Everton 1 - 0 Wolves
The part that confidence and belief can play in football shouldn’t ever be underestimated. Nor should the importance of Everton’s supporters. There was a narrative that began in the Roberto Martinez years that “toxic” Goodison Park was having a detrimental effect on the players and while there is merit to that argument where individual players are concerned, when it comes to the team as a whole this season has demonstrated just how much this current squad needs the backing of its home fans.
Three Premier League games with supporters in attendance and three wins says quite a lot, even when you take into account the Carabao Cup defeat to Manchester United, watched by the couple of thousand Evertonians who were allowed in, where the Blues simply couldn’t live with a superior attacking outfit. This evening there a little over 6,000 inside the Grand Old Lady and the signs bode well for next season that Everton’s wretched home record in 2020-21 won’t be repeated while the stands aren’t empty.
This was not a good performance but it was enough to earn the Toffees their first home win since the start of March — and, let’s face it, had it not been for a vital Robin Olsen save at the end of that game, it might have gone the same way as the Crystal Palace one — and it was fitting that Richarlison bagged the winner.
Evertonians have mused quite a bit in recent weeks that few players feed off the energy of a crowd more than the mercurial Brazilian and the way he rose to the occasion of supporters being let into Goodison for the first time since December seemed to bear that out. Quiet in the first half, Richarlison scored a terrific headed goal just two minutes into the second and by the end he was looking very much like the player Blues fans have come to love since he joined from Watford three years ago.
The match itself was evocative of that narrow victory over Saints, one also secured by a solitary Richarlison goal, albeit without the late cavalry charge from the visitors. Everton had largely stifled Wolves by the midway point of the second half and if anything it was Carlo Ancelotti’s side who looked the more likely to score.
The reverse had been true in the first half, however. Nuno Espirito Santo’s men had carried the greater threat in the opening half an hour and it needed Jordan Pickford, arguably the Blues’ best player since his heroics in the Anfield derby, to be at his best to keep things goalless at the interval.
He was equal to an excellent volley from Morgan Gibbs-White in the 14th minute and tipped a strong drive from the lively but increasingly ineffective Adama Traoré in the 32nd. In between, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison had registered efforts on target for Everton but they were tame while Wolves had forced a flurry of corners and Yerry Mina’s block had deflected Fabio Silva’s only dangerous moment over the crossbar.
It was the hosts who finished the half the stronger, though, with the irrepressible Ben Godfrey seeing a shot blocked by his own player in Seamus Coleman and Richarlison having a close-range shot deflected behind after the ball had pinged around the visitors’ box following a corner.
Given how tentative and typically ponderous Everton had been in their build-up play, with that now familiar lack of movement, players showing for passes or ability to move the ball through the lines — Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré had disappointing first-halves but improved somewhat in the second — it was perhaps not surprising that the winner came from a set-piece. The fans in attendance had been desperate to see James Rodriguez in the flesh but were left wanting when the Colombian was withdrawn from the squad due to “fatigue” and the team lacked creativity without him.
But in his absence, Gylfi Sigurdsson provided the energy in the press even if he wasn’t as productive when Everton had the ball and it was his corner that served up the winner. The Icelander’s out-swinger was perfectly placed for Richarlison to leap highest and guide his header into the far corner.
That buoyed Everton and in combination with the urging of the crowd not to keep turning backwards but, rather, to gamble a bit going forward, they came to close to padding their lead. A good break by Richarlison where he fed Doucouré and the Frenchman’s pass to Lucas Digne was helped on to Coleman but the Irishman's shot was deflected past the far post.
A horrible giveaway by Richarlison gave Traoré the chance to burst through the centre but the winger's shot was weak and easily saved while Dominic Calvert-Lewin tested Ruddy with a low drive from the angle after his strike partner had played him in smartly behind the defence.
Sigurdsson went close to sealing it either side of a penalty claim for handball by Wolves against Doucouré, first with an attempted curler that hit the stanchion on the right side of goal and then with another effort searching out the same corner that took a nick off a defender on its way behind.
So after months of misery on their home soil, Everton ended their campaign of fixtures at Goodison Park on a high and with a victory that means they can still qualify for the Europa Conference League if they better Tottenham’s result on Sunday.
The failings at home against the likes of Leeds, West Ham, Burnley, Fulham, Newcastle and Sheffield United where just a point in each would have meant Champions League qualification would still be possible heading into the final day will forever hang over this strange pandemic-affected season but Ancelotti will have learned plenty about this players and what he needs to push on in 2021-22.
Reader Comments (8)
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1 Posted 20/05/2021 at 20:28:49
It's a bit of phoney war without spectators shouting things like "suck my root you old boot"
2 Posted 21/05/2021 at 00:31:03
The defence was deep more than it should have been, probably because Mina and Keane where afraid of getting caught for pace. Allan and Doucoure did not have the luxury of the defence pushing up in support. When Colman and Digne did push up like, Allan and Doucoure, they had to track back, since there where no runs or movement by players ahead of them to make themselves available for a pass. Pass completion was woeful first half, but gradually improved in the second half. Richarlison was more lively, but Calvert Lewin was often out of position and has a poor first touch as usual.
Reports from those that attended the match confirmed Ancelotti wanting the defence to push up in the first half. The wing play inevitably going backwards, because noone was available for a pass was also confirmed.
I still think that in preparation and player application things are not as they should be.
Glad of the win, but Everton need to be up to putting in the performance of the Season in the next game.
3 Posted 21/05/2021 at 09:33:30
They have proved well and truly this season that they can't play at Goodison when it's empty so let's hope when it is full again they can handle some vocal criticism when they start slacking off.
It was a good way to end with a win at Goodison but let's be honest we badly need to start finding more goals.
A second season in succession where we have failed to hit the modest total of 50 goals.
The team's around us all have better goal difference despite our defence being quite sturdy it's the attack which constantly lets us down.
4 Posted 21/05/2021 at 09:45:41
The first full house will surely bring an electric response from the players. If what we've seen with a few thousand in attendance is replicated then the lesser talents who have shown us up this season can be buried under an avalanche of noise.
However, it does beg the question, can we go to other grounds and perform as we have done this season when their fans are baying for blood and jeering every referee call that doesn't go their way?
I would hope that the management can instil that belief in the players and they have to start on Sunday. A bad result and all the work of this season could be undone.
5 Posted 21/05/2021 at 11:59:14
I feel by the end of the season, the lad is totally knackered. I presume there's a South American cup this summer and that he'll be in the Brazil squad if not the first eleven.
Calvert-Lewin is a player who needs the other players around him to create his chances and when Rodriguez is not playing and to a lesser extent Sigurdsson, there is rarely anyone in the midfield to give him the service he requires. Digne's runs down the wing become his only source. But he is, and if given the right service, an excellent box player and a reasonably clinical finisher.
I don't want to labour the point which I and several other people have pointed out about how defensively we are set up and how uncreative our midfield is, but I feel Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin desperately need a more productive and effective midfield in order to allow Richarlison to spend less time chasing back and then he could concentrate on his main job up front and to give Calvert-Lewin more opportunities in the opposition box.
6 Posted 21/05/2021 at 13:01:06
As long as that comes with better movement off the ball and passing with some snap, we might be able to get on the front foot. However, I bet they'll all turn chicken again against Man City!
7 Posted 21/05/2021 at 15:35:29
If Calvert Lewin doesn't get to grips with his first touch, it won't matter how many players are around him.
8 Posted 21/05/2021 at 16:29:25
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