Everton have been top of the table this season, Burnley always close to bottom, yet they proved surprisingly evenly matched in an entertaining draw. Rightly or wrongly both teams feel they ought to be winning games such as this and both created enough opportunities, though with two goalkeepers on top form neither proved capable of asserting themselves sufficiently to claim all three points.
“I was pleased with quality we showed, we kept going right to the end,” Sean Dyche said. “I’m not naive though, we have to turn these performances into wins. You can’t luck out in the Premier League.”
Carlo Ancelotti was similarly frustrated. “We have to accept the result, the start was not good and we had some problems at set pieces,” the Everton manager said. “I thought Gylfi [Sigurdsson] might win it for us at the end, but Nick Pope did very well. Gareth Southgate has to be really pleased.”
Everton began woefully, sloppy passing by Alex Iwobi and Allan in their own half surrendering possession to Robbie Brady, who lost no time in tucking a shot inside Jordan Pickford’s right upright from a couple of yards outside the penalty area. It was the second goal Burnley have scored in the league at home this season and they hardly had to work for it. Indeed, with under three minutes on the clock they had barely broken sweat.
That left the visitors 87 minutes to find an equaliser and at first it looked as though they might not have to wait too long. Starting as a wing-back Iwobi was enjoying plenty of space on the right and when he found Dominic Calvert-Lewin with a low cross it took a good stop on the line from Pope to prevent a goal.
Iwobi sent his next cross straight at the goalkeeper and then Richarlison brought another save from Pope when squaring to Calvert-Lewin in the middle might have been a better option.
Ancelotti was obliged to change his side’s shape a little when Fabian Delph pulled up with a hamstring strain just before the half-hour, though many Evertonians would argue the player is not cut out to be a left wing-back and prefer the 4-3-3 formation adopted when André Gomes came on as a replacement, even if it did involve Iwobi operating at full-back on the right.
Pickford came to his side’s rescue five minutes before the interval, leaving his line smartly to deny Chris Wood when Dwight McNeil played a clever ball behind the backline, then in the three minutes of stoppage time occasioned by Gomes accidently catching Josh Brownhill with an elbow to the face Burnley were caught by surprise when Richarlison finally opted to cross instead of shoot. Alertly found in space on the left by Allan, the Brazilian knew Calvert-Lewin was in the centre and crossed first time, accurately enough for the striker to claim his 11th league goal of the season with a delicate sliding touch to divert the ball past Pope.
Once level, Everton began to show their quality in the second half, with James Rodríguez exerting more and more influence and Gomes showing his usual vision and touch. But for Pope’s outstretched fingertips Rodríguez would have put his side in front shortly after the break, his curling shot to complete a move started by Gomez was on target until the keeper reached it to turn it away.
McNeil was always a danger for the home side, at one point midway through the second half he produced a turn so tight it left Allan and Iwobi trailing in his wake, though increasingly the game was being played around the edge of the Burnley area.
Ashley Barnes was sent on for the last 15 minutes to do something about that and his cross might have been converted by Wood but for Yerry Mina’s timely interception, before Pickford produced an agile stop to keep out Barnes’s close-range header from a corner.
That might have been the save of the afternoon, though Pope came up with an equally important one when Sigurdsson looked certain to score right at the end.
Watched by Southgate, the two England goalkeepers on show were responsible for keeping the second half scoreless. A draw was unquestionably a fair result, even if both sides wanted and expected more.