What Everton supporters chanted in injury time sums up feeling as Goodison Park gets what it deserves

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 24: Fans of Everton celebrate after the team's victory with a flag which reads 'Everton FC, Our City, Our People, Our Heart' in the Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC at Goodison Park on April 24, 2024 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Everton magnificent and long-suffering supporters celebrate the stunning 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Goodison Park -Credit:Michael Regan/Getty Images

Everton finally produced a performance befitting of the final days of Goodison Park with a Merseyside derby display that meant its supporters could yell with vindication: “The city is ours.”

One of the great shames of this club’s recent struggles has been that the Grand Old Lady has had to rally in desperation, not celebration, with those in the stands dragging a footballing institution from one survival campaign to the next.

But all of the wider problems surrounding this great club were forgotten during 90 minutes in which those in Royal Blue stunned Liverpool, all-but securing Everton’s top-flight status for another year while delivering a hammer blow to the title ambitions of their fiercest rivals. And make no mistake: This was not just a famous win. It was one that was deserved.

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After so many years, so many disappointments in this fixture, and so much heartbreak and heartache, it was an emotional one too. This is a club and a fanbase that has suffered their lowest as their biggest foes have ridden the crest of a silverware-laden wave. All those taunts, all those jibes, all that devastation - all now a thing of the past. On April 24 - and that date is significant - the underdogs bit back, roared on by a crowd that has deserved far more nights like this in recent years. “You lost the league at Goodison Park” was the cry that rang out as this game entered stoppage time. This was not just a win, it was an exorcism. It was the night a tormented fanbase banished some of its most spiteful ghosts.

This was the first time Goodison had hosted a match on this date since 1985, that incredible night when Bayern Munich were put to the sword in L4. The spirits of better days may have woken from the corners and rafters of Goodison to inspire this win but it was a victory sealed by the stars of the present - because there are some in this Everton team. One for the future, Jarrad Branthwaite created hope when he opened the scoring in the first half. Jordan Pickford, the player who has done more than anyone else to help this club survive some of its darkest days, once again supplied a performance that will have his many critics frothing in indignation at his greatness.

And then there was Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Hope turned to belief when he leapt highest at the back post in the second half to create a memory that will last a lifetime. When he wheeled away in delight he ran, followed by his team-mates, to the same corner Conor Coady had charged to when he thought he had ended Everton’s winless home derby run in this fixture last year. VAR then intervened. Of course it did. That memory, that frustration and disappointment, like so many other such moments in this fixture, was released for good on Wednesday night.

That was because, and this is the simple reality, a truth that should be savoured, Liverpool could not cope. This was Sean Dyche football at its very best. Everton launched out of the traps and left Liverpool shellshocked. The illustrious names that run through the opposition line-up were reduced to clumsy, late fouls as they tried - and failed - to halt the growing momentum and belief from a home side that fed off the reaction their efforts sparked in the stands around them. Calvert-Lewin harried Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk, Ben Godfrey snapped at the heels of Luis Diaz and Jack Harrison produced devilish crosses. It was from one of the wide man’s clever balls that Everton thought they had stolen the advantage. Harrison’s chip bounced into no man’s land between Alisson and his defence. Calvert-Lewin exploited the uncertainty and poked the ball around the Liverpool goalkeeper, who then brought him down. What looked set to be just Everton’s third penalty of the season of course proved too good to be true. Not for the first time, VAR provided a sucker-punch to this team.

Any concern that would prove a turning point was misplaced. Everton kept coming and Liverpool kept conceding free-kick after free-kick. If the fouls were tactical, the plan was wrong. Everton caused issues from almost every set-piece and both Godfrey and James Tarkowski came close with the score goalless. When Curtis Jones gave away Liverpool’s eighth foul his side was eventually punished. Dwight McNeil’s cross caused carnage in front of the Park End and Branthwaite’s back-post header was only half-dealt with. When the ball was sent back into the box, Godfrey’s skewed effort ricocheted around the area and fell to Branthwaite, who squeezed his effort in to send Goodison wild. VAR tried, but failed, to ruin this moment and the hosts had a lead they deserved.

The Blues continued to snap and snarl but, to the frustration of Dyche, started to drop back once they had a lead to protect. The intensity remained but the pressure on the defence increased and Liverpool, while unconvincing, created opportunities. Pickford, a hero of so many key games for this club, had to be on top form once again and he saved from Darwin Nunez, Diaz and Andy Robertson to protect his side’s advantage going into a break that Everton needed. With the game in the balance against Nottingham Forest on Sunday he saved from Chris Wood to inspire another clean sheet in another must-win game that was ultimately won by this team. These saves, and his late stop from Mohamed Salah, were not as good as that point-blank block, but this was another volley of shots fired in the direction of his doubters who, somehow, remain. This was also his sixth clean sheet against Liverpool in his career. Apparently he is a liability.

In the second half a home crowd heady with nerves and hope feared an onslaught in Jurgen Klopp’s final derby. Liverpool tried but were not good enough. As those in Red pushed forward, they left gaps that were exploited by the players with more energy, more desire. Abdoulaye Doucoure rode challenges from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mac Allister to set up Idrissa Gueye. The Senegal international was unable to repeat his goalscoring heroics of the weekend but he deserved his standing ovation when he was brought off.

Before that substitution, Everton pounced again with McNeil forcing Alisson to tip over after another counter attack. From the corner that followed Calvert-Lewin scored his most important goal, and Goodison’s most-celebrated goal, since his header on that memorable night when Everton came back to secure survival against Crystal Palace.

This beautiful stadium has deserved better than relegation fights in its final years. But it is at its fiercest best when this side has its back against the wall. This was a spiteful, aggressive, ruthless performance when this club really needed it. The reward, as supporters used to torment realised this would not be another night of pain, was a final 15 minutes that will be remembered long after this stadium is no more. The sound of Liverpool was Spirit of the Blues. The place to be was under the lights at Goodison Park. And the pay-off, a win that moves Everton eight points clear of the bottom three, is a fanbase that should be able to sleep soundly in May. There are no prizes for guessing what the subject of those dreams will be.