Everton 1-0 Bournemouth: Abdoulaye Doucoure’s second-half screamer ensures the Toffees avoid Premier League relegation on pulsating final day of the season at Goodison Park, with Leicester and Leeds down
- Everton staved off relegation on the final day after beating Bournemouth 1-0
- Abdoulaye Doucoure raised the roof at Goodison Park with a rasping opener
- The victory ensured Sean Dyche’s side pipped Leicester and Leeds to safety
After all the pain and the hurt and the anger and the darkness, it took just one sweet strike of a right boot in the sunshine to haul Everton back from the threat of oblivion and in to the light.
Coming to the end of his third season at Everton, Abdoulaye Doucoure had only previously contributed eight Premier League goals. Costing £20m back when Carlo Ancelotti was manager, the Mali midfielder has in some ways been typical of what has been wrong at Goodison Park. Not terrible, not great. Just a bit ‘So what?’. Here, amid all the tension and the fear, he was for almost an hour part of an Everton performance far too high on emotion and nowhere near high enough on quality.
Football, however, can sometimes be about big moments as much as it can be about a team or collective capability. A bounce of a ball can change things. And so can a bolt of lightning. Here, on this day of all days, Doucoure moved on to one of the former and provided the latter.
The ball forwards from Everton may generously be described as optimistic. The header down from a Bournemouth defender was adequate but not conclusive. But when Doucoure steadied himself to drive a right foot shot with the outside of his boot from 20 yards the power alone was enough to beat goalkeeper Mark Travers to his left and give Everton a glimpse of what everybody had come here hoping to find.
For a couple of minutes here, time was almost suspended as Everton supporters lost themselves in the anticipation of possible salvation. Early tears were shed. Young children were tossed in to the air. Some of them even came back down again. Fireworks cracked on the streets outside. And then reality dawned that there was still half an hour left.
Abdoulaye Doucoure’s second-half screamer ensured Everton staved off relegation
The midfielder picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box and thundered into the net
Jordan Pickford celebrated wildly with the home crowd after a blue flare was thrown forward
In the end, we played another forty. There were ten minutes added on. You can imagine how slowly that passed for many that were here.
There were some tricky moments as blue legs tired. Jordan Pickford’s save from Matias Vina in the 93rd minute was testimony to an experienced goalkeeper’s powers of concentration.
Everton got there, though. Just after 6.30pm they got there. Referee Stuart Atwell put his whistle to his lips and prompted celebrations that will surely have made the foundations of Everton’s new stadium shake a few miles away down on the banks of the Mersey.
Everton are due to move there at the end of next season. So this could, had it ended differently, been the last top flight game ever played at this great stadium.
That was what was at stake here, as well as pride, dignity, happiness and financial security.
Everton have been dismal for the whole of this season. In fact they have been dismal for two seasons. Last year they stayed up by four points. This time round the margin is two. Something has to change on the blue half of Merseyside.
As they swarmed on to the field here at full-time, they sang ‘Sack the Board’.
Things have been so toxic at Everton for so long that chairman Bill Kenwright and his colleagues have not felt safe enough to attend games for quite some time. They were not here today.
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
Everton (5-4-1): Pickford 6.5; Garner 6, Mina 6, Coady 6.5, Tarkowski 6.5, McNeil 6.5; Onana 6, Gueye 6, Doucoure 7.5, Gray 7 (Simmis 85mins 6 ); Iwobi 6.
Subs not used: Holgate, Keane, Begovic, Maupay, Lonergan, McAllister, Welch
Goals: Doucoure 57
Manager: Sean Dyche 7
Bournemouth (4-2-3-1): Travers 6.5; A Smith 6.5 (Anthony 82mins 6), Zarbanyi 6, Senesi 6, Kelly 6; Billing 6.5, Lerma 6; Brooks 6.5(Vina 55mins 6), Christie 6.5 (Moore 64mins 6), Ouattara 6; Solanke 6.5
Subs not used: Stephens, Cook, Mepham, Randolph, Stacey, Sadi
Bookings: Solanke, Smith, Senesi, O’Neil
Manager: Gary O’Neil 6
Referee: Stuart Attwell
The hosts’ supporters were sent into pandemonium after Doucoure broke the deadlock
Bournemouth’s stand-in goalkeeper, Mark Travers, stood firm with a number of superb saves
But all that can be suspended for a day or so. Relief can hold sway now. Sean Dyche’s Everton were not always convincing here. There was too much emotional football really. But they proved themselves up to the task. A clean sheet helped. They remain a Premier League club and that is all that matters.
