Sean Dyche had rubbished suggestions that no points and no goals from the first two games of the season constituted a crisis at Everton. Well, they are in one now.
The Wolves substitute Sasa Kalajdzic scored an 87th-minute winner moments after being introduced to deliver his club’s first points of the campaign. Everton have lost their opening three matches for the first time in 33 years and, once again, have only themselves to blame. As was the case against Fulham, another winnable home match against modest opposition disintegrated into another avoidable defeat after Dyche’s side squandered a host of chances.
There were positives for the Everton manager to cling to. Two youngsters, Jarrad Branthwaite and Lewis Dobbin, impressed on their first starts under Dyche while new signing Youssef Chermiti showed promising movement up front. But his team remain abject in front of goal and two home games that must be won to avoid a repeat of recent relegation struggles have yielded only torment. This is a large crisis, to use the old line from Blackadder. And just like Blackadder’s response to a crisis, throwing Michael Keane on as an emergency striker in the 90th minute was the Premier League equivalent of putting two pencils up the nose and a pair of underpants on the head. No wonder the club are close to signing the Udinese forward Beto for £26m.
Gary O’Neil could introduce an Austria international in Kalajdzic for extra firepower in the closing minutes. With a deft glance of the head the striker who missed much of his debut season at Wolves with an knee injury made the perfect impact.
“It was as bad as Fulham in the sense of us creating high quality chances and taking none,” the Everton manager lamented. “It’s not just the strikers, it’s the team. Their keeper was man of the match again and we shouldn’t be making them the man of the match. You have to ask questions about why we are not taking these chances and I have.”
Everton paid a moving tribute before kick off and in the 26th minute to Michael Jones, the 26-year-old Evertonian who died in an accident at the club’s new stadium recently. Applause was still reverberating around Goodison Park when James Tarkowski missed an excellent chance to put the hosts ahead, slicing wide after José Sá had swept the ball off Branthwaite’s toes and straight to his defensive partner.
Sa had earlier tipped a shot from full debutant Arnaut Danjuma onto a post after the on-loan forward had been played clean through by Amadou Onana. Danjuma was flagged offside but it would have been a close call for VAR had he converted.
Wolves were anaemic before the break and vastly improved after it with Pedro Neto, Hugo Bueno and the substitute Rayan Aït-Nouri prominent down the flanks. Fábio Silva flicked a neat finish past Jordan Pickford from a low Bueno cross but was just offside. Moments later he found himself bearing down on Pickford’s goal following a calamitous mix-up between Tarkowski and the Everton goalkeeper but fired badly wide.
Pickford reacted superbly to save on his goalline after Neto’s free-kick struck Branthwaite and almost yielded an own goal. Sá did even better to somehow tip over a diving header from Abdoulaye Doucouré. The midfielder was completely unmarked when James Garner threaded a delightful cross through the Wolves defence. Doucouré fluffed the connection, and should have scored, but his header was still bouncing beyond Sá when the keeper managed to flick the ball up and over his crossbar at full stretch.
Doucouré beat Sá when collecting another Garner pass and cutting across Michael Dawson before rolling a finish into the far corner. Everton celebrations were cut short by an offside flag, a decision that was backed up after a lengthy review by the VAR.
With five minutes remaining O’Neil introduced Kalajdzic for Matheus Cunha. Two minutes later he ghosted between the static Tarkowski and Patterson to steer a glancing header from Neto’s deep cross into the bottom corner. It was Wolves’ first effort on target of the game and a dream moment for the Austrian after his injury troubles. For Everton, however, the nightmare continues.