Everton 1-0 Bournemouth

Blues survive and live to fight another season.​

Everton achieved what was needed – a final day victory – thanks to a thunderous shot from Abdoulaye Doucoure, a player reborn since the arrival of Sean Dyche… to spark a disappointing but inevitable pitch invasion from too many supporters ignoring requests not to do so.

Thirty seven games have come and gone, and Everton desperately needed a result from the 38th and final game of another troubled season. A season with far too few high points or “good times” as someone might refer to them, and far, far too many low points, poor performance and shocking results.

Through all the turmoil of two managers, wasted transfer windows, injuries and the absolute worst, the alleged headlock that saw the board pitch themselves into almost civil war with the fan base, it is that very same fan base who have stuck by the club, the latest manager and the players to get to this pivotal moment. Magnificent support at Goodison and outstanding on the road, Blues fans have truly worn their hearts on their sleeves and if passion and commitment from the terraces was worth points, Everton would be nowhere near a second successive relegation fight.

A win would absolutely guarantee the club remains in the Premier League for at least one more season, probably the last full season of football at the Grand Old Lady that is Goodison Park. Matching or bettering the results of Leeds and Leicester was the minimum requirement but, victory would be some much easier for the heart rate and blood pressure of Evertonians around the globe.

Blues boss Sean Dyche laid it on the line when he addressed the media saying, “The focus should be on every game. My consistent message to the players has been that every game is important, and that every minute of every game is important. We showed that against Wolves – the mentality to take on every minute of the game until the final whistle, and we did that. We might have to do that again, but we should be doing that because that’s what the intention is. That’s the consistency I talk about. It’s the mentality to play hard every game and to go into every game to win. It’s no different in that respect; playing to win.”

Since the former Burnley manager took on the job there has been talk of pressure and he referred to pressure commenting, “The fact is we should be under pressure because that’s what we want for this group. At the end of the day, this is Everton Football Club. That’s the demand of being at the Club. I’ve learned that very quickly, so every game should be a pressurised occasion, because that’s being a professional footballer. It’s not just about playing the last game of the season. That should be every time you run on a football pitch. That’s what the job in hand is and that’s what I’ve come to know in my career as a player, a coach, and a manager. That’s what the players learn every week. There’s a demand on every performance.”

Going into the game against Bournemouth, Everton had no shortage of players unavailable through injury and in vital positions too. Both right backs – Seamus Coleman and Nathan Patterson – and centre forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin were all ruled out joining Ben Godfrey, Ruben Vinagre, and Andros Townsend to watch from the stands.

Asked about DCL and Patterson, Dyche said: “They won’t be fit. We haven’t had Dom for two-thirds of my time here. We have still won games, still got points on the board and performed. We realised when he got injured in the first game that it wasn’t going to be a short injury. We knew we would have to find a way of working with that. Patto has come into the side more latterly and performed well. We lose him as well.” The news was more positive on Mykolenko, though, with Dyche explaining: “He’s a bit better so we will see how he reacts tomorrow to training today, he has a chance to play.”

With scoring goals having been the biggest problem of this troubled season, Sean Dyche eventually settled on a starting eleven that read: Jordan Pickford (c), Yerry Mina, Conor Coady, James Tarkowski, Dwight McNeil, Alex Iwobi, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Amadou Onana, James Garner and Demarai Gray.

Bournemouth looked dead and buried a couple of months ago and manager Gary O’Neil has performed something of a minor miracle in not only getting them out of the final day relegation battles but, to a comfortable finish whereby they can or could relax coming to Goodison for the final game.

It’s been a whirlwind season in management for O’Neil, who found himself in the dugout in the world’s leading division in his first job. Speaking to the club’s programme, O’Neil admitted that survival is a big achievement. “The outside perception was that we were going to struggle this season, especially with where we were when I took over for the Wolves game and the tough spot we were in. To be able to keep responding to win enough games to secure Premier League survival with some of the issues we’ve had with injuries and some of the runs we’ve had to get through was a big achievement for the group.”

He continued adding, “Everybody within the dressing room and the coaching room understood how much we were giving every day and every moment to get everything we could out of everyone. So, to see all that work and effort pay off and reward everyone for the work that has been done is satisfying.”

With the Cherries having beaten the Blues twice already this season with a combined score of 7-1 in their favour, the chance to complete a league double and potentially send Everton down gave the south coast outfit plenty to consider on their bus ride to Merseyside.

And O’Neil, unlike his counterpart Sean Dyche was hoping to have a full strength squad to select from as he updated his press conference saying, “Philip Billing will be back involved. He had a back issue last weekend but he’s come through that okay. On Hamed Traorè, we’re hopeful he’ll be available but we’re not sure just yet. Joe Rothwell as well is in a similar position, we’re hoping he can play but, it’s too early to confirm as we have another training to go. We’ll see how they come through but hopefully as close to full strength as possible.”

O’Neil gave all his players the chance to prove their availability before confirming his starting line-up thus: Travers, Kelly, Zabarnyi, Smith (c), Senesi, Billing, Lerma, Brooks, Christie, Ouattara and Sloane.

Goodison Park under a clear blue sky, bathed in early summer sunshine and with a gentle breeze blowing looked resplendent and in front of a jam-packed, partisan, almost rabid home support, our referee was Stuart Attwell.

The team was greeted onto the pitch by a cacophonous noise from all four sides of the Grand Old Lady and in a change from the norm, Everton were turned around to attack the Gwladys Street End in the first half of this do-or-die encounter. The visitors booed in possession from their first touch of the ball as the crowd set the tone of making it as uncomfortable as possible for them.

