Cenk Tosun's form building at Everton with another solid 8/10 performance
An in-form Cenk Tosun inspired Everton to only their second away win in 24 attempts, with a 2-1 result against Stoke City on Saturday as the visitors provided their long-suffering travelling support with some overdue cheer.
A little over a month on from manager Sam Allardyce's suggesting the cold weather had stopped Tosun from settling quickly, the Everton striker was in red-hot form in blizzard-like conditions with two goals.
Stoke's Charlie Adam received a red card at 30 minutes, but Everton initially struggled to adjust to their numerical advantage, and the half-time whistle sounded without the Toffees registering a single shot on target. The treacherous conditions offered some mitigation but not enough to excuse the lack of quality on display from both teams for much of the match.
Fortunately, on a day when many of his teammates fell short in possession, Wayne Rooney grew in influence in midfield in the second half and began to push Everton forward. As the 11 men belatedly applied pressure, Tosun did the rest with his third and fourth goals in the past three games.
Just two months and five starts after his January arrival, Tosun now stands behind only Rooney and Oumar Niasse on league goals scored for Everton this season. Equally pleasing is an all-round game that has seen Tosun add a much-needed attacking focal point and goal threat in the final third, mixing intelligent attacking play with work rate and strong hold-up ability.
The Stoke equaliser means Everton have gone seven away games without a clean sheet, dating back to the drab 0-0 draw at West Brom on Boxing Day. The defence once again cracked under minimal pressure and conceded an entirely avoidable goal. In the aftermath of the Stoke equaliser, the defence briefly looked like they might crumble before Tosun intervened at the other end.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Allardyce kept disruption to the starting XI to a minimum in light of the injury to Gylfi Sigurdsson, though the later use of Dominic Calvert-Lewin as an unorthodox No. 10 was a misfire.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 5 -- Pickford has been the Everton saviour often this season, but fateful hesitation at the vital moment left the goalkeeper rooted to his line as Stoke bundled home their equaliser for temporary parity.
DF Seamus Coleman, 6 -- Stoke focused most of their attacks down his side of the pitch, but the Everton right-back withstood pressure well, using his experience and turn of pace when needed.
DF Phil Jagielka, 5 -- After an erratic start in possession put his team under pressure on several occasions, the club captain also shared culpability for the Stoke goal after dropping too deep and playing the home attackers onside.
DF Michael Keane, 6 -- Aside from one positional misjudgment, recalling a similar mistake in the previous away defeat at Burnley, the summer signing was strong in the air whenever Stoke went direct.
DF Leighton Baines, 6 -- A calming presence at left-back and involved in the build-up to the opening goal but later at fault when not tracking the run of Eric Choupo-Moting inside the penalty area for the Stoke goal.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 5 -- Recalled after missing the Brighton win through illness, the combative midfielder offered his usual industry and tackling ability but too often surrendered possession with slack passing.
MF Wayne Rooney, 7 -- One of the few to capitalise on the extra midfield space generated by the Charlie Adam red card, Rooney created a game-high five chances and kick-started an improved attacking display in the second half.
MF Theo Walcott, 6 -- Walcott threatened often but without much success before finding his range to assist on the match-winning goal. Another of those guilty of poor decision-making, opting to shoot with Tosun well-placed in the penalty area on one occasion.
MF Tom Davies, 5 -- Wasted a glorious headed chance early on and never settled into the game before a concussion cut short his afternoon not long after half-time.
MF Yannick Bolasie, 5 -- The most frustrating Everton player of recent times, Bolasie delivered the cross for the opening goal, but a dismal 47 percent pass completion rate defined an otherwise anonymous performance.
FW Cenk Tosun, 8 -- Willingly chased lost causes in horrendous conditions before twice displaying his penalty area prowess and continuing his excellent recent form in front of goal.
MF Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 5 -- A blend of poor control and bad decision-making as several good opportunities in the final third went begging.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, NR -- Late cameo as Everton held out for the win.
DF Mason Holgate, NR -- Added to the defensive effort in injury time.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.