A tactical tweak has long been up Rafael Benitez’s sleeve and his change of formation on the hour here proved inspired. Everton were sluggish in the first half, went behind in the second, but rallied to score three goals in six minutes and cement a stunning turnaround.
Whether Benitez was simply correcting a pre-match mistake - when he deployed a 3-4-3 system, the third different formation that he has used in just four Premier League games, but lacked a target man to make it work - his switch to a back four with Abdoulaye Doucoure pushing forward to support Richarlison paid dividends.
Ben Mee headed Burnley ahead before Michael Keane headed Everton level, but the tactical switch liberated Everton. Andros Townsend, in particular, found a new level and showcased what he is capable of by curling a stunning shot past Nick Pope. Demarai Grayalso got his third goal in four games to cap off the turnaround.
Story of the game
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s broken toe prevented him from playing here and perhaps his presence would have helped Everton in their experimental system. Everton lacked a target-man up front whereas Burnley, as always, had two.
Burnley know one or two things about getting balls into the area and two crosses that found Chris Wood should have been finished off. His weak header and skewed side-footed effort should have at least found the target.
Everton were playing with more of a flat back five and such deep defending invited Sean Dyche’s charges on to them. Josh Brownhill’s tame shot was easily gathered by Jordan Pickford as the visitors’ pressure grew. They should have been awarded a penalty when Doucoure hauled Wood to the ground at a Burnley corner, but neither VAR nor referee Martin Atkinson batted an eyelid.
Doucoure, who has been encouraged to play in a more advanced midfield position this season, produced Everton’s best chance of the half. Townsend played in the French midfielder whose low shot brought a good right hand stop out of Nick Pope.
Benitez’s side emerged more playful after the break but that didn’t stop Burnley from taking the lead. McNeil’s free-kick from the left had been headed out by Ben Godfrey but collected by Johan Berg Gudmundsson. The winger adjusted his feet before crossing for Mee to head past Pickford.
Undeterred by going behind Everton pushed on and when Townsend delivered a left-footed in-swinger on the hour, Keane rose to head in the equaliser. It was then that Benitez made his switch and Everton looked better for it.
Townsend, crucially, was liberated. After assisting with the equaliser, he stepped inside from his station on the left and moved centrally with the ball at his feet. The whipped shot that he released left Pope with no chance and it sailed into the top right corner. It was a spectacular goal that lifted Goodison Park as one.
With the lead, and now greater confidence, Everton looked for another. Doucoure, growing in influence, took up possession on halfway and played a low pass forward into the path of Gray. The summer signing took a touch to push the ball ahead of him and then another to calmly slot past Pope for his third goal in four games for his new club.
Having helped Gray with his goal Doucoure thought he had found the net himself when he tapped home Seamus Coleman’s centre but the linesman raised his flag for offside, as he did when James Tarkowski headed into Pickford’s net.
Further chances fell for Townsend, who sent Pope flying into a diving save, and Andre Gomes, who placed his effort wide. Everton had to settle for the three which seemed implausible before Benitez’s tweak.
Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Mina, Keane, Godfrey (Gomes 61), Digne; Allan, Doucoure; Townsend, Richarlison (Rondon 81), Gray (Iwobi 87).
Subs (not used): Begovic, Kenny, Holgate, Gbamin, Davies, Gordon.
Burnley: Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Gudmundsson (Lennon 76), Brownhill, Westwood, McNeil; Wood (Rodriguez 86), Barnes (Vydra 76).
Subs (not used): Hennessey, Cornet, Bardsley, Pieters, Thomas, Cork.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.