Serie A

Abdoulaye Doucoure goal sees Everton triumph in final home game of season

Abdoulaye Doucoure goal sees Everton triumph in final home game of season

Everton signed off their season at Goodison Park with an uncharacteristic, jeopardy-free 1-0 victory over relegated Sheffield United.

With safety already secured, and nothing to play for except a club record-equalling fifth consecutive home win without conceding, there was no nerve-jangling, nail-biting finale to their last game of the campaign in L4.

Abdoulaye Doucoure’s first goal in five months ensured fans could, for the first time in a long time, enjoy their send-off to the players, with all the uncertainty reserved for matters off the pitch.

Twelve of the matchday squad are either out of contract in the next month or entering their final year, with on-loan Leeds winger Jack Harrison – having played his last game for the club after sustaining an injury – and Dele Alli, who has not featured since August 2022, also set to depart.

For a number, this will have been their last appearance for the hosts at Goodison Park.

Two others – Jarrad Branthwaite and Amadou Onana – are already being linked with other clubs and 777 Partners’ proposed long-running takeover of the club appears to be on the brink of collapse.

At least on the pitch the season is finishing positively. Since the beginning of April only Arsenal and Manchester City have more points than Everton’s 17, and while this was typical end-of-season fare, it did not bother fans who have had to endure relegation escapes in their final home fixture in the previous two campaigns.

Victory took Everton to 40 points – without their eight-point deduction for financial breaches they would have been pushing for a top-half spot – and comfortably 15th ahead of the daunting final-day trip to Arsenal.

And you wonder how much better that league placing would have been with a fully-fit Dominic Calvert-Lewin leading the line all season.

His willingness to run beyond United’s defence almost created a goal when he stretched to control Seamus Coleman’s ball over the top and squared to Doucoure, who should have scored but goalkeeper Wes Foderingham got enough on his shot for the recovering defence to divert the loose ball over the crossbar.

The same combination made the breakthrough in the 31st minute when Calvert-Lewin latched on to Dwight McNeil’s through-ball and his chipped cross was headed home by Doucoure.

Calvert-Lewin continued to be in the thick of things and was inexplicably booked when pushed over by Blades captain Jack Robinson, also yellow-carded, in front of Everton’s technical area.

Neither side posed much threat in the second half as the game meandered towards the obligatory lap of appreciation, something these players could actually take a degree of pride in after some solid displays in a season of unprecedented challenges.

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