Liverpool (AFP) – Everton beat Manchester United 1-0 on Saturday to boost their Premier League survival hopes and deal a blow to United’s chances of finishing in the top four.
Victory at Goodison Park, courtesy of Anthony Gordon’s first-half deflected effort, lifts Frank Lampard’s team four points clear of the bottom three having played a game more than 18th-placed Burnley.
But United’s season is in danger of imploding — they remain three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham having played a game extra and look increasingly unlikely to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Top-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo returned after missing last week’s 1-1 draw with Leicester, along with out-of-form fellow forward Marcus Rashford.
United were content to let Everton pass the ball around in the spring sunshine in the early stages.
The visitors were the first side to threaten against a team desperately short of confidence following a string of disappointing results, including a 3-2 loss to Burnley in midweek.
Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made two fine early saves from Rashford, first keeping out a powerful drive and then scrambling low to his right to keep out a downward header.
The home side scored against the run of play in the 27th minute, courtesy of a huge deflection off the luckless Harry Maguire, who has struggled to find his form this season.
United lost the ball in midfield and Richarlison, initially forced wide on the left, cut the ball back towards the box, where it fell for Gordon.
The winger struck his shot well but a deflection off England defender Maguire left David de Gea stranded.
The goal lifted the tension and energised the home crowd and Everton came close to doubling their lead in the 36th minute, when De Gea tipped over a stinging shot from Richarlison.
United had a chance to equalise in the early stages of the second half but Rashford failed to connect with a long pass from Bruno Fernandes.
Victor Lindelof then made a crucial block in to deny Gordon a second goal before Richarlison indulged in some ball-juggling with his head as Everton confidence grew.
Interim United boss Ralf Rangnick threw on Juan Mata and Anthony Elanga for midfielder Nemanja Matic and Rashford, to add guile and pace.
But the visitors could not find a way back despite long phases of possession and remain stuck in seventh place in the table.
Rangnick has a two-year contract to remain as a consultant at United beyond this season but his temporary stint in the Old Trafford hotseat looks like ending in bitter disappointment.
But Lampard now has real hope that Everton — who have played continuously in the English top flight since 1954 — will be playing Premier League football next season.
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