Sam Allardyce says Yannick Bolasie “got his reward” for a tireless display against Manchester City after the winger netted his first Goodison Park goal on Saturday.
Bolasie struck just after the hour mark, his pinpoint strike from outside the box sparking hopes of an Everton comeback after the Premier League pacesetters had an established a three-goal first-half lead.
The runaway leaders went on to see the game out, however, as Everton slipped to just their second defeat in their past 11 home games.
For Bolasie, though, the goal represents a key milestone in his comeback from a cruciate knee ligament injury, which kept him out of action for more than a year.
The DR Congo international made his long-awaited return to the first team in the 0-0 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day and has gone on to make a further 11 appearances for the Toffees – starting the past three matches.
Allardyce hailed Bolasie’s “quality finish” against City, with the winger’s desire, intelligence and willingness to track back for his team also drew praise.
“He did a good job,” Allardyce said. “Not only with his work-rate but also in looking after one of the best full-backs in the world at the moment in Kyle Walker.
“He’s had to chase him up and down all day and he finally got his reward for that by the way he got the ball and finished. He produced a goal which lifted everybody and we tried to move on from there.”
Bolasie’s qualities were also evidenced in the Blues’ previous two Premier League clashes, as he contributed directly to goals in the victories over Brighton & Hove Albion and Stoke City.
The 28-year-old’s strike against Pep Guardiola’s men was his first for Everton since scoring against Burnley at Turf Moor in October 2016 – and was the highlight of what was a challenging evening for Allardyce’s men against the Premier League champions-elect.
The boss was keen to emphasise, however, that he could not fault his players’ effort against City, who are now 16 points clear at the top of the table and just one win from securing the title.
“We tried our best,” Allardyce added. “All the lads didn’t give up – but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough. City are absolutely top drawer at what they do.”