Everton 3 Burnley 1
Everton made it two comeback victories in two home games under Rafael Benítez as they turned a war of attrition with Burnley into a highly accomplished victory at Goodison Park. Andros Townsend illuminated the night with a quite stunning goal to maintain the new manager’s impressive and unbeaten start.
Benítez’s team had come from a goal behind against Southampton on the opening day and repeated the trick following Ben Mee’s second-half header. Michael Keane quickly restored parity against his former club before Townsend found the top corner from distance and fellow summer signing Demarai Gray struck yet again for his new employers. Gray received a standing ovation when substituted late on. Another followed on the final whistle for those involved in a stirring recovery.
Everton were without Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who had scored in each of the previous three league games, and their leading goalscorer could be absent for at least three weeks through injury. The centre forward has struggled with a toe problem since the start of the season and withdrew from the recent England squad with a thigh injury.
Benítez confirmed: “He has broken his toe. He was training with problems and playing with pain. He had an injury the other day to his quadriceps and we have to wait two-to-three weeks, maybe more.”
The hosts took a while to adapt to a more defensive shape and Burnley controlled the opening half hour, albeit without seriously testing Jordan Pickford in the Everton goal. Sean Dyche’s team pressed tirelessly, denying space to wing backs Séamus Coleman and Lucas Digne and forcing central midfielders Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré to concede possession cheaply on several occasions.
The start could have been worse for Everton, however, with Richarlison escaping serious injury after a tackle from behind by Josh Brownhill in the second minute. Brownhill’s challenge bore comparison with the Pascal Struijk tackle that resulted in Harvey Elliott dislocating his ankle at Leeds on Sunday but thankfully without the same, dire consequence. Benítez made his displeasure clear on the sideline. The Burnley midfielder was not punished.
Wood could, and perhaps should, have headed the visitors into an early lead when Dwight McNeil delivered a superb cross into the Everton six-yard box. McNeil was making his 100th Premier League appearance for Burnley and impressed once again. His cross from deep sailed over Keane but Wood, arriving in behind, was momentarily distracted by the Everton defender and just failed to connect in front of goal.
Mee was another Burnley player celebrating a milestone appearance – the captain becoming the first player at the club to reach 200 Premier League games – and was close to converting an Ashley Westwood corner at the back post. But Pickford did not have a save to make until the 27th minute when Barnes teed up Brownhill for an inviting chance that he drove straight at the England goalkeeper.
Everton’s brightest moments had all come through Gray on the left but the Brownhill chance ignited a much-improved end to the first half. Doucouré forced Nick Pope into his first save of the night when racing on to Townsend’s ball into the area.
Gray shot wide on the turn from Coleman’s pull-back, although the captain was offside, and Richarlison sparked a melee with a late challenge on Mee. Matthew Lowton kicked the Brazilian’s ankles as he walked away from the foul. Others joined in, including Coleman sprinting over from the other side of the pitch. Referee Martin Atkinson again kept his cards in his pocket.
The attrition continued after the restart. James Tarkowski took the ball and then Richarlison on the touchline. Townsend was caught from behind by Charlie Taylor, and then booked for dragging down the Burnley full back as he broke down the left.
McNeil swept the resulting free-kick into the Everton area where Ben Godfrey’s clearing header fell to Johann Gudmundsson on the right. The winger’s return was immaculate, dropping into space between two Everton defenders, and Mee marked his milestone night with a swooping header into the bottom corner.
Burnley’s hard-fought advantage did not last long. They were blown away, in fact, as Everton – and Townsend in particular – responded superbly. The equaliser arrived swiftly when Coleman found the former Crystal Palace man in space on the right. Townsend toyed with Taylor before cutting back inside and floating an inviting left foot cross to the near post where former Burnley defender Keane headed home inside Pope’s near post.
Five minutes later Everton were ahead in stunning style. Townsend again ran at Taylor, this time in a more central position having been picked out by Doucouré. The winger again cut inside on to his left foot but this time opted for goal himself and unleashed an unstoppable shot that flew into the top corner from over 25 yards.
Burnley were falling apart, Everton flying. Within two minutes Doucouré prised open the visiting defence with a piercing cross-field pass into the path of Gray. The bargain £1.7 million summer signing raced clear and beat Pope with ease for his third goal in three successive league games.
Doucouré thought he had added a fourth seconds later but was just offside from Coleman’s low cross. Tarkowski also had a goal disallowed when, having headed McNeil’s cross over the stranded Pickford, VAR ruled that Wood and Barnes had been offside in the build-up. – Guardian