Saturday 17 August 15:00 , Goodison Park , Attendance:
 
1
0
 
HT: 1 - 0
  • KO
    • Goal!
      Bernard
    10'
    • Yellow Card!
      Séamus Coleman
    14'
    31'
    • Yellow Card!
      Etienne Capoue
  • HT
    • Yellow Card!
      André Gomes
    47'
    59'
    • Yellow Card!
      José Holebas
    62'
    • Yellow Card!
      Roberto Pereyra
    • Substitution
      Richarlison
      Walcott
    63'
    67'
    • Substitution
      Hughes
      Welbeck
    • Substitution
      Calvert-Lewin
      Kean
    72'
    • Substitution
      Digne
      Holgate
    73'
    79'
    • Substitution
      Deulofeu
      Cleverley
    83'
    • Substitution
      Capoue
      Gray
  • FT

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An accomplished 10th-minute finish from liverwire winger Bernard ensured Everton opened their Goodison Park campaign precisely how they wrapped up the previous one - namely by claiming three points and recording a clean sheet.

This was a win that had to be dug out against a good Watford team, though, and Jordan Pickford saved brilliantly from Troy Deeney after half-time.

Moise Kean came close to a debut goal which would have added gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time but Everton will be grateful to have got over the line following a physical and deeply competitive encounter.

Nevertheless, when Everton claimed their early lead through Bernard's first Premier League goal at Goodison Park it was no less than the Blues deserved.

Lucas Digne, already heavily involved by this stage and primarily in an attacking capacity, sent a ball arcing down the left for his Brazilian teammate.

Bernard feinted to go left. In the split second it took him to switch right, he lost marker Kiko Femenia and raised the possibility of a shot.

It was still a surprise when he went for it early though, not least to Ben Foster. The Watford goalkeeper, perhaps expecting Bernard to wait for support, or take a moment longer to size up his effort, was late getting down and unable to prevent the ball flying inside his right post.

Digne had sent an earlier shot whizzing past Foster’s opposite upright.

Immediately prior to the goal, Everton had two corners in quick succession.

Jose Holebas headed the first behind. The second was met by striker Deeney and cleared as far as Gylfi Sigurdsson. He slid in and out of defenders frantically swiping at the Icelander. One of them located their mark eventually to send Sigurdsson tumbling.

Foster was all at sea with his first attempt at fielding Digne’s deflected dead-ball strike, before regaining his composure to gather at the second attempt.

It felt as if Everton were ready to go to town on their visitors – and Craig Cathcart needed to be well positioned to prevent a Seamus Coleman cut back from causing mayhem on 22 minutes.

Another 19 minutes on and Richarlison escaped his markers to meet a right-wing free-kick from Sigurdsson. The Brazilian, to his very obvious displeasure, send his effort over the top.

In the meantime, though, Watford had gained a foothold in the game. They were the width of the woodwork from equalising in fact when Craig Dawson – as he seems to have been doing for aeons – won a header at the back post.

Latching onto Jose Holebas’s deep corner, the centre-half powered his effort flush against Pickford’s right post.

Pickford sprang to his left to beat out a 20-yard curler from Etienne Capoue and Gerard Deulofeu was more than a mite miffed when his inswung left-wing free-kick travelled the width of Everton’s penalty area unmolested.

Deulofeu wasn’t best pleased, either, when he was tackled by Yerry Mina in the box and was awarded only a corner and not the penalty he thought he deserved.

The decision was checked 212 miles south in Stockley Park where it was decided referee Lee Mason called it right.

Everton had claims for a penalty themselves earlier in the half.

Andre Gomes advanced to feed Sigurdsson, who punched a short first-time pass to Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The striker went to ground as he tried to roll Cathcart, whose challenge was correctly viewed by Mason as fair.

Everton stitched together another very tidy move five minutes after the break. Gomes and Bernard combined to release Digne on the overlap.

The defender’s cross was destined for Richarlison, only for Cathcart to intervene.

In the context of this period of the contest, Everton’s attack was out of the ordinary.

Watford were hogging the ball and creating plenty of promising situations, without engineering much in the way of clear opportunities.

That changed when Deeney latched onto Deulofeu’s threaded pass into the box.

Suddenly the wasted dead balls and moves which broke down at crunch moments were replaced by a gilt-edged opportunity.

Well that would be true in normal circumstances.

Pickford tends to keep out one of these every week. In this instance he stayed tall, Deeney’s sight of goal decreasing with each step, until he rifled into the face of Everton’s sprawling goalkeeper.

Richarlison was over with a header from another Sigurdsson free-kick on the hour – the forward replaced soon after by Theo Walcott.

Watford progressively added more attacking options. Everton, meanwhile, lost the impeccable Digne to injury and were forced to switch Coleman to left back and introduce Mason Holage on the right.

Coleman marauded forward from his unfamiliar berth to shoot off target. The away team, too, were starting to try their luck from range in the absence of anything more coming along to resemble Deeney’s chance.

Mina and Michael Keane – as they did at Crystal Palace last week – stood firm whenever their opponents went aerial. Keane sniffed out the threat when substitute Andre Gray tried to run clear on 87 minutes.

Everton substitute Kean couldn’t find his range after being released on the counter by Bernard 60 seconds later - and the Italian dragged inches wide from 18 yards in stoppage time. 

Captain Gets His Message Across 

The manner in which Everton burst from the starting gate brought to mind pre-match comments from Seamus Coleman.

Everton’s captain vowed his side would operate on the front foot with a view to breaking their deadlock for the campaign.

Marco Silva, too, had suggested this was the day to add creativity and goals to the resilience which had yielded nine clean sheets in the Blues’ past 12 matches.

