Saturday 22 August 15:00 , Bloomfield Road , Attendance:
 
3
3
 
HT: 3 - 2

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    A pair of accomplished dead-ball strikes from Gylfi Sigurdsson completed Everton’s recovery from three goals down to draw with Blackpool.

    Sigurdsson’s second, with 18 minutes remaining, was a fabulous free-kick arrowed into the top-right corner after Theo Walcott’s run at goal had been illegally halted just short of the penalty box.

    The Icelander had struck from the penalty spot on 30 minutes after a foul on Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who had started Everton’s comeback when meeting Sigurdsson’s corner with a strong header seven minutes earlier.

    Tom Davies was alone among Everton’s starters in completing 90 minutes, while Jonjoe Kenny began the game at Bloomfield Road after returning from his year in Germany with Schalke.

    There was a first appearance for Niels Nkounkou, the 19-year-old full-back signed from Marseille this summer, and second-half outings for teenage Academy products Kyle John and Ellis Simms.

     

    Muhamed Besic and Yannick Bolasie, back with Everton following loans at Sheffield United and Sporting Lisbon respectively, both figured after half-time.

    Minutes two to 11 belonged exclusively to the home team, so much so that when Calvert-Lewin struck midway through the opening half Everton were trying to inch their way back from a three-goal deficit.

    Blackpool have been back in pre-season a while and had their first game a fortnight ago. They’ve squeezed in another two since – won all of them, to boot – while Everton began their preparations for the new campaign only six days ago.

    Calvert-Lewin’s goal had perhaps been coming with Everton finally generating some form of momentum following the most chastening of starts.

    Sigurdsson sent over a corner from the left – after Lucas Digne’s low cross had been turned behind by a stretching Marvin Ekpiteta – which Calvert-Lewin met with a firm header.

    Goalkeeper Chris Maxwell’s task was complicated by a deflection off Michael Nottingham which quickened the pace of the ball as it travelled into the roof of the net.

    Blackpool centre-back Nottingham was partially culpable when Everton moved within one goal of their League One opponents, an untidy header inviting Calvert-Lewin to run down the left.

    Nottingham’s defensive partner Ekpiteta couldn’t live with Calvert-Lewin for strength or speed and ultimately resorted to a rash challenge which downed the Everton man in the box.

    Calvert-Lewin evidently fancied going for his second from the spot but captain Sigurdsson pulled rank and nonchalantly stroked down the middle.

    Everton now looked like the Premier League team after a beginning when the disparity in the two sides’ pre-season workloads to date was plain as day.

    CJ Hamilton angled a terrific first-time strike across Jordan Pickford after Keshi Anderson’s through ball opened up Everton’s backline with the game only 80 seconds old.

    Everton – operating in a 4-3-3 formation, with Sigurdsson deepest in a midfield also featuring Davies and Anthony Gordon – were struggling to keep pace with Blackpool’s passing and movement.

    And Sulley Kaikai made a difficult task look very easy when he met Jerry Yates’ pass across the fringe of the penalty box with a sweeping right-foot finish inside Pickford’s left post.

    Everton were still trying to clear their heads when Blackpool came forward again.

    The home team got a break this time, a few ricochets in the box ultimately leading to the ball falling at the feet of Grant Ward.

    Ward, though, would argue he was getting reward for bursting into attack with his side already two goals to the good – and he capitalised on being in the right place at the right time with a drive which scorched beyond Pickford.

    Calvert-Lewin appealed in vain for a penalty on 16 minutes when he tumbled in the box off the ball as Digne centred. It was slim pickings but an indication of Everton finding their feet.

    A further hint of Everton locating some form of fluency came when Alex Iwobi, playing on the left of a front three, spun in midfield and flipped a pass to Jonjoe Kenny on the right.

    Kenny, back in an Everton shirt for the first time since March last year following his season in the Bundesliga, delivered a cross which was venomous but out of the reach of Moise Kean in front of goal.

     

    Calvert-Lewin had a shot deflected behind and from Everton’s next raid, the overlapping Digne won the corner which brought the away side back into the game.

    Blackpool promptly went about trying to restore their three-goal lead but Jarrad Branthwaite recovered from being turned by Hamilton to chase down the forward and slide in for a crucial intervention.

    Hamilton did have a clear shooting opportunity later in the half but didn’t realise how well off he was for time and hurried his effort wide.

    Everton were pushing Blackpool back, though, and had chances either side of Hamilton’s opening.

    Nottingham blocked a goalbound Iwobi blast and Kean flashed a ball across goal which evaded both Calvert-Lewin and Iwobi.

    Walcott – one of four players introduced for the second half – was to the fore in the period directly after the restart.

    The forward shot marginally past the far post after being ushered in by fellow ex-Arsenal player Iwobi’s precise pass on 56 minutes.

    Moments earlier, Walcott robbed Anderson and fed Calvert-Lewin for an effort from distance which flew wide via a defensive block.

    Nottingham had begun the second period by heading onto the roof of the net from an Ethan Robson corner and soon after Walcott’s near miss Ollie Turton was too high after jumping to meet substitute Matty Virtue’s delivery.

    Walcott won the free-kick for Sigurdsson’s equaliser after racing on to a searching ball from 19-year-old Nkounkou.

    And Nkounkou, on since the 62nd minute in place of compatriot Digne, was denied a goalscoring debut by a near post save from Maxwell.

    Jonas Lossl’s handling was good when Virute turned a cross from the right goalwards and when referee Michael Salisbury called time bang on 90 minutes the scores remained level, which was a pretty fair reflection of a game Everton grew into following the rudest of early wake-up calls.

    Everton: Pickford (Lossl 46’); Kenny (Coleman 46’), Holgate (Gibson 62’), Branthwaite (Keane 46’), Digne (Nkounkou 62’); Sigurdsson (John 76’), Davies, Gordon (Besic ’62); Kean (Walcott 46’), Calvert-Lewin (Simms 76’), Iwobi (Bolasie 62’).

     

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