Everton pay penalty for profligacy as Brentford return to winning ways


Seven matches, four goals, two points and no wins. Liverpool up next in the Merseyside derby and no immediate prospect of Dominic Calvert-Lewin returning from injury.

Manager Rafael Benitez might remain confident that he has the support of Everton owner Farhad Moshiri but, with each passing game, the strain on what was always likely to be a delicate relationship with the club’s fan base is growing.

Their fury at this latest defeat might have been largely aimed at the players, but Benitez can still expect a warmer reception at Goodison Park on Wednesday night from the red half of Liverpool than the blue. On current form, it is also hard to see anything other than an extension of the club’s worst winless run for more than five years.

The concern here was not simply losing 1-0 against Brentford in their first league meeting since 1954. It was the manner of defeat. Having fallen behind to Ivan Toney’s 24th-minute penalty, Everton offered only the most limited attacking threat and, for all Benitez’s upbeat words about effort, crosses and shots, the reality was that his team rarely looked like salvaging a point, much less a first Premier League win since September.

The root of their problems is obvious. Certain key players are either missing or recently returned from injury and, with such limited value from the £500 million that has been spent since Moshiri became majority shareholder five years ago, the wider squad depth is being exposed.

Benitez made only budget additions last summer, and a team who had begun the season with high hopes of European football are increasingly looking over their shoulders. The absence of Calvert-Lewin has been most keenly felt. He began the season with three goals in three games as Everton racked up seven points. They have since added only another eight in their next 10 games in his absence and, in slipping down to 14th in the Premier League table, found themselves leapfrogged by Brentford.

The wider statistic since the start of last season is of a 50 per cent win percentage when Calvert-Lewin plays against a meagre 20 per cent return in his absence.

Brentford were themselves out of form but, having halted a run of three straight defeats with their draw last weekend against Newcastle, at least had their squad boosted by the return of Yoane Wissa, Mads Sorensen and Mathias Jensen.

Abdoulaye Doucoure also passed a late fitness test for Everton and, while Benitez’s team started on the front foot, their attack had been further weakened by Richarlison’s one-match suspension for a fifth booking. His replacement, Salomon Rondon, had not scored in nine appearances before this match and, even against a Brentford defence who had conceded 15 times in their previous seven games, there was little prospect of that run improving.

Toney, by contrast, immediately provided a much greater threat whenever Brentford did launch quick attacking breaks forward and, having forced a corner, Sergi Canos’s dangerous inswinging cross was unconvincingly punched out by a back-pedalling Jordan Pickford.

The ball bounced up and, with Frank Onyeka reacting quickest with his head, Andros Townsend came in with a late high boot. There was no obvious malice, but the challenge was mistimed and dangerous.

Referee Darren England initially allowed play to continue as Everton launched a counter-attack, but a check by Var Jonathan Ross suggested that he consult his pitchside monitor. The outcome was then inevitable, and England needed only one sight of the replay to award Brentford their penalty.


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