Two goals in the final ten minutes provided a thrilling conclusion to a largely drab affair as Everton and Nottingham Forest battled out a 1-1 draw on Saturday afternoon.
The first 21st century meeting between these famous clubs did not immediately warrant the wait. Niggling fouls and a card-happy referee – Andre Marriner dished out four cautions inside 35 minutes – made for a clunky and disjointed first half.
Everton had an early flurry of shots as the hosts started faster, taking advantage of a Goodison Park crowd that had its roar whipped up by a blustery Merseyside wind.
Forest began to creep into the contest when their press clicked into gear. Brennan Johnson won the ball off James Tarkowski high up the pitch but Taiwo Awoniyi failed to take advantage of possession inside Everton’s box, tamely firing straight at Jordan Pickford.
Steve Cooper’s side conceded the most shots across the opening fortnight of the Premier League season but limited Everton to ambitious efforts from range, packing their penalty box with red shirts.
Nevertheless, Dean Henderson was forced into a host of superb stops in the second half, rebuffing Demarai Gray’s wickedly whipped set piece before denying Anthony Gordon’s effort from the edge of the box.
Forest hardly carved Everton open themselves, settling for shots from outside the box as well. However, Pickford parried Ryan Yates’ 25-yard attempt to the feet of Johnson who gleefully gobbled up an 81st-minute opener.
As Everton threw bodies forward in search of their first points of the season, Forest managed to survive a penalty box scramble sparked by Henderson’s poor handling.
Yet, after holding firm for so long, Forest were undone by a brutally simple piece of play from their hosts. Pickford blasted the ball forward, picking out Gray’s perfectly-timed run. With Henderson rushing out to his feet, Gray kept his cool to slot in an 88th-minute equaliser.
GK: Jordan Pickford – 4/10 – Not keen on catching the ball all game – which eventually cost his side a goal.
CB: Mason Holgate – 5/10 – Quick to put his foot through a hurried clearance when put under a flicker of pressure.
CB: Conor Coady – 7/10 – Spraying the ball around, Coady marshalled his backline from the middle of Everton’s back-three.
CB: James Tarkowski – 5/10 – Sluggish in possession as he struggled against the buzzing Johnson.
RWB: Nathan Patterson – 6/10 – Forceful and physical as he cantered up and down the right flank.
CM: Tom Davies – 5/10 – Eager to get forward at any and every opportunity.
CM: Alex Iwobi – 7/10 – Impactful on and off the ball as the former winger continues to improve in this new central role.
LWB: Vitaliy Mykolenko – 4/10 – Clumsy as he chugged uneventfully through the match.
RW: Anthony Gordon – 5/10 – Each of his scuttles and scurries barely lasted more than a stride or two before he lost the ball – through fair means or foul.
ST: Salomon Rondon – 5/10 – Tried to shadow the Forest midfield, dropping to begin the build-up.
LW: Demarai Gray – 5/10 – Squandered the numerous opportunities he had to deliver a threatening ball from a raft of set pieces but provided a crisp, composed finish at the death.
SUB: Dwight McNeil (57′ for Rondon) – 5/10 – Skirted around the fringes of the contest.
SUB: Amadou Onana (57′ for Davies) – 4/10 – Very easily unsettled when put under pressure. The £33m addition tried to rectify one such loss of possession with a rugby tackle.
Manager: Frank Lampard – 5/10 – Must have been frustrated to see his side fail to live up to his pre-game demands of being “a bit braver on the ball”.
GK: Dean Henderson – 7/10 – Either side of a clear calf problem he was carrying for the final 20 minutes, Henderson made a raft of assured stops.
CB: Joe Worrall – 6/10 – Thoroughly no-nonsense when the ball was in Forest’s box but uncertain when forced into a foot race.
CB: Steve Cook – 6/10 – Rarely bested by the robust approach of Rondon.
CB: Scott McKenna – 6/10 – A little rash when lured out wide but solid in the main.
RWB: Neco Williams – 6/10 – Regularly found space to whip the ball into the box but produced deliveries of decidedly mixed quality.
CM: Orel Mangala – 6/10 – Snaffled up countless loose balls in a busy performance. Unfortunate to be forced off through injury inside an hour.
CM: Lewis O’Brien – 5/10 – Industrious as he charged around an under-populated midfield.
LWB: Harry Toffolo – 6/10 – Didn’t shirk his defensive duties while still getting forward regularly.
AM: Jessie Lingard – 6/10 – Flitted in and out of the match, providing sporadic pieces of silky play when he did get on the ball.
ST: Brennan Johnson – 6/10 – Made a nuisance of himself snapping at the heels of the blue shirt in possession.
ST: Taiwo Awoniyi – 4/10 – Froze with the ball at his feet 10 yards from goal.
SUB: Ryan Yates (55′ for Mangala) – 6/10 – Added a sense of urgency and thrust to midfield.
SUB: Morgan Gibbs-White (61′ for Awoniyi) – 6/10 – Showed a flash of his wriggling talent.
SUB: Cheikhou Doucoure (84′ for Lingard) – N/A
Manager: Steve Cooper – 6/10 – Set his team up well to frustrate their hosts but – aside from a fortunate parry – didn’t provide many opportunities for Forest to threaten Everton.