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Carlo Ancelotti made a winning start as Everton manager as his side edged past Burnley at a packed and passionate Goodison Park.
The 60-year-old Italian, who won the Premier League and FA Cup double as Chelsea boss in 2009-10, took over at Everton last week and received a fantastic reception from the home fans.
Burnley, after two successive wins, nearly scored inside three minutes but Jay Rodriguez’s header was cleared off the line by Yerry Mina.
Away goalkeeper Nick Pope did excellently to keep out Mason Holgate’s close-range shot and also a later effort from Djibril Sidibe.
But the hosts finally broke the Clarets’ brave resistance when Dominic Calvert-Lewin produced an excellent diving header, which went in off the inside of the post, from Sidibe’s cross.
The win extends Everton’s unbeaten league run to five matches and takes them up to 13th, one place below Burnley.
Ancelotti’s Everton fight hard to win
It is just over eight-and-a-half years since Ancelotti was sacked in a corridor at Goodison Park, not long after the Toffees had beaten his Chelsea side 1-0 in the final game of 2010-11. He was dismissed after a season without silverware, even though he had won two trophies 12 months earlier.
Since then, he has managed Paris St-Germain, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Napoli before making an unexpected return to England following Everton’s decision to sack Marco Silva earlier this month.
Ancelotti has won three Champions League titles and four domestic championships in a glittering managerial career and was given a rapturous standing ovation from the home fans, whose side have not won a trophy since the 1995 FA Cup.
He was joined on the touchline by Duncan Ferguson, who had been in charge for four league games as interim boss and remains part of Ancelotti’s coaching team.
When Silva was dismissed, Everton were in the bottom three, but they were rejuvenated under Ferguson as they beat Chelsea and drew with Manchester United and Arsenal.
And Everton continued their recent revival by finally breaking down Burnley, who defended excellently for 80 minutes.
But the visitors were undone when Dwight McNeil sloppily gave the ball away near the left flank, dispossessed by Gylfi Sigurdsson. He released Sidibe, whose cross was met by Calvert-Lewis’s diving header to spark joyous scenes among the home fans.
Resolute Burnley finally broken down
Burnley came into this match 10th in the table, five points and five places better off than Everton, and on the back of 1-0 wins against Newcastle and Bournemouth.
Rodriguez, who scored the winner against the Cherries after coming on a substitute, was rewarded with a starting spot and nearly justified his manager’s decision inside three minutes.
The impressive Ben Mee headed the ball across the goal and Rodriguez’s looping header went past Jordan Pickford, but Mina was excellently positioned to clear the danger.
Clarets goalkeeper Nick Pope did not have to face a single shot on target in his previous two games, but Everton proved a much tougher test and he had to make good saves to deny Holgate, Sidibe and Calvert-Lewin before he was eventually beaten.
These two teams met on the same day at Turf Moor in 2018, with Everton winning 5-1, but the Clarets defended much better this year, with the central defensive partnership of Mee and James Tarkowski excelling.
One disappointment for manager Sean Dyche will be the lack of clear-cut chances and the fact his side did not force Pickford to make a save in the final 10 minutes as they looked to salvage a point.
Nevertheless, at the halfway point of the season, Burnley still find themselves six points above the relegation zone and in a good position for a top-half finish in the top flight for only the second time in 45 seasons.
Man of the match – Ben Mee (Burnley)
‘The perfect day’ – what they said
Carlo Ancelotti told BBC Match of the Day:“For me, it was a really special moment [being introduced to the crowd]. After that, I saw a good performance and a good result. Today was a perfect day. I’m happy because we need points to move up the table. It was a difficult game because Burnley played a strong game but we deserved the result.
“We tried to build up with three defenders to put more players between the lines, and some situations were good for us and others have to improve. This is normal and I didn’t want to change a lot for the players. I have seen some good things. The spirit of the team, the fact Everton is a family and we have fantastic facilities.”
On the festive schedule: “We are used to recovering after three days, but after two days is too much in my opinion. We have to play but it is impossible to recover so it affects the performance, not just for us, but also for Newcastle.”
Sean Dyche told Match of the Day:“I thought we coped with it [Ancelotti’s first game]. We quelled the game in the first half, which was the game plan because we thought they would play with energy. We never really looked in too much trouble and then we wanted to progress in the second half. It was a giveaway in the second half and they nicked it.
“It was a poor mistake, Dwight [McNeil] is a fantastic footballer and he will learn. Our two centre-halves were excellent today and I was pleased with the defensive side of the team.
“We know we have to work for those collective moments of quality in the final third. The next pass and the next detail is what we are trying to consistently improve on. But it was a good ball in and a great finish to credit them.”
Ancelotti maintains Goodison charm – the stats
- Carlo Ancelotti has only lost his first game in charge of a team in all competitions once in his managerial career (W7 D2 L1), going unbeaten in his last eight such matches. This sole defeat came with Parma in 1996.
- No permanent Everton manager has lost their first Premier League game in charge when it’s taken place at Goodison Park, with Ancelotti the eighth to avoid defeat (W5 D3).
- Burnley have won just one of their last 16 away league games played on Boxing Day (D4 L11), with that victory coming at Barnsley in the Championship in 2010.
- After losing back-to-back home Premier League games in September, Everton have lost just once in their last six at Goodison Park (W3 D2 L1).
- Burnley failed to land a single shot on target in this game, attempting six shots in total (all off target).
- Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored six goals in 17 Premier League appearances this season, as many as he bagged in 35 games last term.
- Calvert-Lewin has scored three goals in his last three Premier League games at Goodison Park, as many as he netted in his previous 21.
- Only Trent Alexander-Arnold (6) and Andy Robertson (5) have more Premier League assists this season amongst defenders than Everton’s Djibril Sidibe (4).
Everton now have a run of three away games, beginning with Newcastle on Saturday (15:00 GMT), then Manchester City on New Year’s Day (17:30) and the Merseyside derby at Liverpool on Sunday, 5 January (16:01 GMT) in the third round of the FA Cup – a match you can see live on BBC One.
Burnley are at Turf Moor three times in a row – against Manchester United on Saturday (19:45), Aston Villa four days later (12:30), then League One side Peterborough United in the FA Cup on 4 January (12:31).