Everton 2 – 3 Brighton

Dominic Calvert-Lewin made a long-awaited return from injury but missed the opportunity to halve Everton’s first-half deficit when he soared from the penalty spot

Everton’s horrific run of results dragged on into the New Years as Brighton fended off a fiery but rambling comeback attempt to win at Goodison Park for the first time in their history.

Alexis Mac Allister scored a three-goal return for the Seagulls with an impressive 25-yard strike in the 71st minute that put Graham Potter’s team back by two goals and although Anthony Gordon gave some some hope for the Blues with his second in the competition, Rafael Benitez was doomed to one more miserable defeat.

As the Spaniard’s reported feud with Lucas Digne continued, Benitez felt compelled to deploy Seamus Coleman in an unnatural left-back role and persisted with Jonjoe Kenny on the right side of a back line of five men.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has made his long-awaited return up front, flanked by Gordon and Demarai Gray, but the England striker would not benefit from a triumphant return to the side. Instead, it was his missed penalty that put the Toffees down 2-0 at halftime.

This was due to another suspicious first-half display under Benitez which saw Everton score a late goal with less than three minutes on the clock. Coleman had drifted too far from Brighton’s right flank allowing the cross to come in from the right which Neal Maupay cushioned with his header in the path of Mac Allister who shot past Jordan Pickford.

18 minutes later, when Everton had yet to score a shot on target, Yves Bissouma was introduced into the box on a practice run which ended with Allan deflecting his cross behind, but the inability to do well. documented hosts to consistently defend set pieces again undermined them.

The resulting corner kick was taken to the near post by Maupay and unmarked Dan Burn was given the simple task of coming home to the far post to double the visitors’ lead.

Considering Everton’s form the past few months, it represented an almost impossible mountain to climb, but they were good at getting back into the game in the 23rd minute when Gordon fell into the box under challenge from Enock Mwepu and , after a field check. watched by referee John Brooks on the advice of VAR Stuart Attwell, the Blues received a penalty.

Sadly, Calvert-Lewin, playing for the first time since scoring there in the second leg against Brighton in late August, missed the opportunity, raising his shot over the crossbar in search of the top corner Robert Sanchez’s goal.

It was almost 3-0 when Coleman’s poor clearance fell straight to Adam Lallana but Jordan Pickford did very well to dive to his right and smuggle the midfielder’s shot around the post before Gordon hit the post. Sanchez worked for the first time at the other end and Maupay narrowly crashed past Gwladys Street on the stroke of halftime.

Everton needed to react quickly in the second half and they started off quite positively as Gray crossed low and Calvert-Lewin had the ball removed from his toe at the near post and Burn did enough to prevent Abdoulaye Doucouré from scoring in the next corner.

It was Gordon’s persistence, however, that created the lifeline seven minutes after the break. Cutting off from the right, he eventually got a shot just outside the penalty area which resulted in a strong deflection from Lallana and rebounded past Sanchez to score the youngster’s first senior goal.

Gordon had another claim for a canceled penalty 10 minutes later when he collided with Marc Cucurella, but the ball was left alive for Gray who forced a goalkeeper parry stoppage before Brighton cut it .

Sanchez was called into action again in the 68th minute when he knocked down Allan’s clean strike over his bar, but Everton’s return was interrupted at the knees three minutes later when the Seagulls scored again.

Mason Holgate had been very successful in preventing Maupay from hitting Pickford on the counterattack with a last-ditch challenge, but Michael Keane handed the ball straight to an opposition shirt and when it was sent to Mac Allister outside the box, he drilled a surefire effort into the top corner.

Again, Everton were hopeful five minutes later when Calvert-Lewin faced Kenny in the straddle with an excellent pass on the rule book and his low delivery was returned by Gordon’s first arrival.

The Toffees’ attempts to grab a point were a bit ragged, however, even though Benitez ultimately opted to break his starting lineup with Salomon Rondon’s introduction for Kenny after Everton’s second goal.

The Venezuelan came close to registering an assist when he crossed for Gordon near Sanchez’s goal, but the striker was unable to guide the ball to the target for his hat trick before Rondon himself squandered the last one. opportunity by shooting a volley over the bar in the time stop.

The loss, the ninth already under Benitez, extended the recent streak under the increasingly unpopular Spaniard to just one win in 12 games and keeps Everton in 15th place, 12 points behind European places and just eight behind. above the relegation zone.

Benitez has once again blamed his players for the result, both for costly mistakes and what he sees as their failure to implement his methods of defending set pieces. “We have shown character in many games and played well in many games, but we are not able to avoid mistakes that cost games dearly,” he complained afterwards.

“We had a slow start, we conceded a goal early and after another mistake we conceded from a corner. It’s not easy when you make those mistakes and then you miss a penalty and it’s even more difficult.

“What I can tell you is we were specifically practicing these turns and how to defend ourselves and we made too many mistakes.”

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