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 Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool Premiership  Saturday 22 April 2006; 3:00pm
    Half Time: 0-0
 Attendance: 35,420 Fixture 36 Referee: Mark Halsey

Match Summary

Van der Meyde: finally gets to start a game...

Andy van der Meyde gets on the starting roster, along with Simon Davies as Kilbane drops to the bench, where a young lad by the name of Victor Anichebe takes his seat.  But the player mysteriously missing was Matteo Ferrari, who was reported to have left the stadium in a huff; I wonder why...

It's 48 years since Birmingham City won a league game at Goodison Park, but Everton should be equally as pumped as the relegation candidates, having not won now for five games, and having lost that wonderful home record this year in that defeat against Tottenham.

A good move involving Davies and Van der Meyde opened up the Brummies but the Dutchman failed to pull the trigger.  McFadden had a half-chance soon after that earned a corner.  But Birmingham responded with a good ball in that also earned a corner and Melchiott had a worrying chance to give Birmingham the lead but his header was poor.

The lively tempo continued, with a great balls in from Neville that should have led to more but Van der Meyde's corner was useless, the Ditch Wizard looking decidedly rusty.  More good play down the right, Neville, Osman, Beattie and McFadden that earned a corner; Yobo could have wafted it in but completely missed it! 

At the other end, Melchiott crossed from the right and Heskey's knock-down should have been converted but Pennant missed it.  McFadden fed Neville who was way forward, firing narrowly wide of the post after some great link-up play. 

A move down the left saw Van der Meyde get the ball in to McFadden again, and he was in on goal but Cunningham blocked an almost certain goal.  Heskey had a pop from 25 yards but Beastie did well to put him off.  Sutton put pressure on Weir from a throw-in that led to another shot on Wright's goal.

Van der Meyde was involved in a lot of the action but his decision-making and level of effort were both in question as he ambled forward and fired into the side-netting.  But his corner was better, almost curling it into the net.

McFadden played in Osman but his shot was blocked by Sadler.  A good short corner again came to Neville but it failed to come off as Everton kept pushing hard for that vital first goal.  Heskey won a dubious free-kick against Weir but Pennant's shot from a dangerous position was fired well over.

Van der Meyde was robbed by Cunningham but the Goodison crowd demanded a free-kick for what was a clean tackle.  Osman had another pop on goal, with Everton putting more attacks into this game and creating more goal-scoring chances than they have all season!

Beattie's cross was headed just over by Naysmith or McFadden.  Cahill had a great chance from the corner, but then went down awkwardly on his right leg just before the break, jarring his knee.  He came back on, but looked to be struggling, and was replaced by Kilbane after the break.

Another great piece of play by Osman, flicked a great ball in for McFadden and Beattie, but neither could score from yet another golden chance.  Worryingly, they went in at half-time with nothing to show from an otherwise excellent half of attacking football.

Naysmith was called upon to block a shot from Pennant after a good flick on by Hesley... showing how close the margin was...  Van der Meyde earned a free-kick but his low drive was totally wasted.  Ten minutes in, Davies started a great move and played in McFadden, Osman's shot was saved and Beattie put home the rebound but it was ruled offside! 

A poor McFadden free-kick led to a great shot from Weir but his crisp half-volley was well saved by Maik Taylor.  McFadden created a good overlap for Van der Meyde but Davies put a very poor ball in.

Van der Meyde was finally withdrawn after the hour mark, having had a really poor game perhaps Moyes knew he really wasn't up to playing Chelsea last week!  On came Everton's secret weapon... [not]... Duncan Ferguson, while Birmingham switched to 4-3-3 with one-time Everton target Mikael Forssel coming on for loveable ex-kopite Emile Heskey.

Despite the switch, Birmingham looked more and more determined to hold out of for the 0-0 draw.  But a difficult ball from Osman to Neville left the player with a lot to do but his old team-mate Butt nodded it behind.  Good cross from the corner, but no-one on the end of it as the game moved into its last 10 minutes.

