Frank Lampard hailed the 'character and spirit' of Everton as the club secured Premier League survival with a 3-2 comeback victory over Crystal Palace on Thursday evening.
The Toffees needed to win to ensure their battle for survival didn't go down to the final day of the season, where Everton travel to Arsenal while rivals Burnley and Leeds United have more favourable fixtures against Newcastle at home and Brentford away, respectively.
Everton found themselves 2-0 down inside 36 minutes, with goals from Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jordan Ayew leaving the Merseysiders in a perilous position.
But after a tactical tweak and the half-time introduction of Dele Alli, Everton looked like a different team. Backed by a raucous Goodison Park crowd, goals from Michael Keane, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin turned the tide in dramatic fashion, ensuring their long stay in the top-flight continued and sparking chaotic scenes of celebration inside the stadium.
"What we've just seen, it's Premier League safety, it's not Champions League. But what it means to the club and circumstances they were given in. The character of this club, the fans, players, just got us through. The spirit of the club was immense," Lampard said after the match.
"There are a lot of people who work so hard for that, the players, the board, the fans, my staff. It's a huge night for Everton and now we want to take that forward."
Everton's shambolic defending for the Palace goals was enough to strike fear into the supporters, who were fearing the worst at half-time. However, they remained behind the players and continued to generate the sort of intense atmosphere that has defined their recent turnaround.
That, more than anything else, was the crucial factor for Lampard.
"If you're honest you have to fake it, act a bit. Not show your feelings. You have to turn people and inspire them. Dele Alli came on and was amazing," Lampard added.
"My point was it's not the tactical change, it's the emotions and the character. Can you energise the crowd and score an early goal? Then it's the energy, the players deserve immense credit.
"If we don't get that first goal, it's difficult to win. I expected Burnley to get something. That goal was crucial, once it went in you felt the players, and the night, there was something special there. The crowd reacted, we created a special night in Everton's history.
"We needed the fans tonight and at 2-0 it was easy to expect the worst. But they've been doing it for a long time, since the Chelsea game. After the Burnley defeat, it was difficult. Again, the atmosphere was another level, and it was great to see them on the pitch. We don't condone it but it was in such good faith.
"They want success and when they see a team giving it they react instantly. Those moments were priceless."
The former England midfielder concluded: "Everyone can see the heart and the soul of the team, that's why we stayed up. When I arrived at the club there were cracks, now it's time to restock and learn. There's a reason why we're here."
Source : 90min