Everton’s impressive record on their travels has brought them closer to Europe. A second-half header by Richarlison sealed their ninth win from 13 away matches in the Premier League this season and kept Carlo Ancelotti’s team in contention not just for a Europa League spot but Champions League qualification.
West Brom’s frustration is that this match could have panned out very differently if they had taken even one of the chances created during a long period when they were on top. But just as Sam Allardyce’s men were grateful for good luck and bad finishing by Brighton last weekend, here they had to lament their own wastefulness and a hairline offside detected by VAR in stoppage time.
Sam Allardyce’s suggestion beforehand that he would settle for a draw to prolong his team’s unbeaten streak raised fears he might set out for a 0-0 but West Brom played with enterprise and gusto. The manager identified Mbaye Diagne as one of the keys to their survival, saying his team needed to improve service to the Senegalese striker, who, in turn, needed to hone his finishing. Diagne has looked threatening since arriving on loan from Galatasaray in January but had scored in only of his six appearances prior to the visit of Everton. That goal came in the second minute of last month’s draw at Old Trafford, a result that started the three-match unbeaten run that Allardyce hoped to extend.
Diagne should have opened the scoring in the second minute here, too. There could be no grumbling about the quality of service to the striker as Conor Gallagher burst into the right-hand side of Everton’s box and stood up a lovely cross between Michael Keane and Mason Holgate. Diagne leapt to meet it but could not apply enough power, allowing Jordan Pickford to dive across goal and push away his looping header.
West Brom were not discouraged. Conor Townsend made regular forays down the left, exposing the fragility of Alex Iwobi at wing-back. When Townsend set up Matt Phillips for a cross in the ninth minute, Ben Godfrey had to make a timely intervention to stop the ball reaching Diagne. It was Keane’s turn to come to the rescue before Diagne could connect with a cross two minutes later after an even snazzier move, this time down the opposing flank.
Pickford was called into action again in the 13th minute when Phillips tested him with a low rasper from 20 yards. The side in the relegation zone were looking brighter and more fluent than Carlo Ancelotti’s men, who reeled again in the 17th minute when Townsend started an attack by pouncing on a slack pass by André Gomes. The move culminated with Diagne chesting down a header by Phillips and spinning to fire just over the bar, having held off Holgate and Keane.
It was indicative of the way Diagne unsettled his markers that Holgate was booked later in the half for lunging into a tackle on the striker in a relatively harmless position near the touchline.
Everton showed little acceptable menace until they worked Bernard into a shooting opportunity 20 yards out, although Okay Yokuslu blocked it with a challenge that encapsulated West Brom’s commitment. But that was the beginning of an improvement by Everton, and Darnell Furlong had to make another important block when a shot by Richarlison deflected into the path of Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Three minutes later another fortunate rebound presented Calvert-Lewin with a chance he really should have taken, but the striker’s weak shot from 15 yards allowed Sam Johnstone to make a good save with his feet.
West Brom began the second half with the same verve they had shown for most of the first. Diagne flicked a header just over the bar after a long throw-in in the 51st minute. Then Gallagher skipped into the area and hammered the ball across the face of goal, but no teammate was close enough to prod into the net.
Recognising his team’s struggles, Ancelotti made changes before the hour, withdrawing Iwobi and abandoning the back-three as he switched to 4-4-2. A few minutes later he replaced Abdoulaye Doucouré with Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelander soon orchestrated the breakthrough in a manner that will have pained Allardyce as much as it thrilled Ancelotti. Conceding from set-pieces always angers Allardyce so he would have been aghast when Sigurdsson, after delivering a corner, was allowed to collect the half-clearance and send it back into the six-yard area, where Richarlison jumped to head into the net under little to no pressure.
Everton kept West Brom at bay after that until stoppage time, when Diagne hooked the ball into the net after taking down a cross by Furlong. But a VAR review deemed the striker’s left foot to have been offside.