On a Weir free-kick, Yobo went down as he attacked the ball, but the screams for a penalty were repulsed by Halsey, who then denied two quick handball appeals, as David Moyes decided to give young Victor Anichebe another couple of minutes, replacing McFadden, the day before his 18th birthday. Off a flick from Ferguson, Anichebe was a fraction too slow to score with his first touch.

Osman had played a fantastic game, and continued to drive Everton forward in search of a vital goal that would set Everton back onto that path for a "record" top-half finish in the Premiership.  Neville's corner was headed over by Anichebe; perhaps he could have done better than head over with 2 mins remaining. 

Then a classic Richard Wright moment led to a Birmingham corner but thankfully it was defended well as Anichebe was fouled by Taylor just outside the box.  The last-chance free-kick was taken by Naysmith into the wall, Beattie unable to do much with the rebound. 

Birmingham were very, very poor and really unworthy of their point, which was merited only by Everton's ineptitude in front of goal.  With Charlton getting beaten, a golden chance to climb back to 11th was spurned and that other "record" the lowest ever goals scored total for a season looks well within the grasp of David Moyes's team, as thy secure their first point of the last five games this season still no goals scored: 

    P 3   W 0  D 1  L 2   GF 0  GA 4   Pts 1

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

With three games left and the top ten now four points away after five games without a win, the inevitable questions about the players' desire are surfacing.

That's a discussion for another day but certainly the last couple of games seem to have been more about lack of direction and imagination than a shortage of effort.

This weekend sees the visit of relegation-threatened Birmingham City and with their Premiership survival on the line, there should be no shortage of effort from Steve Bruce's men.

Lee Carsley is out of contention after picking up a harsh red card at Chelsea on Monday, the consequent suspension ending his season prematurely. He joins Mikel Arteta, Tony Hibbert and Nuno Valente on the sidelines. Alan Stubbs, who missed the defeat at Stamford Bridge, is probably doubtful for this one as well.

Then there's the Andy van der Meyde question.  Was he left on the bench on Monday because of Moyes's desire to put out a more defensive line-up against the Chelsea, with Carsley's dismissal putting paid to the Dutchman's chances of making an appearance?  Or is he still not fit enough?

This weekend's game should answer those two questions.  You would think that a team like Birmingham would be the ideal opponents against which to unleash Van der Meyde's creative talents.  But old Moyesey is pretty conservative these days, so you never know...

Everton should, of course, win this one on paper but Birmingham will probably be scrapping for their lives.  Equally, their nerves could severely undermine their performance; either way, the Toffees will have to be a little more adventurous in the final third than they have been in recent games if they are to give the home faithful something to shout about.

Lyndon Lloyd

Everton again lacking teeth

With Europe a distant dream, even a top-half berth — the goal that many fans feel should have been a minimum return from the season following a fourth-place finish — is looking a tall order after Everton huffed and puffed but failed to blow away a desperately poor Birmingham side teetering on the edge of the relegation zone.

After a succession of mundane performances that yielded two defeats and a goalless draw, the Blues finally perked up in an attacking sense and, for large parts of this game, enjoyed the kind of dominance in terms of territory and possession that should have guaranteed a home win.  But an all-too familiar lack of penetration and ideas in the final third let David Moyes's side down once again and, much like Everton's season, the game petered out to a disappointing conclusion.

After failing to see action at Stamford Bridge on Easter Monday, Andy van der Meyde finally made his first start of the year and turned in the sort of mixed-bag performance you'd expect from a player who has spent months on the sidelines.  With Mikel Arteta injured, Lee Carsley suspended and Phil Neville again filling in impressively for Tony Hibbert at right back, Simon Davies started in midfield alongside Tim Cahill and Leon Osman.

