RAFA BENITEZ was always a manager on borrowed time after taking the Everton job.
But after another shocking performance, you wonder how much of it the former Liverpool manager has left.
Because not for the first time this season, Benitez’s side were outplayed and left disappointed at home.
Shambolic defending gave Brighton a two-goal headstart as Alexis Mac Allister and defender Dan Burn gave Graham Potter’s side a dream start.
Mac Allister grabbed Brighton’s third as academy graduate Anthony Gordon showed Benitez’s stars what it means to play for Everton with a brace of his own.
It could have been a lot different had Dominic Calvert-Lewin not marked his return from injury for the first time since August with a first-half penalty miss.
Defeat leaves the Toffees with just one win from their last 12 matches and looking down at the relegation zone.
It is the club’s worst ever top-flight record starting from October.
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As for Brighton, it is their first ever win at Goodison Park at the tenth attempt after losing their last four in the Premier League.
It sees them climb up to eighth and claim back the ‘best of the rest’ title.
Benitez made four changes from the side who stole a point at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago with Demarai Gray, Seamus Coleman and Allan all coming into the side along with Calvert-Lewin.
While Graham Potter shuffled his pack by reintroducing defender Adam Webster, Enock Mwepu and Leandro Trossard into the starting line up.
With Covid running rampant at the Toffees the side had the chance to rest and recover over the Christmas period with their games postponed.
Yet despite being made to work for a point against Chelsea on Wednesday night, it was Brighton who looked the fresher of the two sides.
And it immediately paid off as the visitors did not wait around to get 2022 off to the best possible start as Mac Allister opened the scoring after three minutes.
The ball was worked out wide to full-back Joel Veltman who sent a ball into the box for Neal Maupay to cushion down a header.
It fell perfectly for Mac Allister to finish first time past a scrambling Jordan Pickford.
The goal awoke Everton from their Christmas slumber as Benitez’s side as both Gray and Coleman whipped in crosses which forced Brighton to clear.
But if the Toffees' defending was woeful for Brighton’s first – it was atrocious as Burn hit the second.
Enock Mwepu revived a poor corner with a flick on at the near post which found a completely unmarked 6ft 7in Burn at the back post for the easiest of finishes inside the six-yard box.
Goodison Park rumbled with boos as the defender wheeled away in celebration, almost not believing his luck at being left all alone.
And if Benitiez felt the first-half could not get any worse, he was proved wrong almost immediately.
The Spaniard broke into a smile as referee John Brooks awarded a penalty after referring to his pitchside monitor as Mwepu clattered into youngster Anthony Gordon.
It teed up Calvert-Lewin to become Everton saviour once more as he stood over the spot-kick.
And having scored in three of his past four Prem appearances against the Seagulls, he would have fancied his chances.
But the England striker turned Benitez’s smile into a frown as his effort sailed over the bar and into the stands.
Pickford stopped the first-half from being a total embarrassment for Everton as the Three Lions keeper pushed a low, rasping drive from Adam Lallana away.
And it proved to be a vital save as Gordon’s first senior goal seven minutes after the break gave Everton a lifeline.
The 20-year-old academy graduate cut inside before launching a tame effort which deflected off Adam Lallana to beat Sanchez.
Everton found their rhythm which produced some cheers from the Goodison terraces.
But they were soon silenced when Mac Allister notched his second and Brighton’s third after his stunning 20-yard effort found the top corner.
As Everton players began to slump their shoulders and fans began leaving the ground, Gordon lifted the spirits once more.
The midfielder swept in a first-time effort after Jonjoe Kenny’s cross found him inside the box.
Everton piled on the pressure in the dying moments as the fans left in the stadium attempted to muster up an atmosphere.
Gordon came close to grabbing a hat-trick and stealing a point after he stabbed an effort wide of the post.
But the boos rang out at Goodison Park once more this season at the final whistle as Benitez edges closer to the sack.
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