Everton have picked up a three-point cushion in their relegation battle after a wildly chaotic clash with Newcastle United at Goodison Park last night.
Frank Lampard will surely be absolutely buzzing to take just a second win of his tenure after losing four consecutive league games.
The first half was considerably calm compared to the second, with no goals and the playing field level at half time, but when the game returned for the final 45 minutes, nobody could have predicted the outcome or the scenes at the Merseyside ground.
A protestor cable-tied himself to the goalpost by his neck less than five minutes into the second half, taking a number of Everton staff, medical teams and police officers to set the man free and remove him from the ground over an almost 10-minute ordeal, but the drama didn’t stop there.
When the game resumed, similar play continued from what we saw in the first half, with neither Newcastle United or Everton taking anything from the ongoing play.
As frustrations rose, Brazilian midfielder Allan made a questionable challenge on Allan Saint-Maximin in the 83rd minute that was initially given as a yellow card foul, but after a VAR review the decision was overturned with the player sent off for a straight red card.
Down to just ten men on the pitch and with Dominic Calvert-Lewin brought onto the field just before the sending off, the Everton team clearly felt they had nothing to lose, imposing themselves on Eddie Howe’s side and eventually securing the golden goal they have been desperate for after not scoring for seven hours.
Calvert-Lewin assisted Alex Iwobi in finding the back of the net in the ninth minute of extra time, setting Goodison Park alight, with Lampard even fearing that he has broken his left hand through celebration.
Crucially, the side has given themselves a three-point gap on the relegation zone with no position change, but a massive step forward in their pursuit of safety.
One player who returned tonight after missing the last two fixtures through illness was centre-back Michael Keane, who had a point to prove after a series of terrible performances, scoring an own goal against Tottenham Hotspur in his last outing.
Against the Magpies, he put on a defensive masterclass, picking up the second-highest rating in the team (7.2) and rightly so with the English defender winning ten out of his 16 duels, making six clearances, one interception and one tackle, all while proving successful in the majority of his long balls (4/7).
The Toffees boss, the team and the fans will be elated with the first clean sheet since November and a defiant performance that could now be the catalyst in Everton’s resurgence in their Premier League relegation challenge.
Tonight’s win will surely inject confidence into the struggling side going forward and it could just be a turning point for Keane as well, someone who has been ridiculed relentlessly throughout the campaign.