Pickford shines as Everton secure vital win at raucous Goodison Park


Everton ensured that Premier League survival would remain in their own hands after a crucial 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Goodison Park thanks to Richarlison’s early second half winner.

Jordan Pickford picked up the man of the match award, making several big saves to thwart the Chelsea attack and ensure a second clean sheet in three home league games.

Everton went into the weekend in the relegation zone for the first time this season and would have to watch from afar on Saturday as Burnley and Leeds United took to the field.

The first instalment could hardly have gone worse. The Clarets came from behind to claim a 2-1 victory at Watford and leave the Toffees five points adrift in the bottom three.

Leeds were up next but were soundly beaten 4-0 at home by Manchester City to pull the Whites back into trouble.

Everton knew they would have to win on Sunday otherwise they would then be relying on results elsewhere if they are to avoid dropping to the Championship.

Everton supporters knew they would have a part to play too and turned up in their droves to welcome the team bus. Blue flares were set off as hordes of people took to the streets outside the ground to let the players know they were behind their team.

If that was not enough, both sets of players entered the pitch to a thunderous reception. This had a big game feel. If Everton’s players weren’t up for the fight after this kind of support, they would never be.

The players responded in kind. Straight from kick-off, Everton launched the ball forward. Richarlison won a header that caused panic in the Chelsea defence before Anthony Gordon latched onto the ball and was fouled in a dangerous shooting position.

The free-kick ultimately came to nothing but the tone had been set. There was a frenetic energy to proceedings with Chelsea initially struggling to get a foothold in the game. Everton didn’t want one. They were embracing the chaos.

Antonio Rudiger was booked early on for hauling down Seamus Coleman as the full-back wandered forward and Thomas Tuchel’s men appeared rattled.

Like all top teams do however, they weathered the early storm and were soon in control of possession. Everton were defending deep, similarly to last week at Anfield and Richarlison was looking increasingly isolated up front.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek was impressive in possession for Chelsea, embarking on several bulldozing runs. His close control and ability to glide past opponents was something to behold.

Mason Mount came the closest to opening the scoring with a dipping effort from outside the area that had Pickford scrambling but the ball cleared the crossbar, thankfully for the Everton faithful.

Gordon moved into a more central area to try and support Richarlison and almost got the opener, shooting narrowly wide on his left-foot.

That, and a mini-brawl which saw three players booked, got the crowd roaring again as Everton made it into half-time level. For all of Chelsea’s possession, Pickford had quite a comfortable 45 minutes in the home goal.

The teams returned after the interval and play was hardly a minute old when the winner was struck.

The Toffees were re-energised and Richarlison harried Cesar Azpilicueta who lost the ball, with Demarai Gray one on one with Edouard Mendy. Azpilicueta fouled Gray, which would have resulted in a certain red card, only for referee Kevin Friend to play the advantage and the Brazilian kept his cool to slot past Mendy.

Cue pandemonium in Goodison Park as the Blues now had something to hold on to. It was perfect for the tactics that manager Frank Lampard was looking to employ.

It could have been 2-0 before the onslaught even began but Vitalii Mykolenko shot wide from a wonderful position.

It took an hour but Chelsea finally decided to work Pickford. Unfortunately for the Londoners, the found England’s number one in incredible form.

Mount found space on the edge of the penalty area and struck a well-placed effort that struck both posts before the ball rebounded to Azpilicueta. It looked all but certain that the Spaniard would equalise but Pickford somehow kept the strike out and got tangled inside his goal nets for his troubles.

From the resulting corner Pickford was again to the rescue, bravely denying Rudiger from close range. The ‘keeper needed some treatment but was ok to carry on.

The England shot-stopper would again be tested as the game entered the final ten minutes, beating away a fierce strike from Loftus-Cheek.

The former Sunderland man was again called upon in stoppage time, doing well to turn away substitute Mateo Kovacic’s effort.

As well as the saves, Pickford was also a calming presence, claiming several high crosses and cutting out a dangerous low ball from Mount. The goalkeeper kept his cool on a day where emotion could get the better of players.

The fourth official signalled seven minutes of injury time, and whilst supporters were unhappy, Everton did enough to cling on and claim a massive win. There was a cacophony of noise upon the final whistle, and many supporters stayed behind to sing and clap the players off the field.

It was as loud as Goodison has been for a long time, and there seemed like a connection between players and supporters. If Everton can harness this between now and the end of the campaign, they may just stay up.

Most importantly, the power to do so remains under their own control.

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