Sheffield United continued their promising start to life back in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, climbing up to eighth place after beating Everton 2-0 at Goodison Park.
An ugly game throughout, the Blades took the lead near the end of the first half after an own goal from Yerry Mina. The three points were sealed late on through Lys Mousset, who finished off a lightning quick counter to put the game to bed.
Story of the match
The home side would have the first chance of the contest. Richarlison seemed to be through on the counter, but was let down by a poor first touch. He had to settle for a shot from distance as a result, hitting it wide of the target.
Another opportunity fell to the Brazilian at the half hour mark, but this one was admittedly much tougher. A cross was floated towards the backpost to Richarlison, who went for the audacious scissor-kick. He failed to make clean contact on the ball, however, blasting it well over the bar.
Everton controlled most of the contest, but the Blades would end up taking the lead with minutes to go in the half. A corner from Oliver Norwood was whipped into the area, flying past everyone at the near post. It wasn’t dealt with properly, however, and the ball ended up bouncing off Yerry Mina into the back of the net.
The home side came close to equalizing moments later. It was Richarlison getting involved once again, finding space in the penalty area. He had an open header only yards out from goal, but could only hit the ball right at Dean Henderson for an easy save.
There was a warm moment at the hour mark as Phil Jagileka was subbed on for Norwood, making his return to the Goodison Park pitch.
The second half was just as uneventful as the first, but it finally came to life with about ten minutes to go when the Blades doubled their advantage. It was route one football at its finest, as John Lundstram launched a long ball in behind the Everton defense. Mousset was the first to get there, and he made no mistake with the finish, slotting home through the legs of Jordan Pickford.
That would be the last notable instance of the match-up, as Everton failed to stage a late comeback. United held on to the result with ease, clinching three more crucial points on the road in their fight for Premier League survival.
Takeaways from the match
More rotation up top
United boss Chris Wilder tends to keep the bulk of his starting lineup the same on a week to week basis. That’s been the story this season as well, both at the back and in the midfield. However, the same can’t be said for the forwards.
Wilder went with another new strike partnership this weekend, bringing in Callum Robinson to play alongside Oliver McBurnie. That forced David McGoldrick out of the side entirely, as his inability to finish is what cost United points against Southampton last time out. Billy Sharp was also unavailable due to what happened against the Saints, as he was sent off in that game, leading to an automatic suspension.
Neither McBurnie or Robinson got the chance to do much, however, and were mostly isolated up top. The one striker who managed to make an impact was the one who came off the bench, as Lys Mousset grabbed United’s crucial second goal on the day. Using his speed to get past the backline, he also showed immense composure to finish from a relatively tight angle.
What this means for the future is unclear, but at least Wilder knows he’s got options he can turn to going forward.
Set pieces play a part
Fans and experts knew at least two things going into the contest. Sheffield United were excellent at scoring from set pieces, while Everton were woeful when it came to defending them.
That’s why no one should have been surprised when United took the lead off a corner, even if it was against the run of play. Norwood put in a sublime cross, and various Blades players all crashed the net at once. On the other side of the coin, Jordan Pickford failed to punch the ball away, and Mina could not prevent it from bouncing off him into the back of the net.
It was exactly what everyone at home and at the stadium would’ve expected to happen.
Everton might be in trouble
It was an impressive victory for the Blades, without doubt, but most of the focus will be on just how poor the home side were on the day.
Coming off the back of a 3-1 loss away to AFC Bournemouth the week before, pressure was starting to build on head coach Marco Silva. Some had hoped Everton would have a chance to fight for a top six spot, but their early season form lowered expectations quickly. However, he was still expected to pick up the win on Saturday.
That would not happen, as Everton never really got going. They had plenty of the ball, but never really did anything with it. The Blues eventually resorted to limping in cross after cross into the penalty area, which was an odd decision considering they’ve not got much height in the team.
They were rightly booed off the pitch by the Goodison Park faithful, as the result meant Everton dropped down to 14th place in the league.
Man of the match: Dean Henderson
There was no one who stood out in particular for the Blades on the day, as it was very much a team effort to seal the win.
In that case, the most crucial player for United on the day was ultimately goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who was able to secure his second clean sheet of the campaign.
He didn’t have to do much, but the Englishman stepped up when he needed to, making a number of key saves early on to keep the scores level.
Some fans might have started to worry when the 22-year-old made some mistakes to start the season, but Henderson has since adjusted to life between the sticks at the highest level, which is great news for all involved.