10-man Everton could not hold on to their lead on the opening day of the season, as Wolverhampton Wanderers twice came from behind to draw at Molineux.
New signing Richarlison opened his Everton account after just 17 minutes, firing home from close range. But Wolves got back into the game moments before half-time after Phil Jagielka’s harsh red card for bringing down Diogo Jota.
Ruben Neves converted the resulting free-kick but Everton re-took the lead through Richarlison’s bending right foot effort. Despite limiting the visitors to few chances, the 10 men of Everton could not hold on, Raul Jimenez heading in the equaliser with 10 minutes to play.
The Toffees were looking fairly comfortable with 5 mins left of the first half, when their soon-to-be 36-year-old centre half slipped and gave the hosts a way back into the game.
Jagielka’s mis-control gave Jota an almost clear path to goal, but the Wolves striker still had to get beyond the last man. In retrospect, Jagielka might have done enough had he given up the idea of retrieving possession and simply stand up to Jota who was about to steal the loose ball. Jagielka felt the best course of action was to win the ball back and clear it before Jota could get to it, and in real time it seemed this was exactly what he did.
In fact, even in slow motion, it was evident that Jagielka made contact with the ball before clearing out Jota. You don’t even need to recognise yet that the ball moves away from Jagielka’s goal (it doesn’t look like Jota makes any contact with the ball, at any point). From every angle, it’s clear that contact is made with the ball before player.
I can understand the referee believing Jagielka didn’t touch the ball in which case his ‘dismissal’ for serious foul play might have substance. But it was reported at half time and after the game that the red card was for denying a goal scoring opportunity. But how can you give such a decision when the defender has so clearly won the ball?
While the Everton skipper can feel hard done by for his dismissal, he can only have himself to blame for putting himself in such precarious position.
With no pressure from a Wolves player, Jagielka’s mis-control and subsequent ‘foul’ gave Wolves the opportunity to draw level. Far from suggesting Jags is finished, it is nonetheless a small reminder of an ageing player, and the importance for Everton to strengthen in this area.
I’m sure new signings Yerry Mina and Kurt Zouma would no doubt have got their opportunity to stake a first team place anyway, but Jagielka’s suspension will open the door for one of the new signings, if not Mason Holgate (who had an excellent game), to nail down a place.
‘The Man Who Ruined the Transfer Window’
What can I say about Richarlison? ‘The Man Who Ruined the Transfer Window’, if Paul Merson and his Sky Sports trolls are to be believed. The Brazilian (with 38 Premier League appearances to his name) has taken the brunt of people’s frustrations for this window’s inflated transfer fees, despite Liverpool paying Roma £67m and Manchester United shelving out £52m for their untested Brazlians, while West Ham spent £35m on Felipe Anderson. All transfers were completed before Richarlison was announced as an Everton player.
But on his Everton debut, the 21-year-old looked like a man with a point to prove. The main criticism aimed at him was his diminished impact in the second half of last season; his last goal coming in November 2017. But it took him just 17 minutes of his competitive Everton debut to hit the goal trail. His first was an instinctive finish – granted, harder to miss from 8 yards – but the winger made sure he was in the thick of the action, and this was a theme of his play throughout. He was involved in most of Everton’s positive attacking play, demonstrating an ability to use the likes of Leighton Baines, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Idrissa Gueye, as well as drive forward into space.
His second goal was one Toffees will be hoping to see more of this season: a neat interchange with Baines, good movement off the ball, bearing down on the Wolves defence from the left, shifting the ball onto his right foot as he drove into the box and opening up his body to bend the ball past the ‘keeper at the far post.
Of course, it’s only one game. But his performance was very encouraging, and his brace will have given him much confidence. He looks capable of becoming an important player in Marco Silva’s Everton, one that works hard off the ball and looks to attack with pace from the wings in possession.
Impressed with the press
The boss will be delighted with the performance of his first major signing at Everton, but what will please Silva most from the second half is the way in which the team rallied together and stuck to the game plan.
The visitors denied Wolves time on the ball and were very quick to try and put pressure on the hosts whenever they sniffed an opportunity to win it back. Even with 10 men, Everton tried to stay high up and deny Wolves the chance to play. And it wasn’t just the tireless efforts of Cenk Tosun, Theo Walcott and Richarlison. Gueye and indeed every Evertonians’ favourite boo-boy Morgan Schneiderlin were also very effective in this high press.
When you bring a point home having been down to 10 men for 50 minutes, you usually pat yourself on the back for not losing the game. But having led twice there will be a twinge of disappointment that Everton couldn’t hold on. At least there were encouraging signs that the players are fully behind Silva’s playing style, giving the Portuguese the best possible chance of being a success at Goodison Park.
‘Keane’ to keep his place
It’s a shame to have to devote a third of this piece to Jagielka when his centre back partner played so well. And we’ve not been able to say that all too often of Keane in an Everton shirt, but he repelled almost every ball that was thrown his way. Almost.
Despite such an encouraging game where he looked composed and effective in both penalty areas, it was Keane who couldn’t get close enough to Raul Jimenez, the Mexican heading in Wolves second equaliser from close range. With two centre halves arriving on the final day of the transfer window, Keane knows his place isn’t guaranteed and if this performance is anything to go on, he doesn’t look too keen to make way.