Match report and highlights as Abdoulaye Doucoure’s 57th-minute strike preserves Everton’s Premier League status against Bournemouth; Toffees will play top-flight football for a 70th consecutive season as Leeds and Leicester are relegated
Everton survived relegation by the skin of their teeth to preserve their top-flight status for a 70th successive season after overcoming Bournemouth 1-0 on a final day fuelled with drama at a raucous Goodison Park.
The Toffees, one of six ever-present clubs in the Premier League since the competition’s inception in 1992, were in the bottom three for much of the opening hour on Sunday after Leicester took the lead against West Ham.
But Abdoulaye Doucoure’s superb strike from the edge of the box (57) dragged his side back out of the relegation zone to break Leicester hearts, as the Foxes join Leeds in dropping to the Sky Bet Championship.
Bournemouth, who finish in 15th place, threatened an equaliser when Kieffer Moore’s header was scrambled clear, while Jordan Pickford saved well from Matias Vina, but following an interminable 10 minutes of stoppage time caused by a hand injury to Pickford, Everton held on.
A breathless Pickford told Sky Sports: “I’m knackered! Doucs find a strike from somewhere. It’s massive for the club. We didn’t want it to go down to the wire but we keep going.”
Everton: Pickford (7); Coady (7), Mina (7), Tarkowski (7); Garner (8), Onana (7), Gueye (7), Doucoure (8), McNeil (7); Iwobi (6), Gray (7).
Subs: Simms (n/a).
Bournemouth: Travers (8); Smith (6), Zabarnyi (6), Senesi (6), Kelly (7); Lerma (6), Billing (6); Brooks (6), Christie (6), Ouattara (7); Solanke (7).
Subs: Vina (6), Moore (7), Anthony (n/a).
Player of the match: Abdoulaye Doucoure.
How Everton staved off relegation again
Abdoulaye Doucoure fires Everton in front
Writing in his programme notes, Dyche outlined how important it was for each component of the club to align and pull in the same direction, highlighting the connection with his battle-hardened supporters.
“We all know about the power of Goodison. It’s real and it’s powerful, tangible and deeply affective.”
- Winger Demarai Gray was handed the goalscoring responsibility for Everton in their potential relegation-decider at home to Bournemouth.
- With Dominic Calvert-Lewin injured again and back-up striker Neal Maupay woefully ineffective manager Sean Dyche turned to Gray, who has occasionally performed a role through the middle on occasions this season.
- He was one of two changes with Conor Coady brought in for the injured right-back Nathan Patterson, most likely requiring a change of system to a back three.
- Bournemouth, who have been safe for some time, also made three changes with a fit-again Philip Billing and Dango Ouatarra coming in for Lewis Cook and Jaidon Anthony, while goalkeeper Mark Travers replaced Neto who was absent for personal reasons.
How Goodison roared at the final whistle. Gary O’Neil, Bournemouth’s manager, played in Everton’s last final-day victory back in 2016 as a member of the Norwich side that lost 3-0.
His side switched Everton around at the coin toss for them to attack the Gwladys Street End and the hosts started as though they were already playing catch-up. It allowed Bournemouth to assert themselves as Jefferson Lerma skied a shot inside five minutes.
Everton operated almost exclusively down the left in the opening half an hour, involving Dwight McNeil and Alex Iwobi but, shorn of the presence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, there was no presence inside the six-yard box as too often Demarai Gray gambled by taking up a deeper position.
Finally, a chance came as Amadou Onana released Idrissa Gueye, but his shot was superbly tipped over by Mark Travers. Another swirling strike from Gueye moments later was watched and batted away by Bournemouth’s deputy goalkeeper as news filtered through of Harvey Barnes’ strike for Leicester.
Bournemouth looked to add to the nerves by edging in front as David Brooks’ miscued volley from a Philip Billing corner landed at the feet of Dango Ouattara. He set up Marcos Senesi for a poked shot from an acute angle that drifted just wide of the far post.
Travers, who conceded nine against Liverpool on his last visit to Merseyside back in August, was in the mood to frustrate his opponents as he tipped over James Garner’s dipping effort on the stroke of half-time.
Everton were in need of a rousing tonic at the interval, and Gray was presented with the perfect opportunity six minutes after the restart. Yerry Mina’s aerial presence caused panic in the Bournemouth box as Illya Zabarnyi’s attempted clearance landed on the head of Gray, but Travers got down to shovel his effort around the post. Gray had to score.
But then the moment arrived. Gueye’s searching ball towards Onana was headed out to the edge of the box when Doucoure lurked. He steadied himself and drilled the ball beyond the static Travers. Goodison erupted.
Everton now had to hold on as Leicester doubled their lead over West Ham, and with Moore now on, the Welshman caused havoc when his header back across goal was clawed away from the goal-line by a combination of Pickford and Conor Coady at the feet of Dominic Solanke.
It led to an almighty delay as Pickford and Solanke squared up, with the Bournemouth striker appealing for a bite by Mina during the heated skirmish. It would lead to plenty of time being added on for the home fans to suffer.
During the 10 minutes of stoppage time, Vina drew a fine stop from Pickford after Moore’s header back across goal. Doucoure – the lion heart who signed a contract extension in midweek – drove forward, one last time to force Travers into another save to keep the contest live.
Referee Stuart Attwell mercifully put an end to all that, as a pitch invasion ensued and cries of “sack the board” rained down from those who abided by those commands to remain in their seats. Twelve months on from survival under Frank Lampard, Everton had found themselves in the same position. A busy summer now lies ahead.
Dyche: Hideous game that means everything
Everton boss Sean Dyche:
“It means a lot. I took over what they called a broken club. It’s not broken. It’s had its cracks but it’s not broken. We’ve shown the fighting spirit that you need.
“But equally, I’ve just told the players that we shouldn’t be in this state. We’ve got to learn from that and next season’s going to be big. It’s a magic day but we shouldn’t be in this shape. You’re only a big club if you’re doing big club things. It is a big club but we have to get it back to being one on the pitch.
“Anyone can take the wheel of a ship in calm waters. We haven’t changed everything but we’ve affected the group. It’s difficult – you’re taking on someone else’s group, so I’m pleased for me and my staff. There’s a hell of a lot to be done now.
“It was a hideous game. No manager wants those games. You have to find some weird, twisted way of enjoying it. But it’s fantastic when you come through it and get the job done.
O’Neil scathing of match officials
Bournemouth boss Gary O’Neil:
“It was enjoyable, I thought the lads handled it well and stood up to Everton’s direct play. It was what I expected it to be. I thought we were the better side and had control for the most part. Still lots there we need to progress on.
“We knew what we were coming into against a direct team. We’ve struggled against direct sides this season and maybe didn’t create enough. I’m excited that we’ve got to the point where we can perform like that in those conditions under a lot of pressure. I saw a team that stood up to the battle and represented what I stand for.
“The fact we had 39 points against this level of officiating is a miracle. I thought the refereeing was terrible. It’s a miracle it’s taken this amount of time for me to get booked. It can’t be us who always suffer on the day. Hopefully next season it improves for us as it’s been really poor this season. My biggest disappointment this season has been the level of officiating we’ve suffered.”
Everton clamber up the mountain but change must come
The last time Everton were relegated in May 1951, Clement Attlee was Prime Minister, Cliff Britton was manager and Everest had yet to be scaled.
It took three years for the club to climb out of the old Second Division. Monday marks the 70th anniversary of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s historic ascent.
Everton will have their platinum jubilee at the summit of English football, but their supporters have stared into the abyss throughout this 69th campaign.