A sizzling burst of three goals in seven second-half minutes rinsed Everton past Burnley and up to fourth in the league, level on points with the three teams above them. Burnley stay 18th, with just one point from their four games.
Burnley were by far the better team in the first 30 minutes, imposing their 4-4-2 on Everton’s 3-4-3 and missing two fine chances to take the lead, Chris Wood failing to connect properly with Dwight McNeil’s tremendous centre, then Josh Brownhill scuffing a shot too close to Jordan Pickford.
After the break, Everton improved, but on 53 minutes went behind, Johann Gudmundsson crossing nicely for Ben Mee to head home. The lead, though, lasted but 10 minutes, another fine cross, this time from Andros Townsend, facilitating another fine header from another centre-back, Keane drawing the home side level.
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Five minutes later, Everton scored again, Townsend unleashing a rasper that screeched, shrieked and dipped past Nick Pope, then as soon as play restarted, Abdoulaye Docoure, only just liberated by his team’s switch from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3, sent Demarai Gray in with a fine pass, and the finish was superb.
Burnley did their best to get back into the game and will play worse than this and win – though they are third-bottom, they have more than enough to stay up – while Everton look to be working things out nicely.
However Benitez is nobody’s fool, cautious but also practical. So at 1-1 he changed from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3, liberating Doucoure while seizing control of midfield, and minutes later the game was effectively over.
Arguably, the standard in the Premier League has never been higher than it is now. The best teams aren’t the best there’s ever been, but there are four who are good – that’s never been the case before – and behind them, Spurs, West Ham, Wolves, Arsenal and Leicester all have proper players. Everton must insinuate themselves into that second group, and though it will not be easy, Benitez has them on the right track.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Andros Townsend (Everton) An excellent assist and a wondrous goal.
Everton: Pickford 6, Coleman 6, Godfrey 6, Keane 7, Mina 6, Digne 6, Allan 6, Doucoure 8, Townsend 9, Gray 7, Richarlison 6. Subs: Gomes 7, Rondon 6, Iwobi 6.
Burnley: Pope 6, Lowton 6, Tarkowski 6, Mee 6, Taylo 6r, Gudmundsson 6, Brownhill 5, Westwood 5, McNeil 6, Wood 5, Barnes 6. Subs: Lennon 6, Vydra 6.
12 of Andros Townsend’s 23 Premier League goals have been scored from outside the penalty area.
27’ – Huge chance for Burnley! Westwood tosses a ball into the box which Barnes pursues to the by-line, knocking back for Wood who finds Brownhill just inside the box. He’s got time to measure this, but can only drag straight at Pickford. That could be a huge miss.
60’ – GOAL! Everton 1-1 Burnley (Keane) Keane scores against his former club! This is a terrific, simple goal, Coleman spreading to Townsend, who goes down the side of Mee, lured out wide, then nips inside, curls a fast, flat cross onto Keane’s noddle, and he glances into the near bottom corner.
65’ – WHAT A GOAL WHAT A GOAL WHAT A GOAL! Everton 2-1 Burnley (Townsend) Oh my absolute days. Doucoure, again advanced, finds townsend 30 yards out, and he advances, has a look, and arcs a screeching left-footer high over Pope that dips into the net!
67’ – GOAL! Everton 3-1 Burnley (Gray) This is another beauty, Doucoure on the right touchline seeing Gray slinking through the middle. He sticks a sensational pass into his stride and watches as his mate controls, steadies, sits the keeper down and passes inside the near post. Seven minutes, three goals, game over!
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