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 FA Premiership (36); Goodison Park, Liverpool; Saturday 26 April 2003; 3:00pm
  Campbell (59')
 Rooney (90+2')
Attendance: 40,167
Halftime: 0-0


Allbäck (48')

Referee: Graham Poll

Match Summary

Thank God for Wayne Rooney.  Deep into stoppage time, a composed, purposeful but blunt Everton side were throwing the ball into the box hoping vainly that Duncan Ferguson or Kevin Campbell would get on the end of something...  And then England's most famous 17-year-old delivers the decisive goal with a swing of his left boot to hand the Blues three points.

It was three points Everton probably didn't deserve — not because they weren't the better side but because, for all the time and space they were given by Aston Villa, they created very little in the way of clear-cut chances.  Not what you'd expect from a team hoping of playing in Europe next season.

It was fitting that Rooney grabbed the winner in such dramatic fashion because he had been at the center of almost everything Everton did going forward.  As early as the fifth minute, he was put clean through with just Peter Enkelman to beat but he dragged his shot disappointingly wide with two defenders breathing down his neck.  

For the rest of the game, Rooney was the architect of the home side's best moves but was frequently let down by his team-mates, as he was after 13 minutes when he floated a perfect ball over the Villa defence and into the path of Steve Watson but the Geordie fluffed his shot embarrassingly from 10 yards out.

The youngster was supported, though, by a rarely accomplished performance by Thomas Gravesen who was all neat passes and intelligent interchanges in the middle of the park alongside Lee Carsley, Watson and Gary Naysmith.  Compared with the mindless route-one football exhibited during the defeats by Liverpool and Chelsea, this was a joy to watch even if the end product didn't consist of real chances. 

For the first half, the Blues dominated the Midlanders.  Another chance for Rooney fell to him when Enkelman did enough to take the ball off Campbell's toe but he scooped aimlessly across the area.  The 'keeper also saved a Campbell header from Gravesen's cross but Everton didn't have much to show at half-time for their clear superiority.

The second half opened with the customary lapse in the Everton defence and the almost-inevitable opening goal by the opposition.  A headed clearance bounced out the left side of the penalty area with neither Unsworth nor Naysmith anywhere in sight leaving a Villa midfielder plenty of time to measure a cross that evaded four Blue shirts but fell to Marcus Allbäck who buried it past Wright to make it 1-0.

Moyes responded seven minutes later by removing Unsworth, whose distribution had improved marginally with some nice balls down the flank to Rooney and Naysmith, and giving Ferguson the opporutunity to terrorise the visitors' defence.  Within three minutes, Everton were level, although the towering Scot had nothing to do with it.  A corner on the right was played short to Naysmith and for what seemed like the only time all afternoon, an Everton cross found a Blue head: Campbell nodded a textbook header past Enkelman.

With the Goodison faithful roused and the noise feverishly building, the Blues kept coming forward but a frustrating number of moves got as far as the penalty area, were knocked back to Carsley or Gravesen and the momentum died.  Frequently, the ball went wide right to Watson or Hibbert but, despite both players' success in knocking in a succession of crosses, they were almost always headed clear.

At the other end, Dion Dublin, who had clashed heads badly with Alan Stubbs in the first half leaving the Everton No. 4 with a golf-ball sized lump on his temple, connected with a header that Wright smothered well.  Substitute Whittingham also thundered a free kick straight at the 'keeper.

For Everton, Rooney had dropped deep and at one stage was orchestrating things from the left back position but he almost did real damage back in attack after Ferguson's side-foot shot had been saved and rebounded to The Kid, but his effort was also blocked by the Villa defence.  

Still the Blues came forward and Campbell laid a chance on for Ferguson but although the ball sat up nicely his shot was too close to Enkelman and was saved.  Rooney set up Naysmith but he inexplicably tried to walk it through three players with the fans baying for him to take a swing from 10 yards.

The latter incident was notable because it showed that, despite his experience, age and protracted time on the sideline, Duncan Ferguson has obviously learned nothing.  Lumbering into the area as the ball broke to the left side of the area, he threw an elbow into the face of Joey Gudjohnson that, thankfully, was not seen by referee Graham Poll but surely won't escape the attention of an FA video panel.

With four minutes left, Leon Osman was prepared for battle — in all honesty far too late — but he didn't take to the field until the 90th minute.  By which time, the game looked to be heading for a frustrating draw — made all the worse by the news that Blackburn were on the verge of tying up three points of their own, which would have left them a point behind the Blues if the scores stayed the same.

Then, up stepped Rooney.  With the box packed, a long free kick by Stubbs from behind the halfway line was half-cleared by Dublin.  The ball fell to Rooney and, on the volley, he despatched a crisp shot inside the post with his left foot from 20 yards to send Goodison into the kind of bedlam not seen since Tomasz Radzinski's winning goal against Southampton, also at the end of injury time.

