Gray And DCL Net In Everton Victory

For the second week running, Demarai Gray scored a fabulous goal.

For the second week running, Dominic Calvert-Lewin emphatically buried a penalty.

And for the second week running, Everton played with energy and purpose and ambition away from home.

In this instance, though, at Brighton & Hove Albion – entering this game with two wins from two – Everton’s comprehensive display was rewarded with all three points.

What’s more, they didn’t really give Brighton a sniff. Leeds United twice hit back to ultimately earn a draw seven days ago. The outcome here was rarely in doubt.

Everton began exerting a grip around the half hour and never relinquished their hold.

They scored twice and could have had more. Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure were outstanding in midfield and the work rate all over the field was astonishing.

Everton’s bench leapt in unison when the excellent Andros Townsend sprinted back to block a shot from substitute Taylor Richards in stoppage time.

That episode embodied Everton’s desire and industry, which earned a first clean sheet this term, another pleasing element on an afternoon full of them.

Gray’s second Everton goal was the result of a clinical counter, made possible by the visitors’ industry and efficiency off the ball.

Brighton were circulating possession for an age but going nowhere when a misplaced pass landed with Seamus Coleman.

From that moment, Everton were in business.

Townsend gathered Coleman’s pass and continued the forward pattern with a ball to Allan.

He fed Gray and Brighton backed off, fatally. Gray travels quickly with the ball at his feet and was close to goal in no time.

Robert Sanchez, in Brighton’s goal, set himself, expecting the shot as defender Adam Wester retreated, but was powerless to do anything about an effort flashed across the keeper.

From harum-scarum beginnings, this game underwent a discernible shift shortly before the half-hour.

And the change was comprehensively in Everton’s favour.  The away team assumed control in the 28th minute, to be precise, in the form of a chance for Townsend. Had he succeeded from 20 yards there wouldn’t have been a more unpopular goalscorer in this corner of Sussex.

Townsend’s Crystal Palace connections meant he was given the bird by the locals all afternoon.

Released by Gray, he sighted an opportunity to quieten the catcalls, feinting onto his left foot for a low shot that Brighton’s young goalkeeper Sanchez saved at full length to his left.

Everton suddenly had their passing rhythm. Brighton’s cool in possession, meanwhile, deserted them.

Sanchez uncharacteristically directed a pass straight to Townsend, who transferred the ball to Doucoure.

The Frenchman resisted all-comers to create space to shoot but was high with the eventual 18-yard effort.

Everton began the game with bite and intensity. Brighton were, for the most part, denied time on the ball, Doucoure and Allan in midfield hounding and stopping the hosts measuring passes through midfield.

Earn the right to play, goes the old trope.

And that’s precisely how Everton went about this task.

Mason Holgate epitomised an increasingly front-foot performance when the centre-back burgled possession in Brighton’s defensive third. Job done, he passed to Allan and let the creators get on with it.

Richarlison delicately helped Allan’s pass round the corner for Coleman. The right-back appeared poised to shoot but attempted a cut-back for Calvert-Lewin and Pascal Gross stole in to thrash clear.

Brighton were increasingly boxed-in, however, Everton immediately streaming forwards once more for Richarlison to strike a half-volley over the bar.

The mental effect on Brighton of this suffocating pressure, perhaps, played a part in Everton’s opening goal.

Webster back-pedalled when Gray collected Allan’s pass and fizzed across the turf. The centre-back was reluctant to engage Gray, fearing the winger would hotfoot it past him.

But the space between him and the defender was all Gray required. The forward manoeuvred the ball onto his left foot for a precision strike across Sanchez and into the bottom corner.

It was a near-replica of the former Leicester City player’s goal at Leeds United last week.

Everton nearly had a second soon after. Calvert-Lewin punched Coleman’s pass back the way to Townsend and made straight for the box.

Townsend’s pass found Allan, whose clever back-heel picked out Calvert-Lewin. The attempt, though, travelled past the far post.

Leandro Trossard was front and centre of all the early action.

The Belgian was flattened by a ball he took full in the face from Michael Keane after time out early on following an awkward fall.

If he was down after the painful blow from Keane’s clearance, then Trossard wasn’t out.

All the forward’s senses were working perfectly as the field opened up for him to speed through the middle and swap passes with Gross.

The cross was diverted behind for a corner and, minutes later, Keane made a similar intervention when Alexis Mac Allister drew back his right foot for a firm strike.

Neal Maupay had already gone close, Brighton haring forwards – with Gray down after hurting his arm – but the Frenchman’s effort dipping too late to trouble Jordan Pickford.

Pickford, in fact, was entirely untroubled in the opening half.

Soon after the restart however, the goalkeeper’s day began in earnest.

Trossard’s shot on the stretch was blocked by Keane but as bodies piled in to fight over the scraps, Gross went down following a challenge from Doucoure.

Gross’ hit the free-kick low, Pickford seeing it late as it rush under the wall. The Englishman’s reactions were excellent, an extended leg enough to keep the ball out of his goal.

He dived to his right to repel a dipping Trossard strike,soon after – but, between times, Everton scored again.

Veltman had come on for the second half – and supplied the cross for Trossard’s first chance.

But the Dutchman was culpable when Everton doubled their advantage,

Veltman was unaware of Coleman’s run into the box and completely eliminated by Allan’s fabulous ball inside the defender.

