Mac Allister stars as Brighton secure maiden Goodison win

Alexis Mac Allister scored twice as Brighton recorded their first win at Goodison Park with an entertaining 3-2 victory over Everton. 

Rafael Benitez welcomed back Dominic Calvert-Lewin to the starting line-up for the first time since the win at Brighton in August, but it was the trio of centre-backs who were culpable just three minutes in when they all watched Neal Maupay’s looping header drop to Mac Allister, who volleyed home.

Things got even worse for Everton when Dan Burn doubled Brighton’s lead from a well-worked corner (21), before the hosts seemed to have been handed a lifeline when they were awarded a penalty after Enock Mwepu fouled Anthony Gordon but Calvert-Lewin clipped the bar with his spot-kick.

Gordon would halve the deficit when his shot deflected in off Adam Lallana (53) but Mac Allister restored Brighton’s two-goal advantage with a brilliant strike from the edge of the box, which proved decisive in the end (71).

Gordon met Jonjoe Kenny’s low cross five minutes later to give Everton hope, but it’s now eight defeats in 12 games for Benitez. The hosts sit 15th on 19 points after 18 games, eight points off the relegation zone while Brighton move up to eighth in the table on 27 points.

Alexis Mac Allister broke the deadlock on three minutes

Alexis Mac Allister broke the deadlock on three minutes

Player ratings

Everton: Pickford (6), Kenny (7), Holgate (6), Keane (5), Godfrey (6), Allan (6), Doucoure (5), Gordon (8), Coleman (6), Gray (7), Calvert-Lewin (5).

Subs: Gomes (n/a), Rondon (n/a).

Brighton: Sanchez (7), Cucurella (7), Webster (7), Veltman (7), Burn (8), Bissouma (7), Mwepu (7), Lallana (6), Trossard (6), Mac Allister (9), Maupay (7).

Subs: Lamptey (6), Moder (n/a), Duffy (7).

Man of the match: Alexis Mac Allister.

How Seagulls soared to victory

Brighton boss Graham Potter said afterwards: “Historically it’s not an easy place to come for us as a club and you can see the crowd got behind the team. It’s a great way to finish the week, taking four points at Chelsea and Everton.”

On the eve of the game, Benitez likened Calvert-Lewin to a new signing as the striker made his first appearance since August, ironically in the 2-0 win at Brighton.

The England international scored in each of the club’s first three matches of the season, but a thigh injury and subsequent setback in his recovery denied the Toffees boss his services until now.

Team news

Dominic Calvert-Lewin made his first appearance since August as Everton returned to action after more than two weeks of inactivity. Lucas Digne, whose time at the club looks limited after the signing of Vitaliy Mykolenko on Saturday but not in time to play, returned to the squad for the first time in three matches as a substitute.

Brighton made three changes from the draw with Chelsea as Adam Webster, Leandro Trossard and Enock Mwepu came in.

Benitez is delighted to have last season’s leading scorer back, but having sounded a note of caution about placing too much expectation on him, he watched his side fall behind inside three minutes.

Joel Veltman was found in space far too easily by Mac Allister, who carried on his run forward and was then found by Maupay’s cushioned header to tuck his first-time shot beyond Jordan Pickford.

Brighton strolled into a commanding first-half lead

Brighton strolled into a commanding first-half lead

At two minutes and 43 seconds, it was Brighton’s third-fastest Premier League goal and their earliest away from home in the competition.

This was Everton’s first in more than a fortnight after having games postponed against Leicester, Burnley and Newcastle. That proved to be something of a double-edged sword as, while it has left them without competitive action, it has given a long list of injured players time to continue their rehabilitation.

Everton looked rusty throughout the opening half and things deteriorated for their makeshift defence in the 21st minute as they found themselves two goals down after conceding yet another set-piece goal.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin stikes the crossbar with his penalty (AP)

Dominic Calvert-Lewin stikes the crossbar with his penalty

Mac Allister whipped in a corner which Mwepu flicked on and the home defence completely ignored the giant figure of Burn, who nodded home unmarked at the far post.

