Patrick Cutrone struck for a late brace as Italy topped Iceland 3-0 in U-21 Euro 2021 qualification on Saturday.
The young Wolves striker started the match and had a bad miss just before halftime, but picked himself up and struck twice in the final 10 minutes to earn Italy the win.
The victory was important for the Italians, who were missing a host of important players. Everton striker Moise Kean was suspended for a red card, while Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo were both called up to the senior squad for Italy’s qualifiers against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Armenia.
Cutrone was involved in Italy’s opener, sending a cross in to Inter youngster Andrea Pinamonti, who then knocked it down for Riccardo Sottil to finish off past the half-hour mark. The 21-year-old Wolves purchase should have scored just after the second-half restart but fired wide from 10 yards out.
Iceland was lively in the match, with a squad that included players from Borussia Dortmund, Brentford, and BATE Borisov. However, it was Cutrone who would put the match away in the 84th minute when he blasted in a rebound off a saved header from Sassuolo product Gianluca Scamacca. He struck again in the 90th minute, firing home a low effort after a Scamacca feed.
Things go chippy at the end of the match, with a member of Iceland’s bench sent off and a small scuffle between players at the final whistle. The Italians pushed up to second in the group, three points behind Republic of Ireland with the victory, also holding two games in hand on those at the top.
Two of the Premier League’s head-scratching disappointments try to get back on track at the other’s expense when Everton hosts Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on Sunday (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
The two-time defending holders reached the quarterfinals of this season’s EFL Cup with a comfortable 3-1 home victory over Southampton, courtesy of goals scored by Nicolas Otamendi and Sergio Aguero (twice).
Otamendi got the scoring started when he headed home Bernardo Silva’s corner kick in the 20th minute. Aguero scored either side of halftime, first by applying the simple finish to Kyle Walker‘s cross in the 38th minute followed by a tap-in from Riyad Mahrez‘s pinpoint service in the 56th. Aguero bagged his brace to mark his 350th appearance for the club (all competitions).
Southampton scored from a corner kick of their own, but it was too little and too late when Jack Stephens headed home James Ward-Prowse‘s ball in the 75th minute. Claudio Bravo wasn’t forced into making his first save of the game until the 65th minute.
Everton 2-0 Watford
Everton scored twice during the final 20 minutes to survive a ropey encounter with Watford at Goodison Park. Mason Holgate put the hosts ahead after 72nd minutes before Richarlison put the game out of reach with the Toffees’ second goal in the 92nd.
Everton boss Marco Silva was forced to make two subs before the second half begin. Defender Yerry Mina lasted just 41 minutes before suffering an injury, and Moise Kean was subbed off at halftime after struggling to produce in the first half.
Burton Albion 1-3 Leicester City
Leicester followed up their 9-0 drubbing of Saints by putting three past League One side Burton Albion. Kelechi Iheanacho and Youri Tielemans put the visitors 2-0 ahead after 20 minutes, but the Brewers fought their way back into the game through Liam Boyce‘s goal in the 52nd minute.
The game remained 2-1 until the final minute of normal time, when James Maddison slammed home a cross from Demarai Gray to make it 3-1 and put the Foxes at ease.
Elsewhere in the EFL Cup
Oxford United 1-1 (4-2 PKs) Sunderland
Crawley Town 1-3 Colchester United
Liverpool is flying atop the Premier League table with Manchester City giving chase, but teams like Everton, Manchester United, and Tottenham are floundering below their expectations. There are players on those squads who expected to be performing at a higher level that have instead struggled to make an impact.
The Iceland international, along with the rest of the Everton attack, has been completely invisible so far this season. With just one assist through the first eight matches, the Toffees have had trouble converting chances, and Sigurdsson was benched for the win over West Ham on Saturday.
Thankfully, for Gylfi, there’s plenty of hope that both he and Everton will figure it out moving forward. According to infoGol’s xG model, Everton has by far the biggest differential between expected table position and actual table position based on chances created. Their expected table placed them fourth in the league before the West Ham game, with their actual position in the relegation zone. The same can be said for Sigurdsson, whose expected assist total is actually up – significantly – from his career total, with a 0.33 mark this season compared to his career clip of 0.21. It will come. In fact, it already has…he scored a brilliant hit from distance after coming on for the final few minutes of the win over West Ham, a goal that could mark the beginning of a return to form for Sigurdsson.
