Doucoure saves Everton from relegation with final-day winner against Bournemouth

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Everton’s fans poured onto the field to celebrate their team’s latest final-day escape in the Premier League after a 1-0 win over Bournemouth secured by Abdoulaye Doucoure’s second-half thunderbolt on Sunday.

Add 2023 to 1994 and 1998 as Everton again left it to the last afternoon of the campaign to preserve its top-flight status, which the club has had since 1954.

Everton finished one place above the relegation zone — two points above Leicester, whose 2-1 win over West Ham proved to be in vain.

Doucoure’s powerful 20-meter strike will go down as one of the most important goals in the club’s 145-year history and ensured Everton is not heading down to the Championship and likely into financial chaos.

The midfielder’s 10th goal for the club capped a remarkable turnaround in four months for the Mali international, who was training on his own in January after a fall-out with former Everton manager Frank Lampard.

Five days after having his contract extended by 12 months — and with his side just over half-an-hour from going down — he delivered when it mattered most.

“I think about all the season, all my personal life, everything,” Doucoure said. “Everyone knows I have had a difficult season, it was high and low but I finished on the high, so very happy.”

It still required a clearance from Conor Coady under his own crossbar and a good save deep into 10 minutes of stoppage time from Jordan Pickford to keep Everton safe.

In 1994, Everton beat Wimbledon 3-2 — coming back from 2-0 down — and rivals Ipswich, Sheffield United and Southampton all fared worse to keep the Merseysiders in the top division. Four years later, they bettered Bolton’s result at Chelsea to survive.

The stakes seemed much higher on this occasion and with a new 52,000-capacity stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock due to open for the 2024-25 season, this was potentially the last Premier League game at Goodison Park.

However, they are not out of trouble as the club have posted losses in excess of 430 million pounds over the last four years and have an outstanding Premier League charge for breaching profit and sustainability rules.

Everton will now have a 121st season in the top flight. A founder member of the English league in 1888, Everton has had only four seasons outside the top division - in 1930-31 and from 1951-1952 to 1953-54.

Sean Dyche, who took over as Everton manager in January after the firing of Frank Lampard, sympathized with Leicester and Leeds after their final-day relegations, saying there was “no joy in it for me other than getting the job done.”

“I came in here to change a mentality and I think there have been signs of that. There is still more to go,” he added. “I said to the players, ‘We shouldn’t be here. Enjoy this today and you’ve earned it but at the end of the day it has got to change.’

“There is no point in sitting on it and saying, ‘Look how great we are.’ Because it is not like that. There is loads to change here and a lot of work to be done but it was a big step to secure it.”

Asked if Everton would have to sell players because of the club’s debt, Dyche said: “There’s a chance. I’ll find out about that.

“There have been peripheral talks based on ifs, buts and maybes but that will come over the coming weeks when we find out the truth of what we have got, what we can do, what we can’t do. We had to get this (final day) sorted out, we’ve got it over the line. It was absolutely the key focus. Now it is time to immediately re-focus on the rest of it.”


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