Everton safe, last relegation spot between Burnley and Leeds
LONDON (AP) — When Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed the ball into the net, Everton fans were ready to start celebrating their team’s Premier League status being preserved.
A combination of astonishment and relief sent supporters flooding onto the Goodison Park field on Thursday night. From two goals down to Crystal Palace, Everton was leading 3-2. But there were still at least five minutes remaining.
The field had to be cleared before the fans could spill back on at the final whistle, sure the Merseyside club’s stay in the top division will extend to 69 years.
The outpouring of joy saw the grass covered in blue-shirted fans carrying smoke grenades as the players remained pitchside behind security. In the mayhem, Palace manager Patrick Vieira looked to be goaded by an Everton fan before he kicked out.
While Everton is safe, it will be only Burnley and Leeds trying to avoid being the third and final team relegated in the final round of the season on Sunday.
“At halftime, we are not dead and buried,” Everton manager Frank Lampard said, “but anyone on the outside would say that and it is the character of this club, the fans and the players that dragged us through.”
Burnley managed to climb out of the relegation zone at the expense of Leeds by drawing 1-1 at Aston Villa. Chelsea will head into the finale with third place already secured by drawing 1-1 with Leicester on Thursday.
The Everton fans made their presence felt outside Goodison Park with blue smoke shrouding the streets as the teams arrived.
There wasn’t anything to celebrate inside after the 21st minute when Jean-Philippe Mateta got in front of defender Vitalii Mykolenko to head in from Eberechi Eze’s free kick.
Everton was enraged that Jordan Ayew was only booked for a scissor tackle on Anthony Gordon before he scored Palace’s second. Mateta’s cross was punched by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford only as far as Wilfried Zaha. The follow-up was parried and Everton midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré failed to clear the danger before Ayew poked into the net.
Everton’s 5-2-3 formation meant it was being totally outnumbered in midfield. Having briefly switched to 4-2-1-3 late in the first half, Lampard changed again, with Dele Alli and Alex Iwobi, now in his third role of the night, deployed as two attacking midfielders with Doucouré holding.
It sparked a comeback that began in the 54th. Mason Holgate nodded down a free kick and Michael Keane netted with his weaker left foot.
Pickford’s one-handed save from Mateta kept Everton in the game. Richarlison leveled in the 75th minute and Calvert-Lewin headed Everton in front in the 85th from Demarai Gray’s free kick.
“What a roller coaster football is sometimes,” Calvert-Lewin said. “It is why we love the game, why the fans love the game. In an ideal situation we wouldn’t be in the position we were but then it produces moments like that and you can go from low to high so quick.
“I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight or maybe I will. What a night.”
At Villa Park, Ashley Barnes converted a penalty for Burnley in the 45th after a clumsy challenge from Emi Buendía on Maxwel Cornet but the Argentine redeemed himself just after the break with the equalizer.
Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope made a string of fine saves in the second half before the visitors had Matt Lowton sent off in stoppage time for a late challenge on Calum Chambers.
The point lifted Burnley out of the bottom three thanks to having a better goal difference than Leeds as they are both on 35 points. While Burnley plays Newcastle on Sunday, Jesse Marsch’s Leeds is at Brentford trying to avoid joining Norwich and Watford in dropping into the second division.
“We have left it in our hands going into the weekend so that was important,” Burnley defender James Tarkowski told Sky Sports. “It would have been nice to get three today and take a little bit of the pressure away but it is a big game either way.”
At Stamford Bridge, Marcos Alonso’s fine volley from Reece James’ diagonal cross recovered the point for Chelsea in the 34th minute after the wingback’s failure to track back had allowed James Maddison to fire Leicester in front from 18 yards (meters).
Christian Pulisic scuffed a tap-in wide that could have won the game for Chelsea.
Thomas Tuchel’s team was already sure of clinching one of the four Champions League places but the west London club will finish third due to having a far better goal difference than Tottenham heading into Sunday’s final round.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports