We end our look back at Everton’s 2021-22 season on a bright note, assessing the five best games of what was a largely difficult campaign.
The late and ultimately successful fight against relegation made this task a little easier, as even draws were hard to come by for most of the year.
I’m guessing most Toffees fans will largely agree with my selection if not necessarily the order, though my choice for number one is likely to be unanimous.
5) Everton 2-1 Arsenal
A classic ‘Everton under the lights’ performance as the Toffees battled their way to a late 2-1 victory over the Gunners. The game came after a turbulent few days following their thrashing by Liverpool, with fan protests growing and Marcel Brands quitting. It was also a bizarre game that saw Richarlison have two goals disallowed for extremely marginal offside calls via VAR, before the Brazilian eventually levelled with 10 minutes remaining. Demarai Gray, a rare bright spot during the first half of the season, then nearly took the roof off Goodison with a thunderbolt of a winner in stoppage-time.
4) Everton 3-0 Leeds
Frank Lampard’s first league game in charge was also one of Everton’s best performances of the season played in front of a raucous Goodison that felt liberated from the misery of the Benitez era. Seamus Coleman, so often the embodiment of every watching Evertonian, put the Toffees in front with a diving header to spark scenes of celebration not seen for several years. Michael Keane’s header and Anthony Gordon’s deflection from Richarlison’s shot completed a comfortable win that suggested talk of a relegation battle was premature.
How wrong we were.
3) Everton 1-0 Newcastle
This game was a terrible. A nervy error-strewn mess. But it will always be remembered for three things: Allan’s ridiculous harsh sending off, a protestor tying himself to the Gwlady’s Street goal post and Alex Iwobi’s late winner in the ninth of stoppage time, speaking scenes of sheer pandemonium inside Goodison. I don’t think I have ever seen a celebration like it, with Frank Lampard later revealing he had broken his hand in jubilation.
2) Everton 1-0 Chelsea
This was the day Evertonians rose up as one and said ‘not today’. They were putting their differences to one side to unite together and drag the club away from danger. Just 24 hours previously Burnley had won at Watford to leave Everton five points adrift of safety. Relegation had suddenly become a very real prospect and the Toffees were even odds-on to go down with some bookies.
Evertonians though were not having it. They gathered in their thousands outside Goodison to provide a blue-pyro fuelled welcome to the team coach. If the players were not aware of just how much this club means to its supporters, they were now.
Richarlison, such a talismanic figure in the closing weeks of the season, grabbed the only goal, though the match will also be remembered for a stunning save by Jordan Pickford to deny Cesar Azpilicueta. Worthy of the great man Neville Southall himself.
1) Everton 3-2 Palace
The only choice for number one. A match that will be etched into the annals of Everton’s long history alongside Wimbledon 94 and Coventry 98.
It encapsulated Everton’s season in 90 minutes - calamity, fightback, defiance and ultimately jubilation and relief. They looked down and out at half-time, yet another chance to secure survival well and truly blown - remember this was just two days after losing to Brentford at home.
The second goal in particular was a mess – the echoes of Wimbledon’s second 28 years previously were telling. Thankfully the result was also the same, as Everton stormed back in the second half.
Goodison is entering her twilight years but even this grand old venue has rarely witnessed scenes we saw after Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed the winner. A club that had seemingly been shattered into a million pieces and was sliding towards the abyss had been saved in the most dramatic of circumstances.
The challenge now is to ensure they are never in that position again.