After battling back from two goals down to clinch Premier League safety, Frank Lampard hailed Everton’s dramatic 3-2 win against Crystal Palace as “one of the greatest moments of my footballing life”.
Everton entered Thursday’s contest at Goodison Park knowing that victory would guarantee them a 69th consecutive campaign of English top-flight football – a record only Arsenal (97 from next season) can better – but trailed to goals from Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jordan Ayew before half-time.
However, for the first time in their Premier League history, at what was the 75th attempt, the Toffees recovered from a two-goal deficit at the midway point of a game to collect all three points thanks to goals from Michael Keane, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Lampard’s side can no longer be caught by Leeds United and Burnley in the final relegation spot with one fixture – away at top-four chasing Arsenal on Sunday – remaining.
And while Chelsea great Lampard may have been more accustomed to winning significant trophies across his playing days, the Everton boss ranks the victory over Palace as a career highlight.
He told BBC Sport:
“It is one of the greatest moments of my footballing life and career.
“I have been very fortunate to have extraordinary times, especially at Chelsea as a player and a coach.
“But when you feel the feelings and desperation of what relegation brings to the table, it is different.
“It would help if you dug in. Instead, you lose games, fight to do something, and lose another game.
“People think you should fly up the table, and it is never that way.
“Coming in here three and a half months ago with my amazing staff, positive people who work so hard, and trying to affect things and getting a reaction from the players, from the fans and feeling unity when it looked split.
“This club is special, and I am proud to be the manager of Everton on this night.”
Everton has now gained 15 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season – only Liverpool (17) have recovered more – with 38 per cent of their points in 2021-22 coming in games in which they have fallen behind.
Lampard, who took over from Rafael Benitez at the end of January, celebrated the latest comeback triumph wildly with Everton fans, his backroom staff members and the club board.
“I thought I might cry at full-time; I thought I might jump out of my body.
“Nobody can question the celebrations at the end. It is easy to say, but you haven’t won anything.
“Come and work at this club for a few months and see the difficulties.
“And what it means to people to stay in this league.
“See us 2-0 down at half-time, playing poorly, ridiculous second goal and then see the character they showed.
“See the fans on the pitch in good heart and spirit. They have pulled us over the line.
“They have been more than a 12th man. But the players also deserve huge credit. An amazing night.”
“I’m overwhelmed, and I’ve got so much thanks for people because there’s a lot of people who have worked so hard to get over the line today.
“Namely the players, the fans, the board, and my staff. Huge night for Everton, and now we want to take that forward.”
Dele Alli, who has struggled since arriving from Tottenham in the January window, played a massive part in the turnaround after being introduced at the interval.
“Dele was brilliant when he came on. He changed the game individually,” Lampard said. “We had already changed the system, but it was to give a little bit of information.
“It was nothing to do with a system change to change the game, and it was always going to be the players, their character and desire to engage the crowd and make something happen.
“I can’t take too much credit. I didn’t come up with some new magical tactics. We went direct, but no problem in this position. But we relied on the players.”
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