But while Osman, with his tenacity and tricky footwork, was a constant threat and Neville was getting down the right flank with pleasing regularity, things routinely fell flat in the final third for the home side.  The first opening of the game in the third minute was a case in point: Osman's skill took him clear of his marker, he fed Davies who in turn laid the ball off the Van der Meyde, but after cutting back onto his right foot the Dutchman played a loose ball back towards the penalty spot that was easily intercepted by a defender.

And, for the first half an hour at least, things were even worse from set-pieces, where distribution from free kicks and corners was appalling.  A delightful one-two between Neville and Osman ended with the latter's cross being turned behind for a corner but Van der Meyde fluffed his kick.  Four minutes later, a terrific move involving Beattie, McFadden and Neville produced another corner that found Joseph Yobo in acres of space but he couldn't make proper contact on a free header and the chance went begging.

At the other end, Birmingham were creating chances of their own.  Chris Sutton curled a lazy ball across the face of goal that Neville turned behind but heart-stoppingly close to his own post, before Jermaine Pennant collected Emile Heskey's nod back and sized up a shot from the edge of the box that flew a couple of feet wide.

A minute later, Neville surged inside and took advantage of the space that opened up in front of him to run as far as the area before dispatching a left-footed shot just wide of Maik Taylor's left-hand upright.  Then Van der Meyde's almost perfectly-weighted ball down the channel looked to have put James McFadden in the clear but Taylor just beat him to it.

In what was an open and entertaining first-half, both sides kept coming forward and trying to force the opening goal.  Van der Meyde dragged a tame right-footed shot well wide; Pennant blasted a direct free kick high over the bar; and Osman's wonderful right-footed shot curled off the outside of his boot and forced the 'keeper to palm over in the 32nd minute.

Seven minutes from the break, Gary Naysmith, who overall had a very good game, popped up on the edge of the six-yard box but his downward header was also tipped over the bar by Taylor.  Cahill, unfortunately, didn't time his jump correctly for the ensuing corner and headed high over the crossbar.  It was to be the Australian's last meaningful contribution to the game as two minutes later he would collide with Damien Johnson in an innocuous-looking aerial challenge and exit the game at half-time with an injured knee.

Whether it was Cahill's absence or Kevin Kilbane's introduction to the midfield, Everton simply didn't have the same rhythm or attacking purpose in the second half.

Nevertheless, they did have the ball in the net 10 minutes after the break when Davies accelerated impressively down the right before feeding McFadden who touched it on to Osman.  His shot was parried by Taylor but the flag was raised as Beattie turned the loose ball into the empty net and the "goal" was ruled out.

Beattie then saw an over-head kick smothered by the 'keeper before a clearance off McFadden's free kick fell to David Weir on the left-side of the area but his well-struck effort was smothered at the near post.

With 22 minutes left, Moyes made the inevitable yet still mystifying decision to bring on Duncan Ferguson.  On this occasion, you could have understood it to a degree because Van der Meyde was there to supply the aerial ammunition... except that it was Van der Meyde who made way for the ineffective Scot.  And so, predictably, the heavy artillery came out, long aimless balls forward became more frequent and, apart from some lively bursts through the midfield by Osman and Davies, Everton's play lapsed into a more mundane and direct pattern.

Still, McFadden went very close with a direct free kick from outside the area and Nicky Butt almost steered a defensive header into his own goal but while Victor Anichebe saw action for the last five minutes and had a late header off a corner that went well over, there were few signs that either side would make the breakthrough before referee Halsey brought proceedings to a close after a couple of minutes of stoppage time.

This was a game that Everton really should have won easily, particularly as they had over 60% of the second-half possession, and they would have done with more cutting edge up front.  How many times have we heard that this season?  It's clear that the pieces are in place for this to be a good attacking side capable of playing some very attractive football, but without more movement and better finishing up front, a consistent outlet on both flanks and someone capable for opening up the defence with an imaginitive pass or a moment of magic, they are going to continue to struggle to score goals.