In an attacking sense, this wasn't the performance of either a Champions League or UEFA cup side but Everton were, on balance, good value for the victory based on some decent defending (the Villa goal aside) and a much improved display in midfield.  Moyes has clearly tried to instill in his players this week the need to let the ball do more of the work on the ground and to cut down on the route-one football that was so prevalent in the previous two games.

The win preserves the three-point cushion between us and Blackburn with two games left to play.  Only two wins for Everton and two defeats for either Liverpool or Chelsea will see us improve on the 6th place we currently occupy, but Moyes will only be worried about retaining that precious UEFA Cup spot.

Lyndon Lloyd

Live Real Audio Commentary from Radio Everton

Wayne Rooney: Everton , poor in attack all game, need a break... WHAM!

Everton v Aston Villa:
Prior League Games
 Everton 42
 Aston Villa 23
 Draws 22
 Everton 3
 Aston Villa 4
 Draws 3
 Last Season:

Everton 3-2 Aston Villa

BBC Match Preview
Electronic Telegraph

Premiership Scores
Saturday 26 Apr
Bolton  2-2 Arsenal 
Birmingham 3-0 Middlesbro
West Brom 0-6 Liverpool 
Charlton  2-1 Southampton
Chelsea  1-1 Fulham 
Everton  2-1 Aston Villa
Leeds 2-3 Blackburn 
Sunderland  0-1 Newcastle 
Sunday 27 Apr
Man City 0-1 West Ham
Tottenham  0-2 Man Utd

Match Facts
 Everton   (4-4-2)
 Blue shirts, white shirts, blue socks
 Aston Villa   (4-4-2)
Claret & Blue shirts, shorts, and socks
Weir {c}
Unsworth (56' Ferguson )
Watson (90' Osman)
Rooney (90+2' Gemmill )

Subs not used: Gerrard, Yobo

Yellow Cards: —

Red Cards: —


(Injured:) Linderoth, Pistone;
(Recovering:) Radzinski, Rodrigo;
(On Loan:) Clarke, McLeod, Nyarko.
Johnsen (46' Taylor)
Leonhardsen (67' Vassell)
Edwards (46' Whittingham)

Subs not used: 
Postma, Hendrie

Yellow Cards: Vassell (86')

Red Cards: —
Match Reports

Everton Web Sites
ToffeeWeb Match Summary Match Report
When Skies Are Grey Match Report
Blue Kipper Match Report
Everton Fans' Reports
Steve Milne Match Report
Links to Other Media Reports
Electronic Telegraph Match Report
BBC Sport Match Report
4 the Game Match Report
Sky Sports Match Report
Sporting Life Match Report
SoccerNet Match Report
The Observer Match Report
The Guardian Match Report
The Independent Match Report
Liverpool Echo Match Report
Daily Post Match Report
Premiership Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Man Utd 77
2 Arsenal 72
3 Newcastle 65
4 Chelsea 64
5 Liverpool 64
6 Everton 59
7 Blackburn 56
8 Tottenham 50
9 Charlton 49
10 Southampton 48
11 Man City 48
12 Birmingham 47
13 Middlesbrough 46
14 Aston Villa 42
15 Fulham 42
16 Leeds 41
17 Bolton 40
18 West Ham 38
19 West Brom 24
20 Sunderland 19
After 27 Apr 2003

Match Preview

Well what can one say?  Key games, poor performances, sadly predictable results... and now we have a scrap on our hands to stay ahead of Blackburn.

There is every chance that we could end the season having spent most of it in the top 5, doing the double over Blackburn and finishing above Southampton and Man City and still watching the three of them playing in the UEFA Cup next year whilst we prepare for a Worthington Cup tie.

But Moyes will not let that happen.  Just when we needed the squad to be strong, it showed signs of wear and tear.  The loss of Radzinski particularly told in those two games but with Pistone, Hibbert, Watson and Pembridge also out our paper thin squad was just unable to continue in the rarefied atmosphere.

Now, as Villa and Fulham are on the horizon, so a few of those players are ready to return.  That's how it goes in the world of football.

Villa have shown an upturn in form recently but they have still only managed one away win all season.  It is essential that we send them packing without that improving.  Believe me we will.  We are not about to throw away all our good work.

They have excellent pace upfront with Vassell and a good outlet on the left through Gareth Barry.  Otherwise, they have little else.

Gravesen needs to boss this game and expect to see Li Tie recharged.  Steve Watson will go head to head with Barry.  If we win that battle, it should be all over.

Upfront it must surely be time to see Dunc start.  Campbell looks shattered to me and a Radz and Ferguson front line will have plenty to prove with Rooney back to his cameo best.

Goodison must urge the boys home.  A win here and then a draw at Fulham should seal the UEFA place but we shouldn't be looking at Fulham.  3 points and 3 goals on Saturday!

3-0 to the Blues — welcome back Radz.


Lee Doyle



Steve Milne

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