Everton 1 - 0 Stoke City
The first day of the league season is always filled with excitement and you just can’t beat a home game on a, somewhat, warm afternoon at Goodison Park to kick things off. At breakfast Uwe, my father-in-law visiting from Germany, was particularly excited to be coming along, especially so, to see a certain Wayne Rooney in an Everton shirt. That’s the pull Wayne’s return brings to many.
With Gaz unable to make this one I drove, picking up Ste en-route. Uwe wanted to visit the club shop to pick up a few little mementos so we dropped him off there before parking up. We’d originally planned to have a few drinks at The Medlock Hotel but a few Dutch Evertonians who we befriended in Genk this pre-season got in touch to tell me they were over and having a drink in The Winslow Hotel so once we re-convened with Uwe we instead joined them guys. It was nice to catch up with RIk and Stephen who had flown in from Amsterdam just that morning.
As we arrived at the pub we were expectant of the Watford vs Liverpool game being on the TV but they didn’t have Sky Sports in there. With Liverpool losing 2-1 at the time that was a shame. The 93rd minute equaliser for Watford would have brought the house down.
We’d seen the team news in the pub and were pretty baffled by what we saw. Dominic Calvert-Lewin may be a lot of things but a right wing back he isn’t, the need for a target man apparent even before we took to the field. We moved on to the Lower Gwladys a little earlier than usual and were there in plenty of time, engulfed by a large Leighton Baines banner tribute as we took to our seats, this to celebrate Leighton Baines 10th year at Goodison Park, and he is still one of our best performers.
The atmosphere was bubbling as the game got under way. Everton attacking towards the Park End in the first half. We did appear pretty shapeless in our approach and it was quite the struggle. Darren Fletcher was having a busy game in Stoke CIty’s midfield and Xherdan Shaqiri was causing problems for our ropey three man defence. Poor Dominic Calvert-Lewin at right wing back had little-to-no-chance of expressing himself. Further up the pitch Davy Klaassen struggled to get involved as did Sandro Ramirez despite his efforts. Morgan Schneiderlin and particularly Idrissa Gana Gueye did very well to protect our defence. Leighton Baines was class in the first half. Head and shoulders above most in our team, probably all in fact other than Wayne Rooney.
Ste and I were bemoaning how badly our system had failed as we crept into first half stoppage time. We were saying we had to ditch a centre-back and go 4-4-2, or 4-5-1, or however you want to call it. We needed a flat back four and some width. Just as we said that, good work by Sandro Ramirez helped Dominic Calvert-Lewin find space out wide. He put in an excellent ball which Wayne Rooney got to. As the crowd held its breath, Rooney used all his experience to head the ball back across Jack Butland to bury it into the Park End net. A very intelligent header from one of our brighter players in the first half. Ste and I bear-hugged. It was a magical moment and despite a pretty rancid first half effort, we found ourselves a goal ahead at the break.
With us finishing the half in front I expected Ronald Koeman to leave things as they were, however I was relieved he still decided to change it by removing Ashley Williams and bringing on a right back in Cuco Martin. This allowed us to play with some width and the second half was much, much improved. That’s one good thing about Koeman. He is wiling to accept when his plan isn’t working and will react quickly. Wayne Rooney was fabulous. He has such a technical footballing brain and sees things which others don’t see. Some of the balls he put through in the second half were genius and with perhaps more composure ahead of him we may have scored more than the one.
That said, the Peter Croucb induced cavalry charge ensured it was a bit backs to the wall as we edged towards the full time whistle and it was a great defensive effort that got us over the line. Jordan Pickford looks to be an inspired signing and could be a great goalkeeper for us for a long, long time. He commands his box and bravely deals with everything he has to. One of the big moments of the game was the super save he made from a long range Xherdan Shaqiri attempt. From the Gwladys Street we at first thought it had sailed wide, and didn’t realise he had saved it until the loud applause from the Park End. On the replay you could see what a great save it was. Wayne Rooney’s canny experience up top also helped us get through the final few minutes.
