Everton 1-0 Watford: Ross Barkley nets winner amid speculation over future
By Michael Hincks
Last Updated: 13/05/17 10:37am
Ross Barkley brushed aside speculation about his future to fire in Everton's winner in their 1-0 victory at home to Watford on Friday night.
The England international was issued with an ultimatum by manager Ronald Koeman on Thursday, who told the 23-year-old he has one more week to sign a new deal at Goodison Park or face being sold.
Despite the demand, Barkley started for the hosts and then stepped up in the 56th minute to power home Everton's only goal from 25 yards out.
Defeat for Watford means their Premier League safety is still not confirmed, while Everton can now draw a line under a three-game winless run.
Build-up to the match was dominated by talk of Barkley, but 45 minutes before kick-off news broke of a different Everton midfielder committing his future to the club, with Kevin Mirallas penning a three-year contract extension.
Watford meanwhile made three changes as they looked for the one point which would guarantee safety.
But it was the hosts who started brightly under the Friday night lights at Goodison, with travelling goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes called into action early on.
Barkley should have put the hosts ahead after some neat build up-play with Idrissa Gueye, but his strike from 10 yards out was too close to Gomes.
Moments later, Gomes did well to deny Phil Jagielka from point-blank range before then turning Tom Davies' effort round the post.
Watford did have their chances though, but Adrian Mariappa headed over and Abdoulaye Doucoure saw his deflected effort saved as it finished goalless at the break.
It was an inspired half-time substitution from Ronald Koeman which brought Everton to life, as Enner Valencia brought pace and vigour to his side, which was somewhat lacking in the opening 45.
The returning Morgan Schneiderlin perhaps should have done better after Gomes punched a cross into the midfielder's direction, but he volleyed over from distance with the Watford 'keeper floundering.
Troy Deeney then came close to breaking the deadlock, but the Watford skipper fired wide at the near post when he needed to glance it across goal.
And just two minutes later, Watford were made to pay - Jagielka found Barkley, who stormed down the pitch unchallenged before sending an effort skidding past Gomes, who perhaps should have done better.
Everton should have doubled their lead shortly after, but Schneiderlin headed over, and from then on it was Watford who looked more likely to score.
Mariappa again headed wide and then at the death it was Okaka who latched onto a loose ball into the box but could only fire straight at Joel Robles.
Everton clung on for victory in their final home game of the season, and their tally of 43 points at Goodison is their most in a top-flight campaign since 1989-90.
Everton: Joel (6), Holgate (6), Williams (7), Jagielka (7), Baines (6), Gana (8), Schneiderlin (7), Davies (7), Mirallas (6), Lukaku (6), Barkley (8).
Subs used: Valencia (8), Barry (6), Kone (N/A).
Watford: Gomes (7), Kabasele (6), Prodl (6), Mariappa (6), Janmaat (5), Doucoure (6), Behrami (5), Capoue (6), Holebas (6), Okaka (6), Deeney (6).
Subs used: Zuniga (6), Amrabat (6), Niang (6).
Man of the match: Enner Valencia (Everton)