Everton 3-1 Burnley: Andros Townsend nets a STUNNER as the hosts score three goals in six minutes
By Dominic King for the Daily Mail
Published: 18:40 BST, 13 September 2021 | Updated: 00:07 BST, 14 September 2021
Try as Rafa Benitez might, he couldn't help himself. It was only for a split-second but, in the glorious pandemonium, the man who detaches himself from the emotion got caught in the moment.
A sensational six-minute spell had just concluded with Demarai Gray hurtling through to score Everton's third goal, a match-clinching strike that had fans jumping on their seats.
Benitez's team were rampant, trampling all over Burnley, and the celebrations were understandably wild.
Rafa Benitez was in buoyant move after a rousing comeback that took Everton into the top four
Andros Townsend (centre) and Demarai Gray (second from right) were among the scorers
Michael Keane had earlier nodded Everton back into the game from Townsend's delivery
There is no better feeling in football than when a flurry of goals arrive in quick succession and this was breathlessly wonderful. But, usually in such circumstances, Benitez barely flickers. You won't see him running down a touchline, arms twirling – the priority is always to impart tactical advice.
Not this time.
He was attempting to talk to Yerry Mina and Seamus Coleman but Richarlison had raced over to celebrate and made a beeline for his manager, giddily jumping on him. Benitez – completely out of character – responded by giving the Brazilian a brief hug.
Whatever next? Benitez was not universally welcomed by Evertonians but much more of this and they will be as eager to herald him as his players.
Unbeaten in four games and brimming with confidence, this has been the perfect way to assuage those who harboured doubts about him.
Having at one point been facing defeat, Benitez's acumen transformed Everton with goals from Michael Keane and Gray sandwiching a quite superlative strike by Andros Townsend to render Ben Mee's header irrelevant. It was a beautifully ruthless spell, one which augurs well for the future.
Chris Wood narrowly avoided making contact with Dwight McNeil's great cross in the first half
Ben Mee also had a header that narrowly dropped wide of Everton's goal as Burnley dominated
'When you win at home in front of the fans, you have to enjoy it for sure,' said Benitez.
'When you have players with quality and they can create what you have seen here. When you work hard also, these two things mean you can have success.'
This stadium, more than most, lost its soul with the enforced absence of spectators and a visit from Burnley reminded you just how moribund things were here last season; Sean Dyche's men won 2-1 here in March, one of nine defeats Everton suffered at Goodison Park.
There is no chance the figure would have been so high had there been crowds. These fans simply will not tolerate a lack of intensity or application. Those qualities are prerequisites for Benitez, too, and if the locals are patient he has the tools to give them a team of which they can be proud.
However, Mee did find the back of the net on 53 minutes as he powered home from close range
EVERTON (3-4-2-1): Pickford 7: Mina 7, Keane 7, Godfrey 6 (Gomes 61, 6.5): Coleman 7, Allan 7, Doucoure 7, Digne 7: Gray 8 (Iwobi 88), Townsend 8.5: Richarlison 7 (Rondon 81)
Subs not used: Begovic (GK), Kenny, Holgate, Gordon, Gbamin, Davies
Goals – Keane (60), Townsend (65), Gray (66)
Booked – Townsend
Manager – Rafa Benitez 7.5
BURNLEY (4-4-2): Pope 6: Lowton 6, Tarkowski 6, Mee 7, Taylor 6: Gudmundsson 7 (Lennon 76, 6), Brownhill 7, Westwood 6, McNeill 6.5: Barnes 6 (Vydra 76, 5), Wood 6.5 (Rodriguez 86)
Subs not used: Hennessey (GK), Cork, Cornet, Pieters, Bardsley, Thomas
Goals – Mee (55)
Booked – Brownhill
Manager – Sean Dyche 6
Referee – M Atkinson 6
Other than the Gray and Townsend, this was effectively last year's team and they found it difficult in the opening 45 minutes.
Burnley dominated and had the best chances, with Mee heading wide in the 19th minute and Josh Brownhill firing straight at Jordan Pickford.
The locals had started to get restless and a collective growl of displeasure triggered an instant response with Everton scuttling up the pitch through the energetic Townsend, who played in Abdoulaye Doucoure but Nick Pope was equal to the challenge.
Doucoure has been set a target of scoring five goals by Benitez and Everton – who will be without main striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin for a period due to a broken toe – needed something different, like those surging runs from deep in midfield. He would go on to provide two assists.
Everton needed to respond and did on the hour when Townsend crossed for Keane to head in
Townsend then turned from provider to scorer as he unleashed a 30-yard effort past Nick Pope
You anticipated that Everton would roar out of the traps after the interval but it was only after they fell behind to a header from Mee, who nodded in Johann Gudmundsson's cross, that the mood and the performance changed.
Keane's header against his old club set the wheels in motion, as he rose to power in Townsend's 59th minute cross.
It lit a fire in the stadium and provided a surge of adrenaline in the players and off Everton went, taking Burnley apart.
'It had been very pleasing to come away and dominate at a place this,' said Dyche.
'The game got away from us in a mad six minutes.'
The Toffees were in dreamland a minute later when Gray slotted in Abdoulaye Doucoure's pass
Doucoure thought he'd scored just before 70 minutes - but he was denied by an offside call
Townsend was particularly supercharged and his goal was a genuine out of the seat moment, a run and left foot drive from 25 yards that ripped past Pope and was greeted with extra 'oohs' and 'aahs' as it was shown on the replay. Benitez signed him as a free agent 'convinced' he would be an important player.
'Every now and then I like to produce a good goal,' Townsend smiled. 'But I'm working to get ugly ones too!'
He knows Benitez better than most, so it will not have surprised him that he chose to Mina than acknowledge the strike.
He would, however, have done a double take moments later when Gray raised the roof if he saw Benitez and Richarlison hug. He was entitled to savour it. They all were.
Sean Dyche's men only have one point from their opening four league games and sit 18th
Recap with Sportsmail's Alex Bowmer for Premier League coverage of Everton vs Burnley, including build-up, team news and updates.