Gylfi Sigurdsson magic and Everton kids keep unbeaten run going
A moment of magic from Gylfi Sigurdsson haunted former club Swansea and guided Everton to a 3-1 win on Monday night as the home side and manager Sam Allardyce extended their unbeaten run to six games.
In a match short on quality and clear-cut chances, Swansea took a surprise lead before Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored to give the hosts a parity their poor first half performance scarcely deserved.
Everton eventually found their rhythm after a Sigurdsson strike worthy of his £45 million price tag. After Wayne Rooney atoned for his earlier penalty miss by converting the second Everton penalty of the night, the home side could bask in a fourth successive home win.
This match showed the fighting spirit and savviness of a collection of young players continuing to make waves in the first team setup.
As Swansea threatened on the break, Jonjoe Kenny halted the move with a crude but effective challenge. There was no doubt it was a foul, but it was the sort of calculated foul the top teams often make. A few weeks ago, when opponents were cutting Everton open at will, nobody would have made that tackle and Swansea most likely go on to score.
The subsequent melee also showed a group of young players unafraid to back each other up, as Tom Davies, Mason Holgate and Calvert-Lewin all rushed to Kenny's aid. These same players often make a concerted effort to acknowledge the fans at the end of matches. Able to mix the rough with the smooth while appreciating the fortunate position they are in, the kids are alright at Everton.
The first half offered a flashback to the limp performances supporters endured under Ronald Koeman earlier in the season. There was lethargy to all aspects of the game, as Everton displayed the very complacency Allardyce had warned his players against on the eve of the match. A quick start is vital when Chelsea visit Goodison on Saturday.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Allardyce named an unchanged starting XI but acted quickly when needed in the second half, introducing Davies and altering the midfield setup.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 6 -- Dealt comfortably with a free kick in the first half and had very little to do besides pick the ball out of his net for the Swansea goal. Distribution not always up to his usual high standards.
DF Jonjoe Kenny, 7 -- Active in both penalty areas, snuffing out a dangerous cross inside his own six-yard box before winning the second Everton penalty later in the match. Ferocious in the tackle throughout.
DF Mason Holgate, 7 -- Undeterred by receiving a quite ridiculous and completely incorrect booking in the first half, the youngster mixed assured defending with assertive distribution from the back.
DF Ashley Williams, 6 -- Again, that knack for one defining error out of the blue undermined an otherwise strong showing as Williams lost Leroy Fer for the Swansea goal.
DF Cuco Martina, 6 -- Like trying to start an old car in cold weather: things tend to run smoother than expected but only once you get those infuriating initial moments out of the way.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 8 -- Well and truly back to his best. Along with the usual endeavour, the tireless midfielder attempted more passes than any other player and drove Everton forward when they needed it most.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 5 -- If an impressive display at Newcastle last time out appeared to be a turning point, this rather suggested it was a false dawn. No real surprise to see him substituted first.
MF Aaron Lennon, 7 -- Won the penalty that got Everton out of jail on the stroke of half time and one of only a few players up with the pace of the game in the first half. Continued that form into the second half and earned his ovation when substituted.
MF Wayne Rooney, 5 -- A curious and frustrating performance saw Rooney struggle but finish with a goal and assist. Deserves credit for converting the second penalty after missing the first, but this was the second successive game in which Rooney has conceded possession too cheaply and too often.
MF Gylfi Sigurdsson, 6 -- Terrific strike from distance signalled another timely intervention and his performance visibly improved thereafter. Sigurdsson is finding his range after a slow start and has contributed a goal or assist in five of his last seven league games.
FW Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 8 -- Quick reactions to the saved Rooney penalty led to his seventh goal of the season in all competitions and capped another terrific outing in the lone striker role.
MF Tom Davies, 7 -- Injected some much-needed vigour into a previously lacklustre midfield.
MF Ademola Lookman, N/R -- Completed more dribbles than any other player but lacked the decision-making to match.
FW Sandro Ramirez, N/R -- A brief cameo at the end in place of Rooney.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.