It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t pretty, but Everton did enough to score and then hold the single-goal lead at West Bromwich Albion to secure three points and move into fourth in the Premier League table.
Richarlison’s sixth in six games means Everton now have nine wins away from Goodison Park, though the performance was quite similar to the game on Monday against Southampton that had ended in the same scoreline.
Shorn of James Rodriguez, Tom Davies and Seamus Coleman due to injuries, Carlo Ancelotti handed rare starts to Bernard and Alex Iwobi in an attempt to get fresh legs on the pitch. However, it was the hosts that started sharper though the Blues seemed to rouse from their stupor as the half progressed.
Second half substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson’s pinpoint delivery allowed Richarlison to nod home and secure the three points, and the veteran Italian manager cracked a smile when the final whistle blew.
“I feel good. I feel really good if I look at the table, really happy. But there are two problems: first, I don’t know for how long it will be for and second, unfortunately the season did not finish today.
“But we are pleased to be there.”
Ancelotti has said all along that he wants to see Everton in Europe next season, and that reaching the Champions League would be a dream.
“I think that at the start of the season, no-one could say that Everton, after 26 games, would be there in the top four.
“But this is deserved, well deserved from my team because they are working really well.”
The Blues travel to Ancelotti’s former side Chelsea on Monday, with Burnley to follow after that. Will his side be able to sustain their current run of results?
“I don’t know if they [other teams] underestimate us. I know we have to be focused. I talk to the players about the dream the Champions League will be and they are focused to follow this dream because it’s a step in the career of everyone.
“Most of the players didn’t play one game in the Champions League and so we are there in the fight and we are happy to be in the fight.
“But for the fight we need to sacrifice until the end.”