Everton secured their Premier League status as Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s 85th-minute header saw them complete a remarkable second-half comeback from two goals down to clinch a 3-2 win over Crystal Palace on a night of high drama and tension at Goodison Park.
Frank Lampard’s side grabbed their second shot at safety having lost at home to Brentford on Sunday to preserve their top-flight status for a 69th successive season.
Everton knew they would avoid a first relegation since 1951 with victory against Patrick Vieira’s team on Thursday, but they trailed 2-0 at the break after Jean-Philippe Mateta’s opener (21) was added to by Jordan Ayew (36).
Michael Keane’s instinctive finish sparked the fightback nine minutes into the second half, and after Richarlison had restored parity with his 10th Premier League goal of the season (75), Calvert-Lewin met Demarai Gray’s cross five minutes from time to spark bedlam inside Goodison as fans invaded the pitch to celebrate.
There were unsavoury scenes at the full-time whistle as Palace boss Patrick Vieira had an altercation with one supporter. The result means Everton move onto 39 points, four clear of Leeds ahead of their visit to Brentford on Sunday.
Everton: Pickford (6), Mykolenko (6), Coleman (6), Keane (7), Holgate (6), Iwobi (6), Gomes (4), Doucoure (6), Gordon (6), Richarlison (7), Calvert-Lewin (8).
Subs: Gray (7), Alli (8), Kenny (n/a).
Crystal Palace: Butland (6), Clyne (6), Guehi (6), Andersen (6), Mitchell (7), Schlupp (6), Hughes (6), Eze (8), Ayew (7), Zaha (7), Mateta (7).
Subs: Milivojevic (6), Benteke (n/a), Gallagher (6).
Man of the match: Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Wimbledon ’94 all over again…
“It’s really difficult, I just said that to the players,” Frank Lampard said afterwards. “What we’ve just seen, it’s Premier League safety, it’s not Champions League. But what it means to the club and circumstances they were given in. The character of this club, the fans, players, just got us through. The spirit of the club was immense.
“There are a lot of people who work so hard for that, the players, the board, the fans, my staff. It’s a huge night for Everton and now we want to take that forward.
“Relegation battles are tough and an experience in their own right, the support I’ve had from the owner, chairman, Denise and what the fans have brought in is hard to do.
“Everyone can see the heart and the soul of the team, that’s why we stayed up. When I arrived at the club there were cracks, now it’s time to restock and learn. There’s a reason why we’re here.”
The Spirit of the Blues rung around on loop long after the final whistle as fans again entered the field to mob the Everton players. This ground has seen some great escapes during its time. It was against Wimbledon on the final day in 1994 when Everton were trailing 2-0 and staring down the barrel of relegation when Barry Horne would inspire a stupendous rescue act.
After the chaotic 3-2 loss to Brentford having led twice and been reduced to nine men, Everton’s latest shot at redemption started tentatively with Ayew heading wide Tyrick Mitchell’s cross on seven minutes.
Since Farhad Moshiri started investing into Everton as the club’s majority shareholder in February 2016, very few players from the £563m spent have proven an unqualified success, but Richarlison certainly falls into that category.
He sought to ease the tension and ignite this contest when his curled free-kick grazed the crossbar via Jack Butland’s fingertips, although referee Anthony Taylor awarded a goal-kick.
The home crowd’s anger turned to anguish moments later as Palace broke the deadlock. Eberechi Eze’s fabulous free-kick from the left was swung in between Abdoulaye Doucoure and the flat-footed Vitalii Mykolenko as Mateta stooped to beat Jordan Pickford.
It was the 19th set-piece goal Everton have conceded this season with only Leicester (20) having conceded more.
Lampard needed cool heads, but Seamus Coleman led an incensed reaction to a reckless challenge from Ayew on Anthony Gordon on 34 minutes which was met with only a yellow card when the irate home supporters were baying for stiffer punishment.
Those groans turned to even darker despondency two minutes later when Ayew doubled Palace’s lead in slapstick circumstances. Coleman lost possession on the halfway line as Mateta raced free down the left to deliver a cross which caused Pickford to only bat the ball out under pressure from Ayew.
Wilfried Zaha slammed his shot into the ground as the England goalkeeper rose to divert only into the path of the Ghana forward, who steadied himself to nudge the ball over the line.
Everton had offered very few problems, with Andre Gomes’ tame dragged shot into the gloves of Butland and a header wide by Richarlison from Mykolenko’s cross barely worthy of mention, and a misplaced pass from Coleman under no pressure in first-half stoppage time summed up the malaise that was setting in.
Lampard needed the break to re-enforce the instructions his players had failed to carry out, with Dele Alli replacing Gomes prior to the restart. The mood certainly wasn’t made any brighter when news came through that Burnley had taken the lead at Aston Villa, but Keane would restore belief when he halved the deficit nine minutes into the second half.
Mykolenko’s deep free-kick was kept alive by Mason Holgate and after one touch to steady himself, Keane brilliantly flicked nonchalantly beyond Butland. It was a lifeline for Everton.
News filtered through that Villa had levelled against Burnley as hopes rose a little further for the hosts, Palace looked to slow down the game and yet Everton would restore parity through a moment of quality from Alli.
So long maligned, the player bought from Tottenham on deadline day in January controlled Coleman’s cross at the far post and show his undoubted class to bring in the onrushing Richarlison for an untidy finish into the ground and beyond Butland as Goodison erupted.
