Ashley Young’s unfortunate own goal denied Everton a sixth win in eight matches as Brighton snatched a late 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.
Defender Vitalii Mykolenko looked like being an unlikely match-winner with his first goal in 18 months until Kaoru Mitoma’s cross took a freakish deflection off the Toffees’ other full-back with six minutes remaining.
Having taken the lead, Everton had done a good job of keeping the visitors at bay – assisted by VAR ruling out Lewis Dunk’s equaliser for offside and also a good save by Jordan Pickford to deny the Seagulls captain – and Sean Dyche’s side looked well set for their first back-to-back Premier League wins in 13 months.
It says a lot about how perspectives have changed in the last few weeks that Everton were disappointed with a draw against a team who finished sixth last season, but in the see-saw world of the Premier League the Merseysiders remain upwardly mobile while Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi is still trying to work out why his team cannot convert possession into points.
The Seagulls’ last top-flight victory on September 24 lifted them to third in the table on 15 points; the same weekend Everton won their first game to move out of the bottom three with four points.
Brighton, who have taken just three points from the last 15 available, enjoyed 90 percent possession in the opening 10 minutes but Everton had already managed three shots on target, two of those from Mykolenko in the attack which led to his goal.
The other was a volley from Abdoulaye Doucoure, fresh from signing a new contract, which was parried by Bart Verbruggen who had replaced Jason Steele in goal as one of five changes.
Mykolenko showed a proficiency in front of goal not seen before as his left-foot strike from Dwight McNeil’s cross was parried by Verbruggen only for the defender to lash home only his second goal for the club with his weaker right foot in the seventh minute.
The Ukraine international last found the net towards the end of his debut season in May 2022.
With the pattern of the game firmly established – Brighton ended the game with 80 percent possession – it was set up for an Everton rearguard action and that played right into their hands, with James Tarkowski and Jarrad Branthwaite again excellent against Evan Ferguson, with Mykolenko providing admirable support.
Everton looked to have been breached by Dunk’s brilliant volleyed equaliser at the far post from Pascal Gross’s 15th-minute free-kick only for VAR to intervene as the Seagulls began their long dominance of the ball, although they remained uncharacteristically careless with it and that offered Everton encouragement.
As a result, Dominic Calvert-Lewin found himself in a two-on-two but dragged a shot wide with Doucoure in support, while Joel Veltman’s tangle with McNeil in the penalty area was deemed accidental by referee Tim Robinson.
Joao Pedro’s second-half introduction for Adam Lallana gave Brighton a better option going forward but even then they did not properly threaten, with Pickford’s first genuine save coming in the 55th minute when he tipped over Dunk’s free-kick.
But he could not reach the wickedly dipping ball which sailed over him from Mitoma via Young.