An incredible second half fight back saw Everton overturn a two goal deficit inspired by the no longer forgotten man Oumar Niasse. His willingness to chase lost causes and pressure defenders reaped massive rewards as the Blues gained two vital, valuable points to take them clear of the bottom three.
Following the exit from the Europa League, despite there still being two games to play, David Unsworth can now concentrate solely on improving Everton’s Premier League position with rumours rife that an announcement over a new manager will be made soon.
For the visit of Watford, Unsworth selected his starting line-up: Pickford, Baines, Jagielka (c), Keane, Kenny, Gueye, Baningime, Davies, Sigurdsson, Rooney and Niasse.
Opposite number Marco Silva, enjoying a better than decent start to his tenure at Vicarage Road, selected: Gomes, Femenia, Kabasele, Britos, Holebas, Hughes, Doucoure, Cleverley, Carrillo, Gray and Richarlison.
In charge of proceedings was referee Graham Scott.
A positional switch saw Keane play on the left side with Jagielka on the right, but the team again didn’t start with any recognised width. in the opening exchanges, both Kenny and Pickford were momentarily shaken by separate aerial collisions, but neither needed treatment
A decent start by the Blues saw better movement and a bit more speed of thought up front where Niasse was lively and willing to chase every ball.
Sigurdsson playing in front of Kenny raised cheers with a strong tackle on Richarlison before the first real attempt of the game as Cleverley took a return ball from his own short corner to curl a shot just high and wide.
A flowing move on 22 minutes saw Niassse turn quickly to find Rooney, onto Davies and when Niasse overlapped on the right to cut back for Rooney, he unselfishly fed Baines whose shot was straight at Gomes and easily parried.
Indecision in midfield by Gana Gueye allowed Richarlison to break at speed and when he rounded the onrushing Pickford, it needed pressure from Baines to put him off, his effort hitting the side netting.
Everton were caught in possession failing to clear their defence and Pickford made his only notable save from a low shot by Doucoure.
There had been no lack of effort and a shout out for a good first half in particular by Jonjoe Kenny.
Half Time: 0-0
A disastrous start to the second half saw Everton momentarily stop expecting a free kick and that allowed Carrillo to set Gray free and he found Richarlison to round Pickford and score with just 32 seconds elapsed.
A great effort by Niasse chasing and harrying saw him cut back for Sigurdsson only for Gomes to come up with a terrific stop, Rooney dinked the loose ball under the bar where Watford cleared but at the expense of a head injury to their goalie.
Ademola Lookman came on for Baningime and eventually, Karnezis replaced Gomes who left the field with his head bandaged.
Watford went two nil up in the 63rd minor as a right wing corner was met by Kabasele and Everton looked done for.
Enter the never-say-die attitude of Oumar Niasse as he collected a ball from Lookman and somehow beat the defender and goalie to reduce the arrears and lift the crowd on 66 minutes. David Unsworth immediately threw Calvert-Lewin on for Rooney.
Britos was booked for a found on Lookman as Everton raised their game, roared on by the crowd and when a deflected Kenny shot earned a 73rd minute corner, Baines found Dominic Calvert-Lewin at the back post to plant his header into the Gwladys Street goal and Goodison erupted.
Mariappa replaced the injured Kabasele for a stunned Watford and Lookman put them under further pressure with a strong run to feed Niasse whose cross was blocked.
Aaron Lennon was an 84th minute replacement for Sigurdsson and almost his first touch was to take a pass from Davies and bundle his way into the box and go down under an awkward challenge, Goodison held its breath and finally, referee Scott pointed to the spot – Penalty !!
Watford delayed as long as they could, but Leighton Baines stayed ultra calm and composed to eventually plant a perfect penalty inside the keepers right hand post and the Old Lady erupted again.
Okaka came on for Hughes as 12 extra minutes were signalled due to a couple of lengthy injury delays and Watfords’ time wasting.
The drama wasn’t over though as deep into the added on time, Watford got down the right flank and into the box where Pickford was left with little option than to take down Richarlison – Penalty.
Goodison again held its breath as Tom Cleverley, on his first return, tried to stay as calm as Baines had… He strode up and incredibly skewed his shot wide and again, Goodison exulted deafeningly.
There was still time for a long ball from Pickford to find the ungainly, but inspirational Oumar Niasse and his shot was deflected for a corner, from which the final whistle brought an amazing game to its end.
Full Time: 3-2
Oumar Niasse might not be a thoroughbred footballer, he’s never going to be revered along the lines of the Golden Vision, but what he lacks in finesse he more than makes up for is sheer energy, willingness and work ethic.
And if there’s one thing all Evertonians appreciate it’s a solid shift from their players, and today Oumar Niasse exemplified the spirit that the crowd demands. Well done Oumar !!