Having recorded consecutive victories for the first time since
November, Everton go into Saturday's game looking for a third
straight win, precisely the same scenario as when they last met
Leeds United and we all remember what happened on that thrilling
day at Elland Road three months ago! Wayne Rooney's late
strike put to bed a 51-year-old hoodoo and Everton went on to win
another three games on the bounce, a run that saw the Blues rise to
third in the table.
That omen aside, David Moyes's team will be facing a Leeds club
that despite a revival of sorts in recent weeks remains in crisis
both on and off the field, with star players being sold to address
serious financial problems and manager Terry Venables disgruntled at
the dismantling of his team. Seeing three points evaporate
into the Stamford Bridge air in the last ten minutes of Tuesday
night's clash with Chelsea won't have done anything for the
confidence of a team firmly rooted in the bottom half of the
Leeds? Do you feel sorry for them? I think all
Evertonians should. For Bowyer, Keane, Fowler, Dacourt and now
Woodgate read Jeffers, Ball, Hutchison, Barmby and Dacourt.
Just as Smith looked like he might be putting something together,
the whole house of cards collapsed. Now Leeds and Venables are
having the same thing happen to them, with Ridsdale doing a passable
impression of Peter Johnson. And the latest Jonathan Woodgate
bombshell appears to have really gotten the fans backs up.
One difference, however, is that they still have some genuine
quality: Viduka, Kewell and Alan Smith are still top-class
strikers. Their midfield now lacks some bite; with Kewell
playing upfront, they have sacrificed some width and pace on the
flanks but at the back Kelly, Mills, Harte, Matteo and Robinson are
all again top-class. Any team that pushes Chelsea as much as
they did is a good team underestimate them at your peril!
What they are definitely lacking is confidence but that has been
more evident at Elland Road rather than on their travels where they
have won 5 games same as us and no-one has won more.
Everton, on the other hand, having arrested a 6-match winless
stretch, are buoyed by a much-improved injury situation and a more
potent midfield combination that created and converted a
number of chances at The Reebok on Tuesday.
If Alan Stubbs (dead leg) and Alessandro Pistone (ankle) shrug off
mild knocks, it would be realistic to expect Moyes to again name an
unchanged starting line-up.
If you get in the team and do well you stay there. A very
simple philosophy but just how strong does a manager have to be to
stick with it? Thomas Gravesen, Joseph Yobo and Kevin Campbell
will be substitutes for the third game running, although it
shouldn't escape notice that that lineup comprises possibly the
strongest bench at Everton in many years.
And their replacements, fully believing that if they are given a
start and do well will keep their places, have played out of their
skins and Moyes has kept his promises. Gemmill, forced in due
to injuries and suspensions when a move to Stoke was on the horizon,
has performed admirably in our last two wins and hence Gravesen
potentially our best central midfielder has to wait once again
for his chance. Read the same for McBride and Weir.
The players know that if they give everything and we do well,
they stay first choice; the obvious flip-side also being: One bad
game, one poor result and the waiting players will be coming in and
will then have the 1st team shirt a long wait could then ensue
for you to get it back couldn't it Alexandersson?
Stubbs's dead leg at Bolton may open the door for Yobo. If
his head is in order then he can be a great asset. Kewell is
as tricky as anyone; if we can get a grip of the midfield and Yobo
can stop Kewell, then this is definitely winnable.
It won't be an easy game and another victory by 1 goal may ensue
but if we could possibly be on 45 points by 5pm Saturday then we are
going to have a heck of a finish to this season!
2-1 to the Blues - Radz with another home goal.
Lyndon Lloyd and Lee Doyle
Tommy is Rock-on, but El Tel
steals the Headlines
It's typical of Everton's few years out of the limelight that
after a well deserved and tactically astute victory, a brilliant
display of front running by Tomas Radzinski, and a first win double
over these opponents for over 50 years, the only person anybody was
interested in hearing from was the opposition manager.
