Pickford endures torrid afternoon as Everton blow a two-goal lead
Newcastle United 3 Everton 2
This was a game Jordan Pickford will have been looking forward to for a while and it will be one he will not forget in a hurry as the England goalkeeper found himself in the eye of a storm on Tyneside.
Rarely has a player lurched from crestfallen villain to gloating hero to humiliated scapegoat in the space of one controversy-filled afternoon.
The former Sunderland goalkeeper was heading for victory at the home of the old enemy, only to end up a loser, forced to listen to more than 50,000 Geordies revelling in his discomfort.
Pickford should have been sent off after one handling error, only to be able to celebrate in front of the home crowd when he saved the resulting penalty.
He left the pitch at half-time with a smile, all poked-out tongues and provocative grins, but by the end, after another error had played a huge part in Newcastle's comeback, he exited as the punchline to countless Geordie jokes. Everton had the game won at half- time, two up and looking dangerous whenever they attacked, but somehow contrived to throw it all away.
"We conceded a second goal a minute after missing a penalty," said Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez. "We made some mistakes, but we kept calm. It was important for the players to feel that the fans were with them and for the fans to see that the players were still trying. The first goal was crucial.
"That goal, you could imagine Lionel Messi doing what Ayoze Perez did with the pass and Alan Shearer finishing like Salomon Rondon did. After that, we did a lot of things well."
Everton went ahead when Lucas Digne's cross was glanced in by Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Then came Pickford's first blunder. He came to deal with Matt Ritchie's cross, dropped it straight at the feet of Rondon and then hauled him to the ground. It was a blatant penalty and Pickford's reaction, screaming in anger, suggested he suspected a red card would follow, but referee Lee Mason did not even show a yellow.
Pickford duly saved Ritchie's penalty and Everton doubled their lead in their next attack, Richarlison tapping home after Martin Dubravka had diverted Andre Gomes's cross into his path.
Everton looked in control, but with just under half an hour to play, Perez and Rondon combined and the latter's volley went underneath Pickford's dive. Miguel Almiron's swerving shot forced another spillage from Pickford and this time Perez tapped in.
Newcastle went for the jugular and found it, as Isaac Hayden hooked the ball back into the area and Rondon set up Perez to blast home the third goal.
"There were five Newcastle players offside when the ball came back in for the third goal," said Everton's shell- shocked manager, Marco Silva. "We had so many chances to kill the game at 2-0, but did not take them. I will not come out and criticise my players, but they know what I think of them."