Everton headed to Wolverhampton Wanderers' Molineux Stadium looking for a sixth away win of the season - one that would move them back into the top four in the Premier League table.
They got it thanks to goals in either half from Alex Iwobi and Michael Keane, Ruben Neves' first-half strike proving nothing but a consolation for the hosts.
But there was more to this victory than just another impressive road showing from Carlo Ancelotti's side.
Going into the game on the back of a disappointing home defeat against West Ham United and shorn of the services of leading goalscorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the Blues found a way to get the job done against a Wolves side that has more than held its own since promotion to the top flight in 201 8.
Here, evertonfc.com analyses a chilly but encouraging evening in the West Midlands...
Ancelotti’s Plan Comes Together Early
Carlo Ancelotti conjured a gameplan in the absence of gun striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin nobody could have foreseen. Least of all Everton’s opponents.
It’s fair to assume Wolves probably didn’t expect Lucas Digne to start on the left of midfield, for one.
Indeed, a number of observers saw the names on Everton’s teamsheet and expected to see a three-man backline.
We had to wait only six minutes for a glimpse into the thinking underpinning Ancelotti’s approach, a 4-4-2, with Digne and Iwobi flying down the flanks and James Rodriguez supporting Gylfi Sigurdsson in attack.
Alex Iwobi scored the goal which put Everton in front but the winger’s contribution went beyond the finish guided inside Rui Patricio’s left post.
Collecting a pass tight to the right touchline from Yerry Mina, Iwobi quickly fed James.
In tactical terminology, Iwobi then embarked on a third-man run. Plainly speaking, he did what all kids are told to do: Iwobi didn’t stand and admire his pass, he kept moving.
James, meanwhile, speared a pass which travelled across 40 yards for Digne, arriving in the penalty area.
The Frenchman watched the ball onto his left boot, demonstrating exquisite vision and execution to steer it first time on the volley for Iwobi, speeding into the box.
He opened up his body and defeated Patricio for the forward’s first Premier League goal since scoring against the same opponents on his full Everton debut in September 2019.
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ANCELOTTI: ADAPTION WAS KEY
Shutting Up Shop
We expected Everton’s now familiar back-four to be split up following the return to fitness of Lucas Digne.
With the former Barcelona player needed on the left of midfield, however, this obdurate unit continued in miserly fashion.
The concession of too many goals was Carlo Ancelotti’s primary bugbear early in the campaign.
Even as Everton were scoring three, four and five, Ancelotti was warning the tendency to let in a couple of goals a game during that period would ultimately cost his side.
After his assertion was proved correct, the manager moved to tighten Everton.
Necessity forced his hand when it came to employing Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate as full-backs.
But the pace and discipline and defensive intelligence of the two young Englishmen have been integral in stemming the tide.
It is a measure of the reliability of Michael Keane and Yerry Mina in the middle of defence that it goes without saying the pair were immaculate here.
Keane’s towering headed goal was reflective of a performance of stature and composure.
The one goal Everton did concede was only the fifth shipped in eight Premier League matches.
They’ve not let in more than one in a Premier League game since the 3-2 victory at Fulham seven-and-a-half weeks ago.
On two occasions in that period, one goal has been sufficient to win the game.
It took one in each half at Molineux but this was another assured, measured and organised defensive display from Everton.
And their Italian manager must be very pleased indeed.
Banishing Away Blues
Everton’s victory was their fifth in seven Premier League matches – and extended an unbeaten away run to five games.
Both sample sizes are sufficient to draw the conclusion Carlo Ancelotti’s side is trending in the right direction.
To Everton’s form on their travels first.
This sixth win of the season on the road surpasses the five away victories claimed in each of the past two campaigns.
Ancelotti partly attributes that upturn to the absence of supporters from stadiums.
But gaining points away from Goodison Park is becoming a habit - and that is encouraging for both the short and long-term.
What’s more, Everton are succeeding at traditionally difficult and inhospitable grounds: Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and now enterprising Wolves all defeated on their own patches.
Those results can’t fail to create confidence and belief.
Moving to this season’s bigger picture, Everton are entering a critical juncture.
They came into this contest seventh after a four-match winning sequence was checked by West Ham United in an attritional New Year’s Day contest.
Everton hit back from their previous defeat by Leeds United with an unbeaten five-game stretch.
This season’s first loss – at Southampton – by contrast, was followed by two more reverses.
There are signs, then, that one of this team’s stated aims – namely, quickly stopping the bleeding following a defeat – is being realised.
The ability to recover from disappointment at the first time of asking is a hallmark of every successful side.
So, too, the depth and resolve to cope without key performers.
Shorn of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and with Richarlison fit enough only for the bench, Ancelotti altered his team’s shape and approach to accommodate the finesse of James Rodriguez and Gylfi Sigurdsson up front.
The switch worked a dream, with Alex Iwobi and Michael Keane supplying the game's two critical moments.
With a trip to Aston Villa scheduled for Sunday, Everton started an important week on a positive – and increasingly familiar – note.