Everton continued their outstanding form with a 1-0 win away to West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.
Following The Toffees’ victory against Southampton on Monday night, Carlo Ancelotti made a handful of changes to his starting eleven for the match, with Alex Iwobi and Bernard returning in place of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Allan respectively.
This pair, along with the eight others in amber, did not start the match well. Ancelotti’s men could not cope with the physicality of their hosts, particularly from striker Mbaye Diagne. Everton’s inability to deal with the Senegalese international was nearly punished inside two minutes when he glanced a superb header towards goal but, fortunately, Jordan Pickford was on hand to make a stunning save, his second in less than a week.
After this early warning, the visitors responded reasonably well, with half chances falling for Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin after some bright, busy football on the edge of The Baggies’ box. The latter was to have Everton’s biggest opportunity of the half just before the break. Blessed with a one-on-one with Sam Johnstone after a Bernard pass ricocheted in his direction, the England striker could not apply the finishing touch and fired straight at the goalkeeper.
This is the one aspect of Calvert-Lewin’s game he must refine if he is to develop into an elite-level striker. Physically and aerially, he is flawless but there are still too many doubts about how ruthless he is when presented with opportunities of that quality. However, in light of his rapid improvement over the last eighteen months or so, one cannot help but think it is only a matter of time until he gets there.
His chance aside, Everton hadn’t tested West Brom enough to merit a lead going into the interval and would need to do much more in the second half if they were to take all three points.
Half Time: West Brom 0-0 Everton
It would take sixty five minutes and a substitute to do just that. After bringing on Allan just shy of the hour mark, Ancelotti pushed Gylfi Sigurdsson onto the pitch and within less than a minute, the midfielder was to produce the definitive moment of the match.
Following a weak corner, Sigurdsson lofted a wonderful cross into the penalty area which Richarlison was able to nod home. This is the second match in a row where the two have combined to produce an Everton goal and hints that a partnership similar to that of Keane and Godfrey and Allan and Doucouré may be starting to blossom in The Blues’ final third.
Everton defended the next twenty five minutes remarkably well. With West Brom starting to pass longer and press harder, the visitors needed the likes of Godfrey and Allan to step up and, like in many of their trips on the road this season, they did just that. With the clock ticking towards the 95th minute, it looked like Ancelotti’s men had done enough and maximum points were coming away from The Black Country.
They were very, very nearly proved wrong. After Jordan Pickford failed to deal with a hanging cross, Diagne swivelled and struck superbly into the roof of the net, sparking wild celebrations on the pitch and on The Baggies’ bench. However, replays showed that Diagne was just offside, meaning the equaliser was voided and Evertonians’ blushes were spared.
Whilst the quality of Everton’s opposition tonight was not great, the magnitude of that victory cannot be underplayed. In seasons gone by, The Toffees drop points in that context and cave in under late, direct pressure. This side is not that Everton and has much more of a backbone and bite which with further victories and recruitment can only improve.
To be in the conversation for Champions League qualification after the difficulties of the last season is a phenomenal achievement and offers hope that even if they don’t quite make it this time around, Everton under Ancelotti will get there soon enough.
Away form: WDWWWWDWW
Nine unbeaten on the road! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/PrjFZhIFWF
— Everton (@Everton) March 4, 2021
Full Time: West Brom 0-1 Everton
James’ Everton Man of the Match: Ben Godfrey