Everton 1 – 0 Brentford. Dwight McNeil’s goal after 35 seconds earned Everton a priceless victory over Brentford and moved them out of the Premier League relegation places.
The Toffees started the day 18th but capitalised on teams around them failing to win, leaping two points and three places above the drop zone.
McNeil’s delightful strike with the game’s first attack gave the hosts the perfect start, rasping a finish across goal which nestled into the far corner.
Buoyed by a vocal crowd, the home side were swarming all over the Bees and created much the better chances with Demarai Gray seeing a second goal ruled out for handball by VAR.
Brentford looked to salvage something from the game but were not at their best, Ethan Pinnock having a header cleared off the line by McNeil and Kevin Schade heading wide at the far post as their 12-match unbeaten run ended.
Manager Sean Dyche said “every” league game is now a must-win as he looks to preserve Everton’s top-flight status.
But after seeing Bournemouth beat Liverpool earlier on Saturday, then Nottingham Forest, Leicester and Leeds all dropping points around them, the Toffees needed a win.
A gritty, battling performance allowed them to hold on to McNeil’s first-minute goal to collect their third victory in seven games since Dyche’s appointment in January.
After 26 games this season Everton had 22 points, identical to the same stage under Frank Lampard last term when the former Chelsea boss guided them to safety.
Five victories in their remaining games was sufficient on that occasion, and now they have real hope of doing the same under the ex-Burnley manager – with Dyche’s former Clarets player McNeil the match-winner at Goodison Park.
Everton should have been out of sight but Michael Keane headed wide when the goal was gaping after beating David Raya to the ball, while Amadou Onana screwed over from eight yards with the goal at his mercy.
The lively Gray – who was unlucky to have a goal chalked off – saw a low shot saved by Raya and the Brentford goalkeeper also kept out Alex Iwobi’s close-range effort from the resulting corner.
Thomas Frank’s side last lost in the Premier League back in October but were second best for large periods as their run came to an end.
Striker Ivan Toney was well shackled by Everton’s centre-halves, while Rico Henry had a header blocked on the line by Seamus Coleman.
With the visitors in desperate search of an equaliser keeper Raya trotted upfield in injury time, but sent a free header from 10 yards past the post.
source – BBC