Richarlison winner begins healing process for Everton after fan backlash
Director of football Marcel Brands faced angry supporters at the club’s training ground in the week.
Everton claimed a 1-0 win over Brighton to go a little way towards placating supporters still incensed by their abject Merseyside derby defeat.
The result, secured by Richarlison’s eighth Premier League goal of the season, helped begin the process of winning back fans who turned on the team in the wake of their FA Cup loss to Liverpool’s second string.
That defeat prompted a number of angry supporters to turn up at the club’s Finch Farm complex in the week intent on confronting the players.
How much they were pacified by director of football Marcel Brands remains a moot point and Fabian Delph, who was embroiled in a social media argument in the week, appears to have more than most to do to repair the damage as he was booed on his appearance as a second-half substitute.
But, for the moment a win, one which lifted them level on points with 10th-placed Arsenal, will suffice as part of the restorative process.
— Everton (@Everton) January 11, 2020
However, it remains a fragile peace and, had Seagulls substitute Glenn Murray put away a chance with two minutes, Goodison would certainly have turned on the players again after they spurned a number of chances.
Such were the options available to manager Carlo Ancelotti he made just three changes from the Anfield debacle, although they were aided by the tactics of Brighton, missing influential midfielder Aaron Mooy through injury,
The visitors had just one win in eight coming into the game but their approach in dropping off from the start and allowing Everton to carry the ball out from the back meant Toffees’ nerves were barely tested in the opening 45 minutes.
As a result the hosts were afforded a comfortable start which saw them denied a penalty after just four minutes when Theo Walcott skipped past Lewis Dunk, only to receive a half-hearted brush from the defender.
While it was barely enough to bring down the winger, it did impact his footing to such an extent he could only shoot straight at Mat Ryan, but VAR reviewed the incident and decided there was no reason for referee David Coote to change his decision to play on.
To say that fired up the hosts would be something of an understatement, with their best efforts before the goal coming when Bernard cut back on to his right foot and drilled a shot into the chest of Dale Stephens and Richarlison forced Ryan into a low save after a counter-attack from Bernard, comfortably Everton’s best player.
The Brazilian, unsurprisingly, had a hand in the goal, but most of the credit must go to his compatriot who, having controlled Lucas Digne’s driven pass, put his foot on the ball to send Alireza Jahanbakhsh the wrong way and give himself just enough time to place a shot back the other way inside the far post.
Brighton’s Leandro Tossard beat Jordan Pickford but not the crossbar with a bending shot after the break, but Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin had chances to settle the game, with the latter shooting straight at Ryan twice and then bundling one in with his arm which was correctly ruled out by VAR.
As the visitors’ applied some late pressure Mason Holgate diverted a cross over his own bar before Murray missed the late chance of an equaliser.
Applause, more polite than emphatic, at the final whistle will have come as a welcome relief for Everton’s players.