And just when the hosts thought things could not get any worse Calvert-Lewin blazed over a 25th-minute penalty, awarded after VAR recommended referee John Brooks took another look at Mwepu’s challenge on Gordon.

Benitez resisted the temptation to make half-time changes despite his side being booed off at the interval, but he did get an immediate response from his players.

Brighton's Dan Burn celebrates after doubling the lead at Goodison Park (AP)

Brighton’s Dan Burn celebrates after doubling the lead at Goodison Park

Demarai Gray was found by Seamus Coleman down the left, and his cross was directed towards goal by Calvert-Lewin only for Burn to make a brilliant block.

Brighton weren’t so fortunate moments later, however, as Allan found Gordon in space down the right and when the youngster cut back inside onto his left boot, his strike deflected off Lallana and past the wrong-footed Robert Sanchez.

Suddenly, it was all Everton and the Goodison crowd nearly erupted on 68 minutes when Gray set up Allan to strike from range but Sanchez scurried across to make a superb fingertip save.

Anthony Gordon scores his second for Everton (AP)

Gordon scores his second for Everton

It proved a critical moment as three minutes later, Brighton restored their two-goal buffer against the run of play. Michael Keane was poor with his clearance as Burn nipped in to feed Leandro Trossard down the left.

His low cut-back was expertly flicked into the path of Mac Allister by Mwepu, and the Argentine let fly with the outside of his right boot to beat Pickford.

Back came Everton, who having lost half of their home league games in 2021, were determined not to start the new year with another loss at Goodison, as Calvert-Lewin set up Kenny for a low cross that was steered inside the post by Gordon to reduce the arrears once more.

Benitez immediately turned to Salomon Rondon in place of Kenny, and it was the Venezuelan’s nice touch and cross which set up Gordon in the final 10 minutes but this time he could only scuff wide at the near post.

The home crowd sensed an unlikely point could again be snaffled, but when Rondon blasted Andre Gomes’ cross high into the Gwladys Street, any hopes of a dramatic draw went with it.

Alexis Mac Allister makes it 3-1 to Brighton

Alexis Mac Allister makes it 3-1 to Brighton

What the managers said

Rafa Benitez shows his frustration on the touchline

Rafa Benitez shows his frustration on the touchline

Everton boss Rafael Benitez: “I like to remember the things we do well and remember the things we don’t do right. We have shown character in a lot of games, but we’re not capable to avoid mistakes that are costing us games.

“We had a slow start, and after another mistake conceding a corner. It’s a big mountain to climb and it’s not easy with these mistakes. You miss a penalty and it’s even more difficult.”

On Calvert-Lewin playing the full 90 minutes: “Obviously, we didn’t want to keep him on the pitch as we felt physically he wouldn’t have the match fitness. Maybe he has the strength but not the stamina but at least he’s fine and hopefully he can recover quickly for the next one.”

“We have players coming back. We want players who want to fight for this club and his team-mates. You have to choose the best players possible and we were pushing but we have to manage games better.”

On Rondon being booed when coming off the bench: “It’s difficult to understand as when you bring a striker on for a defender and you need a goal, it’s because you are trying to do what’s best for the team.”

Alexis Mac Allister celebrates his early opener

Alexis Mac Allister celebrates his early opener

Brighton boss Graham Potter: “When you follow us, you can see we’re not one team and one team. It’s quite normal and it’s something we do anyway. The games depend on the opponent, and the consistency comes from the way we want to play. Who is playing and the formation is what changes.

“It’s an incredible effort from the players. To play at Chelsea and then come back late, you expend a lot of energy. It’s a credit to all the players as everyone has been ready to play. When the spirit is so good, you’ve got a chance to win football matches.

“We understood that here you can’t control things for 90 minutes. You can’t be perfect but the lads saw it out really well. The players have put a lot in during a heavy week so we need a couple of days to recover and recharge before we focus on the FA Cup next weekend. They’ll be ready.”