To be fair, in some respects, the less attention we get as we
just sit there in a European place, the less the pressure on the
players. Nevertheless it's galling that our consolidation of
5th place is overshadowed by the machinations in the Leeds
Having said that, it's hard to suppress a wry smile at Leeds'
fate. From high spending Champions League semi finalists to
'everything must go' desperation sellers in two short seasons.
Leeds were always a team I rather liked dating back to my
formative years as a fan in the early 70s when they were the main
opposition to Liverpool's domestic dominance. In recent years
however, players like Bowyer and Smith, together with the
objectionable David O'Leary, have taken away any such sympathy and,
after the years of belt tightening at Goodison, it's good to see a
few egos at Elland Road taken down a peg.
The supporters might deserve some sympathy, were it not for the
ludicrous transformation in their attitude to 'El Tel'. Made
unwelcome when he arrived, on the simple grounds that he's not from
'oop North', Venables is now cast as a great coach and the one man
who can save the club. Interviewed, he said it was 'nice' to
hear the supporters chant his name. If he'd been more honest,
I reckon he'd have said that he hoped the chant choked those
supporters who had vilified him just weeks earlier.
Anyway, having complained about Leeds stealing the headlines, I
now devote much of my report to well Leeds. Sorry about
that, but you're right if you think it's because I've not got a lot
to report from the match itself.
Another full house. Always good to see every seat
full. No surprises from Moyesy in the line up, where he was
content to stay with the winning line up from the previous fixture
against Bolton. However, we were served up a very scrappy
first half. All the passion that has characterised our
displays this season seemed absent, although we carved out what was
pretty much the only decent opening of the game early on when
Naysmith made a good break down the left and pulled it back for the
arriving Watson, who couldn't control his shot and sent it wildly
over the bar. In terms of possession and passing, Leeds then
proceeded to shade the half, though in truth, neither goalkeeper had
a real save to make.
Whatever Moyesy said at half time and his post match comments
suggest he made some tactical changes, though they weren't apparent
to this observer (presumably this is why Moyes, rather than yrs trly,
is manager). We just seemed to up the pace and begin to win the ball
and use it better.
Whether we had pinpointed Mills as a weak point against
Radzinski's pace, I don't know, but a couple of incidents involving
these two players changed the game. First, a long ball from
the back sends Rad on his way. He skins Mills for pace, gets
in to the box, and then screws a characteristically weak finish well
wide. This must have put all sorts of doubt in to Mills's mind
because he was caught out by an identical ball just minutes
later. This time he was in such a panic that he leant all over
Tomasz, leaving the ref with no option but to point to the
spot. As the last defender, Mills must have looked to the ref
in some trepidation, but for some reason no card was produced
this from the referee who dismissed Yobo against Newcastle for a far
more innocuous offence. Not that I necessarily wanted to see a
sending off, but the inconsistency is baffling. Anyway, due
punishment was exacted when Unsie, having been forced to wait around
for a while, buried the pen with customary finesse. Get in
Shortly later, Radzinski got the goal his performance deserved,
as ever, a much more difficult chance than the one he missed.
This was all about good football, a neat one two with Li Tie getting
him in on goal for a fine lifted finish from a tightish angle with
defenders closing in.
Tommy is having a great season, and with a bit more composure,
would have twice as many goals as he has. As it is, he's got 4
in the last 8 games and has a fantastic attitude and work rate to go
with it. It's a pity we can only accommodate Rooney, arguably
our best player, by omitting Radzinski, our next best; Moyesy
obviously prefers the classic 'little and large' pairing up front,
but it's a pretty hard choice between Rad and Rooney on current
Indeed, Radzinski almost had a tap in at the death when SuperKev,
played in by another excellent little ball by Li Tie, was caught in
two minds and left his square ball to the unmarked Radzinski too
So, while this wasn't vintage, it was a hugely satisfying three
points. Three wins on the belt have restored the momentum, and
we now have a bit of breathing space from the teams below us.
