Everton 0-2 Sheffield United: The talking points from today's victory at Goodison Park
The Star’s James Shield identifies some of the issues to emerge from today’s win at Everton.
BUILT AT THE BACK: Sheffield United's back three - Chris Basham, Jack O'Connell and in particular John Egan - were superb throughout. Phil Jagielka, who spent 12 years at Everton before returning to Bramall Lane earlier this summer, was also exceptional when he came on during the closing stages. Admittedly there were times when United's rearguard found themselves making last ditch challenges. But for the most part, even though Everton dominated possession at the beginning of the fixture, Dean Henderson had relatively little to do. That was thanks to the discipline and attention to detail of United's defenders. They laid the foundations for this win.
A SPECIAL MOMENT: United's opening goal was scrappy, with Everton's Yerry Mina turning the ball into his own net from Oliver Norwood's corner. But their second was expertly created by John Lundstram, whose pass into space behind Everton's defence shepherded Lys Mousset into exactly the right area to beat the advancing Jordan Pickford. Lundstram, told he was not good enough to build a career at Goodison Park earlier in his career, will savour the moment.
THE GAME HAS GONE: Marco Silva, the Everton manager, appeared to suggest Mina's own goal should have been ruled out after being referred to VAR. "For me," he said afterwards, "It looks like a free-kick to us." The Portuguese was referring to Callum Robinson's challenge on Jordan Pickford, as they contested Norwood's set-piece. There might have been some contact between the players. But if there was, then the Everton goalkeeper was simply not strong enough. The game is in danger of becoming a non-contact sport if challenges like the one Robinson made are even subjects for debate.
PERFECT RESULT, IMPERFECT DISPLAY: Whatever strategy they devise, whatever system United employ, the basic tenets of Chris Wilder's footballing philosophy never change. He wants his teams to go forward, not sideways or back, and always try and pressurise the opposition. There were times during the first-half, though, when United simply found that impossible to do. Everton's pressing game, which admittedly unravelled as the opening period wore on, meant the only only real option often to available to O'Connell and Basham was to play the ball square. Like their defensive colleagues, United's midfielde's fared no better until Mina's own goal changed the dynamic of the game.
WHY UNITED DESERVED TO COME THROUGH: United had been second best for most of the opening 45 minutes. Coaching staff can dress it up how they like. But if the first-half had been a boxing match, Everton would have been heading for a routine points victory until Mina's own goal. Wilder's demeanor on the touchline betrayed that fact. Still, as every fighter knows, sometimes you just have to cover up and take some punishment on the ropes before coming out swinging again. Admittedly, it would be stretching it too far to say United had Silva's side reeling by the time they took the lead. But doing so was a reward for their durability, determination and at times, particularly at the beginning of the half, sheer bloody-mindedness.