Everton put on an outstanding show of counterattacking to defeat Brighton and escape the Premier League’s relegation zone with a shock win of 5-1.
The visitors took the lead 34 seconds into the game, thanks to a spectacular first half from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who set up Abdoulaye Doucoure for a tap-in after Seagulls skipper Lewis Dunk made a terrible mistake.
Before the half-hour mark, Malian midfielder Doucoure added Everton’s second goal with a well-placed shot into the right corner following a cross from Dwight McNeil. Sean Dyche’s team then significantly increased their advantage thanks to McNeil, who saw his low cross ricochet off Brighton goalkeeper Jason Steele and into the net.
After a disastrous first half, Brighton was jeered off at the break, thankful not to have been humiliated by being four goals behind after Dunk saved James Garner’s close-range attempt just before halftime.
Everton put up a remarkable show for the spectators, frequently threatening on the break in the first half and firmly defending in the second. They added a fourth goal when McNeil raced on to Alex Iwobi’s sharp cross, around Steele, and slotted into an empty net.
After making four halftime squad changes, Roberto de Zerbi’s team, who were significantly better, saw substitutes Evan Ferguson (twice) and Alexis Mac Allister strike the post before they eventually got comfort when Kaoru Mitoma’s sliding attempt rebounded against the post and bounced off on Mac Allister.
Everton got out of the relegation zone, moving up to sit 16th in the standings by passing Nottingham Forest, Leeds, and Leicester City thanks to a fantastic McNeil attempt in extra time that sailed into the top corner.
With two games remaining, Brighton is still in seventh position, seven points behind Liverpool in fifth.
Toffees achieve tremendous edge
On the heels of a seven-game losing streak, many Everton supporters made the trip down to the south coast, more with hope than with expectation.
A team with fewer league goals than Everton’s 27 this season could only be found in the eighth division of English football before kickoff.
But while their fans joyfully cheered from the stands, they sensationally found their clinical edge. The opening goal was set in motion by Calvert-Lewin’s move away from Dunk, and the England forward put up a strong performance in just his fourth game.
Numerous other players stood up, such as Doucoure, who was unpopular before Dyche joined the team, but he managed to score twice for the first time in the English top division.
In addition to his two goals, the second of which he scored with impressive stability, McNeil, who ran farther than any other visiting player (12.76km), made significant contributions to his team’s defence.
Kaoru Mitoma’s threat was again largely neutralised by Nathan Patterson, as the hosts were kept at bay by crucial saves from Jordan Pickford and James Tarkowski.
Brighton pays the price
This game represented a big blow for the Brighton team with its sights set on European playing time next season after tasting the ecstasy of their late victory against Manchester United on Thursday.
De Zerbi, the Seagulls’ manager, cut a furious figure during the first half as his typically fluid team crumbled before his eyes.
The first goal was scored on accident by Dunk after being caught on the wrong side of Calvert-Lewin, while the second was unintentionally scored by Adam Webster, who lost the ball high in the Everton half.