Albion mean business in 2023 if this showstopping performance is a guide.
They tore Everton to shreds at Goodison, dominating from the moment Kaoru Mitoma scored his fourth goal of the season in the 14th minute.
Evan Ferguson hit the post before Albion swatted the hosts aside with three goals in five minutes at the start of the second half. The outstanding Ferguson marked his full Premier League debut by scoring a close-range second before Solly March scored for the second successive away match.
Pascal Gross turned the mood among the home fans febrile when he waltzed through to make it 4-0 and the rest of the game was all about whether an utterly dominant Albion could enhance their goal difference as a crimson-clad human tide toyed with with the Toffees.
They didn’t, despite creating further chances and Everton got a goal back through Demarai Gray’s stoppage-time penalty. But this was another statement performance by Albion, who are up to eighth and only moving in one direction.
Roberto De Zerbi had made four changes to the side beaten by Arsenal and handed a full league debut to Ferguson, who became our youngest Premier League starter. Moises Caicedo returned after suspension and Joel Veltman came in at right back. A strong bench included Alexis Mac Allister.
Rob Sanchez was called upon after five minutes to make an excellent save when he stretched out his left arm to keep out Alex Iwobi’s right-foot shot, which was heading for the bottom corner. The Spaniard made a more routine stop two minutes later from Tom Davies’ 20-yarder before Albion began to take control.
Mitoma should have scored in the 10th minute after Solly March got past Vitali Mykolenko and crossed to the far post but the unmarked Mitoma headed over from close range.
It didn’t matter. Four minutes later Caicedo spread play from right to left to pick out Mitoma. He left Nathan Patterson in his wake and made an unchallenged run into the box before firing low past an exposed Jordan Pickford with his right foot.
The England keeper was beaten again in the 20th minute but this time was saved by the woodwork. Pervis Estupinan created the chance with a powerful run and pick-out to Mitoma. His ball found its way to Ferguson 12 yards out who connected sweetly on the half-volley but saw his effort rebound off the right-hand upright.
The Irishman wasn’t far away with a hit from 25 yards that only cleared the bar by a foot or so then Mitoma smuggled the ball into the six-yard box but ran out of room and could only find the side netting. After half an hour Albion could have been three up.
Everton won a few corners to rouse their fans but apart from the noise generated by a thousand or so Albion fans a lot of the first half was played out in nervy silence.
Albion were soon back in control at the start of the second half. Ferguson used his body well to create space for a curling effort from outside the box just after the break which cleared the bar but he wasn’t to be denied the goal he deserved. It came on 51 minutes after Estupinan and Sarmiento combined on the left. Sarmiento superbly rode a challenge as he got to the line before pulling it into the path of Ferguson, who could hardly miss from inside the six yard box. What a moment for the 18-year-old.
Three minutes later it was 3-0. Sarmiento chested the ball into Ferguson’s path and he found March coming in from the right. March stepped inside two defenders and with Pickford unsighted placed the ball almost casually inside the left-hand post with his right foot.
Albion weren’t finished. An Everton free kick deep in Albion’s half sailed over and Estupinan cleared. Idrissa Gueye played an awful back pass and suddenly Gross was in on goal. Pickford came out to narrow the angle, but the German nonchalantly chipped it over him and into the net. Albion had scored three goals in five minutes and five seconds and were in dreamland.
Mac Allister was given a warm ovation by both sets of fans when he replaced Sarmiento the World Cup winner fired over before March, teed up expertly by the unselfish Gross, saw a low shot blocked by Pickford. The home fans had began leaving Goodison when the third goal went in and the only noise now were celebrating Albion fans. They even belted out a rendition of the Neal Maupay song when the Frenchman came on to face his former club.
De Zerbi gave Andrew Moran his Premier League debut but Albion were denied a clean sheet in stoppage time. Isaac Price took a tumble under Sanchez’ challenge and referee Marriner awarded a penalty which Demarai Gray swept in. Nonetheless, the final whistle was greeted with a cacophony of boos, except in a corner of the stadium where Albion fans saluted the players. What a night!
Albion: Sanchez, Veltman (Lamptey 70), Dunk, Colwill, Estupinan, March (Moran 78), Gross, Sarmiento (Mac Allister 62), Caicedo, Mitoma (Lallana 78), Ferguson (Enciso 70). Subs: Steele, Trossard, van Hecke.