Everton 5 West Brom 2
For the second Premier League match in succession, Albion started brightly but ended up well beaten. While the turning point in the Leicester game was the reaction to going behind, the real game-changer at Goodison was the red card for Kieran Gibbs on the stroke of half time.
It was a moment of stupidity from the Baggies’ experienced left back and what was already looking like a difficult task to get back into the game was suddenly next to impossible. Everton may very well have gone on to win the game against eleven men, but Albion’s chances were dramatically reduced once Gibbs was dismissed.
Albion had started the game well. Bilić had opted for the same eleven that started the game against Leicester but there were three changes on the bench with Kipré, Phillips and Field coming in for Grosicki, Austin and Hegazi. The Egyptian’s absence from this squad and Wednesday’s was apparently down to a slight hamstring issue.
The 3-4-3 formation worked very well in the first half with Diangana and Pereira finding the spaces between the Everton full backs and centre backs and they deservedly took the lead on 10 minutes. The young winger broke from the edge of his own box and continued to run unchallenged by the hosts’ defenders and the unleashed a firm shot from just outside the box that easily beat Pickford.
Bilić’s boys were looking comfortable and came close to a second goal when a well-worked move ended with a shot from Jake Livermore that was deflected onto the post.
Just after the half hour, however, Everton were back on level terms in controversial circumstances. The goal was originally ruled out for offside but the VAR spotted that the ball had come off Furlong rather than Richarlison – however, the fact that Richarlison had jumped into Furlong without playing the ball was not picked up. The goal stood.
Just before half time, the game completely turned around. Everton’s star signing, James Rodriguez, put them ahead with a fine strike from the edge of the box before Gibbs reacted to the Colombian’s late challenge on him and earned his red card.
Bilić was also shown a red card when protesting to referee, Mike Dean, at half time and it looked to be a long way back for the Baggies.
Shortly after the break, however, the Brazilian magician, Matheus Pereira, put them back on level terms with a wonderful free kick from 25 yards, although not wonderful enough to elicit comment from any of the Match of the Day pundits, apparently. In fact, the post match analysis of the game completely ignored Albion other than discussion of the two red cards.
Parity did not last long as poor defending allowed Michael Keane to stab home after Richarlison’s header was saved by Johnstone. Bilić had opted to react to the red card by just switching to a back four with O’Shea moving out to left back, but without Gibbs’ in the back line, Albion were short of an aerial defender and Richarlison was in far too much space when the ball came in.
The Baggies had looked solid on set pieces in the first half but with Sawyers dropping in to the defensive line to replace Gibbs, that solidity seemed to be gone and Calvert-Lewin’s third goal came from another poorly-defended set piece.
Everton’s fourth was thanks to another wonderful piece of skill from Rodriguez as he lifted the ball over the Albion back line for Richarlison to fire across the goal, Calvert-Lewin poking the ball in at the far post.
The hosts looked comfortable for the last 20 minutes and played the ball around well. Bilić brought Phillips, Field and Edwards on but only Field had a positive impact. Edwards saw very little of the ball while Phillips had one or two opportunities on the ball but gave the ball away too easily on each occasion. Field, however, looked busy harassing the Everton midfielders and also looking neat and tidy in possession.
With Sawyers having not hugely impressed in the opening two games, Field will have pushed himself into Bilić’s thoughts ahead of next week’s game against Chelsea. Conor Gallagher was not involved against Everton with paperwork having not been completed in time, and he will obviously be ineligible to play against his parent club so Field could be in with a shout.
While it is another defeat, there were positives to take from the game for Albion. The first half performance was very good and I feel that Everton were fortunate to go in at half time ahead. The front three all played well with Diangana impressing in particular, and I think we do look good in attacking areas. With eleven men, I think that the Baggies could have got something out of the game, although conceding eight goals in two games is a worrying statistic.