Stoke City will feel unlucky to have lost the game which they were in throughout. With the fixtures upcoming however, I am simply relieved to be coming away with the three points, our first opening day win for five years - we have drawn all of our last four opening fixtures.
It’s good to get off to a flyer, and the day belonged to one certain Scouser.
Welcome home, Wayne.Player ratings:
Pickford: In the second half in particular, he was fantastic. It’s been a problem position for a couple of seasons and hopefully that’s been addressed for some time now. A great keeper. 8
Baines: He was fabulous and still seems as fit as a fiddle. 10 years at Everton now for Leighton Baines, let’s hope he can cap it with a trophy this season. 8
Jagielka: His distribution was woeful throughout, but the most important aspect of a defender is just that - being able to defend and he can sure do that. 6
Keane: Google “towering centre back” and Michael Keane will probably be your first result. Similarly to Pickford, he could be a key part of our defence for many a year. I read on his Twitter that he lost a tooth in the first half and carried on. Brave fella! 7
Williams: I’m glad he was the centre-half that was hooked. He’s had a few decent games but I think it’s fair to say the jury is still out on him amongst the supporters. He’s never fully convinced me really and never quite seems wiling to put his body on the line for the team. I guess he’d probably be useful given the gruelling season ahead should we make the Europa League, but if we have to sigbn Gylfi Sigurdsson, would he be a useful make-weight in the deal? 5
Calvert-Lewin: Was completely wasted out at right-wing back and I felt sorry for him out there, but was pleased for him that he was able to influence the game from there and supply the cross for the goal. He was better in the second half when moved up front. He did well to harry Kurt Zouma into a mistake and force a great save from Jack Butland. Otherwise I think he needs to gather some composure in the penalty area. On a few occasions he seemed to be caught in two minds whether to pass or shoot. I don’t like criticising young players in particular but Stuart “Jigsaw” Barlow comes to mind at times. He’s young though. Plenty of time to learn. 6
Gueye: Carried on where he left off. Sharp in the tackle and a formidable opponent. 7
Schneiderlin: Didn’t do anything wrong as such but I felt he is capable of more. 6
Klaassen: As the Dutch lads told me, he might need a fair bit of time. He struggled to get into the game in any aspect really. Will be interesting to see how he progresses. Was substituted after an hour. 5
Ramirez: Showed a lot of movement without really seeing much of the ball, though did provide a touch of class with a neat turn before laying the ball off to Dominic Calvert-Lewin to produce Rooney’s goal. LIke Klaassen, needs time. Not a bad start, but hardly spectacular either. 6
Rooney: The script was written and Rooney didn’t disappoint with his role in the fairytale return. A great winning header marking his comeback. His intelligent and incisive forward passing was also brilliant in the second half, as was his know-how to kill the game, drawing fouls and winning us free kicks to buy us time as we sought to see the game out. I don’t think we’ve had anyone with that ability to win us free kicks since Mikel Arteta And Steven Pienaar. If we can get a good target man in to play off, we will get a lot out of Rooney I’m certain. My Man of the Match. 8
Martina (for Williams): I’m a bit baffled by Cuco Martina. He makes good runs out of defence to find himself in a good position for a pass, but then when he gets it he seems to not want the ball and struggles with his decision making and often then loses possession. Still, he tries. I know he’s already a bit of a whipping boy, mainly because he’s getting opportunities over Jonjo Kenny but I thought he did alright today, and facing a team with age and experience, getting an experienced head on the pitch to fill the right back void for the second half was a good idea. 6
Davies (for Klaassen): Ronald Koeman has to find a way to accommodate him into the team because he offers so much. At his age it isn’t a bad thing to pull him out of games either, but I hope our influx of signings doesn’t cost him his place. He has to stay in and around the team. As ever he was a joy to watch once he got onto the pitch. 6
Mirallas (for Ramirez): Kept himself busy and got involved. 6
Reader Comments (15)
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1 Posted 14/08/2017 at 06:07:30
I'm glad you saw the Leighton Baines I saw. I do get annoyed when people keep saying he's finished or he can't deliver any more. Like Rooney, Leighton has a football brain and there is no substitute for the kind of in-game intelligence that players like he and Rooney can bring to a team.
