Brighton 1 – 5 Everton
Everton injected life into their Premier League survival bid as a first-half blitz at high-flying Brighton secured a shock 5-1 victory on the south coast.
Having won just once in their previous 11 league games, the visitors needed just 33 seconds to break the deadlock through Abdoulaye Doucoure’s close-range finish.
The excellent Doucoure doubled Everton’s lead with a controlled volley from Dwight McNeil’s 29th-minute cross before Jason Steele miscalculated a cutback from the former Burnley winger to divert the ball into his own net in the 35th minute.
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi made four changes at the interval and the hosts hit the woodwork on two occasions before McNeil deservedly capped a fine performance with a goal of his own to sucker-punch the Seagulls in the 76th minute.
Alexis Mac Allister was on hand to score a consolation for the hosts after Kaoru Mitoma’s initial effort rebounded back off the post. With virtually the final kick, McNeil was unleashed by Amadou Onana with his angled finish high into the roof of the net completing a stunning away performance.
The result moves Everton from 19th up to 16th in the table ahead of Nottingham Forest’s home clash with Southampton later on Monday, two points outside of the relegation zone.
“No, I’m not sure [I saw it coming] myself in terms of the scoreline,” said Everton boss Sean Dyche. “But I saw the performance because I saw it at Leicester.
“The scoreline is a big one, for any team particularly on the road. There’s been a lot of noise over the past couple of years about Everton’s away form but we’ve been improving the mentality.
“A couple have got away from us but there have been stronger performances away from home, committed performances. Tonight paid us back after a very good performance at Leicester.”
Brighton remain in seventh place – the Europa Conference League spot – a point above Aston Villa in eighth with two games in hand, but this result checked dreams of gatecrashing the Champions League equation.
Brighton: Steele (4), Caicedo (5), Webster (5), Dunk (5), Estupinan (5), Gross (6), Mac Allister (5), Buonanotte (4), Undav (4), Mitoma (6), Welbeck (5).
Subs: Colwill (6), March (7), Enciso (6), Ayari, Gilmour (n/a), Ferguson (6).
Everton: Pickford (9), Patterson (9), Mina (8), Tarkowski (7), Mykolenko (8), Garner (8), Gueye (8), Iwobi (7), Doucoure (9), McNeil (9), Calvert-Lewin (8).
Subs: Onana (n/a), Maupay (n/a).
Player of the match: Dwight McNeil.
How Everton stunned Brighton
Long after the final whistle, the 4,000 travelling supporters were unmoved, almost in shock at what they had witnessed. This has been a long and wretched season, a repeat of 12 months ago, but without the talisman Richarlison, they had looked doomed.
Until now. A first win on the road since early October at Southampton has breathed spirit back into the Blues. Everton scored five goals in a Premier League away game for the first time since December 2018 – a 5-1 win at Dyche’s Burnley – with this also their biggest margin of victory on the road since then.
- There were two changes for Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi from Thursday’s Manchester United victory. Pascal Gross and Deniz Undav were brought in for Billy Gilmour and Julio Enciso, while Evan Ferguson returned from his ankle injury but started on the bench.
- Sean Dyche also made a pair of changes after his Everton side drew with Leicester on Monday. Yerry Mina made his first start and appearance since the January trip to West Ham with Michael Keane making way, while Nathan Patterson replaced injured right-back Seamus Coleman.
Writing in his programme notes, De Zerbi alluded to how fatigue would be “inevitable” during Brighton’s hectic backlog of fixtures.
But it is far easier to handle tiredness when the team is winning, and certainly in the manner the roof came off the Amex Stadium four days ago courtesy of Mac Allister’s 99th-minute winner against Manchester United. A 99 on the south coast; it must be holiday season.
Brighton are readying their passports, but this was a thoroughly unexpected roadblock. On Monday, they were presented with a very different challenge in keeping their European aspirations on track. This was their third successive home game, having dismantled Wolves 6-0 at the end of last month – but they fell behind inside 33 seconds.
Lewis Dunk was rolled with ease with Dominic Calvert-Lewin before the striker picked out Doucoure for a close-range finish, his shot shovelled beyond Steele. Everton had only scored 12 away league goals, but Doucoure doubled his account on 29 minutes to cap a fine counter-attack.
Calvert-Lewin was again involved as he combined with McNeil down the left channel, and the winger’s deep cross was volleyed past Steele by the rampant Doucoure.
Six minutes later, it was 3-0 as the ball bounced off the back of Steele’s leg and in for an own goal from McNeil’s cross.
Jordan Pickford had not been tested in spite of Brighton’s possessional dominance, and Everton might have extended their lead on the stroke of half-time when James Garner’s shot was brilliantly blocked by Dunk.
De Zerbi made a quadruple change at the break as Levi Colwill, Solly March, Julio Enciso and Evan Ferguson were all summoned. Brighton immediately responded as March shot straight at Pickford. Ferguson then rose – albeit judged from an offside position – to force England’s No 1 into a superb one-handed save onto the post. It would have gone to VAR.
Yerry Mina, on his first appearance under Dyche January and first start since January, blocked heroically from March’s curling shot. Ferguson’s next attempt was tipped over by Pickford via the crossbar, with the ensuing set-piece flicked onto the woodwork by Mac Allister.
Everton’s goal was leading a charmed life but Brighton were undone once more on the counter as Iwobi found the underlapping run of McNeil following a poor attempted pass by March. As McNeil rounded Steele to tap in on the line, March had pulled up holding his hamstring.
De Zerbi said afterwards: “I don’t know We are in a very tough period with regards injuries, but I don’t want to speak about this because anyway we are ready, and we could still win games. Solly didn’t play in the first XI for a problem.”
