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Carlo Ancelotti’s luck is about to run out. His Everton team have delivered the worst Premier League campaign at Goodison Park since 1993-94, when a final-day miracle was needed against Wimbledon to keep Mike Walker’s side in the top flight, and to a backdrop of silence instead of the scorn that would usually descend from full and furious terraces. There will be no opportunity for escape when 6,500 Evertonians return against Wolves on Wednesday.
Bottom club Sheffield United, relegated with only one previous away win all season, condemned an Everton team supposedly with designs on European football to a ninth home league defeat of the season, the joint worst return in the club’s history. The teenager Daniel Jebbison illuminated the contest with the only goal on his full Premier League debut. His moment of glory, along with United’s victory, was richly deserved. The visitors were hungry, committed and confident on the ball. Everton failed in every department, serving up another atrocious Goodison performance. Only relegated Fulham have collected fewer points at home in 2021 than Ancelotti’s expensively assembled but pedestrian team.
“I have to take responsibility but I hope the players take responsibility for this as well,” a dejected Everton manager said. “I am really embarrassed. Fortunately we have supporters here for the next game and I hope they wake us up because we need to wake up. We are so good away and so bad at home. It is really difficult to explain.”
A deflating season for United still has a capacity for joy as Jebbison demonstrated in the seventh minute of his Premier League debut. The Canadian-born England under-18 international was chosen to lead the line by Paul Heckingbottom following his first appearance for the club as a substitute against Crystal Palace last week. At 17 years and 309 days the striker was the youngest player to start a Premier League game for United. His first meaningful contribution was to become the youngest player to score on his Premier League debut.
Jebbison’s place in the record books was crafted by the defender Jack Robinson, who weaved past weak challenges from Abdoulaye Doucouré and Allan to enter the Everton area before drilling a low cross along the face of Jordan Pickford’s goal. Ben Godfrey, continuing Everton’s passive resistance, stepped out to leave the teenager free to convert at the back post. Jebbison’s last competitive start had been for Chorley, on loan at the National League North side in December, and he was understandably mobbed as the visitors celebrated a perfect start.
“It was a fantastic moment,” said United’s caretaker manager. “It couldn’t have worked out any better. He’s a hard-working lad who has developed quickly in the academy. Everyone will be talking about him now and that will bring different expectations but we will manage him properly.”
The teenager could have added a second when Mason Holgate under-cooked a back pass on the sodden pitch straight to the goalscorer. Confidence was evident as he attempted to chip the advancing Pickford but his effort was clawed away by the Everton goalkeeper and Ben Osborn was unable to capitalise on the loose ball.
United were sharp in possession and fiercely committed. Everton, by contrast, had too many players going through the motions yet created enough chances to have overturned the deficit by the interval. Aaron Ramsdale, the United keeper, denied Allan at full stretch when the Brazilian midfielder curled a shot towards his bottom corner. He then produced a superb double save to thwart Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, flinging himself to his right to keep out the Brazilian’s diving header from a James Rodríguez cross and then leaping up to block the England international’s follow-up with his chest at close range. Michael Keane created another clear opening for Richarlison on the stroke of half-time but, running in behind the United defence, he badly scuffed a first-time volley high over the bar.
Jonathan Moss rejected Everton appeals for a penalty when Seamus Coleman’s flick struck Robinson’s outstretched hand but their latest tale of Goodison woe was not down to misfortune. Ancelotti’s team were flat and it was no surprise when Holgate was replaced at half-time by Gylfi Sigurdsson. The switch to 4-3-3 did not disturb United’s confident, well-organised performance, however, and Everton’s threat evaporated in the second half.
John Egan headed a good chance over from Oliver Norwood’s free-kick while David McGoldrick and Osborn worked tirelessly in support of Jebbison. McGoldrick should have eased any late anxieties in the United ranks when he missed an excellent chance from Enda Stevens’ low cross. Not that the visitors were unduly worried as Everton laboured to a familiar Goodison defeat.