Everton 5 - West Bromwich Albion 2
With 44 minutes on the clock, I was looking forward to a half-time cuppa after an excellent first half. Diangana had scored a superb individual goal and Livermore had hit the post. Suddenly, after 60 seconds of madness, we were a goal down and a player and manager short. Gibbs was fouled off the ball by Rodriguez and retaliated with a soft push to the face. Rodriguez went down like he'd taken a Tyson uppercut to the chin and Gibbs was off. At the half-time whistle, Bilic asked the ref to check the replay of the incident and was red carded for his trouble by a tetchy Mike Dean.
Game over? Not quite. Albion came out with great courage after the break and tied it with a brilliant Pereira free kick.
But we look so vulnerable at the back, especially from set pieces, and it was only a matter of time before we conceded. Not sure about the three at the back experiment. Hopefully Ivanovic will steady us and Callaghan will give us more bite in midfield. I'd like to see Button given a few games too. He looked dominant in handling crosses, although Harrogate are no Everton.
Despite the heavy loss, we showed enough in the first fifty minutes to be encouraged about. All is not lost. Come on, Mr Lai, support Slavan.
We got pumped here but there positives and things to build on in amongst the pretty obvious faults.
The 5-4-1/3-4-3 lineup that started against Leicester went again but there were some changes on the bench - I think anyone who saw Austin and Grosicki in midweek couldn't have been surprised.
And once again we started well. Our attacking 3, as last week, in the early stages when we could get to the ball to them to feet, early and in space caused lots of problems with their movement and we took the lead through a fantastic break away goal - a great flick from Pereira sending Diangana on his way to run from inside his own half and then smash the ball in at the edge of their area.
And despite Everton looking a threat we continued to cause problems, winning set plays and Livermore coming so close to adding a second.
And then as with last week once Everton got the ball down and began playing through us and dominating possession they looked likely to score - pinning us back. We'd actually rode our luck for a 10 minute spell of heavy pressure and I thought we'd come out of the other side of it looking after the ball again before we got caught napping - allowing a cross to the back post for Richarlison to glance off Furlong (looking the wrong way) before being turned home. The lino flagged - VAR gave the goal. I thought it was really harsh as Richarlison did touch the ball forwards, arguably enough to make Furlong's header go backwards, and at that point the forward was offside.
Our belief looked good and we rallied back. All we needed to do was see the game out to half time but we got caught allowing Rodriguez half a yard and he finished with devastating efficiency. Harsh but the price for having no screening midfielder, but no crisis as we'd done okay. Cue Gibbs reacting stupidly to shove by Rodriguez and giving Mike Dean the easy choice to send him off. Bilic - frustrated by it all - tried to speak to Dean calmly at half time but was also sent off. That also seemed really harsh but apparently there is a rule that you can't do that these days. It will be interesting to see how consistently that rule will be applied across the season.
No changes at half time was a surprise but we went 4-4-1 and had a go from the off - to be rewarded with a brilliant free kick from Pereira into the top corner evoking memories of Brunt.
At that point, there was still so long to go with 10 men I thought we'd be doomed BUT I thought Bilic should've got Field on to just give us a bit more cover, sit in and see if we could spoil the game for 20 minutes to make it interesting.
It didn't happen and instead we let in a procession of quick-fire soft goals almost immediately. All the classics were there - the not tracking runners, the cheap conceding from corners, the goalkeeper glued to his line.
It happened so fast and killed the contest with such a long time to go that Bilic wrapped our 2 star players in cotton wool for next week, got some minutes in Phillips and Edwards and eventually Field for Sawyers. Damage limitation combined with Everton's mercy thankfully kept it to 5.
There were some improvements in individual performances from last week, there were signs that some lessons had been learned and we certainly caused problems. But we concede soft goals because we have too many soft players and a weak goalkeeper. If we can stay up it will be cause we can keep clean sheets as we are simply not going to outscore teams or blow them away. If Field and Button both do well in the midweek cup game I would be really tempted to give them a go against Chelsea and change the shape slightly.
Stay with the players and manager - we are real underdogs this season with the budget we have but we are far from a lost cause - and scoring fabulous goals helps keep the spirits up.
Subs - I thought they all did okay but Field showed good positioning and desire.
Onto the next! We need Dowling and Ken to step up for us this week.
Everton 5 v Championship Standard Squad Albion 2
Has Slav lost the plot?
Why a Back 3 again? Especially when 33% of that Back 3 is a Donkey.
His sending off suggested he is not in control of his actions and emotions.
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