Everton got after Watford from the first whistle, immediately planting their foot on their opponents’ throats and not releasing the pressure for a good 20 minutes.

When Lucas Digne overcooked his first corner, Bernard hurried to retrieve possession on the left.

The Brazilian’s cross was bundled out by Watford but Everton had the away team penned in. Digne, then, was in no hurry to retreat and it was the Frenchman who eventually took aim from 20 yards.

Digne’s effort flew off target but within minutes he was called on to send in two more corners in quick succession.

When the second of those was only cleared to the edge of the box, it was an Everton player in Gylfi Sigurdsson first on the scene. He weaved his way through a mass of bodies, Watford only able to stop the midfielder’s progress by nefarious means.

The resultant free-kick perhaps spoke loudest about the visitors’ prevailing mood.

Digne’s strike looped spitefully off the defensive wall. Nevertheless, you fancied a ‘keeper of Ben Foster’s nous and composure to collect the dropping ball.

Rather, the former England ‘keeper totally misread its flight and was mighty grateful to grab it at his second attempt.

The only question at this juncture concerned when and how Everton would strike.

The tenth minute was the answer to the first part of that poser.

As for the second, perhaps no surprise Digne was involved. The left-back defended strongly in his own half before spying Bernard making tracks down the wing.

Bernard, possibly mindful of his manager and captain’s pre-match urgings – not to mention the South American’s stated intention to hit the net more often after scoring twice last term – took the most direct route to goal.

He cut infield, creating space to shoot, then caught Foster on the hop by shooting early and inside the ‘keeper’s right post.

Home Sweet Home For JP

This encounter represented a Goodison Park debut for Jean-Philippe Gbamin, the Ivorian whose first Everton outing came as a battlefield promotion following an injury to Andre Gomes at Crystal Palace last week.

Gbamin was thrust into a sink-or-swim scenario against Palace and he kept his head above water, helping Everton negotiate a tricky late period with 10 men.

Here, the 23-year-old had the relative luxury of dipping his toe in the water, feeling his way into the encounter before leaping head first into the deep end.

The first indication of Gbamin really imposing himself on the contest came on 13 minutes, the former Mainz player tracking Gerard Deulofeu to the left touchline and overpowering the Spaniard.

A clamorous Goodison roared its approval as Gbamin emerged with possession to skip past Will Hughes before laying off his pass.

Posted in front of Everton’s defence, Gbamin provided an impenetrable barrier when Abdoulaye Doucoure tried to progress upfield with the ball at his feet inside 60 seconds.

Gbamin's climbing confidence was reflected in his selection of pass. He played it fairly safe early on, going square to Seamus Coleman for example.

Either side of dispossessing Deulofeu, though, Gbamin was only marginally off beam with balls which nearly sprung teammates.

He was not far off sending Lucas Digne free down the left, with Gylfi Sigurdsson then inches from gathering a pass slid down the middle.

Gbamin reads the game very well. His nose for danger was useful when Watford were indulging in a neat exchange of passes at the edge of Everton’s box just past the half hour.

As the visitors busied themselves trying to manufacture an opening, Gbamin stole in and nudged the ball back to Jordan Pickford.

The midfielder was characteristically unflustered when he then received possession inside his own half from Pickford.

Gbamin had his back to goal and a pair of Watford players bearing down on him. He simply went back to his goalkeeper, who then picked out Andre Gomes, in plenty of space with Gbamin having attracted all the visitors’ attention.

Everton had a lot of work to do off the ball once Watford got to grips with the game. The Hornets started to gain the ascendancy in terms of possession, leaving Gbamin to cover in front of his full-backs and close spaces.

He got about the pitch with an elegant stride which made his consistent running seem deceptively easy. Gbamin rarely moved ahead of the ball as Everton protected their lead after half-time. He did, though, remain ambitious in possession, one pass spread right for Walcott only narrowly missing its target.

They Shall Not Pass

That is six Goodison Park clean sheets on the spin for Everton. Marco Silva’s side has recorded 10 shutouts in 13 matches in all.

This one felt especially important given its timing. Everton finished last season like a steam train. The task now is to provide a solid base and avoid the need to play catch up later on in this campaign.

With seven new signings to bed into the team and the adaptation process that entails, results have to be achieved any which way.

You have a far greater chance of getting them if you’re stopping your opponents from hitting the net.

Everton are becoming masters of an art which is increasingly underrated – strangely given the only team to record more clean sheets than Silva’s in this calendar year is champions Manchester City.

Yerry Mina and Michael Keane are forming the type of defensive partnership which can sustain a team.

Mina’s in-and-out debut season meant he would have been determined to establish himself at the heart of Everton’s defence this time round.

He has now played a substantial role in securing successive shut outs – just as he did in his first two starts for the Club last term.

There is a pattern developing here. Mina was part of a Colombia team which did not conceded a goal at the Copa America this summer. His country let in only one at the World Cup two years earlier.

Keane – to borrow from Seamus Coleman again – is playing with his chest out, a proper Everton player.

When opponents do get beyond those two, Jordan Pickford is proving himself one of the best goalkeepers in one-on-ones anywhere in the world.

Silva is often at pains to stress his side’s toughness is a collective effort and starts at the top of the pitch.

Everton press quickly when the time is right. When they allow the opposition over halfway, the Blues are compact, dropping into two distinctive defensive lines – with very little space separating them.

On other occasions, it just needs an individual to grit his teeth. Someone to stick their body in the way of a shot or win a big header. Maybe to crash a boot through a ball bouncing around the box.

Everton have a team full of players prepared to do that unglamorous work.

All those things add up to the zero every football team wants to achieve.

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