Everton may not be ubiquitous in the Premier League any longer. A team with acute problems on the road has lost its way and its lead. They could find themselves in the bottom three on Sunday as Burnley see a road out of trouble. After recording just three wins all season, they have staved off a comeback win, thanks to decider Maxwel Cornet, and with a trip to Norwich next they could score two in a week.
Everton’s sixth straight away defeat could be their most damaging yet. Their advantage over Burnley is reduced to a solitary point and their 68-year stay in the top flight has rarely been so threatened. Even a stellar performance from Richarlison, who scored twice, wasn’t enough for Frank Lampard. Soaked in the swirling rain, he looked beleaguered as his side was battered.
When these sides met in September, Everton’s win took them level on points with the leaders. Suffice to say that a lot has changed in the seven months that followed. The significance of the occasion brought a sense of urgency, but there was little precision as the wayward passing showed why these two teams have some of the lowest pass completion rates in the division.
It turned into one of those rare games where Burnley have more ball. Perhaps Sean Dyche sensed Everton’s weaknesses when he named an unusually attacking formation. Maxwel Cornet started on the left wing as out-of-form Dwight McNeil was omitted. Jay Rodriguez returned, ending Saturday’s flirtation with 4-4-2.
And yet, while two strikers entered the team, the scorer of Burnley’s fourth goal in 12 games was a recalled defender. Back after suspension, Nathan Collins opened his Clarets account with a volley after Cornet’s deep corner. For Everton, problems with set pieces were a recurrence of an infamous theme. For Alex Iwobi, who lost his bearings as for Collins, it was a second costly mistake in four days: he was also guilty of the winner at West Ham this weekend.
Burnley’s self-destructive streak was also quickly demonstrated. Ashley Westwood’s evening had started promisingly as he nearly put Burnley ahead with a curler. He quickly deteriorated. Westwood fired unnecessarily and rather ineffectively at Anthony Gordon. The Everton winger took the opportunity to go to ground and Richarlison took the penalty.
The Brazilian’s drought has been the cause of Everton’s problems but he looked buoyed by his first goal in 11 games. Cutting from the left, he had a deflected shot. He almost provided Dominic Calvert-Lewin with a simple finish. He brought Everton dominance down their left flank and when he delivered a second kick the surprise was that he and the tormented Connor Roberts weren’t the protagonists.
Instead, former Everton winger Aaron Lennon tripped Vitalii Mykolenko and, after Mike Dean was sent to the monitor to review the decision, a second penalty was awarded. The decision to install Richarlison as penalty taker after Calvert-Lewin’s failure against Brighton was further approved as he sent Nick Pope the wrong way for the second time.
The second half began as the first ended, with Burnley’s pressure interrupted by Everton’s searing counterattacks. Richarlison sprinted past Roberts with remarkable ease, but shot wide. When Jonjoe Kenny’s cross took off and bounced off the post, Richarlison almost converted the rebound.
A failure marked a turning point. Charlie Taylor surged towards the boundary line and drilled a low cross into the six-yard box. Rodriguez came unchecked to finish. It was just a second goal in 39 league games for the home striker and he was serenaded by Burnley fans.
Everton had cracked, perhaps unsurprisingly with naïve Jarrad Branthwaite, their fifth-choice centre-back, pressed for suspended Michael Keane, and defender Mason Holgate set to act as a midfielder. Richarlison resumed his solo assault on Burnley’s goal, Pope parrying an aerial kick. When the Brazilian released Anthony Gordon, James Tarkowski flew in to block his shot.
The value of it soon became apparent. Dyche brought in Matej Vydra and he got the assist for the winner, with Everton architects of their own downfall. Jordan Pickford sliced the ball for a throw, then Ben Godfrey sliced a punt attempt. Vydra crossed and Cornet lifted his shot into the roof of the net.