Nine-man Everton imploded to put their Premier League status in doubt. Jarrad Branthwaite and Salomón Rondón were sent off to gift Brentford three points.
Strikes from Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison were not enough for Everton, as Brentford took advantage of Branthwaite’s first-half dismissal winning 3-2 thanks to a Séamus Coleman own goal and headers from Yoane Wissa and Rico Henry, who was the victim of Rondón’s late lunge.
Goodison Road was packed more than two hours before kick-off with fans awaiting the team bus. Chants and blue smoke engulfed the street. The supporters wanted the players to know the significance of survival and what the club means to them. There was no doubting that when the bus edged through the crowds and players disembarked to walk through the blue haze.
Calvert-Lewin quickly showed what Everton have missed for much of this season. Making his first start since 9 April, the striker flicked a long pass back into the path of Richarlison in the third minute. The Brazil forward controlled the ball but had it whipped off his feet by teammate Anthony Gordon on the edge of the box, allowing him to jab a shot at goal which David Raya palmed up in the air for Richarlison to attack but he could only head wide.
The home fans were rewarded within 10 minutes when Gordon was tripped on the right flank. The winger dusted himself off to take the free-kick, whipping in a low cross to the front post for Richarlison to attack. Richarlison’s connection was weak at best, but it was enough to divert the ball across Raya into the corner, trickling into the net via a touch from Calvert-Lewin. Cue an eruption, another flare on the pitch and the smell of smoke mixed with optimism.
That optimism quickly dissipated in a controversial 10-second spell. Richarlison claimed he deserved a penalty after having his shirt pulled by Kristoffer Ajer in the box but the referee, Michael Oliver, saw nothing illegal in the grappling. Mathias Jensen cleared the ball upfield for Ivan Toney to chase. The poor positioning of Everton’s defence gave the striker a head start. Branthwaite raced behind the striker towards his own goal but he curtailed Toney’s run outside the area by pulling him down, resulting in a red card. There was fury in the ground but VAR saw no reason to overturn either decision, forcing Branthwaite to trudge off.
The tension in the stands was transmitted on to the pitch in the 31st minute when Richarlison lay on the ground hoping for treatment. Brentford played on for a period until Christian Eriksen kicked the ball out of play, much to the chagrin of Toney who gave his teammate some stern words of advice on the matter, while being pushed by Adoulaye Doucouré, causing a brief melee between the two sets of players.
The mood was not improved when Everton failed to clear a corner, allowing Brentford to rebuild their attack. That resulted in a Wissa cross from the left being diverted into his own net by Coleman’s flicked header to silence Goodison once more.
Another Calvert-Lewin flick-on ensured the half ended as it started: with a Richarlison chance. He did not get the opportunity to take aim on this occasion because Mads Bech Sørensen pulled down the Everton player, gifting him a chance from the spot. Amid all the anxiety around the ground, Richarlison stayed calm to slot down the middle. Cue more flares.
It was Eriksen who provided the perfect cross for the equaliser. The midfielder whipped a corner to the front post where Wissa found space to flick across goal and beyond Jordan Pickford. Everton’s problems dealing with crosses were becoming clear, which is unsurprising for a team missing a centre-back for the majority of the game.
Before Brentford’s supporters had stopped celebrating the leveller, they were ahead. Jensen’s deep cross from the right was attacked with gusto by Henry, one of the smallest players on the pitch. He leapt out of a sea of blue to power a header into the top corner to complete the turnaround.
Rondón committed the final act with a ludicrous lunge on Henry late on, having only recently come off the bench to ensure a miserable afternoon for all in blue.