As you rightly said, he was great in that first half. All in all we have to be satisfied with 3 scrappy points against a Stoke team that was never going to make things easy for us. Looking forward to Thursday.
2 Posted 14/08/2017 at 06:22:36
3 Posted 14/08/2017 at 06:58:41
Except I don't think Baines was worth the 8. He done well defensively but is definitely missing that spark going forward. He's not suited to the wing back role in my opinion as he hasn't got the pace or lung capacity anymore to get up and down.
Having said that, still one of my favourite players, 100% not finished yet and will go for a few more years I think, so I too can not really understand why some people are writing him off.
4 Posted 14/08/2017 at 07:33:37
Form is temporary. Class is permanent.
5 Posted 14/08/2017 at 08:06:32
6 Posted 14/08/2017 at 08:20:41
Calvert-Lewin I thought did well. He actually made a bit if a difference in the second half. Still a work in progress but he's shown enough in the U20s, preseason and this game to suggest he's got a decent career ahead of him. Hadn't really seen many signs before that.
Thought Schneiderlin was beyond woeful. Slow, almost uninterested, dull and unimaginative with the ball and couldn't do much more than foul players who were just too quick and industrious for him.
7 Posted 14/08/2017 at 13:51:10
8 Posted 14/08/2017 at 15:08:28
According to the official Premier League stats, Schneiderlin had the best all-around defensive game of any midfielder in the Prem yesterday four tackles, six interceptions, seven recoveries. He was all over the field shutting down attacks and winning balls. And he only had two fouls.
Yes, he was poor with the ball, but there was a lot of that going around we had 22 passes intercepted yesterday, which is an absolute disgrace. Schneiderlin was no worse than Gueye, Jags or Klaassen. But "beyond woeful?" Not hardly.
9 Posted 14/08/2017 at 15:41:27
Masterstroke from Koeman and his team to bring him back.
10 Posted 14/08/2017 at 22:18:03
Baines looks fit, his quality was there too see. Gueye had a better 2nd half as did Calvert-Lewin who is so obviously more comfortable playing centrally. Schneiderlin probably had a 100% pass completion rating pity none of them were forward. Jags and Klaassen looked terrible in the 1st half though I put that down to Koeman's mad tactics.
A win is a win we, let's hope we start to gel and also bring in a striker, some width and Ben Gibson to partner our new Rolls Royce of a centre back in Michael Keane.
11 Posted 14/08/2017 at 22:21:02
No idea what a "recovery" looks like. Not a term that's in general usage is it?
If you're telling me he was no worse than Gana then I'd say it's time to ditch the stats.
12 Posted 14/08/2017 at 22:44:45
It was like he was on a leash and as soon as he took no more than a couple of strides he passed sideways or backwards.
The midfield as a whole "generally" when passing sideways passed the ball half a yard "behind" the player receiving the ball which instantly meant the player was facing his own goal and another sideways or backwards pass was the easiest and nearly always the result.
Really fucking annoying and smacked of either lack of confidence or playing to a strict "safety first and foremost" regime.
13 Posted 14/08/2017 at 23:32:22
14 Posted 15/08/2017 at 05:05:08
Rather, over the past few seasons, the player that plays in-front of him doesn't provide cover for him, in the way Pienaar did.
Thus, Baines has to be more restrained in getting forward, or risk getting the backline exposed.
Of course, given his age, he would be wise to manage how much unnecessary running he needs to do.
I reckon, if he has comparable cover like in the days of Bainaar, he will still be devastating in bombing forward.
15 Posted 15/08/2017 at 18:48:05
He is very inexperienced, but has shown in an England shirt, and with his goal at Ruzomberok, that he can score goals and can become a very good player. As always much will be down to his attitude, and I sense that is pretty good.
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