Fans vent anger as Everton lose at home again
Had it not been for Seamus Coleman’s ghastly miss with the last kick of the match, Everton would have rescued a draw here and maybe then, the scorn would not have cascaded from the Goodison Park terraces like it did at the final whistle moments later.
Francesco Guidolin’s debut as manager of Swansea City could not have been better: a first win over Everton in the Premier League era, and a robust performance to boot – one which just merited victory.
For Everton, though, who face Manchester City in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final on Wednesday, the outcome could probably not have been any worse: conceding two goals at home for a seventh time this season, underlining why they occupy a place only in mid-table; a fact that audibly irritates the crowd, reinforcing the burden on Roberto Martínez.
The Spaniard must realise that City is a game that could define Everton’s year if not his reign. He will go to the Etihad with a depleted squad and more injuries were sustained here: Muhamed Besic and Kevin Mirallas exited within the opening half-hour and Martínez confirmed they would be unavailable.
Playing away might suit Martínez and Everton. He admits that he must find a solution the mood at Goodison, where Everton have won only three league games this season, all of them against opponents at a low: Chelsea, Aston Villa then Sunderland.
Martínez described Everton’s play as “slow” and “pedestrian”, especially in the first half, admitting to a lack of intensity, even “enjoyment”. The manager spoke of a “fearful aspect”.
“I don’t think we’ve found it that easy this season to play at Goodison,” he concluded, without really being able to offer a reason why.
By contrast, Guidolin later revealed the reason why he decided to leave Italy for South Wales, citing “the good atmosphere of Swansea”, in spite of the club’s position near the relegation zone.
A glance at Swansea’s team sheet revealed their most obvious problem: with no striker, who would score the goals? And yet, Guidolin may have already discovered a solution. He was rewarded for using a midfield diamond – for positioning André Ayew in an unfamiliar pocket of space to the right of a front two – with the matchwinner. Everton struggled to regulate the movement of playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson, who could have had more than one goal from the penalty spot.
A glance at Everton’s team sheet and their problem was laid bare as well: there is so much expectation on John Stones and Ramiro Funes Mori to replace the injured Phil Jagielka and the departed Sylvain Distin. Behind them is a fading goalkeeper, Tim Howard.
In only the 17th minute, Stones, under no pressure, tried to find Howard with a back pass, which was executed too casually. Howard was flat-footed and square and brought Ayew down. Sigurdsson was able to hoof the resulting penalty high into the net.
Everton equalised through Jack Cork’s own goal, but Swansea were nevertheless leading at the break. Anxiety spread across the stadium in relation to the risks Everton were taking at the back, a consequence of conservative passages of play where the ball arrived at the same place it had started: with Stones.
It was Bryan Oviedo, however – a left-footer uneasy at right-back, and selected in the absence of Coleman, who was fit enough only to start on the bench – who surrendered possession in the build-up to Swansea’s second. Although Ashley Williams handled to start the move, Everton did not react quickly enough to the danger posed by Neil Taylor, whose cross found Ayew in space to sneak a shot past Howard, with a deflec- tion from Stones proving decisive. Martínez used another handball going unpunished – this time inside the Swansea box by Taylor – to highlight Everton’s misfortune with big decisions. There were also other scoring opportunities in the second half, when Everton were better.
Ultimately, though, Guidolin got it right tactically and emotionally. “I want work, attention, focus and the quality of personality from this team,” said the 60-year-old, whose management career spans four decades. “I know I am not young but maybe I can help.”
Game over: Everton’s Seamus Coleman misses a last-minute chance from close range. Left: match-winner André Ayew