From the AMEX – Everton boosted their Premier League survival hopes and damaged Brighton’s European aspirations with an emphatic 5-1 win on the south coast on Monday evening.
Abdoulaye Doucoure netted in the first minute by converting Dominic-Calvert Lewin’s cross before the Toffees struck twice in six minutes around the hour mark. Doucoure volleyed in his second brilliantly before Dwight McNeil’s cross went in off Seagulls goalie Jason Steele.
The tired-looking Brighton did hit the woodwork through Alexis Mac Allister and Evan Ferguson, but they let in a fourth as McNeil walked past Dunk and Steele on the counter.
Mac Allister managed a freak consolation but McNeil arrowed in a sweet fifth to earn Everton their biggest league win of the season.
The victory takes Sean Dyche’s side ahead of Leicester and into 16th, two points above the relegation zone, while Brighton missed the chance to go sixth.
The visitors were on the scoreboard within 34 seconds of kick off on the south coast. Calvert-Lewin spun away from Lewis Dunk and darted into the area, picking out Doucoure at the back post to sweep in.
It was the perfect start for the visiting Toffees. Leicester were beaten earlier on Monday by Fulham, opening the door for ground to be made for Dyche in the relegation scrap.
Everton were largely compact without offering another goal threat for the next 30 minutes as Brighton pried outside the box with unsuccessful clips and passes into the box gobbled up by Yerry Mina and James Tarkowski.
Kaoru Mitoma did show full back Nathan Patterson the heels of his boots with a trademark run to the byline. He cut it back to Mac Allister, but Everton’s defenders got the block in.
However, McNeil and Alex Iwobi were dangerous on the break, picking their moments to excellent effect. Dunk struggled with Calvert-Lewin for the whole game and he and centre back partner Adam Webster were exposed as Everton struck twice in quick succession to take a 3-0 lead.
Their second was a wonderfully crafted counter attack. Everton nicked the ball and charged upfield with McNeil, who picked out the untracked Doucoure to belt a volley past Steele at the near post.
Steele’s afternoon got worse as the Albion conceded a third with only 35 minutes gone.
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Iwobi’s pass was kept alive by Doucoure before McNeil arrived. The former Burnley winger fired a cross at Steele’s outstretched leg, the ball bobbling off the stopper and into the net.
Home manager Roberto De Zerbi responded with four changes at the half-time break as Evan Ferguson, Solly March, Julio Enciso and Levi Colwill all entered the fray.
March’s introduction and direct running got the home crowd going but they were denied a route back into the game twice by the woodwork.
Pickford got down sharply to tip a Ferguson header onto the post before the Irishman brought another save from the England international with a fierce drive. Mac Allister greeted Pascal Gross’ subsequent corner, but the flick crashed against the bar.
The hosts’ pressure counted for little as Everton instead wrapped up the game with their fourth in the 76th minute. Iwobi burst down the left as March pulled up with an injury and rolled in McNeil, who left Dunk and Steele on the deck and very literally walked the ball in.
A freak goal did get Brighton on the board. Kaoru Mitoma arrived late to slide in and hit the post, the ball bouncing back off Mac Allister and looping into the net.
McNeil kick-started the party in the away end by grabbing Everton’s fifth, running onto Amadou Onana’s pass and lashing his shot into the near top corner.
Pickford made sharp saves throughout, denying Brighton any chance to reduce the deficit, though it was Doucoure’s first half double that set Everton on their way to three points before McNeil stole the show late on.
GK: Jason Steele – 3/10 – Powerless as Everton bundled in the first two and positioning was off for his own goal. Very tough day at the office.
RB: Pascal Gross – 4/10 – Pushed high up the pitch but Everton exploited the space he left in behind.
CB: Adam Webster – 3/10 – Didn’t know who to press and mark when the visitors broke forward with numbers. Off at the break and not helped by Dunk having a stinker alongside him.
