Everton have kept their Premier League survival chances well and truly alive after beating Chelsea 1-0 in front of a raucous Goodison Park crowd — and Jordan Pickford produced arguably the save of the season.
It was a frenetic first half in which tempers threatened to boil over as five yellow cards were dished out and challenges came flying in, but it was ultimately a half of few chances as the Toffees produced some sturdy rearguard action and the Blues struggled to play with much attacking fluidity.
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The game really came alive after the restart, with Richarlison capitalising on a rare blunder from the usually-reliable Cesar Azpilicueta, who got caught napping in defence and squandered possession, with the Brazilian careering through on goal and firing past Edouard Mendy.
It was then backs-to-the-wall defending from the hosts as Thomas Tuchel’s men came forward in cyclical waves of pressure, and they nearly found an opening themselves after Mason Mount struck both posts from a well-wrought strike, before Pickford recovered to save the rebound from Azpilicueta.
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It was a simply sensational sprawling save from England’s No. 1 as he sprung up to get across and deny Azpilicueta, whose strike looked destined to bust the back of the net — and that was a sentiment echoed by his captain after the game.
On Pickford’s performance, Seamus Coleman told Sky Sports: “There’s a reason why he’s England’s number one. Some of the saves were world class.”
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Moments after that seemingly impossible save, Pickford was at it again, denying Antonio Rudiger from point-blank range after the ball fortuitously ricocheted into the German’s direction from the resultant corner, only for Everton’s gloveman to once again race across and preserve Everton’s clean sheet.
“He won the game for Everton today, single-handedly. He’s not entitled to make any of those saves,” Graeme Souness waxed lyrical in the Sky Sports studio after the game.
Jamie Redknapp also got in on the eulogies: “That is the save of the season, in terms of importance. He was magnificent today.”
With that heroic effort from Pickford, Everton remain in the bottom three but could climb out if they capitalise on their game in hand, with Frank Lampard’s men now just tow points adrift of Leeds United and Burnley. Their fate is still very much in their hands.
And they have Pickford to thank.