Brighton would immediately respond through Mac Allister, but it was fitting that McNeil would have the final say with the pick of the bunch, gliding onto Onana’s pass before unleashing an unerring strike, postage stamp, beyond Steele.
FPL Stats: Brighton 1-5 Everton
|Goals||McNeil (2), Doucoure (2), Mac Allister, Steele own goal|
|Assists||McNeil (2), Iwobi, Calvert-Lewin, Onana|
|Bonus points||McNeil (3), Doucoure (2), Mac Allister (1)|
De Zerbi: We were late starting
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi:
“Of course, we can lose the game. We can lose against Everton. I was disappointed with the first half because it showed we’re not ready yet to compete for the big target. It’s not easy because playing the last period, three games in a week is difficult if you’re not used to playing so many games.
“But if we want to improve and fix our target higher, we have not forgotten the victory against Manchester United.
“With big teams, the biggest quality is to forget when you win. You have to be ready to play every game, every day and today we arrived at the stadium late. In the second half [in other words, they didn’t get started].
“Sunday we will show our quality and we’ll be back playing in our style. You will see the true Brighton. Against Manchester United and today, we saw two different teams. The problem is mentality.
“I hope we can remember this date for a long time because today we can improve a lot. We can improve in football what you did in the past. It is not important, it doesn’t count [towards the future].
“We are Brighton – we have won against Manchester United, against Arsenal [in the Carabao Cup] and against Chelsea, not because there is a top coach or players. It is because we have courage, energy and passion. I’m sure we will show this again and for a long time.”
Dyche: People will think there is life in this team
Everton boss Sean Dyche:
“When you get your tactics right, everyone lauds you. When you get it wrong, it might still be the right tactics but the players haven’t performed. They have tonight, they’ve taken it on.
“We’ve done some work with them, they were very open-minded to it and they’ve gone and delivered it. That’s really pleasing as that’s the whole point of coaching and the whole point of managing. The players deserve a lot of credit as they’ve taken it on with aplomb.
“People will be out there thinking there is life in this team. We’ve never lost sight of that. The work ethic, the commitment to the cause, the connectivity of the group is really important as I’ve always felt there is quality.
“But talking about it doesn’t win you a game. We were frustrated not to win at Leicester, but we got the reward of carrying on the right mentality tonight against a team that has been rightly applauded for their performances this season.
“I told the lads that this is only a step. I said that after Arsenal. I made it clear. We made another step, but there’s three more big steps we’ve got to take.”
Player of the match – Dwight McNeil
With seven goals and three assists, Dwight McNeil is enjoying his best Premier League season for goal involvements (10), with Monday the first time he’s both scored and assisted in a league game for Everton.
On McNeil, Dyche said: “His nemesis is sometimes coming deep and short and we want him to carry the ball. Sometimes he goes inside with the ball but I want him to keep driving. His two finishes were terrific. You have to build confidence with some players.”
Everton produce survival template for success
Sky Sports’ Ben Grounds at the Amex Stadium:
By the end, Everton had scored five from an xG of 2.24 compared to Brighton’s 2.81. De Zerbi’s men could only take one of their five big chances while Everton scored from all four of theirs, in addition to Steele’s unfortunate own goal.
No one saw this coming. In a season of shocks and surprises, this may well have been the greatest. Everton’s poor away form has been well-documented while Brighton’s performance against Manchester United four days earlier pointed towards a banker home win.
But Dyche, who enjoyed a 3-0 win as Burnley manager here in February of last year, enjoyed his return to the Amex Stadium. From the first whistle, his side had a good shape and carried out his game plan to perfection.
The travelling fans will sing long into the night, believing that this, coupled with Leicester’s defeat at Fulham, has opened the door to another great escape.
Doucoure’s knack of arriving late in the box was deadly, capitalising on Brighton’s slack passing and sluggishness in tracking back. The visitors had to be compact and were reliant on Pickford’s heroics at times during a one-sided second half.
This was a spectacular off day for Brighton, who have been such a joy to watch this term and deserve their ticket to Europe. But this will now be a test of their character as their rivals apply scoreboard pressure ahead of their next attempt at playing catch up at Arsenal and then Newcastle.
Sunday 14th May 1:00pm
Kick off 2:00pm
Brighton face two daunting away trips in their next two matches. First, they head to Arsenal on Sunday May 14, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports, before travelling to Newcastle on May 18.
Sunday 14th May 4:00pm
Kick off 4:30pm
Everton now have just three games left to secure Premier League survival. They host Manchester City on Sunday at 2pm, live on Sky Sports, before visiting Wolves and then finishing at home against Bournemouth.
Brighton’s remaining fixtures
May 14: Arsenal (A) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports
May 18: Newcastle (A) – Premier League, kick-off 7.30pm
May 21: Southampton (H) – Premier League, kick-off 2pm
May 24: Man City (H) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm, live on Sky Sports
May 28: Aston Villa (A) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm
Everton’s remaining fixtures
May 14: Man City (H) – Premier League, kick-off 2pm, live on Sky Sports
May 20: Wolves (A) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 28: Bournemouth (H) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm
Brighton rocked – Opta stats
- This was Brighton’s heaviest home defeat in the Premier League since July 2020, and a 5-0 loss against Manchester City.
- This was the first time a team starting the day in the bottom three won away against a side in the top seven of the table since West Brom’s 5-2 victory over Chelsea in April 2021 (D10 L27 in between).
- Since their first Premier League season in 2017-18, Brighton have conceded a league-high 14 own goals. They’ve shipped five this season, with no side doing so more often.