BT Sports commentator Darren Fletcher opened his coverage of yesterday’s Premier League match between Burnley and Everton with the information that the ensuing encounter would be the most eagerly anticipated fixture of the weekend in Colombia.
South American soccer aficionados would be rousing themselves from slumber at 7.30 am to view live events beamed in from Turf Moor.
Sadly, it would seem that this was not a result of a surge of enthusiasm from chapters of Clarets fans from Bogota to Medellin, rather the presence in the Everton team of “the other” J. Rodriguez, Colombian international James, whose preferred name pronunciation dictates he is referred to as “Ham-es”.
If those watching from the foothills of the Andes were expecting that their hero would inspire his Everton colleagues to a memorable victory, then their hopes were dashed as early as the third minute.
Another South American Evertonian, the Brazilian Allan fired a hurried pass upfield only for the alert Ashley Westwood to nip in and slip the ball to Robbie Brady, who guided a right foot shot from outside the penalty area with laser precision into the bottom corner of Jordan Pickford’s goal.
On a completely different note, I recall a time when Brazilian footballers had exotic names that really stirred the imagination; names like Garrincha, Zagallo, Rivellino, Pele, Jairzinho and Socrates. Nowadays they bear mundane Yorkshire style monikers such as Allan or Fred. I wonder why?
Brady’s goal was apt reward for a positive and determined "on the front foot" opening from the Clarets of the type that has become their trademark, but sadly largely absent so far this season. The midfield pressed hard and fast, retrieving possession, and using it productively.
Matt Lowton seized on a woeful throw out from Pickford and whipped in a dangerous cross, only the outstretched leg of an Everton defender denied Chris Wood a second Burnley goal.
Wood was also denied again shortly afterwards when Pickford darted from his line to block his shot after being put through following another neat passage of probing, Clarets attacking play.
Mid first half, Everton’s Fabian Delph was forced to limp from the field of play with a hamstring injury, an unfortunate occurrence for both the player and consequently for Burnley.
Carlo Ancelotti substituted Delph with the talented Andre Gomez and his introduction created a tactical adjustment which also initiated three minutes of added time. Precious minutes which helped to provide the Toffees with a very controversial equaliser.
The re-shaped Everton formation afforded them a greater attacking impetus, and when Westwood was unfairly bundled off the ball by Allan and the woefully inept Andrew Taylor waved play on, he was able to feed Richarlison on the Everton left flank.
The Brazilian fired in a cross which was turned past Nick Pope by the sliding in Calvert-Lewin to produce an equaliser for the visitors in the last of those three added minutes.
In my piece on the corresponding fixture last season, I mentioned that Calvert-Lewin had much work ahead of him if he wished to be ranked alongside some of the illustrious predecessors who have played centre forward for Everton.
The rapid and spectacular improvement in the Everton striker’s game this season is quite clearly a result of my words of motivation. Ancelotti admittedly might have also had a bit to do with it, but I am claiming most of the credit, or as my fellow Clarets fans would view it after his goal yesterday, most of the blame!
The second half was a little more disjointed, but the game remained entertaining enough, with chances at both ends, most of them thwarted by the respective goalkeepers.
In front of the watching England boss Gareth Southgate, the two principal contenders for the England goalkeeper shirt each made a number of excellent saves to ensure that the scores remained level.
Pope’s athletic dive to turn Rodriguez’s curling shot around the post and Pickford’s wonderfully sharp, swooping response to stop Wood’s header from a corner were spectacular highlights of that particular sub-plot.
All in all, a point shared at the end of an agreeably easy to watch game, perhaps a game Burnley should have won, but equally one which they could easily have lost. The best news for the Clarets was a demonstrable uptick in the general level of performance. Long may that continue.
Dave Thornley reflects on a much-improved performance from the Clarets following the awful shellacking at the Etihad last week. (TEC)