Everton completed a spectacular comeback against Crystal Palace to earn a victory that ensures they will participate in the Premier League next season.
When Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jordan Ayew scored in the first half, things seemed bad for the Toffees.
But manager Frank Lampard’s tactical alterations, along with the sheer energy and power of a loud crowd, significantly changed things in the second half, as Michael Keane and then Richarlison, with his sixth goal in nine games, set up a spectacular finish.
EVERTON CLINCH PREMIER LEAGUE SAFETY 😤 pic.twitter.com/umQPCRIBcT— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 19, 2022
With the setting set, Dominic Calvert-Lewin – fresh from scoring his first goal since August in Saturday’s loss to Brentford – threw himself at a free-kick and watched as the Gwladys Street End behind the goal erupted, followed by the rest of the stadium.
Because the strain had been intense for so long, hundreds of supporters and smoke grenades descended on the field in celebration, and although it was brief and amicable, referee Anthony Taylor and his assistants fled behind a wall of police on the touchline.
At the final whistle, there was another intrusion by hundreds, and Everton will undoubtedly suffer repercussions, but nothing as severe as what was staring them in the face with 150 minutes left in their season.
The disastrous quality of their defence, which enabled Mateta and Ayew to give Palace a merited two-goal lead, was forgotten on a night of jubilation and relief as Lampard’s name was sung by all four sides in this ancient stadium at the final whistle.
There were echoes of 1994 when Everton fought back from 2-0 down to win by the same scoreline and ensure safety on the last day after defeating a club that played at Selhurst Park, however, the victims were Wimbledon.
The celebration at the finish was unprecedented at Goodison Park, with blue-shirted supporters bringing additional smoke grenades and chanting their hearts out to the gathered squad of players, who stayed pitchside behind a barrier of police and stewards.
Those same spectators had extended the length of Goodison Road before kick-off, as Everton’s team bus deviated from its customary route to accommodate the wave of support that has been developing in recent weeks, and the players disembarked the coach in a blue haze.
The haze’s odor traveled all the way to Stanley Park before the players arrived, and many fans in the heart of the greeting left the crowd visibly blue in the face from an environment heavy with colored smoke.
Everton’s 4-0 FA Cup quarter-final loss to Palace two months ago had Lampard wondering whether his players had the “bs” for a battle.
Since then, they’ve grabbed 14 points from 10 games, just enough to send them over the finish line with a game to spare, but nowhere was it more important than in their last home game.
Prior to the regular performance of Z-Cars, the Rocky theme song was played, and things became violent in less than two minutes, with Wilfried Zaha giving Anthony Gordon a push, resulting in a little fight and raising the noise levels even higher.
Will Hughes and, more controversially, Ayew both clattered into the back of Gordon, earning yellow cards.
Everton, on the other hand, were already down when Richarlison’s free-kick skimmed the top of the crossbar, maybe assisted by Jack Butland’s fingers, exposing the hosts’ defensive flaws.
Mateta’s downward header beat Pickford’s dive after Eberechi Eze’s inswinging free-kick soared over the heads of a congested penalty area.
Another brawl broke out after Ayew’s scissor attack on Gordon in front of the hosts’ technical area only resulted in a yellow card. But if it offended Everton, their fury was off the charts two minutes later.
Mateta robbed Seamus Coleman in the center circle, and Pickford’s cross was only punched as far as Zaha, and with the goalkeeper only able to half-save the follow-up, Andre Gomes and then Abdoulaye Doucoure – on the goalline – failed to clear as Ayew’s weak touch brought Palace’s second.
Everton has never surrendered more than 60 goals in a Premier League season before.
Everton’s 5-2-3 system meant they were completely outnumbered in midfield, and Gomes looked sluggish, so it was no surprise to see him replaced by Dele Alli at halftime.
Lampard altered formation again late in the first half, with Alli and Alex Iwobi, now in his third role of the night, placed as two offensive midfielders with Doucoure holding.
Within 10 minutes, Mason Holgate headed down a free-kick, which Keane blasted in with his weaker left foot.
Pickford’s one-handed save from Mateta kept them in the game, and the all-important goals from Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin preserved them in the Premier League.