It was a drama-fuelled night of football, and not just in the Champions League, as Everton and Burnley played out a relegation-battle extravaganza at Turf Moor.
Sean Dyche’s never-say-die Clarets got their noses in front with Nathan Collins opening his account for the club after only 12 minutes, but momentum soon swung in the direction of Everton as Richarlison bagged a first-half brace that saw him set a new Premier League record.
The Brazilian’s first came after Anthony Gordon went down after contact from Ashley Westwood, with Mike Dean pointing to the spot and Richarlison wrong-footing Nick Pope to his right. The second came upon referral from VAR, with Turf Moor in suspended animation as the overseers at Stockley Park worked their magic under the veil of relative anonymity.
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Aaron Lennon appeared to swipe at the leg of Vitalii Mykolenko, but Dean was unmoved, until that is, he was instructed to view the pitch-side monitor, to which he reversed his decision and pointed to the spot. Richarlison, Johnny-on-the-spot once again, tucked home, same side, same dive from Pope.
That penalty double in the opening 45 minutes proved a Premier League first. Incredibly, it was actually the first time an away side has bagged two penalties during the first half of a match in the competition’s history. Richarlison the pioneer. Pope the unfortunate victim of that unprecedented milestone.
2 – For the first time in @premierleague history, an away side has scored two penalties during the opening 45 minutes of a match, with Richarlison netting both from the spot. Unprecedented.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 6, 2022
In truth it does feel as though Richarlison holds the key to keeping Everton afloat. A talismanic presence who encapsulates the silky, creative football of his homeland, the mercurial Brazilian is a menace in every sense, a player who can ruffle a few feathers but has the skill to determine a game single-handedly.
Given Frank Lampard faces the very ominous prospect of taking on Man Utd, Leicester, Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester again in his next five Premier League games, not to mention that final-day match-up with Arsenal, Richarlison’s continued final-third form will be crucial if they are to give themselves a fighting chance.
However, after tonight’s debilitating defeat, it really is looking like the Toffees could well be saying farewell to their top-flight status, unless they can drastically change their form and produce a late surge that sees them claim a few high-profile scalps.
A second-half salvo from Dyche’s hard-nosed warriors, in which Jay Rodriguez and Maxwel Cornet got the goals has ultimately changed the complexion of the Premier League’s relegation battle, and for Everton, it is looking like a very tall order.