The Brighton player compounded his error in trying to make amends. He was over-zealous when aiming to dispossess Coleman and succeeded only in bundling over his opponent.

Jon Moss, the referee, awarded the penalty in an instant.

Calvert-Lewin thumped it inside Sanchez’s right post.

It was the forward’s last meaningful involvement, injury ending his afternoon after 70 minutes.

Alex Iwobi replaced Calvert-Lewin up front and Everton continued to create the more promising openings.

Gray had a low drive blocked by Shane Duffy and Sanchez smuggled the ball behind when Richarlison appeared set to capitalise on a defensive muddle.

Richarlison ran into the box to fire past the near post, too, while Brighton, for all their near passing, repeatedly ran into traffic close to Everton’s goal.

And as the hosts threw bodies forward, the gaps behind them grew.

Doucoure raided into one of those unattended areas to force Sanchez to save down to his right – Brighton responding with another Trossard strike that Pickford held at the second attempt.

In terms of second attempts to win on the road in the Premier League, Everton succeeded here in fine style.

Gray Matters For Everton

An Evertonian murmur of concern greeted the sight of Demarai Gray clutching his shoulder early in this game.

Had the problem prematurely ended Gray’s afternoon, Everton would have been poorer for the 25-year-old’s absence.

He is red hot right now, already a significant factor in Everton’s attacking play and awash with confidence following a first goal for the Club seven days ago.

The control on the run to collect a pass from Lucas Digne and send in a low cross inside 15 minutes was exemplary.

Gray isn’t one of those wingers who collects chalk on his boots. He moves infield to confuse opponents and is comfortable in possession anywhere on the pitch.

The Englishman popped up in a central position to feed Andros Townsend for a run and shot after 28 minutes and intermittently switched wings to create overloads on Brighton’s left.

At 2-0, he cut in from the right for a left-foot shot blocked by Shane Duffy.

He was on Everton’s left flank, however, when a turnover of possession enabled the visitors to break four minutes before half-time.

It is a measure of Gray’s pace and talent and self-belief that you liked his chances of scoring as soon as he received possession, about 50 yards from goal.

His speed terrifies defenders and Adam Webster backed off, hoping for help which never arrived.

Gray used the time and space to work the ball onto his left foot and craft his finish into the far corner.

It was a genuinely top-class piece of play from a man fast becoming a key figure for his new team.

DCL On Spot To Celebrate 150

Dominic Calvert-Lewin marked his 150th Everton appearance in what we can legitimately say is characteristic fashion.

The striker scored 16 Premier League goals last season and has three this season from as many as Everton games.

Consider, too, that Calvert-Lewin is currently operating below full capacity. A toe injury is limiting the 24-year-old’s training and on matchday he’s gritting his teeth and managing the pain.

He struck from the spot for his 43rd top-flight goal – 29 of those coming since a double against Chelsea in December 2019.

That number 9 jersey he craved hangs lightly on Calvert-Lewin’s muscular frame.

He was the epitome of confidence and conviction when scoring from the spot for a second successive week to essentially bank three points for his time.

The striker will do all he can to be fit for England after hobbling off on 70 minutes – he’s hardwired to want to play football.

Should he have to put his feet up for a fortnight, however, that might not be the worst thing for his club.

A word, too, for Allan, whose pass sliced open Brighton and fed in Coleman to win the penalty.

The Brazilian midfielder efficiently tackled and spoiled and shielded his defence and the partnership with Abdoulaye Doucoure is functioning very nicely.

Allan’s passing is easily overlooked nonetheless and he used the ball intelligently all afternoon, here.

There was a tremendous back heel for Calvert-Lewin after a run to the byline before half-time.

Allan released Gray for Everton’s first goal and he slipped a terrific ball through a narrow corridor for Richarlison to release Coleman into the box at 0-0.

It was a dynamic performance from Allan and reflective of his team’s display.

The Best Things

It was a long time coming but Everton sustained their early-season momentum with a first win at Brighton & Hove Albion since April 1983.

Granted, that statistic is skewed somewhat by the fact Brighton spent the better part of the intervening years outside the top-flight.

The south coast club’s compact Amex Stadium home has proved notoriously tough terrain for Everton, nonetheless – four visits prior to this yielding only two points.

But Rafa Benitez is constructing a resilient and confident Everton, a cute team capable of adapting to prevailing conditions.

They began the season by recovering from a goal down to beat Southampton a fortnight ago and seven days later gave as good as they got at an inhospitable Elland Road to draw with Leeds United.

There was evidence of character running right through the squad when manager Benitez made nine changes for the midweek cup visit to Huddersfield Town and saw his team conjure a winner after being reduced to 10 men.

In pure football terms, this was, perhaps, Everton’s trickiest assignment of an embryonic campaign.

Brighton won their opening two Premier League games and the stamp of Graham Potter – the manager who is beginning his third season in charge – is visible in the team’s slick patterns and clever interchanges.

Potter’s side are imposing and robust in defence, too, meaning Everton needed to couple strength and courage with the skill and agility required to overcome Brighton’s fast passing and movement.

Benitez’s players ticked all those boxes to claim three excellent points.

Everton followed that win at Brighton more than 38 years ago – Kevin Sheedy scored twice in a 2-1 success – by going home and beating Manchester United 2-0 10 days later.

And they will return to Goodison Park to face Burnley in 16 days aiming to, once more, pick up where they left off 275 miles away in Sussex.