Carlo Ancelotti’s perfect start to his first full season in charge of Everton continued with a 5-2 win over West Brom that – for a half at least – was not nearly as resounding as the scoreline might suggest.
Both sides were unchanged from their opening league games last weekend, though each made ten changes from their midweek League Cup fixtures.
For Everton, it was a chance for their three heralded midfield signings to make a home debut and impress in front of an empty Goodison Park. However, the Toffees almost made a disastrous start. An under-hit Yerry Mina back pass led to an equally under-hit non-clearance from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford resulting in West Brom recording a shot on target (something they didn’t manage at all last week) inside 25 seconds.
The frayed nerves of the home side were just about shredded when 22-year-old Grady Diangana ran 70 yards without challenge, slotting his first Premier League goal past Pickford, leaving Ancelotti standing in his area with his arms outstretched in frustration at his defense. Diangana’s sharp combinations with Matheus Pereira and Callum Robinson created all sorts of problems for the more fancied Everton, with Jake Livermore striking the outside of the post midway through the first half.
That’s not to say that the Albion had the run of play. Everton had nine first-half corners and the bulk of both territory and possession. Though it was not until the 31st minute that they made that advantage count, and it took a healthy dose of VAR assistance. Richarlison seemingly headed Seamus Coleman’s cross to an offside Dominic Calvert-Lewin who’s quick thinking backheel saw the ball in the net. The Brazilian instantly appealed the offside decision to referee Mike Dean, claiming that the ball came off a West Brom player & not him. After a lengthy consultation with VAR, it was confirmed that the ball came not from Richarlison, but off the head of West Brom’s Darnell Furlong, rendering Calvert-Lewin’s positioning irrelevant and the goal legitimate.
Everton took the lead on 45 minutes as Richarlison rode a pair of challenges before feeding James Rodriguez, who had drifted in from the right. The Colombian took a touch to steady himself before rifling the ball into the bottom corner of Sam Johnstone’s net from 20 yards. James’ first goal in royal blue was pure class and with any luck for the Goodison club, a mere taste of things to come.
The game exploded into life immediately after the goal with James was again involved. His slight bump on Kieran Gibbs was met with a shove to the face from the West Brom left-back. West Brom was on the backfoot as the half time whistle sounded – it only got worse at the break. Manager Slaven Bilic (a former Everton player as a young man) berated Mike Dean as they left the pitch, earning a red card of his own.
Indeed facing a damage limitation exercise, West Brom flipped the script with a wonderfully taken 25-yard free-kick from Pereira, tying the game at two goals apiece. Pickford had no chance. The unholy spawn of Peter Schmeichel and a Kraken would have had no luck.
Everton’s response was as swift as it was decisive, with three goals in 12 minutes crushing West Brom’s hopes of claiming an unlikely draw.
At 54 minutes, Lucas Digne swung a free-kick across the six-yard box. Richarlison’s header was well saved by Johnstone only for Michael Keane to react quickest, poking the ball home. We were treated to some James magic on 62 minutes, his delicate lofted pass taking out seven West Brom players, Richarlison steering the ball across the goalmouth for Calvert-Lewin to tap in. Four minutes later and the England hopeful completed his hattrick, craning his neck to meet James’ corner, with Johnstone rooted to the spot.
The game petered out its inevitable conclusion from that point. Everton was happy to stroke the ball around without any real urgency. Albion was understandably keen to get out of Dodge.
The plaudits will go to James and Calvert-Lewin, though Richarlison was perhaps the best player. The Brazilian played in partnership with Calvert-Lewin last season though has settled into the left of a front three so far this campaign – the same role he excelled in at Watford. His powerful and direct running was a cause for concern all day for Bilic’s defense. A pair of assists and a direct hand in his team’s opener capped an excellent day for the 23-year-old.
Gibbs’ red card was undoubtedly the moment the match turned, despite Everton having already regained the lead. West Brom’s counter-attacking plan created too many chances for Ancelotti to be comfortable with, and had Livermore’s shot been afoot to the left, West Brom would have been valued for their 2-0 lead.
So, despite the lopsided scoreline, there is work to be done for Everton. They’re still short in central defense with Mason Holgate (out until December) joined on the injury list by youngster Jarrad Branthwaite. A loan move for Chelsea starlet Fikayo Tomori beckons as they travel to Crystal Palace next week.
West Brom’s search for their first points of the season doesn’t get easier. They travel to Stamford Bridge to take on big-spending Chelsea without Gibbs and likely without their manager.
For the first time since 2012, Everton sits on top of the Premier League table. That surely won’t last, but Ancelotti is in charge of a vibrant team, terrifying front three. It’s taken a long time, but maybe the Royal Blue Revolution is coming.
Man of the Match: Richarlison (Everton)