Friday 17 August 2018

Wayne Rooney saves Everton at Brighton with last-gasp penalty but questions over Ronald Koeman remain

Everton's Wayne Rooney runs back to the centre spot with the ball after scoring their equaliser
Everton's Wayne Rooney runs back to the centre spot with the ball after scoring their equaliser

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Wayne Rooney scored a crucial equalising penalty in the last minute at Brighton to earn Everton a point, but he will not have stopped the questions or the pressure facing Ronald Koeman’s continued management of the club.

Everton were short of ideas, speed and inspiration, creating precious few real chances and were heading for defeat before Michael Oliver spotted a penalty-box infringement by Bruno. Rooney, at the very end of normal time, put the penalty away to earn a draw.

The result leaves Everton 16th in the table, three points ahead of the relegation zone, desperately underperforming given expectations at the start of the season. They have only won twice in the league this season, at home against Stoke City and Bournemouth. Their last away win in the league was back on 21 January at Crystal Palace.

It makes for an ugly picture for Koeman and further reinforces the feeling that he is not getting the best out of the players he has. Here the Everton squad looked as unbalanced as ever, totally devoid of pace and the ability to stretch the opposition. Wayne Rooney effectively played as a false nine, but it did not work. Before his penalty Rooney played poorly, his touch and passing often going wrong, but he occupied the same space as Gylfi Sigurdsson, to the cost of the both of them.

The first half was poor with very little going on for either side. The best it got was a pair of blocks at either end: Lewis Dunk threw himself in front of one shot by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, while at the other end Michael Keane got in the way of Dunk’s own shot, seemingly using his arms to do so.

Everton marginally improved in the second half, as Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin forced saves from Mat Ryan, but it was Brighton who turned it up especially when Jose Izquierdo came on. He forced a save from Jordan Pickford and panicked the Everton defence. With seven minutes left Anthony Knockaert put Brighton into the lead after Bruno broke down the right and Everton failed to pick him up.

Brighton deserved the lead and only had to see it out for seven minutes, but at the very end Bruno was too physical in the penalty area, and that cost his team two crucial points.

More to follow

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