Everton claim vital win as Jordan Pickford heroics deny Chelsea at raucous Goodison

Everton 1-0 Chelsea: Richarlison punished Cesar Azpilicueta’s error before an outstanding performance from goalkeeper Pickford earned Frank Lampard’s side a massive victory in the Premier League relegation battle

Richard Jolly
At Goodison Park
Sunday 01 May 2022 18:04
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<p>Jordan Pickford rescued Everton with a series of stunning saves </p>

Jordan Pickford rescued Everton with a series of stunning saves

Just when the story of Frank Lampard and Chelsea seemed over, a sequel provided a twist in the tale of Everton’s startling decline. A Chelsea great had a great result against Chelsea, beating the club he served over 732 games as player and manager. He changed their history, but Everton’s outstanding win of the season gives them renewed hope of avoiding a historic low. Just when it seemed they were being consigned to the Football League, Richarlison capitalised on an error by Cesar Azpilicueta. Lampard appointed the Spaniard Chelsea captain and, albeit unintentionally, a favour was returned as Azpilicueta gifted Everton their winner.

It could prove priceless. It was greeted by a colossal roar. Goodison was raucous throughout, with the visitors adding to the volume as the choruses of “super Frank Lampard” came from the Chelsea corner. It was a first opportunity to pay tribute in person to their record scorer since his sacking last January. Everton had hastened his downfall and Lampard was in charge of Chelsea for their previous two losses at Goodison.

As on each of those occasions, there was another hostile atmosphere, another sense a rattled Chelsea team were harried into defeat as a club united to try and save itself. There were fireworks outside Chelsea’s hotel last night – Jorginho, among those woken up, only lasted 45 minutes on the pitch – and flares around Goodison, shrouding the surrounding streets in blue smoke.

Then battle was begun on the pitch. The captain Seamus Coleman personified Everton, bringing a feistiness and a willingness to scrap, but also throwing himself in the way of a Timo Werner cross, potentially saving a goal. Jordan Pickford made two stunning saves in a minute. Everton competed valiantly, overcoming the champions of Europe as they sought to avoid a descent into the Championship.

They had to work off the ball. They only had 17 per cent of possession in the Merseyside derby and a 22 per cent share was not a dramatic improvement. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who strode forward imperiously on a series of menacing runs, was the game’s classiest midfielder but Everton defended with great determination, with Lampard rewarded for switching to 3-4-3, matching Chelsea up by using Alex Iwobi as a wing-back. If Thomas Tuchel is widely deemed an upgrade at Stamford Bridge on Lampard, this was an afternoon of vindication and victory for the Englishman.

But his side had to feed on scraps. Everton were rewarded for a high-speed start to the second half. Richarlison robbed Azpilicueta, who went to tug the Brazilian back. It would have resulted in a second yellow card but another punishment instead transpired: Demarai Gray nipped in to nudge the ball back to Richarlison, who slotted a shot past Edouard Mendy and celebrated by throwing a flare back into the Gwladys Street End.

Goodison exploded with Richarlison’s second-half goal

It should have been two, Vitalii Mykolenko slashing a shot wide after Abdoulaye Doucoure found him. In a fraught finale, Gray skied a shot and Anthony Gordon surged clear only for Mendy to parry his effort. As long as the lead remained one, the stadium felt consumed by nerves. The announcement of seven minutes of injury time was met by jeers. Everton hung on, but the greatest alarm came on the hour.

Otherwise unimpressive in the final third, Chelsea got everything but the goal in the space of a few seconds. Lampard’s protégé Mason Mount hooked a half-volley against both posts, with Pickford recovering superbly to parry Azpilicueta’s shot from the rebound and deny the defender redemption. From the resulting corner, he made a second brilliant stop, denying Antonio Rudiger. Later, Pickford made a flying stop to tip Loftus-Cheek’s shot over and he denied Mateo Kovacic in stoppage time.

And so Chelsea’s unbeaten run on the road, which dated back to January’s trip to Manchester City, came to an end as, like Manchester United before them, they fell at Goodison. Their league season is petering out, whereas Everton’s is gaining pace, as it needed to.

They now only trail Burnley and Leeds by two points. Five had felt a gargantuan gulf for a team with a chronic inability to win away but Everton may yet avert a first relegation in 71 years. In their last cup final, in 2009, they were condemned to defeat by a Lampard winner for Chelsea. Thirteen years on, Lampard could savour a day when Everton got the better of Chelsea. The consequences may yet be still bigger.

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