Alex Iwobi boosts Everton survival bid with late winner against Newcastle
Play was interrupted in the second half when a protester cable-tied himself to a post.
Alex Iwobi’s goal in the ninth minute of stoppage time ignited 10-man Everton’s fight against relegation with a 1-0 victory over Newcastle at a bouncing Goodison Park.
With a horrible April fixture list to come, this game was billed as “must win”, but after Allan’s 83rd-minute sending off – their second red card in successive games – a point seemed the best they could hope for.
However, in the 14 additional minutes played due to the incursion of a protester who tied himself to a goalpost and the VAR check for the Brazilian’s dismissal, there was a brief opening and Iwobi took it clinically for only his second league goal of the season.
It was only Everton’s third top-flight win since September, but the three-point gap it opened up over 18th-placed Watford, over whom they have two matches in hand, was just the breathing space they needed as the pressure started to become intolerable.
Frank Lampard’s side also discovered some much-needed resilience which will serve them well in the run-in as they battled to only their second Premier League clean sheet since November.
Revved up by a raucous crowd, Everton’s early tempo was good, with Ben Godfrey heading weakly at Martin Dubravka from a corner.
However, once their initial energy had not established the control they wanted, momentum quickly shifted to the in-form team.
Chris Wood’s gentle nod towards goal was easily claimed by Asmir Begovic – in for Jordan Pickford who, along with midfielder Donny Van De Beek, was ill – while Miguel Almiron’s shot was deflected wide by Mason Holgate.
Everton’s problem was that when they did gain possession, Richarlison was so isolated up front that by the time the ball carrier – usually Anthony Gordon or Demarai Gray – had waited for options to materialise, he had been dispossessed.
Richy and Frank were every Evertonian at FT! 🙌😅 pic.twitter.com/gsqSLO48VY— Everton (@Everton) March 17, 2022
As a result they managed just two first-half touches in the opposition penalty area.
But for all their territorial dominance – 63 per cent in the opening 45 minutes – Newcastle did not genuinely threaten Begovic, with the Bosnian extended most by Fabian Schar’s optimistic free-kick from 10 yards inside his own half, which forced the goalkeeper to back-pedal to catch under his own crossbar.
The second half was barely five minutes old when the game was stopped after a protester wearing a ‘Just Stop Oil’ T-shirt cable-tied himself to the goalpost at the Gwladys Street End and was only removed after half a dozen people and bolt croppers were deployed.
An argument could have been made that the tool provided more of a cutting edge than Everton had displayed in the game, and when play resumed so did the direction of travel, with Begovic getting down low to save Emil Krafth’s volley.
The considerable frame of Dan Burn got in the way of a rare shot – by Gray – and Newcastle boss Eddie Howe had seen enough.
He sent on Allan Saint-Maximin in the 71st minute, and Lampard responded by calling for Dominic Calvert-Lewin, returning from illness at the weekend, to replace Gray.
Everton’s academy graduate Gordon looked most likely to carve an opening and, having seen a free-kick deflected wide after Richarlison was brought down by Krafth, his shot tipped over by Dubravka raised the noise levels for one final push.
It got louder when Seamus Coleman’s penalty claim for a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge with Bruno Guimaraes was turned down and, in the aftermath, Allan hacked down Saint-Maximin on the counter-attack with a wild off-the-ground challenge.
Referee Craig Pawson was called to the pitchside monitor and overturned his yellow card and sent off the hosts’ Brazilian midfielder.
In recent history Everton sides – and Goodison Park in particular – always seemed to excel when they felt a sense of injustice, but the priority with seven minutes of regulation time remaining was damage limitation.
Gordon, however, had other ideas, but when he went down under a challenge from Guimaraes, Pawson appeared to judge the forward had manufactured the foul by stepping across his opponent.
But when Iwobi fired home the winner the old ground was rocking and the final whistle brought a wall of sound not heard in these parts for a long time.
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