Everton recorded a third successive Premier League home victory with a swashbuckling success over Brighton & Hove Albion.
Richarlison brilliantly scored Everton’s first and third goals, with Seamus Coleman blasting in the second from 20 yards to re-establish the hosts’ advantage after Lewis Dunk had cancelled out the Blues' opener.
Everton led on 26 minutes when Richarlison applied the killer touch to a fabulous counter, only for Brighton to hit back in quick time – and at odds with the flow of the action – through Dunk’s forceful header.
Coleman rifled in on 50 minutes and Richarlison sealed the three points when he streaked clear to finish immaculately with 13 minutes remaining.
Gyfli Sigurdsson was the brains and legs behind Everton’s breakthrough strike – the Icelander carrying the ball the length of the pitch following a Brighton corner and unzipping the visitors’ rearguard with a precise pass for Richarlison to drill home – and he had already twice come close to putting Everton in front.
Sigurdsson was unable to make clean contact as he hared into the box to meet a low delivery from the overlapping Coleman on six minutes.
His next opportunity had Goodison’s Main Stand on its feet. From that side of the ground, the rippling net was deceptive, tricking its inhabitants into believing Sigurdsson’s shot on the run after he met Lucas Digne’s cross from the left had sneaked inside the post. It had, in fact, brushed the side netting.
Brighton brought with them to Merseyside a reputation for being resilient and physical. Idrissa Gana Gueye, Theo Walcott and Andre Gomes would have vouched for this when the trio, one by one and all inside the opening 20 minutes, wore blows of varying force to the face.
Dunk was booked on 10 minutes for pulling back Richarlison. Walcott and Sigurdsson had overpowered the startled Beram Kayal, Sigurdsson the man to emerge with the ball before cuffing a pass upfield and behind Dunk to send Richarlison on a run towards goal.
The Brighton defender didn’t fancy the foot race and tugged his opponent to the ground.
Dunk did back himself – possibly as a matter of necessity - to recover on 17 minutes. Walcott collected Coleman's crisp pass infield and flew beyond Dunk only for the centre-half to get back and divert the cross behind.
There was no stopping the Blues when they raided forward for Richarlison to score and it needed Dunk to scramble away an inswinging Digne cross following a flurry of Everton pressure for Brighton to keep the hosts pegged at one.
The away team levelled from the exact situation which had proved their downfall minutes previously. Alireza Jahanbakhsh went short with his corner, rolling the ball back for Solly March.
He hoiked the ball in first time and found Dunk yards from goal and planting the ball in the back of Jordan Pickford’s net.
Brighton stood firm with Everton searching a goal to send them into the interval holding an advantage. Dunk and fellow centre-back, former Everton man Shane Duffy, won a succession of headers from crosses struck into the middle of the box.
At the other end, Kayal’s burst through the middle of the pitch provided a shooting opportunity for winger Jose Izquierdo, who thumped goalwards but was foiled by the blocking Michael Keane.
Everton twice came incredibly close to regaining their lead three minutes after the restart.
Gana claimed possession after Gomes was first to a rising ball at the edge of the box. The Senegalese slammed a shot which cracked the inside of Mat Ryan’s left-hand post and squirted across the penalty area.
Bernard was promptly on the scene and thudding the ball to the back post where the onrushing Walcott met it on the volley but steered too high to call Brighton number one Ryan back into action.
No matter. Two more minutes elapsed and Everton hit the front.
Bernard’s pass for Gomes initially appeared to be getting away from the Portuguese. He persisted, however, forcing Kayal to lose balance and prod the ball towards Coleman.
The right-back took a touch to tee up the shooting chance and with his next blow sent the ball arrowing inside Ryan’s right post.
March thrust himself in the way of a Richarlison drive on 61 minutes – after a Sigurdsson free-kick was only partially cleared.
Brighton, now, were rocking. Dunk was skating on thin ice when he illegally tackled Richarlison from behind.
Gomes’s precise ball over the top found Walcott who, in turn, fed Sigurdsson, still putting in the hard yards to join in his side’s attacks – but on this occasion having his route to goal closed off by Duffy’s substantial frame.
Duffy, however, was left exposed by Dunk’s poor pass on 77 minutes. Unsure whether to stick or twist, the Irishman was rendered dead in the water by Richarlison’s first touch.
The Everton man continued into the box and rounded Ryan to wrap up a richly-merited triumph – with the afternoon crowned for Evertonians by their first glimpse of Yerry Mina, on as a late substitute for his Blues debut.
Everton’s first goal was their earliest at home in the Premier League since Southampton were the visitors back in August.
