Everton recorded a simple 2-0 victory over Manchester United at Goodison Park on Sunday, keeping track of fourth-placed Arsenal in the race for the Premier League's final Champions League ticket.
The Toffees chase the Gunners by a single point, and with three matches left to be played, the pressure now once again lies with Arsenal, who recorded a 3-0 win over Hull earlier in the day.
Manchester United have now officially been eliminated from the race for fourth, as shared by Squawka. The Red Devils will miss out on playing in Europe's premier club competition for the first time in 19 years.
It's now mathematically impossible for Man Utd to qualify for the Champions League next season. pic.twitter.com/Kk46jz1VNR— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 20, 2014
The hosts had the best start to the match, as David Moyes made his return to the grounds he called home for 10 years. But apart from a handful of penalty shouts, no real chances were created in the opening 25 minutes.
However, when Romelu Lukaku aimed a strike at goal, Phil Jones forgot to tuck his arm as he tried to block the Belgian's shot, resulting in an Everton penalty and a yellow card for the centre-back. Leighton Baines converted from the spot, giving his team a one-goal lead.
Everton then seized control of the game and saw their efforts rewarded just before half-time, as a poorly timed run from Jones allowed Kevin Mirallas to stay onside and finish from a tight angle.
Wayne Rooney had a chance to bring the deficit back to a single goal early in the second half but needed too much time on the ball, and the Red Devils would hardly be able to trouble the Everton defense for the remainder of the match, with one more great chance for Rooney arriving late in the game.
Tim Howard was in no need to give up his clean sheet, however, as the hosts held on for a 2-0 win.
As shared by The Times' Oliver Kay, much of the focus was understandably on Moyes making his return to Goodison Park and his struggles coaching the Devils. But Roberto Martinez's efforts in his first year as manager of Everton deserve a ton of credit:
BT Sports' Danny Kelly approached the situation with a healthy dose of irony:
The problem for Everton fans chanting "sacked in the morning" to Moyes, is that United would probably replace him with Roberto Martinez.— Danny Kelly (@dannykellywords) April 20, 2014
BBC Sport's Shamoon Hafez shared the coach's comments on the tactics employed in this game:
The Sun added Martinez's impression of United, as his team executed the counter-attack to perfection in his opinion:
Martinez: "We knew we were facing a good team. Away from home they have a very good record. We were electrifying on the counter attack"— The Sun - Football (@TheSunFootball) April 20, 2014
As shared by the Premier League's Twitter account, the result was particularly satisfying given the team's schedule over the past week:
Finally, Martinez said he feels his team is ready to continue pressuring Arsenal in the hunt for the final Champions League ticket and used the Toffees' recent run of results as proof:
Martinez (on the race for fourth): "We're very clear with what we want to do. The squad is ready. 24 points out of 27 is a remarkable level"— The Sun - Football (@TheSunFootball) April 20, 2014
Moyes kept his views of the match very simple:
The former Everton manager felt his team did a good job controlling the match but were undone by defensive errors:
Moyes: "We passed the ball brilliantly well, had control of the game but we were done by two stupid goals." #MUFC— Shamoon Hafez (@ShamoonHafez) April 20, 2014
Moyes felt like the better team had lost, per Man United Update:
Moyes: "I thought we were the better team". See this is what I am talking about. #MUFC— Man Utd Update (@MufcDevilUpdate) April 20, 2014
With the Champions League now officially out of reach, the club have already started preparing for the upcoming transfer window:
Moyes: "We are under way with what we are doing (recruitment) to give ourselves a better chance to compete at the top." #MUFC— Shamoon Hafez (@ShamoonHafez) April 20, 2014
Fans and pundits will continue questioning Moyes' role as manager of the club, but at this stage of the season, it is unlikely any changes will be made. Once the final curtain has fallen on the 2013-14 season, the Glazers will have to make a decision on the direction they wish the club to take.
Everton, meanwhile, did what they had to do on Sunday, as they remain right on the tails of the Gunners. With the added pressure of the FA Cup final, Everton might actually have the straightest path to the finish line, but they will need the Gunners to drop points somewhere along the way.
A fifth-place finish and qualification for the Europa League would still be a massive result for Martinez and his young squad. If the Toffees can just hold on to their current position on the league table, Martinez's debut season will go down in history as one of the finest coaching performances we've ever seen.