A second-half strike from Brighton & Hove Albion forward Jurgen Locadia condemned Everton to defeat in the Blues’ final game of 2018.
Locadia profited from a ricochet to finish past Jordan Pickford on 59 minutes. Pascal Gross sent over a corner from the right which cannoned off the calf of Andre Gomes and directly into the path of Locadia who lashed in first time.
Everton were nearly level in an instant when Richarlison’s low drive was tipped onto a post by David Button. And the Blues were denied by the woodwork once more with three minutes remaining. Kurt Zouma climbed highest to meet a free-kick from Gylfi Sigurdsson and sent his header crashing against the bar.
Everton sprung into life as an attacking force around the half-hour mark, their harrying in the final third – which had already seen Bernard mug Solly March deep in Brighton territory – nearly paying dividends.
Richarlison was the player pressing this time, Shane Duffy the victim and relieved to see Button turn away the forward’s eventual shot. Seamus Coleman’s effort on the follow up was blocked.
That opportunity was sandwiched by two more decent opportunities for the away side. Goalkeeper Button – playing his first Premier League match for Brighton – spilled a high Theo Walcott cross.
Duffy cleared from his goalline after Richarlison was first to the loose ball and turned goalwards, albeit the defender could have saved himself the bother with a linesman’s flag already raised.
The excellent Idrissa Gana Gueye had a blast from distance repelled by Button – before the same Everton player burst through the middle without being able to pick out Richarlison with his final ball.
Brighton had started the match brimming with intent, March and Dutchman Locadia on either flank prepared to drive with the ball and the clever Gross acting as Albion’s creative hub.
All the hosts had to show for their ambition, however, was a couple of left sided free-kicks competently dealt with by Everton’s assembly of hulking defenders – and a Gross effort kept out by Pickford diving to his right. Coleman stuck his body in the line of Locadia’s strike on the rebound.
That incident occurred in the 12th minute and 60 seconds later it was Everton on the attack. In an echo of the Blues’ first goal at Burnley three days ago, Lucas Digne saw a corner cleared as far as Bernard.
The South American hung up an inviting cross which Michael Keane headed narrowly beyond Button’s right post.
Zouma brilliantly anticipated Davy Propper’s slide-rule pass five minutes after the break, Everton’s French defender sliding across to apply a telling block on striker Florin Andone’s low drive.
Brighton were in the ascendancy now and another chance would soon come along for Andone.
Yerry Mina was penalised for a foul on raiding left-back Bernardo. Gross stood up the free-kick and Romanian Andone met it with a thudding header which had Pickford arching his back to push over.
Albion’s breakthrough arrived shortly after when Locadia benefited from the run of the green to slash home.
Everton were agonisingly close to an instant response. Richarlison got the ball out of his feet and fired a right-footed strike through a crowd of legs. Button saw it late but got enough on his save to shove the ball against the woodwork.
Digne thumped goalwards on the rebound but the ball deflected behind.
Bernard thrashed over after cutting inside from the left on 69 minutes – this not long after Mina had made way for Sigurdsson as Marco Silva reverted to a back four in a bid to prise open a rigid Brighton unit.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin replaced Gomes on 72 minutes and went straight up front to join Richarlison.
Sigurdsson struck high from distance but with Everton steadily throwing caution to the wind – and adding Oumar Niasse to the fray for the final 10 minutes – Brighton had chances of their own to kill off the game.
Keane bravely put his head in the way of a belting Glenn Murray strike which was destined for goal. Keane’s fellow centre-half Zouma was inches from an equaliser when his header from Sigurdsson’s right-wing dead ball clattered the frame of Button’s goal.
Digne hit a 90th-minute free-kick into the wall and Niasse's stoppage-time effort was held by Button down to his right as Everton laid siege to Brighton’s goal.There would be no way though, however, and Everton sit 10th the Premier League table.
Gana Back At It
This was a first start for Idrissa Gana Gueye since Everton’s Goodison Park draw with Watford 19 days ago but the midfielder’s enforced layoff had done nothing to disrupt his rhythm.
Gana was stationed in front of Everton’s back three, charged with the dual responsibilities of protecting his defensive trio and springing his side on the attack when the Blues reclaimed possession.
Brighton, beaten only twice at home all season, started with their tails up, Solly March embarking on an out-to-in run from the right which carried him past Lucas Digne and Kurt Zouma only to be met by Gana blocking his route to goal in Everton’s penalty area.
The Senegalese positioned himself equally astutely to snap in front of Pascal Gross and get his toe on a bouncing ball to draw the sting from a Brighton counter.
Gana’s first pass was punched through a narrow corridor into the feet of Richarlison, setting the tone for an afternoon when his initial intention was, without exception, to play forwards.
Everton created a bundle of opportunities just short of the half-hour, the visitors conclusively seizing the initiative in a hitherto even contest.
And it was Gana who quietly tilted the balance of the game in his team’s favour, chasing Gross deep into his own half to nudge the ball out of the advancing German’s path.
Within seconds Everton were at the other end of the field, Theo Walcott turning in a cross which had debutant goalkeeper David Button in a flap. Chances for Richarlison, Seamus Coleman and a pot shot for Gana himself subsequently came along in quick succession.
The former Aston Villa player reads the game superbly. He anticipated a pass infield from Jurgen Locadia late in the first 45 minutes and promptly surged through the heart of the home defence only for Gana’s final pass to be cut out before it reached its intended target in Richarlison.