Brighton and Hove Albion 1 Everton 5
Everton scored in the first and last minutes as Albion suffered their biggest defeat under Roberto de Zerbi, leaving the Seagulls’ European hopes in tatters.
A misplaced back heel by Kaoru Mitoma in the first few seconds allowed the ball to be played to Dominic Calvert-Lewin who side-stepped Lewis Dunk and found Abdoulaye Doucoure who smacked the ball home with barely 30 seconds gone.
Albion didn’t looks too bothered but cracks started showing after misplaced passes by Danny Welbeck and Pascal Gross. Mitoma also appeared to be having a difficult time finding his range
Calvert-Lewin saw another shot go narrowly wide after good work by Dwight McNeil – and it was McNeil who ran the length of the pitch and hit the pinpoint cross that Doucoure excellently volleyed past Jason Steele for 2-0.
Before the half ended, McNeil was at it again as Everton countered a long period of ineffectual possession from the Seagulls. Danny Welbeck lost the ball and McNeil’s cross, intended for Doucoure, hit Steele’s knee and bounced into the net leaving Albion three goals down after 35 minutes.
Albion were having plenty of possession but doing oh so little with it. Everton were coping easily with Facundo Buonanotte on one side and Mitoma on the other. It was so compact in the final third, with Everton adapting to two clear banks of four.
As the half ended it was doubtful that Jordan Pickford in the Everton goal had even dirtied his gloves.
Albion made four substitutions at the start of the second half. On came Evan Ferguson, Julio Enciso, Levi Colwill and Solly March for Welbeck, Buonanotte, Deniz Undav and Adam Webster.
March immediately stretched the play and started to provide the crosses for Ferguson that Welbeck had craved.
Albion had a flurry of crosses and corners as Everton were penned back, with Ferguson skipping past a couple of challenges and forcing Pickford to tip a fierce drive on to the bar. Albion looked like they meant business.
Soon after Pickford pushed a Mac Allister header on to the post.
Pickford then made great saves from Ferguson and March before Alex Iwobi relieved the pressure on the entire team by bursting through the Albion defence and allowing the impressive McNeil to wrong-foot Dunk and Steele and essentially walk the ball into an empty net arms aloft.
Not long after, Albion got one back. Mitoma’s shot rebounded the post into a flat-out Mac Allister and bounced into the back of Pickford’s net.
Two minutes later a Mitoma volley destined for the top corner but was inexplicably cleared from underneath the crossbar by Albion defender Colwill.
Albion’s misery was then complete as Iwobi again found McNeil who sprinted half the length of the pitch, past Gross, and fired Everton’s fifth past Steele.
It was Albion’s heaviest defeat since Bournemouth won by the same score in April 2019 – and it was the heaviest defeat of De Zerbi’s reign.
Albion stay seventh, two points behind Tottenham but with two games in hand.
Everton climbed to 16th but, after Nottingham Forest beat Southampton in the 8pm kick off, the Toffees dropped back to 17th, just one place outside the relegation zone.
Albion take on Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday (14 May).