Everton’s Premier League survival prospects were boosted – and Manchester United’s Champions League ambitions were harmed – when Anthony Gordon’s deflected shot won a 1-0 home victory at a boisterous Goodison Park.
Gordon’s shot deflected off Harry Maguire’s back (27) and past David de Gea to offer the hosts a piece of luck that has eluded them so frequently this season.
United, who are on the verge of signing Erik ten Hag as their permanent manager, struggled to find their rhythm after that, with the returning Cristiano Ronaldo’s late booking for petulance typifying another fragmented, languid performance under interim leader Ralf Rangnick.
He had the ultimate say when he gathered Maguire’s header across goal in stoppage time, but Jordan Pickford saved his instinctive volley.
Frank Lampard’s team re-established a four-point lead on Burnley in the last relegation spot ahead of the weekend’s remaining games after self-imploding against Burnley in midweek, while United suffered another blow to their fading ambitions of finishing in the top four.
All five of Lampard’s triumphs have occurred on his home turf, and it is here at his legendary old stadium – at its most visceral, obstructive, and unwelcoming on Saturday – that Everton’s greatest chance of avoiding relegation in 71 years lies.
Lampard’s future was called into doubt after Wednesday’s 3-2 loss at Burnley after he had lost eight of his first 12 games in all competitions since replacing Rafael Benitez at the end of January when the team was 16th and four points above the relegation zone.
Despite United’s early pressure, the hosts seized the lead in the 27th minute with their first serious shot on goal.
A play down the left begun by Allan and including Richarlison was followed by Alex Iwobi cutting the ball back to the outside of the area, where Gordon’s sidefoot shot deflected off Harry Maguire, wrongfooting David de Gea before falling into the goal.
The goal invigorated the Everton players and the fans, and the momentum switched significantly, with Michael Keane heading over and De Gea having to tip over another deflected attempt, this time from Richarlison.
Fred seemed to be struggling and was replaced by Paul Pogba in the 37th minute. Everton would see out the half, and Pogba’s first contribution was to hack at Everton’s striker Gordon in front of referee Jon Moss, earning him a yellow card.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka knocked off Vitalii Mykolenko, but Moss took advantage when Gordon’s attempt on the slide was narrowly denied by Victor Lindelof. Rangnick sent on Juan Mata and Anthony Elanga in a double change just after the hour mark, despite the fact that neither had played a single minute in the Premier League.
Everton had not led at home for an extended period of time since beating Leeds 3-0 on February 12 – Iwobi’s winner against Newcastle came in the 97th minute – but here they were disciplined and picking their moments to sense a second, with Gordon snapping into a challenge on Alex Telles but failing to pick out Richarlison with his low cross.
This time, Ben Godfrey and Michael Keane blocked, headed, and maintained their heads.
Only once, at the finish, did time stop still as Ronaldo collected Maguire’s header back across goal for one more display of defiance from Pickford, who saved ice hockey-style by raising up a large right glove.
When the final whistle blew, Goodison burst into tears. Never before has the Spirit of the Blues been sung with such fervor from all directions.
He believes that by working hard and earning the ball back, you may create your own luck. With a little hard effort, I produced my own luck.