If Marco Silva was looking for a response to the crushing defeat at Bournemouth last weekend this was not it. A hugely disappointing Everton performance allowed Sheffield United to register their first away win of the season quite comfortably, inflicting a first home defeat on Silva’s side that means two of the three losses this season have now come against newly promoted sides.
There were groans rather than boos at the end, although it had been the same 10 minutes earlier when Lys Mousset’s deftly taken goal made certain of a Sheffield victory. Everton had nothing in response, many supporters left early, and to say they were expecting better would be a considerable understatement. Until Mousset popped the ball past Jordan Pickford with almost insouciant ease, Sheffield had not even managed an attempt on target.
The longeur while VAR checked the validity of the visitors’ opening goal was not quite the talking point of a sterile first half. That was the rate at which Manchester City appeared to be heading for a Premier League record interval lead. A big screen at Goodison obligingly kept the crowd informed of what was going on at the Etihad, which was just as well since precious little of any interest was taking place on the pitch in front of them.
Up until now Everton’s woes this season have come away from home, their home form has remained quite strong. Here they were ineffective from the outset, enjoying plenty of possession but struggling to make anything happen up front. By the time Sheffield took the lead the home side’s attempts on goal had amounted to an optimistic hook over the bar from Richarlison, who was too far under the ball to have any real hope of producing a shot on target, and an even wilder effort from Moise Kean that sailed high into the Park End. While Kean is clearly desperate to make an impression in the Everton attack, and the home fans just as anxious to see him succeed, something a little more subtle was expected than blazing miles over the bar from 30 yards out.
It was not the first half Silva would have ben hoping for, and it took a turn for the worse five minutes before the break when the hitherto underemployed Everton defence contrived to put their opponents in front. Apart from Oliver Norwood’s delivery from the Blades’ first corner of the afternoon there was hardly any Sheffield input into the goal that broke the deadlock. Pickford came for the ball and missed, a deflection from the back of Yerry Mina’s shoulder saw it end up in the net, and though the goalkeeper claimed he had been pushed VAR took the view that he had not.
When Kean produced a neat run to the line and cross in what remained of the first half, Richarlison was in position to meet it in the middle without getting enough power on his header to trouble Dean Henderson. Things had to change in the second half and Silva made two early attacking substitutions, the arrival of Alex Iwobi and Cenk Tosun leaving Everton somewhat overmanned up front at the expense of midfield. Chris Wilder responded by withdrawing Norwood and sending on Phil Jagielka, possibly feeling the Everton fans deserved to see something they could cheer. With a reinforced back line Sheffield kept Everton at bay without too many alarms, though the worry for an increasingly careworn Silva is that more and more teams are capable of keeping Everton at bay. Certainly the home side produced nothing as incisive or neat as Sheffield United’s second goal, John Lundsram playing a perfectly weighted pass through the heart of the home defence to pick up Mousset’s run through the middle. With Manchester City next up in the league, Silva and Everton have every reason to feel afraid.