·12 August 2023
·12 August 2023
A new season brought new hope for recent relegation strugglers Everton but for all the improvements Sean Dyche has made over the summer, it appears he he has not yet solved their problems in front of goal.
Substitute Bobby De Cordova-Reid struck the only goal of the game to get Marco Silva’s side off to a winning start.
Everton, the Premier League’s lowest scorers last season, were again without striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Despite generating twice as many shots as the visitors, Dyche’s side were undone by one square pass across their six-yard area when Andreas Pereira beat Nathan Patterson to an Aleksandar Mitrovic’s through-ball for a 73rd-minute tap-in by Decordova-Reid.
It burst the bubble of optimism which had been generated by an energetic and relatively creative opening 73 minutes of the season and will have infuriated Dyche as much as it delighted former Toffees boss Silva.
Michael Keane’s first-half goal was disallowed as the centre-back turned the ball into an empty net and celebrated almost apologetically before referee Stuart Atwell, having initially not blown, ruled there had been an infringement in the collision between goalkeeper Bernd Leno and James Tarkowski.
Both teams started without their recognised first-choice strikers: Calvert-Lewin was omitted due to his lack of minutes in pre-season while Mitrovic was left on the bench after ongoing interest from Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal.
But it was the home team who suffered the most as they generated 19 shots to their opponents’ nine from just 41 per cent possession but failed to capitalise with Calvert-Lewin’s deputy Neal Maupay most culpable.
The £15million signing from Brighton last summer has a return of one goal in his 29 previous appearances but the reason for that conversion rate was evident after just 32 seconds when he clipped a shot wide of the far post with only goalkeeper Leno to beat after being put through by James Garner’s cushioned header.
It did not get any better for the Frenchman, whose heavy touch from Abdoulaye Doucoure’s square pass denied him another shooting opportunity before Leno blocked his close-range scuff from a Doucoure knockdown and then he fired straight at the German when played in by Amadou Onana.
Doucoure, playing just behind the striker, was not without fault either as he should have scored inside five minutes when clean through but shot straight at the goalkeeper when he could also have squared to Maupay.
Everton were fortunate the visitors were even more toothless in attack themselves, although Willian, 35, gave 21-year-old right-back Nathan Patterson, who made just 21 appearances in a debut season affected by injury, an uncomfortable 45 minutes before he was replaced by De Cordova-Reid at half-time.
But Willian was also lucky to escape with a booking for an over the top challenge on Garner.
By contrast, on the other side of the defence Ashley Young, Everton’s second-oldest debutant at the age of 38 years and 34 days, was coping easily with Harry Wilson - 12 years his junior.
The 57th-minute of introduction of Mitrovic and Pereira, seconds after debutant Raul Jimenez had struck the post with his last touch before being replaced, threatened a new element of danger for Everton.
However, it was the hosts who should have scored when Leno parried Alex Iwobi’s shot to Patterson who lashed his shot against the crossbar.
Loan signing Arnaut Danjuma assumed the central striking role from Maupay but, before he had even touched the ball, De Cordova-Reid had scored the goal which secured Fulham’s third successive win at Goodison Park.
The return of Calvert-Lewin and a debut for new signing Youssef Chermiti, the £15million Sporting Lisbon striker watching from the directors’ box, cannot come soon enough.