An outstanding solo effort by Richarlison was enough to see Everton come away with all three points against a lacklustre Brighton side at Goodison Park on Saturday afternoon.
It was a tense and fiery opening to proceedings with both sides fashioning chances and Theo Walcott was denied a penalty by VAR in just the fifth minute after what looked to be a clear pull-back by Lewis Dunk.
Everton were able to create some decent half chances as Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Theo Walcott continued to probe a resolute Brighton defence, with Lewis Dunk making a number of blocks. The away side failed to get going in the opening exchanges, although the game started to balance out with Brighton starting to see more of the ball.
The Toffees finally got their breakthrough after Richarlison struck in the 38th minute mark after a superb piece of footwork in the box, neatly turning Adam Webster and finding the bottom right-hand corner with a spectacular curling effort.
The start of the second half was almost a carbon copy of the first, with Everton dominating possession of the ball without really testing the palms of Matt Ryan. There were shouts for another penalty after Calvert-Lewin was brought down in the area by Dunk, however VAR deemed it a fair challenge.
Brighton's best chance of the game came in the 52nd minute as Leandro Trossard rattled the bar from 20 yards out with Jordan Pickford beaten. The Belgian cut back onto his right boot and unleashed a furious shot and was unlucky not to find the back of the net with his effort.
Calvert-Lewin thought he had added a second for Everton in the 75th minute after bundling the ball over the line following a Lucas Digne corner, however VAR ruled the goal out after Calvert-Lewin was adjudged to have handled the ball.
Key Talking Point
Following their embarrassing 1-0 defeat at the hands of a severely weakened Liverpool side in the FA Cup third round Merseyside derby, Carlo Ancelotti would have wanted to see a response from his side.
A response is exactly what the Everton faithful received, with the home side much improved against Brighton. The Toffees were relentless going forward in the first half and were rewarded with a stunning solo goal from Richarlison. More importantly, Everton were resolute defensively, with a mature display from the centre-back pairing of Michael Keane and Mason Holgate.
Everton continued to hound the Brighton goal with a number of chances in the second half and would have won the game by a more convincing scoreline on another day, or against another goalkeeper. So far so good for Ancelotti and Everton who returned to winning ways on Saturday afternoon.
Starting XI: Pickford (6); Sidibé (6), Keane (6), Holgate (7), Digne (6); Walcott (6), Davies (7), Sigurdsson (6), Bernard (6); Calvert-Lewin (7), Richarlison (8*)
Substitutes: Coleman (6), Delph (6), Mina (N/A)
Star Player - Richarlison
In truth, Everton had a host of contenders for the 'Star Player' accolade. Theo Walcott had an explosive first-half and was unlucky not to find the back of the net with the number of chances he had on goal, meanwhile Calvert-Lewin worked tirelessly for the Toffees and had another outstanding game.
However, it was Richarlison who scored the game-winning goal and what a goal it was, too. The Brazilian samba danced his way through the Brighton challenges and scored his eighth Premier League goal of the season.
Richarlison has been playing with pure heart today. Really giving his all— Vice City Evertonians (@ViceCityEFC) January 11, 2020
Richarlison's goal was quite something. Surely Ancelotti has improved and developed him. That's what top managers do. They improve players. — Babanla (@biolakazeem) January 11, 2020
I wonder what big club will snap up Richarlison this summer. Too good for Everton— Jamie (@jmemc55) January 5, 2020
It was another improved display from the 22-year-old, who seems to be benefitting from playing under the expertise of Carlo Ancelotti. The Brazilian worked his socks off throughout the game and fought for every single ball which raised the spirits of those watching on at Goodison Park.
Key Talking Point
Despite a strong start to the season for Graham Potter's side and playing some good football, Brighton's achilles heel is their inconsistency in results. The Seagulls had won one, drawn one and lost three of their last five games prior to Saturday's fixture and need to start putting some wins together if they are serious about finishing in the top half of the table.
Brighton have gone behind first in 12 games so far this season and have failed to come back to win in 11 of those. This stat summarises the problems that exist at the club - a lack of spirit, belief and , at times, fight - meaning Potter has a tough job on his hands if he is to galvanise his side and avoid falling behind in future games.
Despite a much improved second-half display from Brighton, Potter will no doubt be concerned about the lack of fight his side showed in response to going a goal down in the first half and will look to make amends in the coming weeks.
Starting XI: Ryan (8*); Webster (5), Duffy (5), Dunk (5), Montoya (4); Pröpper (6), Stephens (6), Bernardo (6); Jahanbakhsh (5), Maupay (5), Trossard (6)
Substitutes: Groß (5), Alzate (5), Murray (6)
Star Player - Mathew Ryan
Despite their shortcomings up top, Brighton have a truly exceptional goalkeeper in Mat Ryan and the Australian proved he is worth his salt with a number of outstanding saves to deny Everton on Saturday afternoon.
Additionally, Ryan pledged to donate A$500 to help fight the bushfires that have engulfed Australia for each save made by a Premier League goalkeeper.
Two very good saves from Matt Ryan in the last 5 minutes have kept #BHAFC in the game, still 1-0 to the hosts 20 mins left— BBC Sussex Sport (@BBCSussexSport) January 11, 2020
Matt Ryan really wants to save those Koalas bra— optimus prime. (@Kea_IsTheName) January 11, 2020
Matty Ryan is better than prime Buffon— Michael (@CarloMagnific0) January 11, 2020
If it were not for the heroics of Ryan in the Brighton goal, the Seagulls may well have been four or five down before half time. The 27-year-old did his best to keep the Everton strikers at bay throughout the game and warrants the 'Star Player' title.
Meanwhile Brighton host Aston Villa at the Amex Stadium before travelling to the Vitality Stadium to take on a relegation threatened Bournemouth side in a must-win game for the Cherries three days later.