Everton might not be ever-presents in the Premier League for much longer. A team with acute problems on the road lost their way and their lead. They could find themselves in the bottom three on Sunday, while Burnley glimpse a route out of trouble. After registering just three wins all season, they conjured a comeback victory, courtesy of Maxwel Cornet’s decider, and with a trip to Norwich next, may record two in a week.
Everton’s sixth successive away defeat may be their most damaging yet. Their advantage over Burnley is cut to a solitary point and their 68-year stay in the top flight has rarely been as endangered. Even a remarkable performance by Richarlison, who scored twice, was not enough for Frank Lampard. Drenched by the swirling rain, he looked beleaguered as his side were beaten.
When these sides met in September, Everton’s victory took them level on points with the leaders. Suffice to say much has changed in the intervening seven months. The importance of the occasion brought a sense of urgency, but there was precious little accuracy as wayward passes showed why both these teams have among the lowest pass completion rates in the division.
This shaped up as one of those rare games when Burnley have more of the ball. Perhaps Sean Dyche sensed Everton’s frailties when he named an unusually attacking lineup. Maxwel Cornet started on the left wing as the out-of-form Dwight McNeil was omitted. Jay Rodriguez returned, ending Saturday’s flirtation with 4-4-2.
And yet, while two attackers came into 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, set-piece problems were the recurrence of a depressingly familiar theme. For Alex Iwobi, who lost his bearings and Collins alike, it was a second costly error in four days: he was also culpable for West Ham’s winner at the weekend.
Burnley’s own self-destructive streak was also quickly demonstrated. Ashley Westwood’s evening had begun promisingly as he almost put Burnley ahead with a curler. It soon deteriorated. Westwood tugged needlessly and rather ineffectually at Anthony Gordon. The Everton winger took the opportunity to go to ground and Richarlison rolled in the penalty.
The Brazilian’s drought has been a cause of Everton’s troubles but he looked buoyed by his first goal in 11 games. Cutting in from the left, he had a shot deflected over. He almost supplied Dominic Calvert-Lewin with a simple finish. He brought Everton dominance on their left flank and when it yielded a second spot-kick, the surprise was that he and the tormented Connor Roberts were not the protagonists.
Instead, the 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 missed against Brighton was further endorsed as he sent Nick Pope the wrong way for a second time.
The second half began as the first ended, with Burnley pressure interrupted by Everton’s searing counterattacks. Richarlison set about sprinting past Roberts with conspicuous ease but fired wide. When Jonjoe Kenny’s cross took flight and bounced off the post, Richarlison almost converted the rebound.
A miss proved a turning point. Charlie Taylor surged to the byline and drilled a low cross into the six-yard box. Rodriguez arrived unchecked to finish. It was just a second goal in 39 league games for the homegrown forward and he was serenaded by the Burnley fans.
Everton had been creaking, perhaps unsurprisingly with the callow Jarrad Branthwaite, their fifth-choice centre-back, pressed in for the suspended Michael Keane, and the defender Mason Holgate having to act as the holding midfielder. Richarlison resumed his one-man assault on the Burnley goal, with Pope parrying an overhead kick. When the Brazilian released Anthony Gordon, James Tarkowski flew in to block his shot.
The value of it soon became apparent. Dyche sent for Matej Vydra and he got the assist for the winner, with Everton architects of their own downfall. Jordan Pickford sliced the ball out for a throw, then Ben Godfrey sliced an attempted clearance. Vydra crossed and Cornet lifted his shot into the roof of the net.