Despite any criticisms of the crowd at Goodison Park, it cannot be denied that they excel at booing. With years of experience under their belts, the boos before kick-off were particularly noteworthy. Beginning as a quiet murmur, reminiscent of the anguished moan of a dying brontosaurus in a far-off valley, the sound gradually grew and echoed sadly throughout the historic stadium. It intensified in depth, emotion, and volume until it burst forth in a powerful foghorn of despair, emanating from the depths of every Everton fan’s being.
The crowd had already expressed their disapproval towards the two men in dark jackets who revealed the Premier League signs, as well as the six ballboys who cautiously displayed the Premier League flag.
John Brooks, the referee, received negative reactions from the crowd because he was seen as a symbol of the team that has unfairly disadvantaged Everton before the game even began. By halftime, he was being booed and criticized for booking Abdoulaye Doucouré but not Scott McTominay or Bruno Fernandes. Within 11 minutes of the second half, the boos aimed at Brooks were filled with anger and frustration as he changed his decision to give Anthony Martial a yellow card for diving and instead awarded a penalty.
The crowd followed the pre-game strategy and booed for 10 minutes, while the stadium was filled with bright pink cards displaying the Premier League lion and the word “Corrupt.” These cards were handed out outside the stadium. The strong anger towards the 10-point deduction was evident.
As expected, the atmosphere was one of united opposition against a shared adversary. The road leading to the county was shut down to vehicles as supporters congregated to voice their dissent, displaying a strong sense of unity that is not typically seen at Goodison until the risk of being demoted becomes prominent around Easter. Around 13 minutes into the protest, a series of fireworks were set off on the street outside, presumably as part of the demonstration, although its specific significance was not apparent.
There were numerous and diverse chants directed towards the Premier League, but the overall sentiment remained the same: “Premier League, what’s the deal?”, “Premier League, highly corrupt”. Manchester United supporters retaliated with, “You dishonest scoundrels, you’re well aware of your deceitful ways”. This banter about enforcing financial regulations is a defining aspect of the contemporary sport.
A banner displayed in the Gwladys Street End stated: “Corruption exists where there is power, greed, and money,” while another seemed to specifically mention Everton-supporting mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham’s statement about the Premier League’s discussion of sanctions against Everton in relation to the upcoming independent regulator. This suggests that the penalty was meant to set an example and was politically motivated, rather than based on existing principles.
Despite Everton’s strong resistance, there is a feeling this weekend that things are not going their way. The only silver lining of their points deduction was that it brought them back into the competition, whereas in previous years it may have left them struggling. However, Luton and Bournemouth both chose this weekend to achieve their first home and away wins, respectively. The situation appeared much bleaker at the start of the game than it did on Saturday morning.
The situation quickly deteriorated. In just three minutes, Alejandro Garnacho scored an impressive bicycle kick, perfectly placing the ball in the top corner. It had been a long time since anyone at Goodison displayed such skill with overhead kicks. It was evident that this was one of those unlucky days where everything goes wrong. Throughout his time with United, André Onana has shown a combination of quick reflexes and unfortunate disappearances. In this match, he showcased his reflexes with a great double save before Kobbie Mainoo completed the clearance.
The 18-year-old Mainoo was a standout during the summer, but due to injury, he had not played yet this season. He showed great potential, but Everton fans couldn’t help but wonder why he had to make his mark against their team. It was unfortunate that Marcus Rashford’s first club goal in nearly three months came on this particular day. Similarly, Anthony Martial’s first league goal since May (and notably against Everton, which he has scored against more than any other club) also occurred on this day. This goal also happened to be the last time Manchester United won a league game by more than one goal, until Sunday’s match.
Not to mention, Everton missed several opportunities in the first half. Ultimately, they lost fairly easily, but before the penalty, the outcome could have gone either way.
This is what they must hold onto. It would have been ideal to start the resistance with a victory, especially considering the challenging schedule for the next month. However, they will not face many matches where luck is so strongly against them.
Sean Dyche’s improvements have been significant and should be sufficient to secure their spot in the league, as long as they continue to maintain the strong and united sense of determination. Regardless of the outcome, they must stay focused and determined in their performance.