CB: Lewis Dunk – 2/10 – Dived in early on and was spun by Calvert-Lewin for the opening goal. Never got to grips with the striker in one of his worst performances of the season.
LB: Pervis Estupinan – 3/10 – One of plenty of Seagulls players who looked leggy. Was often chasing back in vain.
CM: Moises Caicedo – 3/10 – A rare game where Caicedo looked a little at sea.
CM: Alexis Mac Allister – 6/10 – Lost the ball and couldn’t keep up with Doucoure as the Frenchman surged away to belt in his second. Got into the box and was lucky to net from Mitoma’s effort having previously hit the woodwork.
RW: Facundo Buonanotte – 4/10 – A very forgettable outing for Buonanotte, who made little impression before going off at half time.
AM: Deniz Undav – 3/10 – Only 15 touches in the first half, managing little to no link-up play with Welbeck.
LW: Kaoru Mitoma – 6/10 – Breezed past Patterson on occasion but also looked very fatigued from a long season. Hit the post and the ball rebounded in off Mac Allister.
ST: Danny Welbeck – 4/10 – Had no joy during his 45 minutes up front.
Levi Colwill (46′ for Webster) – 5/10 – Helped Brighton stay high up the pitch but couldn’t respond when Everton broke at pace.
Julio Enciso (46′ for Undav) – 5/10 – Tried to tip-toe his way through but couldn’t make a telling impact.
Solly March (46′ for Buonanotte) – 6/10 – Probably the most effective of the four subs De Derbi rang in one go but had to be withdrawn himself after pulling up while chasing Iwobi for Everton’s fourth.
Evan Ferguson (46′ for Welbeck) – 6/10 – Unlucky not to score, being brilliantly denied by Pickford on a few occasions.
Bily Gilmour (78′ for March) – N/A
Roberto De Zerbi – 2/10 – Probably didn’t expect a 5-1 thumping, but his side were outfought and outthought throughout. Made the changes but it was too late.
GK: Jordan Pickford – 8/10 – Wonderful save denied Ferguson a header into the bottom corner. Wasted some time and made some brilliant stops throughout.
RB: Nathan Patterson – 7/10 – Left behind by Mitoma on occasion but showed no lack of fight and determination as Everton defended with their backs to the wall.
CB: Yerry Mina – 7/10 – Got very hands-on with Brighton’s attackers, pushing them away from danger.
CB: James Tarkowski – 7/10 – Tarkowski and Mina had fun head-butting footballs away from danger on Monday evening.
LB: Vitalii Mykolenko – 7/10 – Not the most eye-catching Toffee. Saw off Buonanotte before being given some grief by March but ended up seeing him off too.
CM: James Garner – 7/10 – Did the dirty work in midfield as Everton defended deep, making smart interceptions and clearing danger.
CM: Idrissa Gueye – 7/10 – Similar to Garner, often mopping up loose ball.
RW: Alex Iwobi – 8/10 – Picked his moments to drive when possession turned over and set up McNeil for Everton’s fourth.
AM: Abdoulaye Doucoure – 9/10 – Arrived on the scene to settle the Everton nerves in the first minute and bagged a wonderful second. Made some brilliant runs into the box and was well rewarded with those two goals.
LW: Dwight McNeil – 9/10 – Was wonderfully fleet-footed throughout, picking out Doucoure before walking in a well-deserved goal in the second half. Crashing finish wrapped up the 5-1 win.
ST: Dominic Calvert-Lewin – 8/10 – Had Dunk guessing from the first minute, when he set up Doucoure’s first. Gave Everton a breather when needed.
Amadou Onana (87′ for Gueye) – 7/10 – Bagged a late assist for McNeil.
Neal Maupay (87′ for Calvert-Lewin) – N/A – A late runout against his former side.
Sean Dyche – 9/10 – Got everything spot on, picking out Brighton’s weaknesses by playing thoughtful counter attacking football.