Everton ease relegations fears with unlikely hammering of Brighton

Abdoulaye Doucouré and Dwight McNeil both scored twice for visitors

Brighton 1 Everton 5

The muckiest, grubbiest of away wins would have sufficed for Everton but this was not one of them. They took Brighton apart with as lethal a counter-attacking display as any team will produce all season, scoring three times in the first half and not being remotely flattered. Abdoulaye Doucouré was on target twice, one of them inside the first minute, before Dwight McNeil forced an own goal from Jason Steele. Sean Dyche’s players could have added to that tally in a rampant spell.

Incredibly, more was to come. When the outstanding McNeil tapped in 14 minutes from the end, Everton’s bench exploded with jubilation at a mission expertly accomplished. He would better it with a thudding fifth deep into added time. Alexis Mac Allister’s consolation did not change the fact they are now out of the bottom three and will surely stay up with a couple more performances of this quality.

They began emphatically and did not let up. Making Brighton swap ends after winning the toss was presumably one way to disrupt their hosts but surely, in his wildest dreams, Dyche could not have envisaged anything that happened next. He would have given anything for something to cling on to and his team had it within 33 seconds, much to the delight of the support who celebrated wildly as Doucouré converted in front of them.


Brighton had brought it upon themselves, losing possession when Kaoru Mitoma’s attempt to spin Nathan Patterson near halfway was read easily by the right-back. Alex Iwobi subsequently slid a pass down the inside right that caught Lewis Dunk flat-footed, allowing Dominic Calvert-Lewin to turn neatly and streak away. His centre was slightly behind Doucouré, who adjusted smartly to turn it in.

Now Brighton were exactly where Everton wanted them, their attempts to maintain a quick pace thwarted by niggly fouls and slow restarts. They were not themselves and it took 14 minutes for Mitoma, bamboozling Patterson this time, to tee up Mac Allister for a half-chance. The resulting shot was blocked and Brighton’s angst was to deepen considerably.

Although Yerry Mina was booked for delaying a free-kick, the narrative was far from one of a simple spoiling job. Everton brimmed with intent when spaces opened up, Calvert-Lewin dragging wide after a mistake from Moises Caicedo before McNeil saw Adam Webster charge his effort down at the end of a fine move. Their threat became so persistent that it was barely a surprise when Doucouré came good a second time.

He did so from a blistering counter that would have looked at home anywhere. When a Brighton move broke down deep in Everton territory it was Doucouré who, having been fed by Idrissa Gueye, played McNeil into space. McNeil carried the ball 60 yards before chipping across for Doucouré, who had strained every sinew so that he might keep up, to volley inside Steele’s near post.

This had become a stunning display of power and physique from Everton and it got even better. When Iwobi escaped down the right there was a chance to tee up Doucouré, unattended in the middle, for the most unlikely of hat-tricks. Iwobi’s cross was too far in front of his colleague, who salvaged the ball and passed to McNeil on the left. This time McNeil sought to fizz a low ball across the six-yard box and it became another assist, clipping Steele’s foot and zipping into the net.

A fourth could have followed before half-time when, from yet another blistering McNeil-led break, James Garner’s goalbound strike was blocked by Dunk. It was men against boys and Roberto De Zerbi showed what he thought of that, making four changes before the sides re-emerged.

One of the new arrivals, Solly March, tested Jordan Pickford within three minutes of the restart. Brighton were now producing some of the tempo that has characterised De Zerbi’s tenure but a quick goal did not come. March had Vitalii Mykolenko on toast but waves of near-constant pressure met a brick wall.

A lifeline almost came midway through the half when another replacement, Evan Ferguson, saw Pickford tip over via the top of the crossbar. From the resulting corner Brighton were denied by the same part of the frame, Mac Allister’s header rebounding away.

Pickford then brilliantly thwarted the Argentinian but almost immediately Everton streaked upfield again. They were helped when March pulled up while pursuing Iwobi but McNeil, rounding Steele and celebrating as he tapped in, was not about to dither.

Mac Allister finally got his goal in scruffy, inadvertent fashion but McNeil put the icing on the cake. Everton can glimpse safety once again. – Guardian