The noise prior kick-off was such that the players must have been able to feel the vibrations in the dressing room. Whether it did Everton any good is open to question as for much of the first half, their football reflected the tension. Dyche’s players played frantic football early on and only started to threaten to break through when they started to make considered decisions.
Having won only one of ten games prior to his, perhaps nobody should have been surprised that this felt like such hard work. With players out of form and beset by injury problems, Everton didn’t even manage to fill their substitutes bench. Dyche chose two goalkeepers to sit there but was still a player short. The two centre forwards in reserve, meanwhile, were Neal Maupay and Ellis Sims and they had two league games between them.
No wonder Everton were tense and the first thing they did was play a long pass out of play. It did get better than that but not always by much. Indeed the best thing that happened to the home team in the first half and hour was that Leeds went behind across the M62 at Elland Road. That was one favour Everton needed but if they were not to win here they were also in need of help from Leicester, too. Just after the half hour, news filtered through that Leicester were winning so at least as the game wore on here, Dyche and his players knew that the onus was on them to get themselves together and actually win the game.
Dyche had gone with five at the back for this game. That may have looked and sounded negative but it wasn’t. his wing-backs, James Garner on the right and Dwight McNeil on the left, were two his team’s more progressive players. Garner brought a rare save from Travers with a clipped shot from distance just before the break while McNeil delivered some intelligent and dangerous crosses from his side of the field.
There was not generally too much cleverness from Everton, though. Pickford has generally kept his own standards high this season but here he looked to be running too hot on adrenaline, pumping hurried clearances downfield to nobody and then watching Bournemouth pick up possession and move forward.
Travers punched clear a cross into the box as the pressure on the visitors’ penalty area grew
Dominic Solanke threatened to spoil the party but failed to beat Pickford from close range
Early on, Bournemouth did play better football. Three times their captain Adam Smith was able to move in to space down the right and cross. Everton seemed to lack structure as well as composure. Over time that did change, though. As the early nerves settled, Everton began to build play through midfield with a little more composure. One lovely pass from Amadou Onana presented Idriss Gueye with a great chance that he drove over on the half hour. A minute later, Gueye tried again, this time from distance, and Travers dropped to his right to save.
When Everton took a breath and almost took the importance of the game out of the equation, they found that they could make some progress. When they passed the ball through and around the side of the Bournemouth full-backs, they looked as though they could make some progress. In the first half they just didn’t do it often enough.
Bournemouth were game and keen to be in the contest. It’s not always this way on the last day of the season. But twice Gary O’Neill’s team threatened just before half-time, once when Marcos Senesi turned to pull a low shot across goal and wide and then after Everton coughed up possession outside their own penalty area. On that occasion their defender Yerry Mina got them out of trouble with a block on Dominic Solanke.
The dressing rooms at the break must have felt like a sanctuary, not from the pressure but from the intensity and the freneticism of the game. Not that Everton were short of work still to done and when they eventually broke through just before the hour it was on the back of some better football.
Everton were just as energetic early in the second half. It’s just that there was more focus to it, more specific intent. Bournemouth rode their luck a little in the 51st minute when Travers saved a header from Demarai Gray and the ball fell to a visiting defender to clear.
Solanke almost tucked in again but was denied by a combination of Pickford and Conor Coady
Everton’s players emerged to a raucous atmosphere on a day decisive for the club’s future
It ran out six minutes later, though. A ball from the Everton half was headed clear to the edge of the penalty area and Doucoure met it with a swipe of his right foot to send a powerful volley past Travers to his left and in to the goal. It was a sweet strike and though it was not quite in the corner, the Bournemouth goalkeeper didn’t see it as it fizzed past two defenders who were clearly in his line of sight.
Bournemouth’s reply was eager but the threat was sporadic. Pickford did very well to claw a bouncing ball away from the looming figure of Solanke and briefly there was a kerfuffle. Both were eventually booked, Pickford probably rather harshly.
It was lively at times on the touchline, too. Bournemouth manager O’Neill was booked for something he said or did. As time wore on, meanwhile, Everton began to looked rather tired. Games like this play on the legs just as much as they do on the mind.
In to the last ten minutes and the traffic was now only one way and that was towards the Everton goal. When Gray made way for Simms in the 85th minute, he could hardly walk for cramp. Five minutes after that the board went up for added time and it carried a number ten on it. Gulp.
Pickford was required to make one save in that time. Bournemouth substitute Vina struck the ball cleanly from 18 yards and the Everton ‘keeper dived left to parry. What that a job was done.
The home side looked to start quickly but failed to carve out clear chances during the first half
Dyche roared instructions from the touchline and managed to haul Everton over the finish line
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