Match report and free highlights with commentary as Everton beat Brentford 1-0 at Goodison Park; Dwight McNeil's first-minute strike saw the Toffees move out of the Premier League relegation zone; defeat ended the Bees' 12-match unbeaten run in the top flight
Saturday 11 March 2023 20:56, UK
Dwight McNeil's first-minute strike was enough to see Everton beat Brentford 1-0, a result that moved Sean Dyche's side out of the relegation zone, while also ending the visitors' 12-game unbeaten Premier League run.
If the home side wanted a quick start at Goodison Park, that is exactly what they got as they scored straight from the kick-off with McNeil arching an unstoppable shot into the top corner from the left edge of the box, with the goal being timed at just 35 seconds.
The hosts thought they had added a second just before half-time, only for the Video Assistant Referee to judge Demarai Gray had inadvertently handled the ball just prior to scoring.
And as much as the visitors huffed and puffed thereafter, Everton held firm to deservedly record a vital victory in their relegation fight, although Dyche was refusing to get carried away after the game, cautioning: "We have plenty more steps to go."
Either way, the Toffees have jumped up to 15th place in the table after a third 1-0 win of his tenure, two points above the drop zone, while the Bees stay ninth, three points behind sixth-placed Newcastle United.
Everton: Pickford (8), Coleman (7), Tarkowski (6), Keane (7), Godfrey (6), McNeil (8), Gueye (7), Onana (7), Doucoure (9), Iwobi (8), Gray (7)
Subs: Mykolenko (6), Maupay (6), Davies (6)
Brentford: Raya (8), Hickey (6), Pinnock (6), Mee (6), Henry (7), Damsgaard (5), Norgaard (6), Janelt (6), Jensen (6), Mbeumo (7), Toney (7)
Subs: Schade (6), Dasilva (6), Wissa (6), Ghoddos (6), Onyeka (6)
Man of the match: Abdoulaye Doucoure
Everton registered what could prove to be a vital three points in their bid to beat the drop after a quick-fire start on Merseyside, not quite as fast as Bournemouth's opening goal at the Emirates last Saturday, but still pretty quick nonetheless.
Barely seconds after kick-off, the home side worked the ball out wide to the right, before Abdoulaye Doucoure found McNeil in space on the left edge of the area.
The wide man still had lots to do, though, only to arch a lovely curling effort into the top right-hand corner of the net past a helpless David Raya as the roof nearly came off Goodison Park.
One nearly became two just before the break when Brentford's attempts to clear a free-kick only ended up with the ball in their own net off Gray, who knew nothing of it, only for VAR David Coote to then rightly decide the ball had struck the Everton forward's hand before going in.
Everton boss Sean Dyche stuck with the same side that fought out a 2-2 draw at fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest last Sunday. So experienced centre-back Conor Coady had to settle for a place on the bench, while striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin was still missing as he continued his recovery from a hamstring injury, although the England international was back in training now.
As for the visitors, Brentford manager Thomas Frank opted to make one alteration to the team that beat Fulham 3-2 on MNF, with Vitaly Janelt replacing Yoane Wissa.
That call made for an anxious second half as Everton looked to protect their lead, while the visitors looked to maintain their long unbeaten league run stretching back to October.
And while Jordan Pickford was called upon to make one world-class stop to keep out Rico Henry's close-range header at the start of the half and Gray was on hand to make a vital goal-line clearance with 20 minutes to go, Everton held firm in what could prove to be a key win in their fight to stay in the Premier League.
Analysis by Sky Sports' Richard Morgan:
The Sean Dyche blueprint is really starting to take shape at Goodison Park, with the former Burnley manager having already moved his new side out of the relegation zone after their 1-0 home win over high-flying Brentford on Saturday afternoon.
Dyche only took over from Frank Lampard at the end of January, but Saturday was the third 1-0 win of his tenure, all secured at Goodison, which is fast becoming a fortress. No other Premier League team has been as strong at home in that period.
That also means the new manager is making Everton hard to score against, as three clean sheets in just his seven matches in charge demonstrate, with the Toffees having only managed four league shutouts this season prior to Dyche's arrival.
Meanwhile, despite taking charge of just seven games so far, Dyche has already won as many top-flight games with Everton this season (3) as Frank Lampard did (3/20).
All of which bodes well for Everton's survival hopes, with Dyche having seemingly managed to mould a team that is not only hard to beat at home, but also one that is hard to score against.
Everton boss Sean Dyche:
"I think a new manager comes in and I'm a familiar person to him [Dwight McNeil] as I gave him his debut," said Dyche.
"I am sure he was trying to work for the previous manager but he was still learning and maybe didn't understand some of the things he was being asked to do but he knows me and my staff.
"I'm pleased for him, I'm pleased to see his work ethic paying him back. He puts a lot of pressure on himself and he's learning as he gets older to release that pressure.
"He is finding key moments and today he found a moment with a very fine strike.
"The first half I thought we were very good. You could argue we should have been further in front with the chances we created.
"Second half, fair play to them, they came back into it. The only thing I'd say was we gave them too many simple turnovers.
"It's just another step. We have plenty more steps to go. There are strong signs the mentality is growing."
Brentford boss Thomas Frank:
"I thought they were better than us first half and we were better than Everton second half," he said.
"It probably didn't help conceding a goal after 35 seconds.
"We lost the physical battle, the duels and second balls, set-pieces were not good enough and on the ball, we were not that good in quality and decision-making.
"The second half was completely opposite: we created a lot more chances which could easily have given us a well-deserved draw."
|McNeil (3pts) | Tarkowski (2pts) | Pickford (1pt)
Everton take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next Saturday in a match you can see live on Sky Sports Premier League (5.30pm), while Brentford travel to Southampton on Wednesday March 15 (7.30pm).