced, gave Everton a lot more control of the game with the midfielders finding much more time on the ball in the middle of the park and playing the ball in behind for both Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.
This caused the first half to become quite stretched, with Chris Wood and Jay Rodriguez also making excellent runs in behind to try and get on the end of passes beyond the defensive line. And it was from this movememt that the Clarets were able to forge a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0. Chris Wood held up the ball fantastically, before a quick one-two with Dwight McNeil put him 1-on-1 with the Pickford, but the England keeper was able to rush out to prevent the Kiwi, who probably should’ve rounded the keeper.
And Burnley were made to pay for that missed chance. Ashley Westwood, who was having a very strong half, was easily outmuscled in the centre of the park, giving away possession to an Everton side who attacked the space in the Burnley half with great efficiency. Richarlison cut a frustrated figure for most of the half, but he worked it well into the Burnley box before finding the league’s top scorer who tapped home from three yards out.
It was a sucker punch for the Turf Moor residents who would’ve been desperate to hold their lead into half time.
Half time: Burnley 1-1 Everton
The formation change continued to give Everton joy as they took the lions share of possession in the early stages of the second half, however neither side were very effective with the ball, with sloppy passes and a lack of clear chances characterising the third quarter of the game. On the week that fans have been reintroduced to stadiums in certain areas of the country, this was a portion of the game that was crying out for fans to spur the teams into some form of quality.
The best chance in this period fell to James Rodriguez who managed to dig out a left foot effort from outisde the box, and forcing a solid yet speculative save from Pope, who was perhaps playing up to the cameras (or the on-looking England manager).
On the 75th minute, Ashley Barnes was introduced, forcing the game to became more open. The former Brighton man’s typical bulldog approach nearly fashioned a great chance for the winner as he battled Ben Godfrey for an aerial ball, before winning the knock down and putting in a dangerous ball which would’ve been a goal if not for Yerry Mina’s vital interception.
Then, at the other end, Nick Pope rushed from his line to close down the angle and prevent a late winner as Richarlison was played in behind the Burnley defense.
This was the first of a flurry of late chances as the Burnley captain Ben Mee rose above everyone to get his head on a Dwight McNeil corner, forcing a terrific diving save from Pickford as the end of the game approached.
On the 90th minute Everton had their best chance to take a three points back to Goodison park. The colombian magician, James, moulded an outside-the-boot through-ball, that ‘nutmegged’ Charlie Taylor and found the on-rushing Gylfi Sigurdsson 10 yards out. His snapshot was on target, but the Scandanavian substitute couldn’t get enough on it to stroke it past Nick Pope’s outstretched leg, which prevented the ball nestling in the net.
And the game still wasn’t over! In the 92nd minute the ball fortuitously bobbled through to Dwight McNeil on the edge of the area, who had time on the ball and the goal at his mercy. But the form he has showed of late was evident in his effort, as he ballooned the shot high and wide.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened for the 21 year-old this season, with his performances this season ranging from ineffective to poor, and I would’ve liked to see him cause more problem for his defensive marker Alex Iwobi, who isn’t famed for his defensive abilities. The lad has time on his side and he undoubtedly has quality, but the burden of Burnley’s creativity cannot rely on McNeil this season if we want to succeed and survive.
Both teams will be frustrated with the outcome of the result, with both keepers playing their part to ensure a share of the spoils and causing further headaches for the England manager. A point doesn’t do either side much good though, with Burnley remaining deep in the relegation zone in 19th, whilst Everton will have required all three points to keep up with the rest of the champions league chasing pack.
A draw is probably a fair result with both sides having dominant spells in the game and, from a Burnley perspective, the result is hardly a bad one against a very talented side who have recruited very well in the transfer window. The lingering taste of this game will remain sour though, as the big chances from Wood and McNeil could prove costly come the later stage of the season, and the Clarets really need to find a ruthless streak upfront if we are going to stay up this season.
Full time: Burnley 1-1 Everton