Pickford heroics boosts Everton survival hopes

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Everton’s win against Chelsea in the Premier League.

In a World Cup year, the credentials of most of England’s regular talent are examined in detail, but none more so than the number one position.

Based on today’s superhuman display, Gareth Southgate needn’t look any further than Jordan Pickford in Qatar – and the performance may even be good enough to convince the staunchest of doubters.

  • Everton 1-0 Chelsea – match report and highlights
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats
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On a day where Everton’s survival bid depended on three points, their goalkeeper was a man mountain. In actual fact, Pickford may have registered not one but two submissions for ‘save of the season’ – denying both Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger with monumental stops in the second half.

“Jordan Pickford won the game for Everton single-handedly with his saves,” said Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness. It’s difficult to disagree.

Image:
Jordan Pickford celebrates a heroic performance against Chelsea

The Toffees approach to the game was aggressive and that worked to unsettle Chelsea, who were a shade below their level best. Regardless, no player epitomised the game plan more than Pickford, who was dogged and antagonistic from the off.

The 28-year-old had to be at his acrobatic best to preserve an all-important clean sheet and coped impressively under some relentless pressure, with Lampard reaffirming why he is so highly thought of on Merseyside: “Jordan is such a great lad, he is England’s number one and that is the reason why. That is top level goalkeeping.”

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  • Everton boss Frank Lampard says there is still a long way to go in the relegation battle

In the two Premier League meetings between Everton and Chelsea this season, the England international has managed 14 saves, conceding just once.

The result may well be the spark Everton require to pull off a remarkable escape with five games remaining. Needless to say, they will have to exhibit a similar amount of stubbornness in every fixture between now and the end of term if that bid is to be successful.
Laura Hunter

Pickford's stunning saves: What they said…

Everton captain Seamus Coleman: “That save he came back off the line and parried out was world class, and we see that on a daily basis in training, and that is why he is England’s number one – some of the saves were world class.”

Everton boss Frank Lampard: “Jordan made great saves. They are Chelsea and will have chances, but we had chances as well. Jordan is such a great lad, he is England’s number one and that is the reason why. That is top-level goalkeeping, I am happy with him and all the players, and all the subs who came on.”

Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness: “Jordan Pickford won the game for Everton single-handedly with his saves. Some of the saves he’s not entitled to get anywhere near them.”

Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp: “The one to deny Azpilicueta is the save of the season. It was magnificent. We’ve given Pickford a lot of stick in the past, but he was brilliant.”

Spurs possess firepower to realise top-four dream

Tottenham’s season has reached a defining stage. The long-awaited north London derby comes after a trip to title-chasing Liverpool, a daunting double before season-ending fixtures against Burnley and already-relegated Norwich.

Sunday’s victory over Leicester ensured Spurs’ destiny remains in their hands ahead of the run-in and provided yet more evidence that Antonio Conte’s squad harbours the talent required to complete a task that looked so unlikely when the Italian was appointed.

Only Mohamed Salah has more Premier League goals to his name this season than Heung-min Son after the South Korean took his tally to 19 for the campaign in style with Spurs’ spectacular third against the Foxes.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Tottenham’s win against Leicester in the Premier League.

  • Tottenham 3-1 Leicester – Match report and highlights
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

It came after Son’s first-half corner had set up Harry Kane for Tottenham’s opener, with the striker ending his five-game goal drought with a clinical stooping header.

The rekindling of Kane’s goalscoring touch was enhanced by the impact surprise omission Dejan Kulusevski had coming off the bench and setting up both of Son’s goals. Spurs’ front three are firing – at the perfect time.

If Spurs are going to pip north London rivals Arsenal to Champions League football, their front three are going to be crucial. Ahead of a pivotal final four games of the season, the manner of the victory over Leicester should have instilled confidence they can get the job done.
Jack Wilkinson

Pressure mounts for substandard Blues

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Thomas Tuchel admitted that Chelsea’s individual mistakes are concerning and he felt his players’ performances were not good enough as they were beaten 1-0 by Everton at Goodison Park.

North London is chasing. That’s what will be at the forefront of Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel’s mind after conceding defeat to a team blighted by potential relegation concerns.

Perhaps Chelsea legs were tired – a legitimate grievance given they played away at Manchester United three days ago – but their performance was reserved, almost standoffish.

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Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said his side could have come away with a different result from Tottenham if they had dealt with the Spurs’ first two ‘soft’ goals.

Chelsea were far too kind to a side whose desperation could have easily played into their own hands.

Image:
Former Chelsea captain Frank Lampard celebrates crucial victory over the Blues

Chances were spurned, despite a heroic display from Everton stopper Jordan Pickford – over half of Chelsea’s attempted shots (11) were off target. And yet there was still no sign of Romelu Lukaku from the bench.

Third spot is still the Blues to lose, but both Arsenal and Tottenham are closing in. Stamford Bridge will now be cautiously looking over its proverbial shoulder.

Three of Chelsea’s six Premier League losses this season have come in their last six games – so is form a problem ahead of an FA Cup final against high-flying Liverpool on May 14?

Well, it’s clear that a prerequisite of the Chelsea job is silverware – something that Tuchel has previously delivered. But this season threatens to crumble if Chelsea manage to slip out of the top-four race and allow favourites Liverpool to clinch the FA Cup.

The latter is the likelier of scenarios, but Chelsea must remain alert. They face Wolves, Leeds, Leicester and Watford in the Premier League run-in, but crucially three of those fixtures are at home.

The Blues must draw upon their Stamford Bridge dominance to see them through a tricky patch and ensure they supersede their London rivals in the hunt for a top three finish.
Laura Hunter

Leicester undone again by corner problems

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Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said his side could have come away with a different result from Tottenham if they had dealt with the Spurs’ first two ‘soft’ goals.

Leicester have conceded 14 goals from corners in the Premier League this season, the most of any side, and it once again led to their downfall at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The visitors had started promisingly, with Patson Daka striking the foot of a post from inside the Tottenham area. But against the run of play the hosts took the lead when Harry Kane headed in from a corner, completely unmarked, which spurred them on to a 3-1 victory.

Rodgers made eight changes to his side, with their focus firmly on the Europa Conference League semi-finals, yet no matter who they have fielded during this campaign, defending corners has been a constant issue.

“Defending corners has been a problem for us all season – we lack aggression and cuteness. It was so disappointing,” said Rodgers, whose side have surpassed the most conceded in a single season since Brighton’s 16 in 2017-18.

“It is something we will have to look at in the summer through personnel. The mentality to head the ball is missing, it’s something we would need to address.”

David Richardson

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