Everton had no favours this weekend from any of their rivals for European spots, with Liverpool grabbing a late win, Tottenham Hotspur cruising against Wolverhampton Wanderers (who the Blues play next), and West Ham United grabbing a late point against Brighton. The Toffees had to win today to keep pace with the teams above.
So what did they do? Went down early to the already-relegated Sheffield United, making the visitors look like the side with Europe aspirations while themselves looking like they are the side that should be relegated. On paper, Everton probably have the better player in every single position of the pitch and a season’s worth of time together, yet still continue to look like pure bilgewater often.
Despite Carlo Ancelotti’s insistence that his side not take the Blades for granted, the Toffees started the game at a saunter and then allowed Jack Robinson to jink through their defence like Ronaldinho before laying up a pass for 17-year-old Daniel Jebbison - making his first Premier League start - to slot home.
The Blues almost evened it up right away with a shot by Allan that was saved brilliantly by Aaron Ramsdale. The Sheffield goalie didn’t stop there, continuing his heroics with a double save off Richarlison and then Dominic Calvert-Lewin from point-blank range.
Mason Holgate has shown he is good for one clanger a game, and was lucky this one didn’t end up in the back of the Everton net in the first half. His poorly-weighted backpass to Jordan Pickford was cut out by Jebbison but the goalie rushed out to make amends and keep the Blues only one-down at the break.
Ancelotti made a change at halftime with Gylfi Sigurdsson coming on for Holgate, and the Blues going to a straight 4-4-2. There was a definite sense of urgency after that with Sigurdsson and James doing well to settle the ball in the middle when attacking, but still the execution was lacking and the Blades defending en masse continued to foil Everton.
That ended soon however with Sheffield United’s organization ensuring that the Blues were reduced once again to passing sideways when they had the ball. With precious minutes ticking away, Ancelotti made his last two changes, sending on Bernard and Andre Gomes for James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucoure.
So despite leading the Premier League at one point and pretty much staying in contention throughout, Everton will once again have to endure another season without European competition having simply run out of fuel from about early March onwards.