Benitez Rues Everton Mistakes

Rafa Benitez says Everton were architects of their own downfall in Sunday’s Premier League meeting with Brighton & Hove Albion at Goodison Park.

The hosts were chasing the game from the third minute when Alexis Mac Allister exploited space in the penalty area to cushion a finish past Jordan Pickford.

Manager Benitez refused to use the 17-day layoff since a draw at Chelsea as mitigation for his team’s slow start, which was compounded when Dan Burn headed home from a corner to put Brighton two in front.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who started his first game in 127 days, directed a 25th-minute penalty off target after Anthony Gordon was impeded in the box.

The excellent Gordon scored twice for Everton, either side of Argentine Mac Allister steering in a tremendous 22-yard strike for his second of the game.

“To concede the way we are is making it very difficult for us,” said Benitez.

“It gives us a big mountain to climb and is not easy later in the game.

“We missed a penalty, which is more complicated for the confidence.

“We reacted and were pushing – but then made another mistake and conceded the third.

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Attacker netted brace but Blues beaten by Brighton.

“I don’t like to make excuses [concerning going in cold after so long without a game].

“The goals we conceded were more about lack of focus and concentration in the first minutes.

“We conceded these goals and after played under more pressure, so it is more difficult

“You can see the reaction is there but it is not enough, because we continued making mistakes

“It is something we have been talking about and practising.

“We worked on that [defending various situations] but were not capable of doing it. We have to focus and start the games with the intensity everyone is expecting.

“We have to improve, especially in defence, you can see the team push and work hard and try but we are missing a bit of quality in our decision-making in the final third and the kind of goals we conceded.”

Gordon continued his surge to prominence with a terrific individual display.

Rafa Benitez
To concede the way we are is making it very difficult for us. It gives us a big mountain to climb and is not easy later in the game.

The 20-year-old forward followed up his assist for Jarrad Branthwaite to score at Chelsea with a performance brimming with purpose and aggression.

He caused a headache for Brighton’s full-backs from the beginning and scored his first goal for the Club on his 36th appearance across the competitions.

Gordon’s strike to make it 2-1 came with the aid of a generous deflection off Adam Lallana.

The Academy graduate’s second goal was entirely of his own making, however, Gordon starting a move then sprinting into the box to convert Jonjoe Kenny’s eventual low delivery.

Gordon was fractionally wide with a hat-trick attempt in the closing minutes.

“He has the right mentality,” said Benitez.

“He was a talented player who, maybe, needed to work harder and he is doing that.

“I am really pleased because he is growing.

“But I like to talk about the team and as a team we need to support each other and be stronger.

“We are reacting in a lot of games but we cannot concede these types of goals. If they are great and in the top corner, fine, but we are conceding because of a lack of focus and intensity in our defending.

“I like to remember the things we do well and remember the things we don't do right. We have shown character in a lot of games but we're not capable of avoiding mistakes that are costing us games.”

Benitez had hoped to use Calvert-Lewin sparingly, as the striker begins his comeback from thigh and toe problems.

The circumstances of the game, however, dictated the 24-year-old stayed on the field from start to finish.

“That was not the idea… it was maybe too demanding for him but we were losing and had to do it,” added Benitez, whose side go to Hull City for an FA Cup third-round tie on Saturday.

“Obviously, we didn't want to keep him on the pitch as we felt, physically, he wouldn't have the match fitness. Maybe he has the strength but not the stamina.

"But at least he's fine and, hopefully, he can recover quickly for the next one."