An early cross from Gray found by Doucoure was cleared by Senesi with Bournemouth trying to slow the pace and quieten the crowd, and when they did cross the halfway line, Brooks fed Smith wide right to cross and the partial headed clearance by Garner fell to Lerma who saw his rising effort easily clear the crossbar.

Another cross from Smith again fed by Brooks, after an Everton attack had broken down, saw Garner head back to Pickford and when the Blues got forward, Gray found McNeil to cross into the area but, nobody had gambled and Bournemouth defended it far too easily. Brooks hauled down Iwobi as he looked to get away down the left, lucky not to get a booking, and the free kick failed to put the visitors defence under any real pressure.

Onana to Mina who made ground before finding Gray who won the games first corner on the quarter hour mark, the cross from McNeil headed only as far as Gray who struck a powerful shot from twenty yards just wide of the far post. Good interplay between McNeil and Iwobi won a second Everton corner that Bournemouth cleared long downfield before a foul on Tarkowski earned a free kick on the left side that resulted in two Bournemouth players going down and goalkeeper Travers need some treatment while all the other players took on some fluids during the stoppage.

James Garner was doing well standing in as a makeshift right back and he launched a move that ended with Onana unable to direct a header on target and harmlessly over the crossbar. Christie was lectured, and very lucky not to see a yellow card, for a crude challenge on Garner. Iwobi and Doucoure combined for the latter to cross low into the area, again, no Everton player was there to trouble the Bournemouth defence and it was cleared.

Just past the half hour the best chance of the game so far saw Onana play in Idrissa Gana Gueye and his shot beat Travers but, also cleared the crossbar. The crowd again raised its voice urging the Blues on as they began to lay siege to the Street End goal and another powerful shot from Gana Gueye was beaten away by Travers. Bournemouth won a corner that eventually saw a low shot go wide across the face of goal as news that Leicester were ahead against West Ham came through.

Loud appeals for a penalty went unheeded by the referee and Onana struck a long range effort just wide of the target as we passed the 40-minute mark. Further calls for a penalty as a shot from Gray appeared to hit a hand again went unheeded. A long ball from Iwobi for Gray saw him blocked by two defenders, and again the referee waved away appeals for a foul.

A mistake by Tarkowski saw Brooks steal the ball and find Solanke for a shot that was deflected behind for a second Bournemouth corner and three added minutes were announced as the corner was defended. Iwobi found by Onana won a late corner on the left that resulted in three crosses being cleared before Travers tipped a shot from Garner over the bar.

Half Time: 0-0

With Leicester leading at half time, the issue was now doubly simple for Sean Dyche and the players in the second half, find a way to win and survive. No changes by either manager as the sides came out and the crowd again oiled their throats to urge to team on for a truly pivotal 45-minutes of football.

Not surprisingly, Bournemouth adopted more of the same in the early stages, passing the ball around to frustrate Everton and the home crowd, and certainly not win any friends. Good work by McNeil set Onana away on the right before Billing brought him down, Gray sending the free kick into the area where Lerma cleared, Everton keeping the pressure on and Zabarnyi conceding a corner that was cleared.

Another stoppage for a Bournemouth player going down and from the restart, they attacked and Garner needed to concede a left wing corner, that was defended by decent headers from first Tarkowski and then Coady. The Goodison crowd was getting angry and agitated as another Bournemouth player went down, and Brooks was replaced by Vina on 56 minutes.

And Goodison erupted as a ball from Gana Gueye was headed down and Abdoulaye Doucoure struck a thunderous shot that Travers never saw. All square and over half an hour to play and the noise levels went up by a serious number of decibels.

With the home crowd now in full voice, Mina stopped Solanke in his tracks and Bournemouth made a second change, Moore replacing Christie before Everton pushed forward again, only for a low cross from Garner to go through the area. Senesi was booked for bring down Gray on the right hand touchline, the free kick failing to produce.

Coady with a goal line clearance before Solanke impeded Pickford as Mina cleared the loose ball with Tarkowski and Mina arriving urgently to straighten out the former RS pronto. Pickford needed extensive treatment on his right arm and looked to be in some pain before continuing.

With tempers beginning to fray, Vina appeared to follow through on Coady and the Bournemouth manager was booked for speaking out of turn. Into the final quarter of an hour of normal time and the Blues were still looking to add to their tally and put the game to bed while defending like their lives depended upon it, which to some extent, they did.

Doucoure set Onana free and he found Gray who took one touch too many and then miskicked the ball behind for a goal kick. Now it the turn of the visitors to push forward before making their third change, Anthony replacing Smith while Everton prepared to introduce Ellis Simms for Demarai Grayvwho was suffering with cramp. Iwobi on a left wing charge won a corner with a shot deflected behind and the change, Simms for Gray, was made on 85 minutes.

McNeil sent the corner deep where it was turned behind for another that Travers punched clear, the follow-up cross from the left finding Tarkowski who couldn’t keep his header down. A clumsy tackle by Gana Gueye gave Bournemouth a free kick that was defended and an incredible ten added minutes were announced.

Brilliant defending by Coady denied Solanke a close range shot ahead of magnificent chasing and harrying by McNeil, Onana and Gana Gueye kept Bournemouth in their own half. A knockdown header from Moore saw Vina strike a vicious shot that Jordan Pickford turned away superbly and Everton countered through McNeil and Doucoure to win a corner that was played safely.

Moore was penalised for fouling Mina and again, the crowd roared its undying support as Leicester closed out their victory over West Ham… just hold on Blues, just hold on. Every tackle, every challenge was now greeted like winning goal as the crowd bayed for the final whistle… that saw the inevitable pitch invasion amid scenes of wild celebration at survival in the top flight for another season having been secured.

Full Time: 1-0

Premier League, umpteen sections of the media, all the numpty referees, fourth officials and VAR judges… take note… Everton Football Club do not do relegation !!!

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