Rooney picks the perfect moment
On the day when Francis Jeffers played at Goodison Park for the first
time since his acrimonious departure two years ago, the real
future of Everton stepped emphatically into the limelight and delivered
the hammer blow to Arsenal's unbeaten run with a last-minute wonder goal.
With the clock at 89 minutes, a high Thomas Gravesen pass found 16
year-old Wayne Rooney in space deep in the Arsenal half. He turned, cut
inside and unleashed a curling, teasing shot that canoned into the net off
the crossbar past the despairing lunge of David Seaman to send the home
crowd into delirium.
It was a moment carved out of football folklore itself, a fairytale
waiting for a stage, and what better arena than Goodison, that graveyard
of unbeaten records? All the talk had been of Wayne Clarke's winner
against Liverpool that put the mockers on their attempts to break the top
flight record for games unbeaten and, once again, the Blues rose to the
occasion to overcome Arsenal for only the second time in the last 9
Seven minutes into this much-feared encounter, it had all looked so
ominously familiar. Appalling defending by a catalogue of Everton players
saw the ball eventually end up loose in the six yard box and Freddie
Ljungberg was the quickest to react, poking it past former teammate
Richard Wright to make it 1-0 after just 7 minutes.
However, David Moyes's side weren't overawed at Manchester United in
their last outing and they certainly paid the high-flying Gunners little
respect today. Gradually, the Blues began to assert themselves and after
22 minutes, an enterprising move was rewarded when Gravesen laid a perfect
ball on for Lee Carsley who fired against the post but the rebound fell
kindly to Thomas Radzinski who beat two defenders on the edge of the area
before whipping the ball past Seaman from 18 yards to level the scores.
The remainder of the first half, with it's flowing end-to-end football
threatened to repeat the end-of-season encounter at Highbury when a
ding-dong goal feast ended in a 4-3 victory for Arsenal. On 28 minutes,
Thierry Henry shimmied and jinked himself into space on the edge of the
area but his curling shot was parried for a corner by Wright. Seven
minutes later, Gravesen beat two defenders on the wing before cutting
inside and despatching a rocket that Seaman did well to turn over the bar.
Ljungberg was then narrowly denied by the body of Wright who did just
enough to divert the ball to safety before Carsley headed tamely wide from
a Radzinski cross at the other end. More bad defending nearly led to
Everton's downfall as half time approached but on three occasions they
were relieved to see Arsenal moves break down in dangerous situations. Up
front, Radzinski, who had tormented the Arsenal defence with his electric
pace, burst through but had his ankles clipped on the edge of the area on
his way to goal. Referee Uriah Rennie waved away Radzinski's protests and
booked Mark Pembridge for his. Half time: 1-1.
In many ways, the second half continued where the first had left off.
Everton continued to exhibit some scintillating football while still
looking vulnerable when faced with the visitors' pacey forward line and
riding their luck on occasions. The half was just three minutes old when
Kanu and Ljungberg found themselves clear on the edge of the area but the
former's shot was blocked by the impressive Joseph Yobo for a corner that
was subsequently wasted.
Then, after Tobias Linderoth had replaced Li Tie � who had by and
large had a mixed afternoon � the excellent Tony Hibbert found room for
a long range effort that went well over and Gravesen profited from great
work by Radzinski againt Sol Campbell by setting himself and firing a
left-footed effort that Seaman palmed behind.
Arsenal, as expected, remained an ever-present danger. Henry scuffed a
gilt-edged opportunity wide from 8 yards in the 58th minute and Wiltord,
in acres of space, smacked an effort off the post in almost the same
fashion as Carsley in the first half, but Everton were able to clear the
danger and accept the let-off. Then Ljungberg came within inches of his
second, beating Wright to a high bounce but his touch took the ball the
wrong side of the upright from his perspective.
With 10 minutes left and the valiant Blues matching their
all-conquering opponents punch for punch, the anticipated switch of Rooney
for Radzinski was made by Moyes. By this stage, Jeffers had been on the
pitch for 20 minutes and had been roundly booed at every touch by the home
faithful. A situation made for the ex-Everton starlet to upset his boyhood
club an extend Arsenal's unbeaten run was instead written for young Rooney
to become the youngest ever Everton player to score a league goal.
And what a moment to score that elusive goal, with the game winding
down to a creditable draw? Rooney pulled Gravesen's lob out of the air
with his instep, turned and with two strides steadied himself for his date
with destiny before despatching the shot that would bring the Gunners'
30-match unbeaten run to an end. The placement was perfect, putting the
spinning ball out of Seaman's reach and bouncing off the crossbar and over
The referee found an inexplicable two extra minutes to add to the three
minutes of injury time signalled by the fourth official but Arsenal didn't
get near the goal. Instead, it was left to Rooney to have one last cheeky
effort; an audacious chip from the edge of the area that just cleared the
bar and bounced off the top of the net.
