Burnley may have felt the relegation fears mounting, but he disguised them magnificently at Goodison Park. A sublime goal from Dwight McNeil polished an excellent away display as they became the last visitors to curb Everton’s European ambitions at home.
McNeil and Chris Wood delivered the goals that left Burnley seven points clear of the relegation zone and condemned Carlo Ancelotti’s side to a fifth loss in seven Premier League home games in 2021. Everton had a chance to rebound But despite Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s fine header, the forward’s touch eluded him on several occasions.
An early breakthrough gave Sean Dyche’s team the platform for a very impressive first-half performance characterized by tireless pressing, invention, and excellent finish. Josh Brownhill typified Burnley’s industry in midfield when he shut down and dispossessed Tom Davies as soon as the Everton midfielder received a pass from Mason Holgate. Chris Wood released McNeil down the left and was perfectly positioned on the edge of the penalty area when Michael Keane, the former Burnley defender, deflected a cross from the winger on his way. Wood had time and space to pick his spot and found the far corner with Jordan Pickford pinned to the ground.
Confidence flowed through the visitors. Wood, who had just scored his sixth Premier League goal of the season, had another effort deflected by Ben Godfrey after being cleared by Nick Pope and attacking the Everton defense. From the resulting corner, Holgate was fortunate not to concede a penalty by challenging Ben Mee at the back post. Holgate’s arm was above his head when he made clear contact with the ball, but he was saved, perhaps as a result of Mee grappling with him as they competed for the cross.
Everton’s pardon was short-lived. Moments later, Richarlison lost in a 50-50 challenge with Matt Lowton and Burnley capitalized in an astonishing way. Matej Vydra fed the towering McNeil, who spun into the rusty Allan with ease, looked up and unleashed a sublime shot with his left foot into Pickford’s upper right corner. The reaction of Erik Pieters, who clutched his head in disbelief, said all about the quality of McNeil’s attack.
It could have been worse for Ancelotti’s team just a minute later. Ashley Westwood intercepted Allan’s pass and McNeil, oozing quality and creativity, carried the threat at Everton once more before finding Johann Gudmundsson in space. The winger’s low shot beat Pickford only to hit the base of the post and bounce back to safety. The Everton goalkeeper was injured trying to stop the effort and, after two periods of treatment, was finally replaced by João Virgínia. Everton’s regular replacement, Robin Olsen, was absent due to injury and was also threatened with a machete when a masked gang broke into his home near Altrincham last weekend.
Everton had started off brilliantly, with Alex Iwobi prominent in a central role. Ancelotti’s advice to the Nigerian international to tell him his preferred position, following a cryptic complaint on social media, had clearly been heeded. Richarlison forced Nick Pope to make an early save after being released by Iwobi and then hit a pass to Calvert-Lewin when he stormed into the area.
Otherwise, the hosts were held in check by Burnley until Calvert-Lewin returned them to absorbing competition with another good goal. Iwobi found Davies running into the space to the right of the visitor area. He threw a handsome delivery through the goal and Calvert-Lewin rose unmarked to send an unstoppable header past Pope. A first goal in five games should have been the signal for more from the England international.
Everton started the second half strong, with André Gomes forcing a low save from Pope and then sweeping a cross to Lucas Digne. Digne, his right foot off the mark, crossed to the near post where the unmarked Calvert-Lewin delivered an unusually poor header. The striker, who came closer with a header from a Gomes free kick in the first half, blew another good opening when Davies threw a beautiful pass over Burnley’s defense. Calvert-Lewin’s first touch cleared it, but the second was heavy and he passed the ball straight to Pope.
However, Burnley created the best chances for a third goal. Vydra was unable to turn the ball into an empty net after Virgínia unleashed a header from Wood as she needed a decisive touch from Godfrey to prevent the imposing center forward from converting Pieters’s cross. The next corner was directed against the crossbar by Mee and the substitute Everton goalkeeper denied both Vydra and his replacement, Jay Rodriguez.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism