Everton save themselves on dramatic final day

28/05/2023 comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 1 - 0 Bournemouth

Everton preserved their Premier League status by the skin of their teeth thanks to a brilliant second-half strike by Abdoulaye Doucouré that secured the victory the Blues knew they needed heading into the last game of the season.

The French-born midfielder, so important to Sean Dyche's side over the past few weeks, lashed home from just outside the penalty area in the 57th minute, shifting the relegation picture in Everton's favour while Leicester City were doing all they had to stay up at the King Power Stadium against West Ham United.

A win for the Foxes would have sent the Toffees down had things finished all square at an emotion-fuelled Goodison Park and the grave danger that a Bournemouth goal posed hung over the Grand Old Lady like an ominous pall through the final 33 minutes of the second period plus 10 tortuous minutes of stoppage time.

Everton, with Conor Coady and James Tarkowski playing alongside Yerry Mina on his swan song, held firm, though, and Jordan Pickford made one last important save of this most stressful of campaigns to keep out Matías Viña's unerring volley five minutes into injury time.

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With Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Vitalii Mykolenko ruled out, Sean Dyche had to cobble together a team capable of beating the Cherries, who had already achieved safety but had not travelled to simply make up the numbers, and he turned to a starting back three for the first time since taking over from Frank Lampard.

Dwight McNeil and the excellent James Garner were deployed as wing-backs and Demarai Gray was charged with leading the line and Everton began the game on the front foot but took a quarter of an hour to threaten the visitors' goal.

Gray won a corner on the right and when it was cleared to him outside the box, he drilled a shot that faded away from the target while Amadou Onana couldn't keep a deep McNeil cross down at the far post.

Everton's best chance of the first half fell to Idrissa Gueye who was played in superbly by Onana but Mark Travers tipped his rising effort over the crossbar and the goalkeeper had to be alert a few minutes later to push away another strong effort from the Senegalese international.

Doucouré bounced a shot wide from distance and Gray almost managed to wriggle past his man before the last defender blocked the ball behind but an error by Tarkowski almost condemned the Blues to a half-time deficit.

The centre-half was dispossessed in a dangerous area but Mina got back to get a crucial touch on Dominic Solanke's shot to divert it behind while at the other end, Garner's curling effort was heading for the top corner but Travers batted it behind.

At the halfway stage, Everton were heading out of the Premier League with Leicester beating West Ham and possessing a superior goal difference but the Blues had another 45 minutes to make the breakthrough and then see out the clean sheet.

That breakthrough should have come just six minutes after the restart but Gray failed with a gilt-edged chance from close range. The ball was nodded on to him in the six-yard box and he just had to get a decisive touch but, perhaps put off contact from an approaching defender, miscued his header and Travers pushed it off the line and it was prodded behind to safety.

Six minutes after that, though, Doucouré imprinted his name indelibly on Goodison folklore with a stunning 20-yard strike. Gueye's floated ball was initially cleared by a Bournemouth defender and when it fell to Doucouré he smashed it home with such velocity that Travers barely moved.

The Old Lady erupted as one in elation before the hosts dug in to try and both defend the lead and pad it if they could but Gary O'Neil's introduction of Keiffer Moore theatened to add unwanted drama to the occasion.

The Welsh international's added height caused havoc at times and it was his knock-down that fell to Solanke in the box but Pickford made a decisive intervention, apparently dislocating a finger in the process, while Mina finished the job by clearing his lines.

Everton's best moments in the closing stages came in transition as the Cherries tried to force home an equaliser and Gray wasted one great opportunity when he slipped trying to test the keeper from the angle before he was replaced by Ellis Simms.

The industrious Alex Iwobi had a shot deflected inches wide of the far post and Tarkowski headed over following a corner while Goodison held its collective breath at the other end as substitute Viña lined up a crisp volley that Pickford beat away.

Anguished Evertonians bayed for the final whistle as a couple of late free-kicks gave the visitors chances to heave the ball into the box but Everton's back line held before referee Stuart Atwell finally blew for full-time.


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