The final whistle was met with the Goodison roar after a
highly-deserved victory over the reigning Champions. Rooney, who was
absolutely mobbed by his teammates after his priceless goal and appeared
moved to tears at the accomplishment, may have still been a relatively
unknown quantity to the outside world before this game, but everyone will
know about this uncut diamond now. The challenges facing the Everton
management in shielding him from the media glare may have multiplied but
this huge step towards maturity can only be a good thing for the Blues on
His teammates meanwhile can take enormous credit for a job well done
and a performance rich in attacking football. As a team they played
phenomenally well, creating some wonderful passing moves and looking a far
cry from the shoddy outfit that was struggling at the wrong end of the
Premiership last season. Defensively, Yobo was solid and composed, Weir,
for the most part, also, while Hibbert was a constant attacking threat and
Unsworth a tenacious thorn in Arsenal's side. His distribution � along
with Weir's � was a little lacking at times but neither were made to pay
In midfield, Linderoth was impressive after coming on and Gravesen had
one if his better outings, as did Pembridge. Carsley was good enough
although his is a position that looks to be the weakest link and, given
some money, one Moyes would probably love to address. And up front,
Radzinski and Campbell were magnificent until Rooney took centre stage and
delivered the coup de grace to bring Arsenal's victory bandwagon
to a screeching halt. A day to savour!
After 13 Oct 2003
Well after the small matter of a trip to Old Trafford Moyes's Men
return from the international break to find the small matter of
Arsenal coming to visit
49 consecutive unbeaten games and 40 odd consecutive games where
they have found the back of the net kind of suggests that this is
not a bad team!
Whilst we are all too quick to tag words such as
"awesome", "greatest" and "best ever"
to teams there can be little doubt that this is one of the best
teams to have graced the Premiership.
Small question marks may be raised by the defence where only Sol
Campbell stands out as a truly excellent defender. Cole is better
going forward, Keown ageing, Lauren is actually a midfielder and
Seaman is past his best and susceptible to misdirected crosses!
However, from then on the team is comparable with anything I have
seen. Viera and Silva are both world cup winners, Ljungberg a
quality goal scoring midfielder, Wiltord lightening who this year
has learnt where the goal is, and Pires, when fit, one of the most
devasting and simply beautiful footballers ever to grace these
Upfront it keeps getting better where Henry imparts a sense of
majestic style, Bergkamp the grace of Cantona with far more self
control, Kanu simple magic and Jeffers - well he warms the bench
(though 5 goals in 2 u21 games does deserve some recognition).
How we even begin to shackle them baffles me but we do simply
have to look at our last match - or at least the first 86 (!)
minutes - to again confirm that this Everton side will not be simply
Yobo has massively improved the backline, his pace strength and
composure has shone since his debut and after coming out best
against Van Nistlerooy he now finds himself up to be compared
against Henry. He shone against Owen in the World Cup and if he
shines this w/end then our first glimmer of hope
Our midfield will have another hard shift to put in but Li Tie
and Gravesen matched United step for step and will certainly not be
faulted for effort against the centre of Arsenals team.
Inevitably it is out wide that we will struggle. We simply have
no quality to use any of the ball that we may win. Pembridge and
Carsley work hard but have no cutting edge which negates the use we
can make of a flying Radzinski and rejuvenated Campbell.
Once again eyes will be on Rooney. Given our failings out wide
Moyes may elect to go back to the 4-3-3 home formation and unleash
both Rads and Rooney at the Arsenal backfour. Until we bring through
some wide players this is a ploy that we may be forced into.
Arsenal have won most of their games over the last year or so in
the first 20 minutes so we cannot afford to dawdle at the start. If
we are still in it at the start of the 2nd half then we may have a
chance as so many of Arsenals players have been involved in a
draining international week - Don't hold your breath but do imagine
what may have happened if Rooney's run
had ended with his shot evading Barthez ....
2-1 to Arsenal I'm afraid but another performance to justify the
faith we have in Moyes ..
What a win, what a day, what a Rooney
Probably the biggest test of David Moyes's short career at
Everton faced him
today, with the arrival at Goodison of the Champions, Arsenal. True
faced them last season at Highbury, where the Gunners ran out
winners in an
entertaining 4-3 affair, but that was a carnival game, the
already clinched and nothing from their perspective riding on it.
Today it counted. Arsenal arrived unbeaten this season and
from home for more than a year, while we were still trying to turn
performances into results. Our defeat at Manchester United was a
point, with the performance over 86 minutes undone by a frantic last
truth the capitulation then wasn't as traumatic as the one that had
Walter Smith his job at Middlesbrough last year, but it still showed
despite the "feel good" factor that is sweeping around the
club, we have a
long way to go.
So, what might we have expected? We expected Richard Wright to
want to show
the travelling Gooners why the club should have put its faith in
than the rather more fallible David Seaman; though conversely we
performance of some quality from the England keeper after the
midweek, for which he's been roundly condemned in many quarters.