A strong bench is evidence that we have at last got some genuine
competition for places, and those 'in possession' are having to work
hard to keep in the team. It's great to see someone like
Pistone, whose class has never been in doubt, finally adding
resilience and work rate to his game.
Steve Watson, who looks at least two short sizes smaller, is
another player Moyes seems to have transformed. In the midfield I
still think we look lightweight against the top teams. However
there is nothing to fear in our next few fixtures, and with the
spectre of relegation already banished, we can look up the table
with genuine hopes of a top-six finish.
Come on you Blues!
Had a bad feeling going into this game, I thought there'd be a
reaction from Leeds following the off-field shenanigans they've been
through this week. And so it seemed, when Leeds started the
better of the two teams, passing the ball around well and generally
stronger in the tackle, winning most of the 50-50 balls. We
looked weak in the middle of midfield and I expected Tommy Gravesen
to be introduced sooner rather than later. Leeds were physical
throughout, and were blessed with a referee who was willing to turn
a blind eye to some meaty challenges.
For all their possession though, Leeds created very few real
chances. Even though they dominated possession, we went into
the break at least equal, if not ahead, in goal attempts.
No changes at half time; whatever Moyes said obviously worked,
because we were soon in control. Li Tie began to make some
useful passes and we started to exploit Radzinski's pace against a
very static Leeds back four. On one break, Radz screwed a shot
wide when he should really have done better, although he redeemed
himself shortly afterwards, winning a penalty from a similar through
ball. Unsy put the penalty away with no problems, and suddenly
we were in the driving seat.
Referee consistency alert: the Radz was past the last man when he
was bundled over. The Leeds defender, Danny Mills didn't get
so much as a booking when a sending off was a distinct
possibility. Don't ask me why!
Previously we've tended to sit back a bit when we've edged in
front. With half an hour to go, I expected an onslaught from
Leeds, but it never materialised. Instead, we extended our
lead when Li Tie played a beautiful ball into the path of Radzinski
who curled a delightful shot round Robinson. Get in!!
After that, we were never really troubled. We should have
made it 3-0 in the last minute when SuperKev broke free and, instead
of shooting (from an admittedly very tight angle) he tried to set up
the Rad, but his weak pass was easily cleared.
Defensively we were very solid. For all Leeds's early
possession, Wright didn't have a shot to save all game.
Pistone in particular was very solid and classy, although the other
three each played their part. Yobo will be warming the bench
for a while at least, and I really can't see a way back in for Tony
Hibbert at the moment.
Up front, McBride was tireless, if a little less accurate
shooting than he has been, but Campbell looked rusty when he came
on. The Rad scored one and made one, and was the crowd's man
of the match on the fancy new text-in" vote system, and will
not be easily shifted by Rooney when he returns from suspension back
Midfield remains a concern. Whilst Stevie Watson is a
shoe-in on the right, Naysmith still looks out of his depth at this
level (when is Rodrigo due back?). Whilst Li Tie shone in the
second half (and was subject to some rave reviews on the phone in)
both he and Gemmill looked very lightweight in the tackle.
A priority at the end of the season is to find the cut-price
Keane/Vieira out there to strengthen the midfield. Everywhere
else is looking pretty secure, with a degree of cover (on the bench
today we had Yobo, Gravesen, Pembridge and Campbell oh, and
Gerrard) in all areas. Sort out central midfield and we become
Man of the match today: Li Tie came on strongly in the second
half, The Rad was everywhere up front, and Davie, Stubbsy and Unsy
were majestic at the back. Ultimately it's a toss-up between
Steve Watson and Sandro, with the Italian shading it in the end.
Moment of the match: Alan Smith (narky little get) gets into a
tussle and earns a stiff talking to from the ref. As one, the
Street End start singing: "Sold in the morning, You're getting
sold in the morning." Priceless. But, there for the
Grace of God go ... well, the Red Shite and Man Citeh, probably.
Bring 'em all on; Everton are back!