Everton left it very, very late to come back for what can be counted as a deserved 2-1 win over Arsenal, making it three straight wins over the Gunners now. Richarlison had already seen two goals chalked off by very fine VAR margins before his late equalizer stood, while Demarai Gray capped off an excellent game as well with a rocket to the far post for the winner.
Speaking after the game, the manager Rafa Benitez commended his side for sticking together through what has been a difficult week for the club with the departure of Marcel Brands as Director of Football and the planned protest in the 27th minute.
“It is very clear when the fans, the players, we all stick together then we are the strongest.
“The reaction of the team, scoring a goal, then it’s disallowed, conceding a goal at the end of the first half. Another goal disallowed, then still scoring and reacting. Everybody is really pleased - fans, players, staff, everyone. Hopefully it is a step forward.
“I think we showed character in the first games & today it was even better with two goals disallowed and the fans behind the team. Everything was you could say perfect in the communion of the players & fans and the final score.”
While Richarlison’s first disallowed goal was a bit more clear on the offside, the Blues and the Brazilian player should feel very hard done by with the inaccuracies in the VAR line-drawing system.
“The VAR... I don’t know if the lines can be thicker or not? It was against us. Everything is against you but the character they showed today, with the fans behind, they can enjoy that.
“The fans were pleased because the fans gave everything. they are strong mentality and ready to change things quickly. The VAR was against us, but, still, the reaction was brilliant. We have been close in a lot of games to getting something.
“Everything was against us, but the reaction and character that they showed today, everyone can enjoy that.”
Toffees everywhere were stunned to see Lucas Digne not in the lineup at all, and the manager confirmed before the game that he was not injured. Has there been a falling out between the manager and the fullback?
“The main thing for me is that the priority is the team - we have to concentrate on the team. As a manager you have to make decisions & make your team selection.
“Ben Godfrey did really well last year, so I decided Godfrey could be an option for us in this game and that’s it.”
Central defender Yerry Mina left the game at the half-hour mark in his first start after missing a number of games, and keeping his unfortunate injury record going.
“He has a problem with his calf. There are some players we know are injury prone. Yerry has been unlucky on the injury front for the last 2-3 years.
“It’s more about the problems that he has & it’s difficult to manage”
What did Benitez have to say about the fan frustrations that have been vented in his direction as well as the protests against the Board, especially in the bedlam of the chaotic finish that saw Goodison at it’s loudest and proudest.
“Since I came here from day one, the fans have been really good. Their frustration in some games is because they want to see us winning. They stuck with the team & today is proof that we stick together.
“The fans were pleased because the players gave everything. They are strong mentality and ready to change things quickly.
“The fans are expecting commitment. You can talk about mistakes and we concede because we made mistakes against a good team. In terms of commitment the players are there and the fans appreciate that.
“They want to see a team that has spent a lot of money getting better and better. We will do it. It will take time but we will do it. Everybody now has the hope.”
Richarlison had an excellent day running at the Arsenal centrehalves and could count himself unlucky for only scoring once, even though he selflessly squared for Alex Iwobi in time added on when a goal could have made it a comfortable 3-1.
“He knew that we gave him a lot of confidence from the beginning with the Olympics. But it’s not easy for him to play as a (lone) striker sometimes... Today he showed his quality & scored three goals, two were disallowed, but his reaction was great.”
Where do the Blues go from here having finally won a game after eight straight futile results?
“We have to think about the future now & try to go altogether in the right direction... It’s important to be positive about the future & everyone in the club goes in the same direction. That’s it”