Van der Meyde clearly needs time to adjust to the English game, something that isn't going to happen if his Goodison career continues in the stop-start manner that has characterised his first season with the Blues.  Too often he didn't look up before delivering a cross, he delivered the ball low when it needed to be in the air or his distribution was just poor.  He also seemed content to sit far too deep at times, but maybe that was due to lack of match fitness.  He tempered all that, however, with a few moments of individual skill that leave your mouth watering for a time when he can be consistent member of the first team.

In the absence of Arteta, Osman was once again the main threat.  Some of the footwork he has exhibited since the turn of the year has been mesmerising but sometimes he thinks and moves too quickly for the attack to respond; the whole team plays so deep so often that there aren't enough blue shirts in the danger area to capitalise on his crosses.

Elsewhere in the side, you couldn't really say that anyone had a bad game — although Yobo seemed well below his best and neither Kilbane nor Ferguson offered much from the bench — it was their lack of cutting edge as a team that let them down.  Davies showed a few more glimpses of what he can offer as an attacking midfielder running from deep, Cahill was quietly influential before he left and was missed in the second half, Neville again showed himself to be a far more versatile and well-rounded full-back than Tony Hibbert, and the front pairing of McFadden and Beattie were industrious but didn't get enough clear-cut chances in order to make a difference.

With just two games left, our hopes of finishing in the top 10 depend on the results of West Ham, Wigan and Charlton.  When you think of the kind of football and results we were turning out just a month ago, not finishing 10th or above seems criminal but the loss of Arteta and the lack of more striking options have been key.  Strength in depth is once again our Achilles heel but there's little hope that this will be addressed significantly in the summer given the manager's downbeat statements regarding his plans for new faces in the close season.

That's a shame, because this familiar end-of-season whimper and negative transfer rhetoric is going to impact season-ticket renewals at a time when more and more fans are questioning whether they get value for money for their financial outlay each season...

Lyndon Lloyd

In a Word Drab

Normally Gaz kindly gives us all a lift to the game but with him not going to this one we decided on the train... only to find they werent running from James Street to Moorfields so we got off at James Street and went for a few beers round there before realising what time it was and exiting the bar to get a taxi.  Predictably we couldnt find one for ages and when we finally did it was coming on 3pm.  We could hear the Z-Cars from the taxi drivers car radio as we were probably half way there. 

We got out by the Park End and headed straight for the Lower Gwladys and had only missed the first five minutes or so. I asked the fella next to me if Id missed anything.  The reply Yeah mate.  Youve missed the best three minutes of the season.  Weve seen three red cards and a streaker.  I reckon he was lying.  Kilbane had been replaced by Van der Meyde and the suspended Carsley by Simon Davies in the only changes from the Chelsea game.

Not a lot happened at all in the whole half really. Birmingham City (bizarrely considering their precarious position at the wrong end of the table) had oh so blatantly come for the draw.  They looked really poor.  Everton probed early on I guess but couldnt get into it properly.  The best chances seemed to come from Osman who drilled a cracking effort goalwards from 20 yards out but was denied by a decent tip over from Maik Taylor, who also saved well from I think a Naysmith header from closer range.

Neville drilled an effort wide from the edge of the box as well but Everton just couldnt seize on this early initiative.  At the other end, Pennant hit one well wide and Damian Johnson struck a half volley straight at Richard Wright.  Or Richard Wrong as somebody in the Lower Gwladys hilariously put it.  Half time it was 0-0 but Everton had tried quite hard I think and I for one was generally satisfied enough.

We went down for a quick beer just before half-time when we saw Cahill go down injured with somebody else.  Half-time provided me with the funniest thing Ive seen for a long time at Goodison Park.  You know them bins for empty plastic pint cups, the giant cans with the ring pull as the flap for putting your empties in?  Well some girl tried to rest her full pint on the ring pull and naturally the pint just dropped in.  It was so funny.  She saw the funny side of it as well.

