Everton produced a strong and determined performance as they deservedly defeated Leeds United 1-0 at Goodison Park this afternoon.
The overiding feeling is one simply of relief, after Everton claimed three massive points in their struggle to avoid relegation this season.
In my match reviews, I wrote that although manager Sean Dyche had said a win today wasn’t absolutely essential, it really was a game that needed to be won, along with Aston Villa next weekend.
This was especially true because Southampton and Bournemouth got a win.
In news that was not at all surprising to anyone, the Toffees went into this match without Dominic Calvert-Lewin, out injured again.
So, Dyche decided to go with Neal Maupay as his lone out-and-out striker as he choose to stick with his 4-5-1 formation.
It was critically important for him to get enough support from midfield and the wide players, something that didn’t happen for Ellis Simms against Liverpool.
From the off though the home side were better and throughout the match they created the best chances and looked most threatening.
In fact, Leeds didn’t have a single shot on target all game as they struggled to compete with the Toffees’ with Patrick Bamford wasting perhaps their best opportunity.
However, as the game went on there was an increasing possibility that Everton would pay the price for not taking their own chances.
Man-of-the-match candidate Amadou Onana – excellent and hard-working for the second straight game at Goodison – had a real opportunity and the goalscorer against Arsenal, James Tarkowski, along with Maupay, Conor Coady and Vitalii Mykolenko who also had shots saved too.
The Blues’ were knocking on the door but couldn’t break it down and as the match continued and the sky grew darker, that horrible feeling increased that the visitors might somehow snatch it late on, as we’ve seen so often in the past.
Then, an unlikely hero emerged as long serving right-back Seamus Coleman fired a shot across the goal that sneaked into the corner of Leeds’ net to send the Grand Old Lady into uproar.
Now, could Everton hold on or even add to their slender lead? The home side kept pressing but there were no more goals to be had with Abdoulaye Doucoure having a great chance to seal it.
In the end though it didn’t matter as the final whistle went, Goodison erupted, and the Toffees’ supporters had a huge win to savour for the rest of the weekend.
The formula seems to be set with the Blues’ proving energetic, resolute and determined at home and finding a way to score a goal (from a defender) and win, while also keeping a clean sheet.
It is proving effective at the moment, but it’s not very easy on the heart for fans watching!
They are halfway there this week. So, can Everton go on and repeat the performance and result (although more than one goal would be nice) when they host Villa in seven days time?