Everton wrapped up their home campaign with a comprehensive victory over a battling Burnley, all the damage done in a dominant first half.
The final home game of the season was preceded by the unveiling of the long-awaited Holy Trinity statue outside St.Luke’s church in front of a huge gathering of Evertonians eager to see the tribute to the finest midfield trio the game has ever seen.
Burnley were the visitors for this Friday night under the Goodison lights with the East Lancashire club comfortably safe from the relegation places and having pushed title-chasing Manchester City hard last weekend, while Everton still harboured faint hopes of finishing seventh and possible Europa League qualification for next season.
Everton went into the game with no new injury concerns but still missing Andre Gomes, serving the final of his three game suspension.
Manager Marco Silva referenced the importance of Everton making European competition as soon as possible, commenting thus in his pre-match press gathering. “It’s not something just in our hands, the competition is tight. We have to do our jobs and let’s see. We have to play every single season in ?European competition for us to keep growing as a club. It has to always be a pleasure, it has to always be a fantastic challenge for us and not a problem.”
In chasing that faint possibility, Silva named an unchanged starting line-up: Pickford, Coleman (c), Keane, Zouma, Digne, Schneiderlin, Gana Gueye, Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard and Calvert-Lewin.
Burnley had options to select from with Robbie Brady and veteran forward Peter Crouch both available together with Phil Bardsley.
With only the top two clubs and Man.Utd having gained more points than Burnley since December 30th, manager Sean Dyche can justifiably be proud of the second half to their season.
And the man whose voice sounds like he’s chewing gravel paid tribute to this when he noted in his media briefing, “It’s been a very tough season and a very rewarding actually for me as a manager, my staff and the players. Things were not right, obviously result-wise particularly up until the turn of the year, and we had a lot going on. But to come through that and have the clarity, work and belief in what we do is really pleading for me as a manager.”
Dyche handed in his team sheet listing the following starting eleven: Heaton (c), Lowron, Mee, Tarkowski, Taylor, Gudmundsson, Cork, Westwood, Brady, Wood and Barnes.
On a cool May evening, Chris Kavanagh was the appointed referee.
Burnley won the toss and turned Everton round to attack the Gwladys Street in the first half and the Blues hit them with an utterly dominant opening half hour that saw them take a two-goal lead.
Everton got off to a very quick start forcing Burnley back right from the kick off and Bernard and Digne forcing the first corner within two minutes that was sent to the back post for Sigurdsson to mishit hit his shot.
Everton kept the pressure on and a Bernard cross from the left wing put the visitors under more pressure. The Blues were moving the ball around well, confidently and effectively and a great ball from Sigurdsson saw a Richarlison shot blocked behind for another corner.
The first ten minutes had been one way traffic and another sweeping move on 13 minutes saw Digne and Bernard combine to find Gana Gueye and the final shot from Sigurdsson winning yet another corner.
Everton opened the scoring on 17 minutes as DCL collected a clearance from Keane, held it up well and then cut inside off the right to find Richarlison and his low shot took a slight deflection off Mee to beat Heaton for the opener.
Everton doubled their lead three minutes later as more excellent pressure eventually saw Lucas Digne fire a swerving shot that Heaton couldn’t hold and Seamus Coleman pounced to head home the rebound.
A fine through ball from Sigurdsson saw Richarlison and Tarkowski in a sprint, the Burnley defender conceding another corner that came to nothing.
Burnley with their first real attack thought they’d reduced the arrears as Barnes at the back post finished well on the end of a cross from Westwood, but the offside flag was raised to deny him.
Everton responded with DCL heading a Bernard cross just too high and over the crossbar.
Westwood was booked for leaving stud marks on the inside of Schneiderlins’ left thigh as rain began to tumble from the cool evening sky.
Burnley had steadied their ship somewhat, but Everton continued to look much the more threatening and likely to add to their tally, and were unlucky not to as Zouma burst forward to find Digne who fed Bernard to cut inside and slip a ball into the path of Sigurdsson whose shot screamed across the face of the Burnley goal.
Half Time: 2-0
After winning an early corner that came to nothing, Everton were forced into a change barley three minutes into the second half, Theo Walcott replacing Richarlison.
Burnley put a decent move together, but good defensive work from Morgan Schneiderlin snuffed out any threat. Bernard found Coleman and he gave the ball outside to Sigurdsson but his cross for DCL was too high.
On the hour mark, a cross from Brady caused a moment of concern as Zouma stumbled but Gudmundsson arriving behind him couldn’t find a finish. The Blues countered with Walcott switching to left before looking to find Bernard in the box, the ball coming out to DCL but his shot was wildly wide and high.
A lovely move started by Gana Gueye and involving DCL, saw Digne cross to the back post where Sigurdsson won another corner.
Three quick changes saw McNeil and Vydra replace Gudmundsson and Barnes respectively before Ademola Lookman came on for Bernard who got a standing ovation.
With just over ten minutes remaining, Hendrick replaced Brady as Sean Dyche used all his substitutions.
Another fine move on 83 minutes saw Walcott find Sigurdsson to play Coleman into the box where he impudently tried to chip Heaton at his near post.
Digne with a fine through ball sent in DCL who controlled it well but his shot lacked the power to trouble Heaton.
The Blues were still seeking a third goal and Coleman to Walcott to Sigurdsson saw him set up Lookman who went one way then the other before firing a shot that beat Heaton but skimmed off the top of the crossbar.
On 90 minutes, Everton rose to appreciate both Gylfi Sigurdsson and Phil Jagielka who came on to replace him for added-on time.
One final attack saw Walcott denied from a narrow angle and Look,an on the follow-up shoot straight at Heaton.
Full Time: 2-0