Everton returned to winning ways in the Premier League with an outstanding away victory at Molineux.
Missing both Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Allan for the match, Carlo Ancelotti made some rather unorthodox changes to his team’s personnel and shape, with Gylfi Sigurdsson and James Rodríguez leading The Toffees’ line in what appeared to be a 4-4-2 formation.
It was a bold move by Ancelotti, especially with Richarlison and Cenk Tosun sitting on the bench, but immediately reaped a reward with the visitors taking the lead after just six minutes. A sublime switch from Rodríguez was complimented by a brilliant first-time cross by Lucas Digne into the path of an on-rushing Alex Iwobi, who fired a thunderous, low effort past Rui Patrício in the Wolves goal. It was a superb goal and an instant example of how, irrespective of the number of defenders they may have had on the pitch, Everton were here to play.
Unfortunately this early joy was to be short lived, with Wolves responding brilliantly to this setback. After five minutes or so of quick, bright passing on the edge of Jordan Pickford’s area, the hosts equalised, with enthusiastic left back Rayan Aït-Nouri producing an outstanding cross into the path of mercurial midfielder Rúben Neves, who volleyed home. It was what Wolves’ response to Iwobi’s strike merited and gave a game which had the potential to turn into a classic Ancelotti away day, reminiscent of early wins at Crystal Palace and Sheffield United, a very different character.
RUBEN NEVES FIRES US LEVEL!! pic.twitter.com/nyyePodkij
— Wolves (@Wolves) January 12, 2021
The next half an hour of play was frenetic, with chances falling for both sides on the counter attack. Whilst the bigger chances came for the home side, with good opportunities dropping for Fábio Silva and Leander Dendoncker from close range, Everton still fashioned some decent opportunities, particularly for the goal scorer Iwobi, who fired straight at Patrício after a neat interchange with Rodríguez. It would have capped an exceptional display from Iwobi, who has enjoyed incredible progression in recent weeks, moving from a durable, physical option out wide to a real source of creativity for The Blues.
With both teams enjoying good spells of possession and shaping some excellent opportunities, a score line of one apiece at halftime was very fair.
Half-Time: Wolves 1-1 Everton
Wolves began the second half in much stronger form than the away side, with Neves and João Moutinho starting to dictate proceedings in the middle of the park. But, as with many away performances of late, Everton remained extremely well organised, with Yerry Mina and Michael Keane dominating challenges both in the air and on the floor. Much like Iwobi, both centre backs have improved significantly this season, developing into two of the most dependable defensive partnerships in the league, never mind at Goodison Park.
For all this outstanding endeavour at the back, Everton were lacking options when moving forward. Too often The Blues’ attack broke down and with fifteen minutes or so to play, it felt like changes were required to give the visitors any chance of winning the game. Ancelotti obliged, bringing both André Gomes and Richarlison into the fray.
The former was to produce the moment of quality needed to split the two sides. Following a half cleared corner, the Portuguese midfielder delivered a superb cross into Michael Keane, whose towering header nestled into the roof of the net to give Everton the lead once more. It was a brilliant assist and further evidence of just how effective Ancelotti’s late substitutions can be.
MICHAEL VINCENT KEANE!!!! 💙
— Everton (@Everton) January 12, 2021
With time running out, Wolves poured forward but bar a tremendous Neves freekick that brushed the frame of the goal, the Midlanders couldn’t find a way through. Whilst they may feel hard done by, particularly after their first half display, Everton will consider themselves worthy winners based on their efficiency in both boxes during the crucial moments of the game.
Irrespective of whether their victory was deserved or not, this particular performance and result is an important marker of how much The Toffees have grown in recent months. In July 2020, Everton fell to a 3-0 defeat against Wolves in what many regarded to be their worst display of the season. Six months on, they have came away from the same opposition victorious, moving to fourth in the Premier League table in the process, a point away from the leaders, with their most number of away victories for seven seasons. That is quite simply extraordinary progress and testament to the labours of Ancelotti, his staff and his players, who along with the club’s supporters should start to believe that something is happening at Goodison Park this season.
— Everton (@Everton) January 12, 2021
Full Time: Wolves 1-2 Everton
Man of the Match: Michael Keane (Everton)