Everton dominated another Premier League match in 2023/24 – and this time they got their just rewards with a hugely-impressive 3-1 victory over Brentford in west London to kick their campaign into full gear.
Abdoulaye Doucoure smashed the Blues into a sixth-minute lead, only for Sean Dyche’s men to rue a string of missed chances as the hosts levelled just before the half-hour mark through Mathias Jensen.
Everton were quite simply brilliant in the second half, however, and they inflicted only a second home league defeat on the Bees in a year as James Tarkowski headed home against his old club from Dwight McNeil’s corner, before substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin wrapped up the points with 20 minutes to go with a cool finish from James Garner’s pinpoint through ball.
Dyche made one change from last weekend’s narrow defeat at home to title-chasers Arsenal, Garner coming in for Arnaut Danjuma on the right side of midfield.
There was no place in the matchday squad just yet for Jack Harrison - who played 45 minutes in the Under-21s’ win over Norwich City the previous night - but there was still plenty of attacking talent on the bench including Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Youssef Chermiti, Lewis Dobbin and Danjuma.
Brentford, coming into the contest having suffered their first Premier League defeat of the season last weekend at Newcastle United, were forced to make a late change to their line-up after Kevin Schade was injured taking a shot in the warm-up, Keane Lewis-Potter taking his place in attack.
That setback did not stop the new addition from making a rapid start for the hosts once the action got under way, however. In the first minute, Lewis-Potter raced upfield and was brought down 25 yards from goal by Ashley Young. The Blues defender was shown a yellow card and, from the set piece, Bryan Mbeumo curled an effort just wide of the left-hand post.
It was the Blues who found their composure to edge ahead five minutes later, though.
Dyche had spoken pre-match about the need for his side to rediscover their threat from set pieces, and they duly delivered courtesy of Garner.
The midfielder’s corner was initially punched away by Mark Flekken. Young gobbled up the rebound, feeding Garner on the left touchline whose sumptuous cross was headed across goal by Tarkowski, ending with Doucoure hitting a sweet half volley into the net from 12 yards out.
It was Doucoure’s sixth goal from his previous eight league matches on the road.
Advantage gained, it was so close to 2-0 on 14 minutes when Branthwaite’s high ball was expertly flicked on by Beto, allowing McNeil a run on goal, with the winger sending his finish inches wide of the right-hand post.
The Blues’ impressive opening continued as McNeil lofted a dangerous cross into the area that Ethan Pinnock flicked into the path of Vitalli Mykolenko whose right-footed was hit straight at Flekken.
As so it continued with Doucoure going agonisingly close to netting his and Everton’s second shortly before the half-hour mark. A brilliant lofted ball from Tarkowski picked out the midfielder in the area as he took the ball down and cracked a rising finish onto the crossbar.
Having dominated, the fine margins of football proved to be cruel to Everton again as Brentford levelled 89 seconds later, Vitaly Janelt’s pass across the right picking out Jensen who took a touch and scored with an angled finish off the far post.
The Blues were ruing another missed opportunity on 36 minutes, too. Gana did well to break through the middle and time an incisive through ball into Beto who looked odds-on to score, only to chip his finish past Flekken but the wrong side of the left upright.
A familiar pattern continued after the break, with Everton threatening on 51 minutes when Beto got the better of Pinnock in the air to flick the ball to Doucoure who fed McNeil. The winger moved to the edge of the area but his low finish lacked power and Flekken held.
There was a penalty shout shortly after as Garner did well to chase a loose ball, turn Hickey on the right touchline and looked to be tugged back by the Brentford defender, referee Michael Oliver opting to wave play on.
And what was fast becoming one-way traffic went on, Tarkowski floating another teasing cross into the box for Beto to flash a header just wide.
Having knocked on the door for so long, Everton finally got their reward on 67 minutes – and from another set piece.
McNeil’s corner was a beauty, ending with Tarkowski planting a powerful header into the net against his former club.
The action ramped up from there, Brentford nearly grabbing an immediate equaliser in a goalmouth scramble from a corner, before the Blues went close again with a corner of their own.
The breathing space Dyche’s men deserved then arrived on 71 minutes. Calvert-Lewin – on for Beto just past the hour mark following another tireless shift from the Portuguese – was sent through on goal by Garner’s sublime pass after the England Under-21 international did superbly to win possession.
Calvert-Lewin steadied himself before sliding the ball past Flekken, running off to celebrate with delirious Evertonians accompanied by a baby gesture following the recent birth of his daughter.
Everton’s game-management from there was spot on as they thwarted any hope Brentford had of clawing their way back into the contest.
And a fine performance got what it deserved – three precious points for the Blues.