Now, to the players we’re a little more worried about. Nicolas Pepe cost Arsenal a whopping $118 million, but he hasn’t lived up to that price tag to this point. Through eight matches, Pepe has been a periphery player in the Arsenal attack with just one goal and two assists. The xA off his passes so far this season, on a better team, is on pace for about half what he put up last season at Lille. Obviously he’s facing better competition in the Premier League, but the drop in creativity is stark.
Pepe is also taking worse shots than he did last season in Ligue 1, with just a 0.11 xG mark per shot compared to 0.14 last campaign. That doesn’t seem like much, but most breaking that down further, most concerning is his shots inside the box are much poorer than usual. In his 11 shots from inside the area are averaging just 0.13 xG compared to last season where he found a 0.26 xG mark, a massive contrast that expanded to a full season amounts to just a 6.79 xG total for the season compared to his whopping 17.71 xG total last season for Lille. He is on pace to take slightly fewer shots, which makes perfect sense given Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are the two main goalscorers in the Arsenal offense, but Pepe needs to make his own efforts count much more.
There is hope for Pepe. It seems he still is learning the Arsenal offense, and should he improve his play even slightly, it tracks that Unai Emery would entrust him with a more prominent role in the attack. Sadly, at the moment, he appears just a bit-part player with Dani Ceballos instead looking the most impressive creatively.
While Gylfi Sigurdsson appears poised to turn his own fortunes around with Everton likely to pick up the pace this season, his Brazilian teammate’s poor form is far more worrisome. Richarlison has been invisible through the first nine games of the year, and put in yet another anemic performance against a West Ham squad at Goodison Park that defended very poorly and did not play well.
This is Richarlison’s first 45 minutes against a pretty lifeless West Ham performance. Missing.
Marco Silva stuck Richarlison up front in a striker role against the Hammers, benching Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Moise Kean, and it didn’t get him more involved. Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi were excellent and Bernard also played well, with the trio behind Richarlison all excelling to produce Everton’s best attacking display yet, but Richarlison wasn’t invited to the party. He took just two shots and missed the target with both, while completing just 58% of his passes (14/24) including 2/9 in the penalty area. So far this season, Richarlison has not taken a single shot inside the six-yard box, having taken eight last season, with six finding the back of the net.
Richarlison admitted over the international break that his increased defensive responsibilities were sapping his attacking energy, which makes sense, and he approached Marco Silva about changing the tactics a bit. This tracks with his switch to a spot up top in the formation, and while it produced a win for the team, it did little to enhance Richarlison’s form.
Looking at Marcus Rashford’s season-long numbers, it’s a shock that he’s receiving the criticism he’s garnered. He collected three goals and two assists in the first eight games, plus a 4.39 xG total in that span, which puts him on double the pace of last season. Then you look a little closer…two of his three goals and 1.40 xG came from the opening match against Chelsea, and two of his three goals are from the penalty spot. In his last three games, Rashford has three total shots (including a pair of goose eggs) for a total of 0.27 xG, plus a measly xA total of 0.13. In the 1-0 loss to Newcastle last time out, Rashford – in a 90 minute performance – had 0 shots while center-back Harry Maguire had two. The 21-year-old was invisible, attempting just 16 passes (nine of which were backward), failing to complete a take-on, 0/4 in the air, and failing to draw a foul.
In addition, Rashford’s contribution to others in the Manchester United attack has plummeted. Last season, Rashford put together a 0.2 xA mark per game, but the bottom has dropped out of that, falling to 0.06 thus far. Much of that can be attributed to overall team performance in a toothless Manchester United attack, but Rashford has certainly contributed to that as well.
There were plenty of positives to take from today’s performance against Liverpool. While he will still hope his time on the ball increases as the season progresses – Solskjaer’s somewhat negative tactics playing with a lead contributed – Rashford’s movement at times was stellar. On the goal, he utilized a common but effective striker move, drifting towards the near post forcing Joel Matip commit before fading away to the far post where he met the cross. Rashford also completed four take-ons in dangerous areas, adding to the collective showing. Still, he remains miserable in the air (0/5), only received 19 passes all match and delivered just 11 himself, and the goal represented one of just two shots taken (the other was a poor finish when given space outside the top of the area). He was withdrawn after a 83rd minute run that did not produce separation from his defender. The signs of improvement are there, but he must become more consistently dangerous to reach his true potential.
