Everton 0 - 1 Sheffield United
Dominic Calvert-Lewin missed a great chance to take Everton into the break at 1-1 but a goal would have masked serious underlying problems for a Blues side that looks a mess heading into the close season
Everton's abject home form sunk to new depths this evening as they lost at Goodison Park for the ninth time this season in pitiful fashion to the worst team in the Premier League.
Their relegation back to the Championship already confirmed more than a fortnight a go, Sheffield United had just one away win all season coming into this fixture but they out-played Carlo Ancelotti's wretched side in the first half and comfortably held out for the victory in the second against a clueless Toffees attack.
17-year-old Daniel Jebbison became the youngest player to score in his debut in the Premier League era when he slid the ball into an empty net with just six minutes gone and though Aaron Ramsdale made a couple of key saves later in the first period, Everton never really looked capable of rescuing so much as a point let alone the three they needed in order to remain in the hunt for the Europa League.
That ambition, one that you felt was the minimum Ancelotti was targeting when the Blues sat in second place in the table when these two teams last met on Boxing Day, is surely beyond Everton now given that they have another seemingly futile home fixture against Wolves in midweek and must then travel to the Etihad Stadium to face the Champions on the final day.
Everton have had some miserable results on home soil this year but this was the worst of the lot. Predictably, Ancelotti brought the fit-again James Rodriguez into the lineup at the expense of Gylfi Sigurdsson as the only change from the team that started at Villa Park on Thursday but despite appearing to begin with the right attacking posture, they soon succumbed to a fast start by the opposition.
Jack Robinson easily evaded Allan in the hosts' penalty area and fizzed a square ball across goal for Jebbison who arrived unmarked to convert from around seven yards out.
That put Everton in the kind of position in which they have struggled since the turn of the year — needing to chase the game but not being able to fashion enough chances to turn the contest on its head.
After Dominic Calvert-Lewin's shot had been deflected over, Ramsdale pulled off a smart save to deny Allan's goal-bound effort in the 11th minute while a 24th minute claim by Everton for handball in the box by Robinson was waved away by the officials.
John Fleck forced a parrying save from Jordan Pickford and an awful giveaway by Mason Holgate almost gifted the Blades a second goal but Pickford blocked Jebbison's attempt to chip the ball over him and the youngster's follow-up shot was charged down by a covering Blues defender.
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James had been a disappointingly peripheral figure as Everton struggled to string more than a couple of passes together in what was an awful half of football from their perspective but he came close to serving up an equaliser.
First, he chested the ball down on the edge of the box and saw a decent shot deflect over the crossbar; then his superb cross picked out Richarlison but Ramsdale was equal to the Brazilian's downward header and Calvert-Lewin snatched at the rebound, firing straight at the keeper's midriff from close range.
Another ball over the top, this time from Michael Keane, gave Richarlison another promising, albeit difficult, opportunity but he was unable to keep his volley down and he sliced it over the bar.
The start of the second half called for a big performance and a radical shift in posture from the Toffees but despite Sigurdsson coming in for Holgate and a shift to more of a 4-4-2 formation, Everton weren't much better after half-time.
John Egan did well to block an effort from Calvert-Lewin off Sigurdsson's neat pass and Richarlison had a powerful drive from a tight angle batted behind by Ramsdale but it was Sheffield United who came closer to scoring when
Enda Stevens picked out David McGoldrick in the box and Ben Godfrey had to block the striker's shot on the turn over the bar. From the resulting corner, Pickford had turn an Egan header over, although a foul was awarded to the home side for an infringement during the set-piece.
Ancelotti replaced Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucouré with Bernard and André Gomes but Everton created nothing of note in the final 12 minutes plus stoppage time apart from a late, rising Godfrey header in stoppage time as they slumped to yet another loss at Goodison.
With an inferior goal difference to all the teams around them, Everton's European-qualification hopes hang by a thread going into their last two matches but on the evidence of today, it looks more likely they will finish 10th than in the top seven.
That would represent a massive failure by a squad in dire need of significant upgrades but for which, nonetheless, the door to even the top four remained open for much of the season.