It is 34 years since Everton last won the league title and while they remain outsiders this season, Carlo Ancelotti has put this grand old club firmly back in the conversation again.
Michael Keane’s late header took Ancelotti’s side within a point of city rivals Liverpool and with the Reds taking on new leaders Manchester United this weekend, Everton could make further strides if their weekend game at Covid-hit Aston Villa goes ahead.
The Premier League will decide on that fixture on Wednesday but for now, Everton can reflect on a job well done.
Michael Keane scored a late header to finish the game 2-1 and see Everton claim three points
Keane’s late header (above) has taken Everton to within a point of rivals Liverpool
Wolves (4-3-3): Patricio, Semedo, Coady, Saiss, Ait-Nouri, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho (Vitinha 86); Neto, Gibbs-White (Hoever 64), Silva (Cutrone 79)
Subs not used: Ruddy, Shabani, Richards, Kilman, Lonwijk, Corbeanu.
Scorers: Neves 14
Booked: Semedo, Hoever
Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo 6
Everton (4-4-2): Pickford, Holgate, Mina, Keane, Godfrey, Iwobi, Doucoure, Davies (Gomes 64), Digne, James (Coleman 86), Sigurdsson (Richarlison 76)
Subs not used: Olsen, Kenny, Tosun, Nkounkou, Bernard, Gordon
Scorers: Iwobi 6, Keane 77
Booked: Doucoure, Holgate
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti 6.5
Referee: Martin Atkinson 6
Without top scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has a hamstring injury, and with Richarlison fit enough only for a place on the bench, this win showed Everton’s resilience and adaptability.
The match had been level since the 14th minute, when Ruben Neves cancelled out Alex Iwobi’s sixth-minute opener.
English football bosses may also take a very dim view of the shirt-swapping that took place at half-time and full-time.
On the day the League’s chief executive Richard Masters wrote to clubs to impose a ban on exchanging jerseys as part of tough new coronavirus guidelines designed to ensure football can continue, three Wolves players and two Everton ones carried on regardless, while all goals were celebrated with hugs.
James Rodriguez seemed to swap with Fabio Silva at half-time and also pick up Joao Moutinho’s shirt, while after the final whistle Wolves full-back Rayan Ait-Nouri swapped with Niels Nkounkou, an unused substitute for Everton.
If those incidents are reported, the players and their clubs may have some tricky questions to answer.
‘If you win here you have to have a good performance,’ said Ancelotti. ‘The game was in the balance, we won thanks to Michael Keane, who scored a fantastic goal.
‘The players adapted really well. The position of James Rodriguez and Gylfi Sigurdsson in front was really good. We adapted well to the characteristics of our players.
‘We perform better away because at home we don’t have the support of our fans at the moment, which is really important but we are in a good position.’
Alex Iwobi (above) handed the visitors the lead following a nice bit of play from Lucas Digne
Digne made a superb first time pass to Iwobi – who buried it into the bottom corner
While Everton march up the table, Wolves have won only one of their last eight in the league and continue to suffer without Raul Jimenez, who has not played since sustaining a serious head injury in November.
Fellow key forwards Daniel Podence and Adama Traore are also out injured.
With his main forwards unable to start, Ancelotti paired James with Sigurdsson to provide the edge in a fluid 4-4-2 formation.
It paid off quickly for Everton, who took the lead in the sixth minute. James played a superb crossfield pass to the left where Lucas Digne switched it first time to Iwobi.
However, Ruben Neves found the net for Wolves to make the game level before half-time
Wolves held onto the draw right up until the 77th minute when Keane scored
The former Arsenal man had plenty of time and space to plant a shot beyond Rui Patricio from 20 yards.
Wolves levelled when Yerry Mina failed to clear Pedro Neto’s corner, allowing Rayan Ait-Nouri to turn the ball back in the danger zone, where Neves volleyed it in from close range.
Having had a hand in that goal, Neves nearly created another when he collected Leander Dendoncker’s pass and found Silva eight yards out, only for Jordan Pickford to make a good save.
Wolves striker Pedro Neto put Everton under pressure in the second half but it wasn’t enough
At the other end, Iwobi was having plenty of joy on the right but he should have done better than shoot straight at Rui Patricio after James’ return pass had sent him clear.
Early in the second half, Wolves danger man Neto took a hefty whack from Abdoulaye Doucoure, which brought a booking for the Everton midfielder. Neto seemed in some pain but was able to continue after lengthy treatment. Dendoncker then headed over Moutinho’s free-kick from an inviting position.
Neves is renowned for his ability to score spectacular goals and in the 70th minute he nearly produced another, controlling a dropping ball 30 yards out and sending a dipping volley a fraction over the bar.
While Neves was inches away from getting his second with a free-kick close to the penalty area
Nuno Espirito Santo (above) admitted that Wolves must ‘improve defensively’ and quickly
Keane’s intervention moments later proved far more telling as he climbed brilliantly at the far post to give Patricio no chance.
It was more poor defending from Wolves and coach Nuno Espirito Santo admitted: ‘We have to improve defensively very fast. In the second half we should have done better. We need all our players healthy so we can improve. We are very worried [about our form].’
Neves was inches away from claiming his second with a free-kick close to the penalty area that hit the angle of post and bar with Pickford beaten.
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