The second half is barely worth a mention cos it was so drab its not even funny.  It was really, really poor.  Everton stopped creating chances and Birmingham never really started creating chances.  We had absolutely nothing in the final third.  It wasnt through lack from effort for Everton, it was just a genuine lack of ideas.  McFadden toiled away with no end product and Davies tried to get involved more than anyone, but there was precious little there to lift the home crowd and I felt sorry for my mate who Id bought along for his first ever football game. I dont think hell be back in a hurry.

The closest we came was probably from a Weir volley that was comfortable for Taylor.  We did have the ball in the net once when Osmans effort was saved by Taylor only for Beattie to tap in the rebound, but he was offside.  Ferguson came on to no end product.  Anichebe came on too late to make an impact and it became clear that Everton were going to play out their fourth successive game with no goals scored.

Its sad how our standards have slipped.  Just before the derby it was we can make Europe, then its we can make the Intertoto, then its We can get back-to-back finishes in the top 10 for the first time in the Premiership  Wow!. Whats next?  We can make 12th!.  Simply not good enough from Everton who need to start creating opportunities.  We cant become this reliant on one Spaniard.

Viva Dublin!

Player Ratings:

  • Wright: Looked quite assured but then there were a few moments of sheer indecision. 6
  • Naysmith: Did well defensively. Didnt do well in attacking positions though.
  • Weir: Cant be faulted. Played well in a physical encounter with Sutton and Heskey. 7
  • Yobo: See Weir. 7
  • Neville: Did well at right back and got forward as well as he could. 7
  • Van der Meyde: Flashes of skill but didnt put in too many good balls. Im looking forward to hopefully seeing him and Arteta on the flanks next season after a good pre-season. 6
  • Cahill: Got into it in the first half but failed to emerge for the second after that collision. 6
  • Davies: Our most attack minded player all game. Showed good energy levels bombing down the flank in the second half. My man of the match. 7
  • Osman: Had a good first half but faded in the second. 7 Beattie: Started well but didnt do too much in the second. 6
  • McFadden: Was unlucky to come off when he did as he showed a bit of spark not and hinted that something may be possible. 7
  • Kilbane: Played centre midfield and looks more comfortable there. Kept the ball well. 6
  • Ferguson: Knock downs didnt work but was under close attention from the Birmingham City defenders. I hope he scores one more goal before he hangs up his boots. 6
  • Anichebe: Should have been introduced about 10 minutes earlier than he was. 6

Paul Traill





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EVERTON (4-4-2)
  Cahill (46' Kilbane)
  Van der Meyde
            (66' Ferguson)
  McFadden (85' Anichebe)
Subs not used
  Carsley (Suspended)
  Arteta (injured)
  Hibbert  (injured)
  Martyn (injured)
  Pistone (unfit)
  Vaughan (injured)
  Li Tie (injured)
  Valente (injured)
  Wilson (on loan)
  Maik Taylor
  Melchiot :53'
  Cunningham :73'
  Martin Taylor
  Pennant (66' Campbell)
  Butt :83'
  Heskey (66' Forssel)
  Subs not used
Premiership Scores
Saturday 22 Apr 2006
Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham
Bolton 3-1 Charlton
Everton 0-0 Birmingham
Newcastle 2-0 West Brom
Portsmouth 2-1 Sunderland
Monday 24 Apr 2006
Fulham 1-0 Wigan
Tuesday 25 Apr 2006
Aston Villa 0-1 Man City
Wednesday 26 Apr 2006
West Ham 1-2 Liverpool
Premiership Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Chelsea 88
2 Man Utd 79
3 Liverpool 76
4 Tottenham 62
5 Arsenal 58
6 Blackburn 54
7 Newcastle 54
8 Bolton 52
9 Wigan 51
10 West Ham 49
11 Charlton 47
12 Everton 46
13 Man City 43
14 Middlesbro 43
15 Fulham 42
16 Aston Villa 39
17 Portsmouth 35
18 Birmingham 33
19 West Brom 29
20 Sunderland 12
After 27 Apr 2006


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