Striker Wayne Rooney said Everton have “gone back to basics” after they came from behind to beat Swansea City 3-1 and continue their revival under Sam Allardyce.
The Toffees have won four of their past five games – drawing the other – to climb into ninth in the Premier League.
Rooney sealed Everton’s victory from the penalty spot after Martin Olsson was adjudged to have fouled Jonjoe Kenny.
It was the former England captain’s second spot-kick of the night – he had earlier had one saved by Lukasz Fabianski, though Dominic Calvert-Lewin turned home the rebound.
That brought the Toffees level after Leroy Fer had lost his marker at a corner to open the scoring for Swansea.
Gylfi Sigurdsson’s exquisite long-range strike against his former club put Everton ahead after the break, before Rooney’s penalty completed the scoring.
“I think the manager has got us back to basics,” said Rooney. “If we went a goal down, we had a feeling we wouldn’t get back in the game earlier in the season. We are much more solid.
“We didn’t play as well as we can do but we showed great character. Four weeks ago we would have lost that game. Hopefully over the Christmas period we can pick up a few more wins.”
Swansea, who lost striker Wilfried Bony to injury after just four minutes, will remain in the bottom three over Christmas as Paul Clement’s problems worsen.
The visitors had started quickly, with a confidence that belied their lowly status and thrashing by Manchester City last week, looking to take advantage of a sluggish opening from the Merseysiders.
Luciano Narsingh and Tom Carroll drew saves from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, but the hosts responded just before half-time when 20-year-old Calvert-Lewin reacted first to net his seventh goal of the season.
Sigurdsson’s strike seemed to break Swansea’s spirit before referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot for Rooney to score the third, with replays suggesting Kenny had been fouled just outside the area.
“I’m a confident person and believe in myself,” said Rooney of his second spot-kick. “If you look at the penalties I have missed, you will see I put a bit of top spin on the ball so someone could follow up. I’m not giving them up. The second one I put my foot through it.
“I have not set targets for goals, but I am in good goalscoring form and hope that can continue. I feel good and fit. The more I play the better I feel.”
Rooney makes the difference again
A penalty saved, one scored, an assist and a standing ovation.
Rooney’s return to his boyhood club has been anything but dull so far – and his nerve, vision and fitness were once again key for Allardyce’s upwardly mobile side.
The 32-year-old’s start was muted in the Goodison mist, seeming heavy-legged and off the pace.
Was he feeling the effects of starting each of the past four Premier League games? His response, eventually, was a clear no.
For such a prodigiously gifted striker of a football, his penalty record is oddly patchy – he has failed to score from 10 of his 33 Premier League spot-kicks.
It took guts to step up again in the second half after Fabianski had saved his earlier effort. But his strength of character and growing stamina shone through, as he ended with a more positive new statistic to savour.
Rooney is now third in the Premier League’s all-time assist providers, the pass which found Sigurdsson for the second sumptuous goal putting him ahead of Frank Lampard and behind only Cesc Fabregas and Ryan Giggs.
Bright start – same old story
For teams such as Swansea, in an increasingly stark position at the foot of the table, every new corner turned can become a dead end with soul-destroying swiftness.
They started this contest with a verve and self-belief which certainly did not resemble a team that have scored fewer league goals than any other professional team in England or Wales.
Even losing Bony to a hamstring injury so early did not unsettle Clement’s men.
Yet fortune turned its back on the brave this time.
Rooney’s soft penalty a minute before half-time rebounded to an Everton player. Then their former playmaker struck with a wonder goal that will cut deeply, before another harsh penalty was awarded against them.
It is not just tough-luck stories though.
When that bright start fizzled out they did not have enough movement in the final third, and defensively they were slack; Kyle Naughton backing off Sigurdsson too easily and Olsson getting himself in the wrong position even if he impeded Kenny outside the area.
Their next match against a buoyant Crystal Palace feels pivotal.
‘I’ve simplified the game’ – what they said
Everton boss Sam Allardyce told BBC Radio 5 live: “From a tactical point of view, I’ve simplified the game. And I’m man-managing the players. I brought some experienced and talented staff with me, along with the rest of the staff – I want everyone to get better. To turn around so quickly is great credit to everyone. Not just me.
“What looked like a desperate situation is becoming a comfortable one. And now people are looking up the table than down. The last clubs I took over were tougher to turn around initially.
“We’ve got to try to get a result against Chelsea and then we’ll really know what we’re made of. With this confidence if we can get a result there, we’re on the right track for finishing as high as we can. Let’s see if the lads can pull one out of the bag.”
Swansea boss Paul Clement told BBC Radio 5 live: “The performance in the first half was encouraging until we gifted them a goal with the penalty. We have to manage the game better and see it out.
“That gave them belief. We didn’t defend it very well. It was a clumsy challenge and gave them a good bit of motivation coming into half-time. I’m disappointed with the second goal – we were way too open. We had scored from a corner, but this time we played a short corner, then put a ball into the box and they broke from it.
“The third one summed our night up. Our defender should have been goal-side but he was outside the box, it should have been a free-kick, not a penalty. It was clear.
“The mood in the dressing room is very flat. We’re bottom of the table on 12 points. We’ve got to focus on getting to 15 points at the halfway mark. We can’t look further ahead than Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace.”
Man of the match – Idrissa Gueye (Everton)
Comeback kings Everton – the stats
- Everton have come from behind to win 12 points in the Premier League this season, more than any other side.
- Everton have picked up 13 points from their past five Premier League games, one more than they managed in their previous 13 games this season (12).
- Swansea have now lost 19 Premier League away games since the start of last season; more than any other club.
- Wilfried Bony was forced off in the fifth minute of the game, to be replaced by Tammy Abraham, making it the earliest substitution in the Premier League this season.
- Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been directly involved in 11 goals for Everton this season in all competitions (seven goals, four assists), a figure only Wayne Rooney can better (14).
- Rooney has failed to score with 10 of his 33 Premier League penalty kicks overall, with only Alan Shearer failing to convert more (11 of 67).
- The Toffees have won seven penalties this season in the top-flight, more than any other side (scoring five).
- Gylfi Sigurdsson has been directly involved in five goals in his last seven Premier League games (three goals, two assists), after failing to score or provide an assist in his first 10 this season.