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Goodison Park | 11th May 2008 15:00

Everton v Newcastle

This was an afternoon of high drama that ultimately provided the Blues with the just rewards for their efforts in this campaign.

A point was required to guarantee fifth place and a spot in next term's Uefa Cup.

But David Moyes' men went one better, sealing a deserved 3-1 victory on an afternoon when they played some of their finest football since, ironically, the Uefa Cup exit to Fiorentina.

Yakubu scores his 20th goal of the seasonYakubu scores his 20th goal of the season

There remains a pang of frustration that the Toffees did not make it to the Uefa Cup final - particularly considering one of the sides who reached the City of Manchester showpiece was put to the sword by Everton in the group stage.

But that frustration was eased significantly by this result, earned through a brace from Yakubu either side of a Joleon Lescott effort. Having occupied a place in the top five uninterrupted since early December, there is no doubting Everton deserve their European place.

But it was still not guaranteed going into the final day.

A victory for Aston Villa at West Ham coupled with a defeat on home soil would have left Everton in sixth and a summer of Intertoto Cup action.

And, at one stage on this nerve-wracking afternoon, that outcome looked perilously close to becoming reality.

In the space of five minutes Villa went ahead at Upton Park and Everton conceded an equaliser to Newcastle.

That was early in the second period. And it seemed an outrageous turn of events because of the quality of Everton's football in the opening half.

By rights, they should have been home and dry, such was their dominance. Instead, they only had a Yakubu header to their name.

It took a typically composed Lescott finish in the 70th minute to restore the advantage, ease the nerves and trigger a mood of celebration inside Goodison Park. Yakubu's late penalty merely sealed it.

David MoyesDavid Moyes smiles in victory

The win also ensured Everton finish with a 65 point haul - four better than any other Premier League campaign in the side's history.

And how apt that the win was sealed by Yakubu reaching the 20 goal landmark and Lescott the goal mark in what has been an outstanding season for both men.

The Blues were positive, attack-minded and thrilling from the opening minutes, Fernandes firing over with a cracker in the fourth minute.

A brilliant piece of skill from Yakubu in the 10th minute ended with a low shot from the edge of the box going narrowly wide of the upright.

The opening goal came in the 29th minute, Yakubu powering a header into the bottom corner of the net from a Manuel Fernandes free-kick.

It was the striker's 20th goal of the season - a feat not achieved by an Everton marksman since Peter Beardsley in the early 90s.

A thunderbolt from Charles N'Zogbia from a 30 yard free-kick five minutes later was Newcastle's first chance of any note. It flew over the bar.

Everton had the ball in the net again moments later, Yakubu heading home from close range but it was ruled out for offside against Joleon Lescott, who nodded the ball back into the six-yard box.

Everton were flying - with brilliant skill from Anichebe teeing up Fernandes only to be denied by Steve Harper before an Osman sweet effort flashed wide of the upright.

Harper was almost embarassed in the 37th minute when a miss-hit Anichebe shot wriggled over his body and slipped agonisingly wide of the target.

A Yobo header went over the bar seconds later as Everton began to really turn the screw.

Osman was denied by Harper and the half ended without the deserved second goal being struck.

Victor Anichebe tries to get past Steven TaylorVictor Anichebe tries to get past Steven Taylor

The full extent of that was not realised until 60 seconds into the second period when a foul on N'Zogbia by Yobo led to a penalty. Michael Owen converted to level the scores.

Normal service was resumed soon afterwards, with Fernandes forcing a stunning stop from Harper from a free-kick, Jagielka headed over and Anichebe fired inches wide.

A handball claim was turned away by referee Walton and then came the second goal. Joleon Lescott turned the ball in at the back post from a centre by Fernandes to give Lescott his 10th goal of the campaign.

Leon Osman tussles with Damian DuffLeon Osman tussles with Damian Duff

The contest was sealed 10 minutes from the end when Osman was up-ended as he charged into the box. The referee pointed to the penalty spot for the first spot-kick in the league of the season for the Toffees.

It had been a long time coming, but Yakubu showed no signs of nerves. He stepped up and nonchalantly passed the ball into the net to ensure there was no danger of a Newcastle comeback. Fifth place was safe - and the party could begin.

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