Spirited second half not enough for Everton

Dominic Calvert-Lewin reacts after missing a penalty

Dominic Calvert-Lewin reacts after missing a penalty

Sky Sports’ Ben Grounds:

The Premier League rolls into 2022 and while Everton returned to action for the first time since December 16, the competition is leaving them behind. It was in the corresponding fixture last season that, under Carlo Ancelotti, Everton went top of the Premier League thanks to a man-of-the-match display by James Rodriguez in a 4-2 win.

That was September 2020, and while Rafael Benitez has had to juggle with all manner of issues this term, this Everton side have been in reverse while Brighton have motored on.

Benitez has been responsible for guiding his side to just 19 points from their first 18 Premier League games of the season. The Spaniard must arrest the slump quickly, but he is only the latest manager to find out of the ongoing issues derailing the club.

Everton have lost their first league game in each of the last five calendar years, last having a longer such run of defeats between 1957 and 1963. That unwanted statistic is historic, but Everton last had fewer points at this stage of the competition in 2005/06, when they had accrued 17 points after 18 games, eventually finishing the season in 11th place.

Alexis Mac Allister scores early at Goodison Park (AP)

Alexis Mac Allister scores early at Goodison Park

It would seem like mid-table mediocrity is the best he can hope for at this stage, and with each passing defeat a nervous end to the campaign becomes an even more galling possibility.

Benitez will point to the positives – Calvert-Lewin’s return, Gordon’s greater output and a spirited second half – but eight defeats in 12 is nowhere near good enough for a club of this stature.

In contrast Brighton, on a far smaller budget, remain more than the sum of their parts having won two of their last three Premier League games after failing to win any of the 11 before that.

The Seagulls’ haul of 27 points after 19 games is their joint-best-ever return at this stage of a top-flight campaign, equalling the number of points in 1981/82. The worry for Everton is that they didn’t really need to perform well here to end their 10-game wait for victory on the blue half of Merseyside.

Opta stats

Anthony Gordon shows his despair

Anthony Gordon shows his despair
  • Since joining Brighton ahead of 2019-20, Neal Maupay has been directly involved in 31 Premier League goals (25 goals, 6 assists), with Alexandre Lacazette (35) the only Frenchman with more in that time.
  • Seven of Brighton defender Dan Burn’s 12 goals in English League football have come via headers (1/2 for Brighton, 3/6 Wigan, 2/3 Yeovil and 1/1 for Fulham).
  • Dominic Calvert-Lewin became the 22nd different player to miss a Premier League penalty for Everton, with only Arsenal (23) having more.
  • Anthony Gordon’s goals for Everton were his first-ever in English League football (29 apps for Everton, 11 for Preston), with the youngster the Toffees’ 151st scorer in the Premier League, behind only West Ham (160), Newcastle (156) and Tottenham (153).
  • Brighton’s Yves Bissouma made his 100th Premier League appearance, becoming just the third player from Mali to hit that milestone after Frederic Kanoute (144) and Djimi Traore (112).

Man of the match: Alexis Mac Allister

Alexis Mac Allister celebrates scoring his second goal of the game

Alexis Mac Allister celebrates scoring his second goal of the game

Alexis Mac Allister’s opener on 2 minutes 43 seconds was Brighton’s fastest-ever away Premier League goal and their third-quickest in the competition overall.

“I’m delighted for him as it’s three games in a week,” Potter said. “It just goes to show that football changes quickly. He hadn’t had the game time but he’s worked really hard, he’s performed when he’s been given the opportunity. He’s scored the two goals but his overall contribution was fantastic.

“It’s the hardest thing from a coach’s perspective is that you need a squad and players who are good enough to start, but you can only pick 11. You have to keep everyone motivated and it’s credit to Alexis as he’s carried on working and he’s not been disappointed. He’s taken his chance.”

Mac Allister has scored four goals in his 14 Premier League games this season, three more than he managed in his two previous campaigns combined (1 goal in 30 appearances).

What’s next?

Both sides are in FA Cup action next weekend, with Everton travelling to Hull City next Saturday; kick-off at 5.30pm.

Brighton’s third-round clash is at West Brom earlier the same day; kick-off at 3pm.