1986: Everton lose first All-Merseyside FA Cup Final
Coming off possibly their best campaign ever, the Toffees were looking to build on their successes going into the 1985-86 season. They had won the league title and the European Cup Winner’s Cup the year prior and were hoping the magic didn’t wear off too quickly. Luckily for the Toffees, their campaign got off to a great start, losing just three matches over the first two months of the season. After faltering a bit, losing 3 of their next 6 matches, Everton got back on track and went on another fantastic run similar to the one that won them the title the year prior. They went unbeaten in 25 of their 27 matches from early November through mid-March, including an unbeaten streak of 18 games that started in mid-December. The Toffees would lose just two more times the rest of the season, but those two losses would prove to be costly as they would fall just short of their Merseyside rivals, losing the league title race by a mere two points. But they had one final match left and it gave them a chance at revenge, which brings us to May 10th, 1986.
With the league campaign already wrapped up and nothing else to play for, the FA Cup Final took center stage as the final match of the 1985-86 season. Liverpool and Everton had battled all year long, so it was only fitting that the final game of the season featured the Merseyside rivals with another trophy on the line. Surprisingly, this was the first time in the history of the FA Cup that the two clubs would meet in the final.
The two teams split the season series with each team winning at the other’s home stadium, so this one had all the makings of a classic final between two supremely talented squads. Looking for revenge, Everton came out firing and bagged the first goal of the game as Gary Lineker found the back of the net to put the Toffees up 1-0. The goal was Lineker’s 40th of the campaign, giving him the most goals in an Everton season since Dixie Dean back in 1932. The Toffees would take the lead into half-time, but once the whistle blew for the start of the second half, things changed. Ian Rush netted the equalizer just 11 minutes into the half to start the surge followed by a Chris Johnston goal to give Liverpool the 2-1 lead. Despite the efforts of the Toffees, they were unable to tie things back up and Ian Rush put the dagger in the hearts of Everton fans around the world with an 82nd minute goal to secure a 3-1 victory over their rivals. Once again Everton fell short, losing another trophy to their rivals, but they would finally get their revenge a year later when they beat out Liverpool by 9 points for the league title.
1998: Everton survive relegation battle on the final day
With the creation of what we know today as the Premier League in 1992, there was a lot of hope for teams around England as they began this new journey in English football. Unfortunately for Everton, this new league brought them some of their worst seasons in their history. In four out of their first 5 seasons in the Premier League, the Toffees finished 5 points or less above the relegation zone, including just 2 points clear at the finish of the 1996-97 campaign. So, as they entered the 1997-98 campaign, Toffee fans were just hoping not to be near the bottom at the end of another year. Unfortunately, they would not get their wish as Everton failed to succeed once again. The Toffees won just 3 of their first 18 matches in Premier League play, including a 5-game losing streak that spanned the entire month of November. They needed to figure things out quickly or else they were looking at a trip to the Championship. Luckily, Everton would steady the ship enough, only losing 6 games from December through early May, to give them a chance at avoiding relegation on the final day of the season. That brings us to May 10th, 1998.
The Toffees welcomed Coventry City to Goodison Park that day as 40,000+ fans filed in to watch what they hoped would not be the team’s final match in the top division of English football for at least another year. The two sides had met twice already that season with Coventry City dominating the first matchup, winning 4-1 in a League Cup match, before Everton earned a draw on the road in late October, but Coventry City was not the only worry that day. With the Toffees sitting on 39 points, they were in the relegation zone, but not even a win could catapult them out on its own. They also needed Bolton, who sat on 40 points, to lose to Chelsea that day. So, with the stage set, both clubs took the field in what was surely one of the most nerve-wrecking 2 hours of any Toffee fans life that day. Thankfully, Everton were able to grab the early lead as Gareth Farrelly netted a goal in the 7th minute to give the Toffees the 1-0 advantage. But, as we all know, scoring early is tough and surely the rest of the game felt like an eternity for the fans who were watching on that day. At the end of the first half, Everton still led 1-0, but they needed to do more to, at least, hold up their end of the scenario. Bolton and Chelsea were scoreless at the end of their first half, so Everton was staying up if the results held, but everyone knew this race was far from over. The second halves began and the battles continued to be tight, but in the 73rd minute, the Toffees got some help from Stamford Bridge. Gianluca Vialli scored to put Chelsea up 1-0 and Everton had breathing room. They would need it, too, because Coventry City would make things even more difficult as they equalized in the 89th minute to make it 1-1 at Goodison Park. If Bolton were able to find an equalizer at Stamford Bridge, Everton would be relegated. Luckily, though, in the 90th minute, Chelsea secured victory for themselves as Jody Morris put the London side up 2-0, snatching all three points from Bolton. Despite the hectic finish to the season, the Toffees stayed up and to this day have yet to be relegated from the Premier League.
And THAT is today in Everton history!