Another cross from the right, this time from the substitute Gray veered deliciously away from Marc Guehi and through the noise, time stood still, as Calvert-Lewin launched himself through the air to crash his header into the net.
Supporters halted the restart after filling the pitch. Seven minutes of stoppage time would be added on but there was no stopping Everton. Elation greeted the final whistle, and another pitch invasion. Despite the joyous scenes, the over-arching feeling was one of relief more than anything else.
This is no cause for celebration, Lampard admitted, but an acceptance of just how perilous the situation had become.
What did Lampard say at half-time?
Everton boss Frank Lampard: “If you’re honest you have to fake it, act a bit. Not show your feelings. You have to turn people and inspire them. Dele Alli came on and was amazing.
“My point was it’s not the tactical change, it’s the emotions and the character. Can you energise the crowd and score an early goal? Then it’s the energy, the players deserve immense credit.
“If we don’t get that first goal, it’s difficult to win. I expected Burnley to get something. That goal was crucial, once it went in you felt the players, and the night, there was something special there. The crowd reacted, we created a special night in Everton’s history.”
On the fans, Lampard said: “It was so important. We needed them tonight, at 2-0 it was easy to expect the worst. But they’ve been doing it for a long time, since the Chelsea game. After Burnley was difficult. Again, the atmosphere was another level, it was great to see them on the pitch.
“We don’t condone it but it was in such good faith. They want success and when they see a team giving it they react instantly. Those moments were priceless.”
Vieira: We lost control
Crystal Palace have scored nine goals against Everton this season in all competitions, the most goals they’ve scored against an opponent in a single season since also putting nine past Sheffield Wednesday in 2001-02.
But they were unable to secure a third win in the same season – having beaten Everton in the league and FA Cup at Selhurst Park – and Palace boss Vieira said afterwards: “What changed is that we didn’t respect the game as we did in the first half. We’ve been losing too many simple balls and we were inviting too much pressure.
“We allowed them to build a momentum and confidence. It’s about managing the game at 2-0 but we gave them hope. We invited pressure which woke up the crowd and then they made it difficult for us.
“When were 2-0 up, we had the chance to score a third which would’ve been game over. But the discipline we had in possession in the first half we didn’t show in the second. We lost control of the game.
“These are the types of games which will help us learn a lot. We started to showboat a little bit instead of playing simple. That comes with maturity.”
Analysis: Dele whips up Blue storm
Sky Sports’ Ben Grounds at Goodison Park:
“Thousands of Everton fans lined the streets again around this famous old ground, as they had done against Chelsea and Brentford, plumes of blue smoke and confetti bombs filling the air as the team coach arrived down Walton Lane, past the club shop, and Hotwok, and onto Goodison Road.
“The fans knew the role they had to play in this wretched season, but there had been a dearth of quality and composure from their players during a damaging first half. The wheels had come off at just the wrong turn and the feeling was Everton would need a favour from elsewhere.
“Lampard had urged his players to seize the moment of a home game ahead of Sunday’s ominous trip to Arsenal, stopping short of describing this as an ‘all or nothing’ clash but understanding its significance in the club’s short-term future.
“His players only seemed to grasp that at half-time, by which stage Everton were already two goals behind. Lampard stuck with the same structure that had given his team greater solidity during their recent resurgence but here there were ruthless reminders of how mistakes get punished at the sharp end of the English game.
“The response belatedly came through an unlikely source with Keane scoring almost out of nothing. Vieira turned to delay tactics but Everton would not be denied.
“Just as in 1994, there would be a ferocious response. Dele Alli was central to it, setting up Richarlison’s equaliser. There have been suggestions Everton are already looking to offload him after failing to earn a start under Lampard in 10 cameo appearances – but his contribution came at the perfect time.
“As did Calvert-Lewin, whose troubled season with injury was consigned to history as he rose unmarked to serve a reminder of his aerial ability. Palace had certainly played their part, but they had been caught up in a blue storm.”
Man of the match – Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored five in the Premier League this season for Everton, with those goals coming in Everton’s first, second, third, 36th and 37th matches of the campaign.
This was his 50th career league goal, and he may not score any more important over the course of the next decade.
On Calvert-Lewin, Lampard said: “He’s not been fit, even when he’s playing in my time here it’s been getting back from an injury. It’s difficult to judge from the outside. In the last two games, you’ve seen a powerhouse of a centre-forward, one of the best.
“For me, he’s the best out there as a forward who can leap. His goal was a huge one in Everton’s history. He’s had to suck it up this year and he’s done it. He did something special.”
Spirit of the Blues – Opta stats
- Everton will start next season as a top-flight club for a 69th consecutive campaign, with only Arsenal currently on a longer run of consecutive seasons in the English top-flight (97 from next season).
- Everton have won a Premier League match in which they trailed by 2+ goals at half-time for the first time, at the 75th attempt (D5 L69).
- This is the first time that Crystal Palace have been beaten in the Premier League despite leading by 2+ goals at half-time, going on to win in 21 of the 22 previous instances (D1).
- Everton have now gained 15 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season; only Liverpool (17) have recovered more. 38% of Everton’s points this season have come in games in which they had fallen behind.
Everton travel to Arsenal and Crystal Palace host Manchester United on the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday at 4pm.