A new year brought no change in fortune for beleaguered Everton manager Frank Lampard as Goodison Park turned toxic after Brighton recorded their biggest away win – 4-1 – in the Premier League.
Any sliver of confidence gained from the weekend’s creditable draw at Manchester City was shattered by a performance lacking guts and guile and justifiably greeted with loud boos.
It was typified by a catastrophic seven-minute spell at the start of the second half in which they conceded three soft goals to 18-year-old Evan Ferguson, Solly March and Pascal Gross to add to Kaoru Mitoma’s early first-half strike.
Demarai Gray’s added-time penalty consolation merely prompted yet more chants of ‘Sack the board’.
For the second successive home match the Toffees were booed off as a pivotal month in which they are required to, at the very least, beat fellow strugglers Southampton and West Ham and make some new signings began in the worst possible fashion.
One win and seven defeats in the last 10 matches have left Everton teetering on the edge of the relegation zone and Lampard under severe pressure four weeks away from his first anniversary at the club.
There are no such concerns for Brighton, whose enforced change of manager just six weeks into the season has barely affected them as Graham Potter’s replacement Roberto De Zerbi has guided them to eighth in the table, with this a club-record third successive away win.
The Seagulls were everything Everton are not: organised, fast, incisive and clinical and while the return of Moises Caicedo from suspension made a significant difference in midfield, De Zerbi could afford to leave World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister on the bench for an hour.
Everton had conceded at least one goal in the first half in each of their previous five matches so it was no surprise, after Alex Iwobi had fully extended Robert Sanchez with an early shot, when Brighton took the lead.
Mitoma had already wasted a free header at the far post from March’s cross when he capitalised on Nathan Patterson’s misjudgement of Caicedo’s crossfield pass to nip in behind him.
With the full-back out of position, Conor Coady was left exposed and the Japan international cut inside the centre-half to score for the second successive game via the legs of the sliding James Tarkowski.
Brighton continued to profit down Everton’s right side and almost doubled their lead when Ferguson’s hooked shot beat Jordan Pickford but rebounded off the post after Pervis Estupinan had run 40 yards to tee up Mitoma to cross.
Lampard’s side were too slow in possession and against organised opponents they regularly found themselves running down blind alleys or turning around and passing backwards.
On the half-hour, Seagulls centre-back Levi Colwill stood with the ball midway in his own half, with no-one going to challenge him and Goodison roared its disapproval.
Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin was feeding on scraps but, when Patterson eventually did swing over a decent cross he could only manage a partial header, while the striker failed to capitalise on Sanchez spilling a Gray shot.
Just 12 minutes into the second half the game was over, Goodison was emptying and the ground was echoing to chants of ‘Sack the board’.
When Idrissa Gana Gueye’s sliding challenge failed to cut out a pass to Sarmiento, the Ecuadorian skipped into the penalty area before cutting back a cross for Ferguson to fire home.
Then March went past Mykolenko and Tarkowski, leaving the latter sprawling on the turf, to fire in the third and while the recriminations started among players on the pitch off it fans headed for the exits, with one blue smoke cannister launched into the penalty area.
But even worse was to follow as Everton lost possession from their own free-kick close to Brighton’s penalty area and Gueye’s woeful backpass presented Gross the opportunity to run half the length of the pitch and chip over Pickford.
Gray slotted home from the spot after Iwobi was felled by Sanchez but it did little to appease those left at the final whistle, who again expressed their dissatisfaction at the running of the club while also applauding Brighton off the field.