Both teams didn’t lack for effort, but quality was at a premium and genuine excitement was hard to find…until the final ten minutes that is.
Brighton had built up some momentum in the latter stages of the contest and were rewarded a goal in the 82nd minute as Anthony Knockaert took advantage of poor Everton defending to score.
That should’ve been that for the Seagulls, who had defended well for much of the game. But a moment of madness from Brighton captain Bruno cost his side.
He needlessly threw out an elbow while defending a free-kick which caught Dominic Calvert-Lewin. A penalty was rightly awarded and dispatched by Wayne Rooney.
The game itself is instantly forgettable but the ramifications for Everton boss Ronald Koeman could be far reaching. Here at the five things we learned from the Amex.
Koeman remains in trouble
Having spent over £150million in the summer there was always going to be pressure on the former Southampton boss this season, but nobody expected it to go this badly.
And the biggest issue is Koeman doesn’t seem to be able to fix the problems that are plaguing his Everton side. Again they conceded a sloppy goal and their football going forward was slow and predictable.
Starting Rooney up front is harming the Toffees, he quite simply isn’t mobile enough to spearhead an attack. Meanwhile, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who impressed for England Under-20s in the summer, now looks short of confidence having been stationed out on the left wing for much of the campaign.
Add in Gylfi Sigurdsson struggling to live up to his £45million price tag and it’s not hard to work out why Everton are down in 16th.
Koeman may have to rip up his tactical outline and start again. If he doesn’t, and there have been no signs as yet that he’d be willing to do so, he may not be in the Goodison Park hot-seat for much longer.
Williams taken out of the firing line
Prior to kick-off, only Crystal Palace had spent more minutes behind in games this season than Everton. A big part of that was because of the poor goals the Toffees were conceding in games; they were falling behind too easily.
Williams, in particular, has struggled for form this season but prior to the game Koeman was adamant he wouldn’t take the Wales international out of the side.
“No [he won’t be dropped],” the Dutchman said. “Of course he is one of the players who is finding it really difficult at the moment. Maybe teams have punished him with goals when he’s made a mistake.
“He’s trying to find his confidence. If you have doubts in football it makes it more difficult. But he’s an older player, an experienced player, and like everybody you have good times and bad times and you have to react and we need to help him.”
But when the Everton team was announced Williams wasn’t included in the starting XI. Koeman opted to go with Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka in the middle of his back four and the duo looked solid against an admittedly weak Brighton attack for much of the game.
However, they failed to keep a clean sheet. Morgan Schneiderlin should take a big portion of the blame for his part in the build-up to Knockaert’s goal but the Everton defence was once again opened up too easily.
Stephens pick of Seagulls’ England hopefuls
“Gareth would be aware of what we have, and you only have to look at the last game (Lithuania) and see he introduced players who have been in good form and haven’t been involved before.
“First and foremost our English players have to do well for us. If they get any recognition it will be because they have done well for us and we would be delighted with that.”
It would be quite some achievement for any of the Brighton trio to make it into the Three Lions squad ahead of the World Cup and, in truth, it’s unlikely. But of the three Stephens perhaps has the best chance simply because the competition for places isn’t as fierce.
England are not currently blessed with a number of powerful defensive midfielders. Eric Dier fills the role regularly while the real alternatives are the likes of Jake Livermore, Nathaniel Chalobah or Fabian Delph.
Against Everton Stephens produced an effective display to protect his back four. He made a team high six tackles and four interceptions.
It wouldn’t have been a display to make Gareth Southgate sit up and take notice but if Stephens can continue his solid start to life in the Premier League, then he’d have more than an outside chance.
Vlašić not lacking for confidence
It’s been said by Koeman in recent weeks that that Everton’s players are lacking confidence because of their poor results, but in Nikola Vlašić they have an attacker who isn’t gripped by fear.
The Croatian, who was signed in the summer for £10m from Hajduk Split after he impressed against the Toffees in the Europa League qualifiers, was the Toffees’ most dangerous player for much of the contest at the Amex Stadium.
In the second period he produced a neat cross which Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed into the arms of Mat Ryan before turning nicely to make space on the edge of the penalty area.
Unfortunately he slipped, which meant he failed to get in a shot on goal.
However, Vlašić ended the game having played four key passes, the joint highest alongside Rooney, and having completed a team high four dribbles. He also did his work defensively, making two interceptions and one tackle.
The 20-year-old is undoubtedly raw, his decision making certainly needs improving, but he may be the biggest threat Everton have at the moment.
Koeman needs to keep him in the starting XI for the weeks ahead.
Hughton was too cautious
This was a big chance for Brighton to claim another three points at home but their manager’s cautious approach arguably cost the Seagulls. Everton were a wounded animal coming into the game and Hughton should’ve smelt blood in the water.
For much of the match it didn’t work. Brighton were too predictable and Everton’s defence dealt with their threat with relative ease.
But the introduction of José Izquierdo for March gave Brighton more of an attacking edge and they went in front nine minutes after the tactical change. Unfortunately for Hughton, his side couldn’t hang on.
Had the Seagulls started the match with two strikers on the field, then perhaps the game would’ve been killed off earlier. It would’ve been a risk but one Hughton may regret not taking.