LIVERPOOL: Everton will extend their unbroken 69-year stay in the English top flight as midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure’s stunning strike earned them a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth to avoid relegation on the final day of the season.
Sean Dyche’s side came into Sunday’s contest with their fate in their own hands, knowing victory at Goodison Park would be enough to keep them in the Premier League, but the nervy hosts struggled to break down their opponents in a tense first half.
With supporters getting desperate, and results not going their way elsewhere, Doucoure stepped up with what proved to be the crucial winner in the 57th minute to lift the roof off the famous old stadium.
There were plenty of worrying moments for the home faithful late on, but Everton held on to finish the season in 17th place, two points above Leicester City in 18th.
Everton were no strangers to the nail-biting drama of ensuring survival on the final day of the league season having done so twice during the 1990s.
Bournemouth, with their Premier League status already secured, seemed like ideal opponents, but the south coast side travelled to Merseyside looking for a fourth successive win at Goodison Park.
The Everton fans knew they had a part to play, with the atmosphere red hot as the match got underway, and a fierce rendition of the club anthem, Spirit of the Blues, got the stadium pumped for the crucial encounter.
But as has been Everton’s problem for much of the season, a goal did not look like coming in a first half of few chances, with Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers’ save to deny Idrissa Gueye the closest the hosts came to scoring.
Without injured frontline striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton looked very much like a side who had only once scored more than one goal at home in all competitions all season.
Doucoure’s strike, however, was worth the wait for the Goodison faithful, with supporters brought to tears in the stands as the ball hit the net.
Holding on for over half an hour, Everton relied on some last-ditch defending and a fine late save from England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to drag them over the line.
Despite warnings not to do so, supporters took to the pitch to celebrate another survival success as Everton lived to fight another day as a Premier League team.