Michael Keane believes Everton now boast the “massive quality” of resilience needed to challenge the Premier League’s top sides and bid for silverware.
The Blues showed spirit in abundance on Wednesday night to edge a thrilling FA Cup fifth-round tie against Tottenham Hotspur 5-4 at Goodison.
Going behind on three minutes to Davinson Sanchez’s header, the hosts regrouped to race into a 3-1 lead after quickfire goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s penalty.
Even then, Everton were twice pegged back to 3-3 and 4-4 – following another cracking Richarlison finish – before winning the contest in extra-time courtesy of Bernard.
The latest gutsy showing from Carlo Ancelotti’s men came just four days after they battled back from 2-0 and then 3-1 down at Manchester United to claim a point, which included an injury-time leveller from Calvert-Lewin.
Keane revealed how manager Ancelotti has played an integral role in instilling the players’ never-say-die attitude. And the centre-back underlined the importance of that quality for Everton to achieve success.
“It’s massive for a team that wants to be near the top,” Keane told evertontv. “Every team finishing in the top six, you’ll probably say has great character in their whole squad. You don’t finish that high in the league if you don’t have that so I think it’s a massive quality, something we’ve developed over the past couple of years and this year it’s really been on show.
“It’s a great feeling and a pleasure to play in a team like that, when you keep working for each other no matter what. When you get rewards like tonight and at United, it’s fantastic.
“It was a crazy game – freezing, exhausting – but we showed a lot of resilience, a lot of quality, a lot of character.
“I think [the spirit] is instilled in us from the manager. He tells us to never give in and it comes from a work ethic in training as well. The lads are working really hard every day, doing the right things and when you get out on that pitch it’s second nature to keep going.”
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HIGHLIGHTS: EVERTON 5-4 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
While toasting a team performance, Keane singled out Sigurdsson for his role in paving the way for Everton’s Cup progress.
The Icelandic playmaker, who, like Keane, moved to Goodison in summer 2017, slotted home from the penalty spot and provided three assists on the night, including a sublime chipped pass for Bernard’s extra-time winner.
“That’s the quality we see he’s got every day,” said the England international. “I’m just really happy for him because he works so hard, puts extra training in. Gylfi’s put his penalty away really well, got three assists and his general play and work ethic was second to none.
“I thought Gylfi was outstanding. Richarlison took his goal well, as did Dom. I think everyone put in an unbelievable shift and everyone is buzzing to go through.”
A hat-trick of assists from Gylfi. 💫— Everton (@Everton) February 11, 2021
Keane reiterated the Everton squad’s determination to deliver silverware to Blues fans – while acknowledging the team must rediscover their defensive steel that had served them so well in recent months.
“We didn’t start the game well and Tottenham got the goal but we bounced back brilliantly with some great football and then our defending set plays has let us down,” said the 28-year-old.
“It’s been good pretty much all season but we conceded against Newcastle at home and now three goals here so it’s something we need to work on. It’s not something we need to get carried away about but we’ll look at it over the next few days and hopefully sort it out."
Keane added: “You feel that good pressure from the supporters to get a trophy. It will be unbelievable to see how the fans are reacting.
“I’ve seen videos from the past of the Club winning trophies and it’s something we want to make our own history. We’ll do everything we can to make that happen. We’ve taken another step, it’s only the quarter-final so we’ll wait to see what the draw pulls out for us and take it from there."