Koeman Hails Influence Of Young Blues Duo

by Paul McNamara

Ronald Koeman hailed the influence of two of his summer signings after Everton hit back from conceding a late goal to draw with Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.

The Toffees fell behind to Anthony Knockaert’s 82nd-minute strike and the hosts would have swiftly doubled their lead but for Jordan Pickford’s acrobatic stop from Izzy Brown’s rising 20-yard drive.

Pickford’s flying save proved crucial when Everton countered from the resultant corner and ultimately won the penalty that was facilely stroked home by Wayne Rooney to earn his team a point.

The goalkeeper intervened in similarly decisive fashion against Bournemouth recently, the 23-year-old bravely keeping out Jermain Defoe's close range effort when the Blues trailed in a match they would eventually win 2-1.

“Jordan is a great goalkeeper,” Koeman told evertontv. “He was important in several moments in the game.

“Brighton did not create a lot but they had some good chances to score and at 1-0 down he was really important to the team in the game.”

With 69 minutes on the clock at the Amex Stadium Koeman removed midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye in favour of striker Oumar Niasse.

The switch saw Rooney revert from his centre-forward role to a position wide on the right, with Nikola Vlasic moving infield.

And the athletic Croat, on only his second Premier League start and already performing admirably, stepped up another gear from his perch in the middle. He finished the match having created four chances and successfully completed five dribbles – the latter statistic indicative of an ambitious, purposeful display.

Indeed, Vlasic’s influence on the match from a central berth gave Koeman food for thought regarding his tactical options.

“I thought Nikola had a big impact when I put him in the middle,” said Koeman.

“He was strong on the ball, he was fast, he was winning balls, he was dribbling and that was the reason I put him in the middle – to get a little bit more offensive football from the midfield. Maybe that is something for the future."

Nikola Vlasic copy

Koeman acted promptly following Knockaert’s strike, replacing Leighton Baines with Kevin Mirallas – who won the free-kick which led to Everton’s penalty – and switching to a back-three.

And after seeing his team draw level the manager could have been celebrating a dramatic turnaround if Brighton’s Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan had not reacted sharply twice in quick succession to deny Mirallas in the game’s last knockings.

“We were lucky that they did not score the second but I think it was really a game where both teams played and fought for the win,” added Koeman.

“We got it back to 1-1 and maybe we deserved more in the last second of the game. You need luck in life and football but the last two shots were blocked by the goalkeeper and were great saves.

“We know we can play better in several circumstances but the commitment and belief of the players was really positive.

“We took the risk to play with three at the back after we went 1-0 down. You know then on the counter attack they will get more space to be dangerous.

"But I think we showed belief until the last second to get the best result and at least it is one point because that is what we deserved."

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