James Rodriguez celebrates scoring his second goal. PA
Flying High

James Rodriguez-inspired Everton reclaim Premier League top spot

The Toffees convincingly overcame Brighton this afternoon.

EVERTON MAINTAINED THEIR 100% record and reclaimed their spot at the top of the Premier League after a 4-2 win over Brighton today.

Summer signing James Rodriguez was key to the victory, scoring twice, while there was worrying news from an Irish perspective, as Seamus Coleman went off injured.

In-form Dominic Calvert-Lewin also celebrated his first England call-up by scoring in a fourth successive Premier League.

The 23-year-old’s ninth of the season makes him the leading scorer in Europe’s top five leagues and his first-half header took him to 41 goals for the club, one better than Gary Lineker managed – although the England goal-scoring great achieved his in 57 appearances as opposed to 140.

But there was less joy for another member of Gareth Southgate’s squad for the friendly with Wales and Nations League fixtures against Belgium and Denmark as Jordan Pickford had another afternoon to forget.

The England number one was at fault for Neal Maupay’s equaliser, failing to hold Leandro Trossard’s volley hammered into the turf – his third mistake in as many matches having made two in the Carabao Cup win at Fleetwood.

Pickford has made nine errors leading to goals since the start of the 2018-19 season, more than any other player.

He was grateful to the club’s Colombia connection as Rodriguez’s free-kick presented Yerry Mina with his first Goodison Park goal just six minutes later, with Rodriguez then scoring twice after half-time.

Everton are edging closer to concluding a £25million deal for Norwich centre-back Ben Godfrey but, after another high-profile Pickford mistake, manager Carlo Ancelotti may start reassessing last week’s vote of confidence in the goalkeeper after insisting he was not even considering beefing up his options in that department.

Fortunately for Ancelotti he has no such worries at the other end of the pitch where Calvert-Lewin, after passing up a relatively straightforward chance a man in his form should have taken after 82 seconds, continues to excel.

The striker has netted in five of his six matches this season, including two hat-tricks, and became the first Everton player to score in the opening four matches of a Premier League season and the first English player to make it four in four at any time since academy graduate Francis Jeffers in September 2000.

His hanging far-post header, from which he scored via Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 16th-minute cross to give the hosts a deserved lead, is fast becoming a trademark.

It would be unkind to say the same could be said of Pickford’s misdemeanours and misjudgements but there was no-one else at fault for an equaliser completely against the run of play.

Instead of opting to simply tip the high-bouncing ball over the crossbar he attempted to catch it, rather like his now famous clanger in the Merseyside derby at Anfield in December 2018 which led to Divock Origi’s last-minute winner.

But on a wet day the ball slipped from his grasp, presenting Maupay with a simple tap-in.

Mina spared his embarrassment by heading home Rodriguez’s in-swinging free-kick for this third goal of 2020, all of which have been scored in first-half added time.

Much of Brighton’s game-plan appeared to involve going in hard on both Everton’s playmaker and Richarlison, who passed a late fitness test on an ankle injury.

The tactic partly succeeded with the Brazil forward forced off 25 minutes into the first half after a crunching-but-fair tackle by Tariq Lamptey.

But there was no stopping Rodriguez, fouled for the free-kick which led to Mina’s goal, and he made the game safe with two far-post finishes from crosses by Richarlison’s replacement Alex Iwobi and Abdoulaye Doucoure.

Despite 12 goals in four league matches, the international break could not come at a better time for Ancelotti as Coleman limping off took the number of first-teamers injured to nine.

A pause may also benefit the Seagulls, for whom Yves Bissouma volleyed home an added-time consolation, after a third defeat in a week and a ninth in succession on the road in the Premier League.

Additional reporting by Paul Fennessy

Press Association
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