Everton fans planned to demonstrate against the “incompetent management” of owner Farhad Moshiri and the club’s board at Goodison Park next month. The protests were brought forward by an incompetent display from Frank Lampard’s team that invited a confident, stylish Brighton to record their highest scoring away win of the Premier League era.
Chants of “Sack the board” echoed around the stadium after Brighton’s third and fourth goals and the final whistle as Goodison vented its fury with years of waste and woeful decision making under Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright.
Roberto De Zerbi’s buoyant side struck three times in six second-half minutes as Everton produced the kind of error-strewn meltdown that leaves a manager fearing for his job. Brighton, everything Everton are not in terms of their excellent recruitment, clear strategy, sound financial planning and intelligent style of play, capitalised with ease to condemn Lampard’s team to a third successive home defeat and an eighth loss in 11 matches in all competitions.
Kaoru Mitoma, Evan Ferguson, the 18-year-old Ireland striker who was hugely impressive on his full Premier League debut, Solly March and Pascal Gross were all on the scoresheet.
There was no consolation for Lampard in the fact it could have been more. Many more. Brighton boast the best away record outside the current top four and it was not hard to see why. Their defensive cohesion and quality on the counterattack was evident all night, although the demanding De Zerbi wanted more.
“I didn’t like the quality of our play in the build-up or in defensive spaces in the first half,” the Brighton manager said. “We had to ask more from ourselves and the second half was amazing.”
Everton made a vibrant start, with Alex Iwobi forcing Robert Sánchez into the first save of the game. After that fifth-minute effort, however, the hosts’ lack of ideas became painfully apparent. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was fit to start only his sixth league game of the season and was cruelly booed off when substituted late on, having been starved of service all night.
Brighton had World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister on the bench after his return from well-earned celebrations in Argentina and another of their Qatar contingent, Moises Caicedo, back in midfield after suspension. It was Caicedo’s curling, crossfield pass towards Mitoma that created the breakthrough. Nathan Patterson badly misread the flight of the ball and his failure to intercept gave the Brighton winger a clear run at Jordan Pickford’s goal. Conor Coady over-committed as he attempted to block Mitoma’s path, leaving him with a simple finish beyond Pickford and James Tarkowski’s desperate lunge.
Ferguson made a fine impression on his first Premier League start and almost doubled Brighton’s advantage from another incisive move down the left. Pervis Estupiñán led a break before Mitoma centred for Ferguson, who hooked an awkward shot beyond Pickford only to strike the base of a post.
The teenager went close again with a 25-yard drive that sailed inches over the Everton goalkeeper’s crossbar. The home crowd were growing restless before the break at Everton’s pedestrian display.
Restlessness turned into revolt and revulsion when their team conspired to concede three goals in six truly shambolic minutes. Each one was a defensive calamity, but testament to the belief and talent running through the Brighton ranks.
Ferguson grabbed the goal he deserved when Everton were prised open by another Caicedo crossfield ball. Estupiñán pierced the home rearguard with a fine pass into the impressive Jeremy Sarmiento, a ball that Gana Gueye failed to intercept, and the Ecuador international rolled Patterson with ease before pulling a cross back for the unmarked striker to convert at close range. “He has all the qualities to become a great striker,” said De Zerbi.
Everton were three down within two minutes. Coady lost out to Sarmiento in an aerial challenge and Ferguson spread play to March in space on the right. The winger cut inside non-existent challenges from Vitalii Mykolenko and the tumbling Tarkowski and simply rolled a shot past a static Pickford into the bottom corner.
Three minutes later it was four. And the worst of the lot. It began badly enough with an Everton free-kick deep in Brighton territory that Demarai Gray blazed over a crowded penalty area. Gana Gueye retrieved possession near the half way line and turned the laziest of a back passes in-field to Gross, who sprinted half the length of the pitch before chipping a polished finish over Pickford.
Brighton created enough good situations thereafter to have won by six or seven. But they had already won at a canter. It fell to Gray to complete the scoring with a stoppage-time penalty given when Iwobi was upended by Sanchez. It counted for nothing.