We just don’t seem to do productive festive fixtures do we.
After the promising start then needless self-capitulation at Old Trafford it was another disappointing afternoon for Steve Bruce and the lads. Two goals from Calvert-Lewin either side of Schar’s equaliser mean we end 2019 with our first defeat at home since the opening day of the season.
It was interesting that Bruce was heavily criticised for changing the team for Thursday’s trip to Manchester, but pretty much every other Premier League team made changes today, including Everton who made 5 from Carlo Ancelotti’s opening game win against Burnley.
We made 4 changes from Old Trafford, with Shelvey, Hayden, Carroll and Yedlin coming in for the Longstaff brothers, Gayle and Manquillo.
We started like a steam train in the opening few seconds, probing and looking to get on the front foot. Joelinton slipped Almiron in but he lost his footing and meekly poked it wide.
Then after some Everton pressure, we were stung by VAR. We’re in the age of football where you can be offside by an armpit, or in the seventh stage of play, but a player can head the ball off his own shoulder and get a corner without it being checked. What utter nonsense. We still should have defended Calvert-Lewin’s opener much better though.
The atmosphere seriously dropped after the goal, and Everton seemed to stroll around with the ball at will. Then we had the ball in the net, after some wing wizardry from Willems and a great effort from Almiron that crashed back off the post, Carroll put the ball in the net, unfortunately he was well offside. However it seemed to light a fire under the players, and the crowd’s backsides and after a tactical tweak by Bruce that moved Joelinton and Almiron wider, we had a rousing and threatening end to the first half, sadly without finding an equaliser.
Schar eventually did get an equaliser in what was a fairly evenly balanced start to the second half. Carroll’s knock down from Shelvey’s set piece was brilliantly turned in by our strapping Swiss defender but the joy was short lived.
Ancelotti brought on Delph for Moise Kean and it stemmed the tide and allowed the visitors to take back control of the midfield. Then Everton struck.
Carroll was carelessly caught on the ball in the midst of a promising counter attack, Everton broke down the right and Richarlison (after blitzing Lejeune for pace) squared perfectly for the excellent Calvert-Lewin to add his second.
Bruce rolled the dice on 72 mins replacing Joelinton and Lejeune with Atsu and Gayle and changing to 4-4-2 but it did nothing to raise our game. We looked lost and a little disjointed, with Mina’s introduction also limiting Carroll’s effectiveness in the air.
Oher than a push on Carroll from Sidibe – that could easily have brought a penalty – Everton saw the game out comfortably.
The recent good run is over and we have a daunting run of fixtures coming up, at least with a bit of a safety net. Thank god for Almiron’s winner against Palace!
There were positives in spells today, Joelinton in particular looks better in his more natural position and we’ve ironically played worse and won, but Bruce needs to pick his team up for Leicester.
Happy new year to everyone.