A STALEMATE left Everton frustrated at failing to increase the pressure on their rivals in the battle to qualify for Europe while Brighton were left to reflect on a missed opportunity to ease their lingering relegation fears.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side arrived at the Amex Stadium having collected just one point from their previous three league games and they rarely looked capable of securing all three points. Instead it was Brighton who were entitled to believe they should have claimed victory with Neal Maupay spurning the best chance of the game.
Captain Seamus Coleman admits if Everton miss out on European football it will be their home form they will come to rue and not draws at places like Brighton.
“It’s a point away from home. Obviously we wanted to win the game but Brighton are a very good side and they made it difficult for us,” the Republic of Ireland international told Sky Sports.
“Our disappointment comes from maybe not picking up three points against Palace (last Monday) as you could argue this is a good point away from home.
“We don’t want to be harping on about injuries – there are plenty of other teams doing that – it’s part of a Premier League season. Injuries happen and unfortunately we’ve lost a few players.
“This is no disrespect but against your Fulhams and Newcastles at home (games which Everton lost) that’s where our disappointment comes.
“It would be a massive disappointment (to miss out on Europe). We’ve been given opportunities by other results this season and we just needed to look after ourselves and we’d be in a different position.”
Everton’s cause wasn’t helped by their growing injury problems. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was a surprise absentee and Ancelotti revealed before kick-off the forward had been ruled out with a minor problem. The manager, though, made it clear he expected the problem would have cleared up ahead of Friday’s meeting with Tottenham Hotspur when the Italian also expects midfielders Allan and Andre Gomes to be available.
“[Dominic Calvert-Lewin] had a little problem on his abductor,” said Ancelotti before kick-off. “This morning he was not comfortable so I prefer to leave him out. Same with Allan and Andre Gomes, they are not 100% but will be available for the next game.”
The extent of Everton’s injury concerns was summed up by a bench that included just eight names including two goalkeepers and four youngsters promoted from the under-23s and without a Premier League appearance between them.
With his options limited, Ancelotti shuffled his pack, shifting Mason Holgate to central midfield while further forward, James Rodriguez operated in support of Richarlison. The Brazilian, though, often appeared isolated up front as Everton struggled to create a meaningful opening during the first half.
Brighton looked the more assured team for long periods, although they appeared vulnerable at times to Everton’s attacking efforts down either flank, particularly when Coleman broke free on the right and pulled back a cross that was directed towards the head of Tom Davies. The opportunity disappeared, however, when Davies failed to make good contact and succeeded only in directing the ball wide.
As so often this season, Brighton’s build-up play impressed but their failure to test keeper Robin Olsen spoke of a familiar problem. Adam Lallana was prominent in most of the home side’s best work while Leandro Trossard repeatedly unsettled the Everton defence, particularly when he set up Neal Maupay for a close-range shot that was diverted wide by Yerry Mina’s determined block.
Yves Bissouma, the highly rated Brighton midfielder, also grew into the game and started a move that forced a hurried clearance from Everton centre-back Michael Keane before moving onto the loose ball and directing a spectacular overhead kick onto the roof of the net.
Everton’s problems were compounded when Mina was forced off early in the second half and Brighton grew increasingly dominant. They remained unable to find the finish needed to make the breakthrough with Danny Welbeck twice denied, first by Coleman’s excellent interception and then by Holgate’s timely header.
Sanchez 6; White 8, Dunk 6, Veltman 7; Gross 6, Bissouma 9, Lallana 8, Moder 6 (Jahanbakhsh 88, 6); Trossard 7, Maupay 6 (Burn 88, 6), Welbeck 6.
Steele, Webster, Mac Allister, Alzate, Izquierdo, Propper, Zeqiri.
Olsen 6; Godfrey 7, Mina 7 (Iwobi 58, 6), Keane 6, Digne 7; Coleman 7, Davies 6 (Broadhead 88, 6), Holgate 6, Sigurdsson 6; Rodriguez 6; Richarlison 5.
Virginia, Tyrer, Nkounkou, John, Price, Welch.
D England 6