If the timing was a break from the norm, then the goal itself represented a break from the heavens.
Its roots could be traced all the way back to a Brighton corner on the left.
Kurt Zouma headed out Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s outswinging delivery, with Gylfi Sigurdsson taking up the cudgels inside his own penalty area.
Sigurdsson sped away, crossing halfway, before a clever switch of passes with Bernard found the Icelander in the box with the ball at his feet.
His pass to splint Brighton captain Bruno and fellow full-back Gaetan Bong – threaded through the narrowest of corridors – was a beauty.
Weighted perfectly into Richarlison’s advancing run, it invited the Brazilian to aim at goal. He didn’t bother to mull over his options, instead swiping through the ball first time and sending it rocketing into the roof of the net.
Brilliant – and exhilarating – from start to finish. A passage of play to illuminate a dreech afternoon.
Likewise, the fabulous Brazilian’s second goal and his team’s third. He swooped onto Lewis Dunk’s careless pass and in one touch was beyond Brighton’s other centre-back Shane Duffy.
Four more touches and Richarlison was in the box and past goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
One more and the ball was in the net and the game won.
Spirit In Spades
Marco Silva was discussing Everton’s penchant for scoring late goals when he referenced his team’s “spirit and character” 24 hours before this encounter.
Both traits were on show in bundles against doughty Brighton.
Lewis Dunk’s equaliser really did feel like a kick in the solar plexus after Everton spent the opening 33 minutes of this contest making all the running.
Silva’s side collectively stood tall, took a deep breath and swiftly cracked on with what they were here to do.
Character comes in many forms and when we hear the word in a footballing context, we tend to think of crunching challenges and players carrying on swathed in bandages – or sticking their heads in the road of tracer bullet shots.
Sometimes, though, the attribute manifests itself in courage displayed in a purely sporting sense.
Every player in royal blue continued to show for the ball, each individual wanting to do his bit to tip the balance of this game back in the Toffees’ favour.
Full-backs Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman continued to drive forward – the latter tellingly, so.
Andre Gomes and Idrissa Gana Gueye invariably emerged on top from midfield confrontations, while Richarlison pressed and closed from the front like a man possessed – and was rewarded for his efforts when Dunk passed errantly across the face of his own goal.
Worth mentioning that Jordan Pickford, exceptional of late, spent the best part of 90 minutes watching this, so in control were his teammates. When called on at the death, he tipped over a rising drive from Alireza Jahanbakhsh. It wasn't an easy save but he made it look that way.
Keane In Credit
Kurt Zouma’s partnership with Michael Keane will be disrupted by the terms of the Frenchman’s loan arrangement when Everton visit Chelsea next week.
That is a shame because the two centre-halves have formed a tremendous understanding.
In Everton’s favour, of course, is the deep pool of calibre defenders into which Marco Silva can plunge for Zouma’s replacement.
Whichever one of Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate or Phil Jagielka is summoned, their bedding-in process will be eased by the presence next to them of Keane.
The 25-year-old will be firmly within his rights to cast an optimistic look at Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad when it is named during the week.
If it’s not to be for Keane, this time, then he is surely going to have the chance to add to his four caps before long.
The former Burnley player is in immaculate nick, very much the modern central defender: physical and imposing when confronted with danger, measured and assured in possession.
Keane’s attacking antennae was up when his incisive sixth-minute pass hurried across the turf, slicing open Brighton’s left side and releasing Seamus Coleman to cross.
Minutes later Keane was powering a header out of defence, an act he repeated shortly after when the defender towered over Albion striker Glenn Murray to clear a forward punt.
Indeed, Keane had plainly set out with the aim of subduing the prolific Murray, the visitors’ chief goal threat with six top-flight goals this term.
The striker was rather taken aback midway through the first half, as he waited for a ball to arrive at his feet, when the alert Keane nipped in to steal possession.
It is a mark of the Everton player’s soaring confidence that he proceeded to bomb on down the right wing to provide a forward passing option for Coleman.
When Brighton had their tails up and advanced minutes before half-time it was Keane who got a decisive touch to deflect Jose Izquierdo’s attempt off target.
He jumped highest to deal with Solly March’s whipped left-wing free-kick in the last action of the half, too.
It was interesting to note Keane barking out orders and taking responsibility for organising Everton’s defensive line, further evidence of a man whose football is in very good order.
So too, his focus, razor sharp when stepping across to prevent Brighton substitute Yves Bissouma from making hay on a late Brighton counter.
The Blues have conceded only once in three home games, now – and been breached just four times in five matches in all.
Keane deserves a hefty slice of credit for those returns.