We might also have expected former Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell
to want to
turn it on against his old club, continuing his recent scoring
much the same could be said of former Toffees favourite Francis
whose five goals in two England U-21 games in the last week showed
has started to rediscover his finishing touch and another goal
boyhood heroes today would have seen him having scored in both
against us - this of course assumed that he mad the bench or, more
the starting line-up.
Arsenal's biggest strength has been their ability to break at
recent times this has been our undoing, but with Joseph Yobo
settling in and
showing that he respects no reputation and has the pace to cope with
we had cause to hope that the threat of Wiltord and Henry (in
could be dulled somewhat. That might have been simple wishful
stranger things have happened. So what happened?
Defence: Hibbert, Yobo, Weir, Unsworth;
Midfield: Carsley, Li, Gravesen, Pembridge;
Forwards: Radzinski, Campbell;
Substitutes: Simonsen; Stubbs; Linderoth; Alexandersson; Rooney
The day started in familiar fashion. Everton still in the traps
for the first fifteen minutes. Eight minutes was all it took though
Everton to fall behind. A spate of missed clearances and unfortunate
rebounds saw Ljungberg prod a loose ball beyond Richard Wright.
the clean sheet. 0-1
It now looked as though it would be a case of stemming the red
tide. For a
few more minutes Arsenal passed the ball fluently and Everton looked
though in defence and midfield they were chasing shadows. Eventually
they began to get to grips with the pace and direction of Arsenal's
Hibbert in particular started to break up the Arsenal game and
Radzinski began to cause problems for the Arsenal defence. Gravesen
fired up once more and it was his tenacity in the middle of the
that gained Everton a free kick. Quickly taken the ball was sprayed
right where Carsley unleashed a ferocious drive against the post.
previous occasions the ball fell to an Everton man on the edge of
Radzinski cut inside his defender and drove the ball past two more
and the flailing Seaman into the net. 1-1
After that there were chances at both ends, with Radzinski in
causing all sorts of problems. Right at the end of a half another
the little Canadian saw him breeze past Ashley Cole and into the
box, but a
swing of the leg by the England international was enough to take him
The referee waved play on and then booked Pembridge for dissent.
came with the scores level.
The second half again saw Arsenal going forward, but this time we
to match them. True there was a fluency about their play that we
match but both Unsworth and Hibbert maintained calm on the wings and
was the perfect foil to Weir in the centre. But still Arsenal were
To counter this Moyes brought on Tobias Linderoth for the tiring Li.
Suddenly there was extra bite and urgency in the midfield and Vieira
to lose his midfield dominance as Linderoth tracked him like a pack
But Linderoth wasn't just a destructive force in the middle. HE was
able to deliver telling balls for Carsley to run onto, deliver back
Hibbert and for the youngster, denied his first England U-21 cap by
during the week, to cross the ball into the middle. Again we were
to an end to end game and despite the introduction of Wiltord to
efforts of the largely ineffective Henry, Arsenal couldn't find the
telling ball. One spell of pressure saw several shots from the
frantically dealt with by the Everton defence, Yobo in particular
spectacular goal-line clearance by Hibbert.
But Everton stood firm, with the loudest noise of the half up to
reserved for the introduction of Jeffers. The boos that accompanied
entrance to the field will be exceeded only by those likely to be
one Nicholas Barmby. Immediately the boos died down the cheers went
the rising star at Goodison Park, Wayne Rooney. Nevertheless Arsenal
pressed forward again, but didn't really threaten the Everton goal.
ten minutes from time Rooney was introduced, replacing the hero thus
The youngster stayed out wide left for the most part, keeping the
hemmed in the Arsenal corner when he got it. When Arsenal did manage
break clear with it he tracked across the back line and delivered a
crunching tackle on Ashley Cole. Cries of "Rooney, Rooney"
the ground. The one time golden boy, Jeffers bore no comparison.
Then cam a moment I'll remember forever. Rooney collected the
ball 35 yards
out; he moved forward five yards, looked up and saw Seaman on the
his goal, Rooney's right. He struck a sweet right footed shot
Seaman, but with curl. And curl it did. Right into the right hand
corner of Seaman's goal. The place erupted! Twenty seconds from the
normal time and the youngster became a legend. 2-1; not only a
not only a strong team performance; not only ending the champions'
run; not only picking ourselves up after the defeat against United,
had come from behind to take the lead again.
Try as they might in the added time Arsenal couldn't find
anything to get
past a stalwart Everton defence and when the final whistle went the
came off the place.
What a win, what a day, what a Rooney!
Referee: U. Rennie
Man of the Match: Tempted to give it Rooney for the sheer
brilliance of his
goal, but there were heroes throughout the team. In midfield in the
half Linderoth was a tiger. Gravesen was in the thick of it
Both Unsworth and Hibbert were assured in defence, as was Weir.
was up and down the line tirelessly and Carsley, too made his
Both Campbell and Radzinski made the Champions' defence work hard,
truth it was Yobo who most took my eye, so I'll give it to him.