REPORT | Everton 2-0 Nottingham Forest

A massive three points for the blues as Sean Dyche’s tracksuit toffees take a massive step towards another successful fight against the drop. 

Idrissa Gueye returned back to the starting eleven after a spell of absence due to injury, completing a midfield 3 alongside Doucoure and Andre Gomes. Calvert-Lewin was back up top after a game off, and Jack Harrison was welcomed back into the starting eleven on the wing as Ashley Young moved back to the right back position.

Nottingham Forest started off well early in a cagey affair, creating the match’s first chance in the 6th minute. Gibbs-White and Reyna played a good build up before Williams had a crack at goal that was saved by Pickford. Not to be outdone by both sides’ point deductions and the threat of relegation looming, the first of three VAR controversies occurred in the 24th minute. Bearing down on goal in the box, Reyna was brought down by Ashley Young, and no penalty was given.

Following the decision, Everton nearly scored in the 27th minute. McNeil crossed into Calvert-Lewin, but the unmarked striker could only turn a tame effort towards goal that was saved. Then, two minutes later, Idrissa Gueye demonstrated the practical workings of the law of averages. Known for his haphazard long range efforts, the midfielder got onto the ball 25 yards out. He stepped forward under little pressure from Forest and fizzed a low effort into the bottom corner to rapturous celebration from the Goodison faithful, 1-0.

Soccer Football – Premier League – Everton v Nottingham Forest – Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain – April 21, 2024 Everton’s Idrissa Gueye scores their first goal REUTERS/Peter Powell

In the 40th minute, Jordan Pickford popped up once again with a match-defining save as he has done so often throughout his Everton career. Gibbs-White’s effort from inside the box was shanked out to Chris Wood, who surely thought he had scored from mere feet away from goal. Pickford made himself big and pulled off a massive save which was followed up by some brilliant defending from Tarkowski to keep Everton ahead. Then just before halftime, the second of three big VAR decisions would go in Everton’s favor. Hudson-Odoi looked to strike from inside the box, with the ball whacking off the outstretched arm of Ashley Young. VAR deemed his arm close enough to his body to play on. Perhaps fortunately, and not without its share of telling moments,  both sides entered into the locker room of the massive six-pointer with Everton one-nil ahead.

Ten minutes into the second half, it would be the toffees who would have a massive chance to go up 2-0. McNeil crossed into the box, the cross was nodded down by Tarkowski, and Calvert-Lewin found himself alone to volley at goal but could only put his effort narrowly wide of the goal. Shortly after, the third controversial VAR decision to go Everton’s way happened in the 56th minute. Once again, Ashley Young was the man under the spotlight as he brought down Hudson-Odoi. Perhaps the most contentious decision, the VAR cleared it saying Young got enough of the ball, and play continued.

In the 67th minute, James Garner and Beto were introduced for Andre Gomes and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. After some back and forth inside a ravenous Goodison Park, Everton found yet another moment of magic. A beautiful bit of build up play saw Doucoure eventually lay the ball off to Dwight McNeil from 25 yards out. He took a touch and struck his effort low off the post and in to give Everton a crucial 2-0 lead.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – APRIL 21: Dwight McNeil of Everton celebrates after scoring their 2nd goal during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Nottingham Forest at Goodison Park on April 21, 2024 in Liverpool, England.(Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Dyche’s men held firm and didn’t really look like giving it away late on, with the biggest moment of note coming late on in stoppage time as Beto clashed heads in an aerial duel and was knocked unconscious. A scary moment that ended up in the striker being stretchered off, but fortunately he was later cleared after a brief visit to the hospital, a sigh of relief after a very scary collision.

In the end, not to be marred by Forest’s interpretation of the VAR results, it was a massive three points for Everton. Hard to feel to terrible after some of the decisions the toffees have faced on the season, with the win pushing Everton 5 points clear of the relegation zone with a game in hand. Crucially, the three points takes a chunk of pressure off of a home Merseyside Derby on Wednesday, before welcoming Brentford to Goodison Park at the weekend where it is possible that Everton could for all practical purposes be safe come the final whistle. Nearly over the line, but the blues still have plenty of work to do before season’s end.


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