Calvert-Lewin scores again as Everton go top

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin and James Rodriguez both scored for Everton
Dominic Calvert-Lewin and James Rodriguez both scored for Everton

Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored his ninth goal of the season and James Rodriguez netted twice as Everton beat Brighton to make it four Premier League wins from four for the impressive table-topping Toffees.

However, it was another game that will prompt questions about the quality of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford for both club and country.

All was going well for the home side after Calvert-Lewin rose highest to head in at the back post to cap another excellent week that saw him score his second hat-trick of the season and earn a first call-up to the senior England squad.

But in the closing stages of a first half in which he had barely been tested, England keeper Pickford dropped a tame bouncing ball at the feet of Neal Maupay, who then slotted the ball in on the turn.

The heavy rain during the match was undoubtedly a contributing factor but the poor error comes not long after the shocking mistake he made in the Carabao Cup win at Fleetwood.

Thankfully for the home side, they were able to reclaim the lead before the break when Rodriguez picked out fellow Colombian Yerry Mina, who headed in following a corner.

And it was Rodriguez who put the game beyond Albion, firstly sliding in to finish off Alex Iwobi’s chipped cross at the back post then finding space in the same area to tap home Abdoulaye Doucoure’s pass.

Brighton were able to claim a consolation through a superb Yves Bissouma strike in added time but they have now lost three of their first four games.

They can argue they deserved to take something from the defeats by Chelsea and Manchester United, but they can have no complaints about this.

Aside from Pickford’s form, the only other negative for Carlo Ancelotti’s side was losing forward Richarlison to injury in the first half.

Everton lead the division, having taken 12 points from 12, but could be overtaken this weekend by Leicester and Liverpool, who both play on Sunday.

Brilliant at one end, but issues at the other

Since joining Everton from Sheffield United in August 2016, Calvert-Lewin has played under six managers, the first of which, Ronald Koeman, occasionally played him at right wing-back and tasked him with providing opportunities for others.

Now, though, under the tutelage of Ancelotti, he is developing into a supreme finisher and the side is set up to supply him.

Earlier in the season, in reference to the striker, Ancelotti harked back to his time as boss of AC Milan, when Filipo Inzaghi made the predatory one-touch finish an artform.

Calvert-Lewin is not at that level yet, but you can see the shared DNA. One early chance, gifted to him by an error from Bissouma, saw him quickly get the ball out of his feet and fire a shot that Mat Ryan had to palm away.

His opening goal – converted at the back post from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross – looks simple on the surface, but is a testament to positioning, prowess and the ever-growing understanding of the service he needs from a team that has come a long way from some of the limp, directionless displays of last season.

Rodriguez is a big factor in that and the Colombian has now been directly involved in six goals in his five games for Everton in all competitions this season.

The Toffees have scored 24 goals in their seven games of the campaign, currently more than any other side in Europe’s top five leagues.

Things are not quite so rosy at the other end of the pitch, though.

Pickford, who looked shaky throughout the game, gifted Brighton their equaliser and could easily have presented them with another goal when he palmed out a cross to Maupay for a shot that Tom Davies blocked.

And it is not a new problem – Pickford has made 11 errors leading to goals in the Premier League since his debut for Everton in August 2017, more than any other goalkeeper in that time.

Everton’s superb attacking talent compensated for his big mistake on Saturday, but his form will be a concern to Ancelotti and England manager Gareth Southgate with three international fixtures coming up this month.

Everton replicate title-winning start from 1969-70

  • Everton have won each of their opening four games to a top-flight season for the first time since 1969-70, when they went on to win the title.
  • Everton have won their first seven games in all competitions in a season for the first time since 1894-95 (won first eight).
  • Brighton remain winless away at Everton in all competitions, drawing two and losing seven of their nine visits.
  • This game saw three Colombians start a Premier League match for the first time (James Rodríguez and Yerry Mina for Everton and Steven Alzate for Brighton), with Mina’s goal the first in the competition scored and assisted (Rodríguez) by two Colombians.
  • Since the start of last season, Everton striker Calvert-Lewin has scored seven headed goals in the Premier League, more than any other player.
  • Since his Everton debut in August 2017, Gylfi Sigurdsson has registered 13 assists in the Premier League, more than any other player for the Toffees (Digne next on 12).
  • Maupay has scored four goals in his last three Premier League appearances, as many as he managed in his previous 22 in the competition.