Ronald Koeman will face yet more difficult questions at Everton after Jeff Hendrick bolstered Burnley’s impressive away record with the winner at Goodison Park.
Republic of Ireland international Hendrick was on the end of a sweeping move as the Clarets’ 1-0 win was added to a collection of positive road results already featuring a victory at Chelsea and draws at Tottenham and Liverpool.
But it plunged Everton straight back into a crisis, with last weekend’s win over Bournemouth – their only league victory since the opening day of the season – a distant memory as four league defeats in five matches have left manager Koeman’s side just two points above the bottom three.
Burnley’s 12-point haul represents their best start to a Premier League campaign. In contrast to their hosts, who looked disjointed and desperate at times despite some significant summer investment, each one of Sean Dyche’s players knows the game plan and they never deviate from it.
Hendrick easily side-stepped Morgan Schneiderlin in the penalty area to slide home a low shot after Scott Arfield and Stephen Ward combined down the left towards the end of a 24-pass move bettered only in numbers by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City this season.
Everton visibly crumbled, with Ashley Williams lucky to escape when his clearance rebounded off Hendrick to Arfield, who was booked for diving in the penalty area after the pedestrian centre-back attempted to correct his error.
Koeman had criticised his players for being “afraid” after the midweek Europa League draw at home to Apollon Limassol and he injected some youthful exuberance with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Nikola Vlasic given starts.
Oumar Niasse, ineligible in Europe after being excluded from the squad, made his first league start for Everton since May 2016 and his first under Koeman.
He partnered Calvert-Lewin up front, with Wayne Rooney dropped to the bench for the first time since his return from Manchester United.
For a while it appeared to be working with Niasse’s energy supplemented by some purposeful running from the two youngsters, creating two chances for Gylfi Sigurdsson. But the Iceland international – so clinical for Swansea but yet to open his Everton account in the league – wasted them both.
However, Dyche’s Burnley are masters at making the most of what little they have and despite their hosts’ perceived dominance they were able to cut through them with ease midway through the first half.
From there the Toffees laboured with little reward after the break with Rooney and academy graduate Tom Davies sent on for the final quarter to try and break a well-drilled Burnley side’s tight grip on the game.
That they failed was as much down to the Clarets’ resilience as it was to Everton’s failings as Dyche’s men have already proved their mettle in similar situations on the road this season.
Rooney thought he should have had a penalty when his flick-on from Sigurdsson’s cross bounced on to Matthew Lowton’s arm but, unlike last week, there would be no late reprieve.
The boos ringing out at the end left Koeman in no doubt as to how bad a start this has been.
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