Everton 3-1 Swansea Seven Things: Sigurdsson sinks the Swans

Rooney celebrates the third – skysports.com

Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 64th-minute winner against his former club proved the decisive moment as Everton defeated relegation strugglers Swansea City 3-1 at Goodison Park. Here’s seven things from the game.

Disciplined wide men

It was a cagey first half in which both teams looked well-structured without the ball. Swansea wide men Luciano Narsingh and Nathan Dyer were both happy to drop into their defensive third to stop Cuco Martina and Jonjoe Kenny providing overloads. Everton were therefore forced into stale sideways passing between Idrissa Gana Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin, who didn’t play with the required positivity in the first half. When they did pick out early balls to Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the accuracy of those passes left a lot to be desired and the striker initially lacked the physicality to get the better of Federico Fernandez, who was happy to drop off him. The young forward at least got his shot away on 22 minutes, but his effort from outside the box lacked the power to trouble Fabianski in the absence of alternative options.

A partridge in a Fer tree

Dutchman Leroy Fer was the away side’s most creative first half performer, capable of switching the direction of play and picking out quick balls into the right channel for Luciano Narsingh. His compatriot’s end product left a little to be desired, even if he forced an early stop from Jordan Pickford after some good combination play with  Tammy Abraham, who had replaced the injured Wilfried Bony. Swansea’s 36th minute opener came as a surprise, even if it was less surprising that it was Fer who scored it. After Tom Carroll’s corner, Ashley Williams became distracted by the run of Alfie Mawson and lost his old teammate, who tapped in at the back-post.

Everton’s set piece threat

Sigurdsson’s deliveries had led to the more exciting moments for home fans in the first half, finding good areas with his free-kicks and corners that were denied by last-ditch interventions from the likes of Fabianski and Mawson. The Icelander found Williams with an excellent ball to the back-post but the Welshman strayed fractionally offside, denying Wayne Rooney a goalscoring chance. The 10-goal hitman would have his chance though because seconds before half-time, he combined with Aaron Lennon, who was clumsily tripped inside the area by Roque Mesa. Rooney’s penalty was pushed impressively onto the post by Fabianski, but Calvert-Lewin was quickest to the rebound to equalize.

Moment of magic

There was not a great deal to separate the two teams in the first half, nor the first 20 minutes of the second. Everton were largely happy to cede possession to the Swans, but the away side didn’t quite have the pace and movement to create space in the opposing half. A combination of the lack of pace in both attacks and the disciplined nature of the two midfields meant that the game would be decided by a moment of individual magic. The expensive talent in Everton’s squad meant they were the more likely to provide that and they did when Sigurdsson got across Kyle Naughton to produce an excellent curling right-footed effort beyond Fabianski.

Second time lucky for Wazza

After seeing his first half penalty saved before Calvert-Lewin’s opener, Rooney had another chance to register on the scoresheet when Kenny was tripped by Martin Olsson inside the area. This time he made no mistake, planting the ball firmly inside the left-hand post, followed by an emphatic celebration. Calvert-Lewin could have added a fourth after Naughton was robbed in possession, nearly further compounding Swansea’s bleak midwinter.

Swans in jeopardy

We saw a reasonable first hour from Paul Clement’s side, when Mesa, Carroll and Fer were arguably more influential in midfield than their blue counterparts. The problem was that when they had that platform, they didn’t have the attacking players providing the pace, movement and quality required to support Tammy Abraham and ask questions of the home side’s rear-guard. Failure to capitalize on the midfield’s work was punished in the latter stages, when heads dropped and errors started to creep in, which suggests there is a worrying fragility about this side.

Christmas treat for top half Toffees

This was not a vintage performance from Everton and their standard of passing, for long spells, was not quite in line with their long-term ambitions. The one consistent trait in their performance though was their persistence and energy without the ball, qualities which haven’t always been apparent at Goodison Park this term. Credit must be given to Sam Allardyce because, after just four games in charge, they have brushed aside any relegation fears and look a more competitive proposition.