Everton’s impressive record on their travels has brought them closer to Europe. A second-half header by Richarlison sealed their ninth win from 13 away matches in the Premier League this season and kept Carlo Ancelotti’s team in contention not just for a Europa League spot but Champions League qualification.
“At the start of the season no one could say after 26 games Everton would be in the top four or top five but it is well deserved,” said Ancelotti, who says his team must get even better to fulfil their ambitions. “Most of these players haven’t played one game in the Champions League but we are there in the fight. Now there is more pressure. We are fighting for the European places. We have worked really hard to be there and now we have to do a little bit more. We have to step up a little bit. The position now is good but unfortunately it is not the end of the season.”
West Brom’s frustration is that this match could have panned out very differently if they had taken even one of the chances created during a long period when the relegation-threatened side were on top. Sam Allardyce’s men were left lamenting wasteful finishing and a hairline offside detected by VAR in stoppage time. They need to sharpen up before a high-noon showdown with Newcastle United on Sunday.
Allardyce had identified Mbaye Diagne as one of the keys to West Brom’s survival, saying his team needed to improve service to the Senegalese striker who, in turn, needed to hone his finishing.
Diagne has given West Brom a presence up front they have lacked for most of the campaign but has scored once in seven appearances since arriving in January on loan from Galatasaray. He could have improved his tally in the second minute. There could be no grumbling about the quality of service as Conor Gallagher burst into the right-hand side of Everton’s box and stood up a lovely cross between Michael Keane and Mason Holgate. Diagne leapt to meet it but could not apply enough power, allowing Jordan Pickford to dive across goal and push away his looping header.
West Brom were not discouraged. Conor Townsend made regular forays down the left, exposing the fragility of Alex Iwobi at wing‑back. When Townsend set up Matt Phillips for a cross in the ninth minute, Ben Godfrey made a timely intervention to stop the ball reaching Diagne.
It was Keane’s turn to come to the rescue before Diagne could connect with a cross two minutes later after an even move by West Brom down the opposite flank.
Pickford was called into action again in the 13th minute when Phillips tested him with a low rasper from 20 yards. The hosts were looking brighter and more fluent than the high-flying visitors, who reeled again in the 17th minute when Townsend started an attack by pouncing on a slack pass by André Gomes. The move culminated with Diagne chesting down a header by Phillips and spinning to fire just over the bar, having held off Holgate and Keane. It was indicative of the way the striker unsettled his markers that Holgate was booked later in the half for lunging into a tackle near the touchline.
Everton showed little acceptable menace until the late stages of the first half. Darnell Furlong made an important block when a shot by Richarlison deflected into the path of Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Three minutes later another fortunate rebound presented Calvert-Lewin with a chance he should have taken but the striker shot weakly, allowing Sam Johnstone to save with his feet.
West Brom began the second half with the same verve they had shown for most of the first. Diagne flicked a header just over the bar after a long throw-in in the 51st minute.
Ancelotti made changes before the hour, withdrawing Iwobi and abandoning the back three as he switched to a midfield diamond. A few minutes later he replaced Abdoulaye Doucouré with Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelander soon orchestrated the breakthrough, in a manner that pained Allardyce as much as it thrilled Ancelotti.
After delivering a corner, Sigurdsson was allowed to collect the half-clearance and send it back into the six-yard area, where Richarlison jumped to head into the net under little to no pressure.
Everton kept West Brom at bay until stoppage time, when Diagne hooked the ball into the net after taking down a cross by Furlong. But a VAR review judged some of the toes on the striker’s left foot to have been offside.