Of all the players on this list, Dele Alli’s season-long performance is by far the most worrisome. He’s completely lost his place in the Tottenham squad, and the few chances Mauricio Pochettino has given him to prove his worth have gone quite poorly. Alli was given his first start of the Premier League season against Watford, and Pochettino clearly hoped to reign in his wandering, giving him a smaller area to cover. His passing in the middle of the field was tidy, but he struggled to unlock a Watford defense that has been porous this season. Alli earned two chances created, but both the ensuing shots were extremely poor efforts from bad positions outside the box. Alli did make his trademark runs through the defensive line and was rewarded with the late equalizing goal, but if he is to earn more playing time over or alongside Christian Eriksen, he has to put in a better overall performance to help Spurs get better results than a home draw against Watford.
In their two Champions League games where Alli has seen the field more, he was even worse. Against Bayern Munich, Alli had little influence, especially in the first half where the game was still in the balance.In Greece he was even less influential, sending 11 of his 27 completed passes backward while failing to record a single shot assist, completing just one take-on, and committing three fouls while earning none. Overall, his body language is extremely poor and he looks like he expects bad execution before mistakes even happen.
This is a tough one because on paper, Harry Kane is in great goalscoring form. He’s bagged five goals this Premier League season, plus a whopping nine goals in his last nine international matches. And yet, the eye test tells a completely different story.
Watching Kane, he has devolved from a quick, crafty striker with excellent off-ball movement to a static target man unable to keep up with counter-attacking chances. Kane has been sapped of his explosiveness, most likely thanks to a host of ankle injuries suffered over the past few seasons. Have a look at Kane’s radar for this season compared to the previous two, and you can see the worrying regression.
As you can see, the xG totals have declined sharply, while so have his shooting totals. Numbers can be rectified with improved play, but watching Kane play tells a whole different story, one of a striker who appears unable to produce the same skill set he once could, and at 26 years old its far too early in his career for that to be a natural transition.
West Ham is unbeaten in 6 away PL games, 1 off club record
Everton has scored just 1 second half goal this season
West Ham has not scored in 4 of past 6 PL meetings with Everton
Everton manager Marco Silva looks to cool his scorching hot seat and pull the Toffees out of the relegation zone as they host West Ham on Saturday morning, live on NBCSN at 7:30 a.m. ET or live online at NBCSports.com.
With just seven points through the first eight matches of the season, Everton sits 18th in the Premier League table and has a hard choice to make about Silva’s job status should they continue to stumble. The club has scored just six goals thus far, third-worst tally in the league. Silva’s biggest job is to shore up the defense, but not far behind is returning Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson to their peak attacking form. The pair have just two goals and two assists in Premier League play between them, and none in their last three games. Sigurdsson especially has been a complete disaster, leaving Moise Kean completely on an island up front, still yet to open his goalscoring account. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been more willing to chip in with his two goals, but it still hasn’t been enough.
They match up against an in-form West Ham side that lost before the international break to Crystal Palace but before that had gone six matches unbeaten, including three straight clean sheets against Norwich City, Aston Villa, and Manchester United. The Hammers sit eighth in the table with 12 points, just two points off the top four.
The purchase of striker Sebastian Haller was highly praised over the summer, and he has already paid dividends with four goals in league play. With Felipe Anderson in good form supporting the attack, the Hammers are a danger up front, especially for an Everton defense left without protection after the departure of Idrissa Gueye. Still, the loss of in-form goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski hurts, and they’ve given up three goals in three halves of play without him so far.
Everton manager Silva on not panicking: “We are together in this situation. One month ago, before the first international break, we were in sixth position and in a good moment. I am the first one to take responsibility but it is good to see the players take it as well.”
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini on attacking mentality: “I think that we are where we deserve to be. I am very pleased with the style of football. We scored a beautiful goal against Crystal Palace, we are making chances and trying to score, we play the most amount of time in the opposite half, we have more shots on target. The fans deserve to have our style of football and we will not change that whether we are winning or losing.”
Everton is in a bad place, but there’s too much talent on that squad to continue like this…right? West Ham is in good form but lost before the international break and isn’t impenetrable. Everton will score a goal (surprise!) and secure a 1-1 draw that’s enough to postpone Marco Silva’s departure at least another week.