Not for the first time in his three-month Everton reign, Frank Lampard has sent accusing glances towards Premier League officials. On this occasion, he was angered by a refereeing call from Michael Oliver who waved away appeals when it appeared Richarlison was pulled down by Brentford’s Kristoffer Ajer.
Rather than being awarded a penalty, Everton were quickly counter-attacked and were no sooner watching as 19-year-old centre-back Jarrad Branthwaite was dismissed for bringing down Ivan Toney as the last Everton defender. How quickly it can change, Lampard knows all about the fine margins.
“When you see that shirt pull, that’s a foul anywhere on the pitch,” said Lampard, who was mystified as to why VAR did not intervene. “This ‘clear and obvious’ phrase, I don’t know if it still counts but I think it’s a nonsense. The decision is either right or wrong. And if a referee can’t see it clear and they get the benefit of someone else… it’s right or wrong. Is a shirt pull a foul? Yes. Is it in the box? Yes. It’s a penalty.
“The reality is we’re on the wrong end of a lot of bad decisions this season. That’s hard. I have to represent the club, represent the fans that come here, and those small margins can affect our position and I do believe that penalty on the shirt pull means maybe 2-0 and 11 men and I think we all know how that game goes.”
On the whole, though, the Everton manager was left to search for more answers than those questions posed by the officiating team. He saw his team relinquish the chance of securing their top-flight status for a 69th consecutive season but knows three points from the final two games will be enough. Still, the manner of Everton’s defeat here irked the manager.
Richarlison’s deflected effort off Dominic Calvert-Lewin had given the home team a 10th-minute lead but, with the dismissal quickly following, the game would ultimately get away from them. Not immediately – though Brentford levelled when Seamus Coleman inadvertently turned in Yoane Wissa’s cross eight minutes before the break, Richarlison won and scored a penalty in first-half stoppage time.
It was in the second half it unravelled, with Brentford scoring twice in three minutes just after the hour through Wissa and Rico Henry, before Everton’s misery was compounded by a late red for Salomon Rondon,, who had come off the bench four minutes earlier, for a poor challenge on Henry.
Lampard warned there was no need to overreact. His team had been unbeaten in their last three, winning two of them, but failing to seal their Premier League position has proved to be a task that will go into the final week of the season. For a club who have slumped badly this term and felt the threat of relegation for much of the second part of the season, any way out will be welcomed.
“Seventy minutes in the Premier League with one man down is a really big ask,” Lampard added. “Brentford are a quality team and can move the ball so the effort from the players was amazing. It’s a hard one to react to quickly. It’s one for a day off tomorrow. Their effort was massive and we need more massive effort on Thursday [against Crystal Palace].”
Come the arrival of Palace, Lampard will hope to have more than Mason Holgate available as his only first-team centre-back. Yerry Mina and Ben Godfrey are both injured, Branthwaite now suspended while Michael Keane pulled out of this game through illness.
'We fight and give everything'
Brentford’s 13th win of the season leaves them 11th, and able to target a top-half finish when they get another chance to have a say in the relegation scrap at home to Leeds United next weekend. Their fightback here demonstrated their willingness to attack every game that comes their way.
“To go behind, come back, go behind and come back again shows a team fighting and giving everything,” Thomas Frank said. “It was an incredible performance that says a lot about the character of these players.
“The so-called experts say we have gone on holiday, that we have nothing to fight for, but we want to win every game we play for the Brentford fans and because we respect the league. We will put our best team out next Sunday and it’s so important to understand we need to do our best to win.”