Everton pull clear of drop zone with Forest win

Long-distance strikes from Idrissa Gueye and Dwight McNeil earned Everton a massive 2-0 win over Premier League relegation rivals Nottingham Forest.

In a tense encounter, Gueye (29) settled the nerves at Goodison Park with a drilled effort from 30 yards that arrowed into the bottom corner beyond the grasp of Matz Sels before McNeil followed suit with 14 minutes remaining, striking a quality daisy-cutter home from distance.

Forest had three good penalty claims waved away by referee Anthony Taylor, all involving Ashley Young, who survived a challenge on Giovanni Reyna, a handball claim and a challenge from behind on Callum Hudson-Odoi. All three incidents were checked by VAR but the on-field decisions stood and drew an extraordinary response from Nottingham Forest.

They released a statement, via X, which read: “Three extremely poor decisions – three penalties not given – which we simply cannot accept.

“We warned the PGMOL that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game but they didn’t change him. Our patience has been tested multiple times. NFFC will now consider its options.”

The game also ended on a sour note for Everton after a sickening clash of heads involving Morgan Gibbs-White and Beto which left the Everton forward requiring 10 minutes of treatment. He was carried away on a stretcher but did give the Goodison Park crowd a thumbs-up as he left the field requiring oxygen.

The result moves Everton five points clear of the relegation zone with a game in hand on their rivals, while Forest remain just one point above Luton in 17th.

Player ratings

Everton: Pickford (9), Young (7), Tarkowski (7), Branthwaite (9), Mykolenko (7), Gana (8), Gomes (6), Doucoure (7), Harrison (6), McNeil (8), Calvert-Lewin (6)

Subs used: Beto (6), Garner (6), Chermiti (6)

Nottingham Forest: Sels (5), Williams (7), Murillo (6), Aina (6), Reyna (6), Niakhate (6), Danilo (6), Dominguez (6), Hudson-Odoi (5), Gibbs-White (6), Wood (5)

Subs used: Elanga (6), Yates (6), Origi (6), Ribero (6)

Player of the match: Jarrad Branthwaite

How Everton surged clear of trouble…

Neco Williams had an early shot parried by Jordan Pickford as Forest looked to potentially make the home fans turn on their side after their 6-0 thumping at Chelsea.

That was as good as it got in the opening exchanges, though, as both teams played very risk-adverse football.

When the goal came, it came out of nowhere.

Gueye controlled Ola Aina’s poor header and found the gap low down between Sels’ right hand and the far post from just outside the area.

Idrissa Gueye of Everton celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 1-0
Idrissa Gueye celebrates after putting Everton ahead

Pickford then came to the rescue five minutes before the break, making a point-blank save from Chris Wood before VAR’s insistence Young’s arm was in a natural position from Hudson-Odoi’s volley. This was the second decision Forest felt aggrieved at after Reyna thought he was clipped by Young inside the box but the protests were waved away by the officials.

Young tested the officials’ judgement once again in the second half when he went into the back of Hudson-Odoi who looked to have got the run on the defender. Taylor gestured that he thought Young had got the ball although the replays suggested otherwise.

Gibbs-White guided a shot over the crossbar when tasked with only Pickford to beat and that miss proved costly when McNeil made the game safe for the hosts.

It was a fantastic strike, squeezing a low shot in between Sels’ outstretched arm and the post from 30 yards out. The relief around Goodison Park was clear to see.

Striker Beto, on as a replacement for Calvert-Lewin, departed on a stretcher late on after a clash of heads but even 17 minutes of additional time could not spark any response on the pitch from a timid Forest side.

What’s next?

Everton host local rivals Liverpool to Goodison Park on Wednesday April 24, kick-off 8pm.

Nottingham Forest face title-chasing Manchester City on Sunday April 28, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports.

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