It won’t be considered the prettiest goal of Anthony Gordon’s career, but it could prove to be the most important. The former Evertoner gave his club a valuable win in their increasingly difficult bid to avoid relegation as Manchester United’s top four contenders suffered a severe setback.
Gordon’s deflected first-half hit was the difference between one everton Team that has been fighting for its life and a United side that is shamefully going through the motions. They had plenty of possession but a listless, dispassionate performance underscored the scale of the task the caretaker coach will hand to likely successor Erik ten Hag.
Frank Lampard still faces a formidable task of his own in keeping Everton in the top flight, but here was the answer he craved when accused his players lacked the character and quality to survive. Ben Godfrey was immense in central defence, Fabian Delph and Alex Iwobi tirelessly in midfield while Richarlison and Vitalii Mykolenko gave everything to save the crucial three points.
Concern had dogged Goodison after two damaging, self-destructive defeats at West Ham and Burnley that had pushed Everton closer to the trapdoor and raised suspicions their players were being mentally shot. Lampard responded by recalling Allan and Michael Keane from suspension, dropping Abdoulaye Doucouré and turning to Delph’s experience in central midfield. It was the 32-year-old’s seventh appearance in another injury-plagued season, but his 200th of the season First League total.
Delph and Allan provided a defense with a deep but valuable shield that created its own problems given Keane’s tendency to concede possession on the cheap.
It was a poor quality game, as one would expect from a side struggling with relegation but with no hopes of qualifying for the Champions League. United weathered a bright but short Everton opening with minimal fuss to dominate possession and force their hosts to retreat. Jordan Pickford made a good save from Marcus Rashford after Delph dangerously headed a Bruno Fernandes free-kick towards the United striker as he lurked unmarked on the edge of the box.
The Everton keeper blocked Rashford again with a smart save to his right as Fernande’s inviting cross snapped the striker between two defenders.
Everton had threatened little. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s arduous recovery from his long-term injury tested the patience of the home crowd, as did Allan when he was dispossessed in midfield by Cristiano Ronaldo. But Everton subsequently found a lifeline. Gordon launched a tackle to regain possession and suddenly Lhi’s side were in the front foot. Richarlison’s attempt to find Iwobi in the area was intercepted by Nemanja Matic, starting in place of the injured Scott McTominay, but his touch found Gordon alone outside the box. He drilled a shot towards goal, David de Gea had him covered, but he took a big deflection off Harry Maguire’s hip and sailed past the wrong-footed keeper. Some of the considerable weight on Everton has been lifted.
Shortly thereafter, Keane headed over from a Gordon free kick. Richarlison nearly scored the second with a second deflected goal when, after wonderfully intercepting Pickford’s long space, his shot shot up over Victor Lindelof’s heel and over De Gea. The keeper reacted great and knocked over his crossbar. The same could not be said of his teammates.
The visitors lost Fred to injury in the first half but the introduction of Paul Pogba added nothing to the urgency or creativity of their performance. Rangnick summoned a response on the touchline, Ronaldo also vented his anger by picking up a late booking for kicking a dead ball into the crowd, but the end result was non-existent. The few promising situations they created were repelled by Godfrey and Keane, who delivered a much-improved second-half performance.
Everton tried to defend their lead for most of the second half, but a penalty was averted when Gordon went down in an argument with Alex Telles. Neither the referee, Jonathan Moss, nor VAR were moved.
When the fourth official, Martin Atkinson, signaled five minutes of stoppage time, there was unrest in the home ranks. Ronaldo had a good chance when Maguire got in his way but Pickford made another important save and Everton were pardoned.
Richarlison, Iwobi and Mykolenko collapsed from exhaustion and relief after the final whistle. You are not done yet.