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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Sunday 30 September 2007; 4:00pm
Everton 
2-0
 MIDDLESBRO'
Lescott (7'), Pienaar (57')
Half Time: 1-0
  
Attendance: 31,885
Fixture 8
Referee: Mike Riley

Match Summary

Mikel Arteta and Tim Howard make very welcome returns to the Everton side, with Alan Stubbs retained in the backline at the expense of Yobo, no doubt on recognition of the first clean sheet of the season on Wednesday.  Hibbert still at right back; Neville still in midfield....

It was a bit of a scrappy start and Everton had an early escape when Boro should have scored.  But at the other end  Lescott showed how it was done, picking his spot superbly with a downward header than came to him off two Boro players clearing the ball off the line form Arteta's first lovely in swinging corner that McFadden had headed goalwards at the near post on just 7 mins.  GERRIN THERE!!!

Everton all set then to give the Teessider's a right good tonking?!?  Er... in your dreams.  At the half the score should perhaps have been 3-3, Dong hitting the bar with a header when wide open being their best of a number of chances to really put the Goodison cat among the pigeons.  The irony, of course, was that Everton had actually been guilty of trying to play joined-up football at times when the inevitable hoofball was expected.  But it wasn't paying off, for a variety of reasons:

  • Neville was back to his horrible worst for the most part in midfield, numerous horrendous passes
  • Yakubu is just so godamn SLOW!  Missed what looks like an easy header and had a coulpe of lame shots. And why was he always running back into our half? (Oh I know: TRACKING BACK!!!)
  • Jagielka... was he actually involved at all?
  • Baines... seemed to be too easily bypassed; poor overall

Without Arteta doing his usual all-over buzzing and fizzing, it would have been horrible.  He had a great shot near the end of the half that was actually deflected.

Everton were really labouring in the second half when a nice move along the ground involving a deft flick out from Pienaar to Arteta, who drew the defence and then rolled a lovely ball back in to him and he clipped it well away from Schwarzer, just inside the Boro post to give Everton the cushion they so urgently needed. 

The Blues then pretty effectively played out the rest of the game, switching eventually to 5-4-1 with Yobo replacing McFadden, and securing that vitally necessary CLEAN SHEET.  A great result.  Back up to FIFTH.   Just the job for those who delight in a classic modern-day Premier League struggle high on effort and workrate; painfully low on quality. 

Michael Kenrick

Improved Blues back to winning ways

While it's true that there are no easy fixtures these days, as Premier League matches go a home game against an ordinary Middlesbrough side certainly ranks up there in the "must-win" stakes. Thankfully, despite a run of form that had yielded successive league defeats and a disappointing first-leg draw against Metalist Kharkiv, Everton got the job done and returned to winning ways, not to mention 5th place in the table.

The Blues may have rode their luck a little in a first-half that could well have boasted many more goals than the solitary one that the home side took into the interval and their display may not have featured the style of football or confidence to match their aspirations this season, but David Moyes will be happy with a first clean sheet of the season.

The fact that the team came in for criticsm against Kharkiv for an embarrassing reliance on the long ball was reflected in a more measured, if impotent, performance at Villa Park last weekend. It was no coincidence, however, that the Blues' attempts to build more of their attacks on the ground were more successful with Mikel Arteta back on the field today after missing the last three games through injury.

The Spaniard's class largely compensated for continued weakness in central midfield and Everton eventually ran out comfortable victors but the likes of Tim Cahill and Thomas Gravesen can't return quickly enough.

Although it was Everton who grabbed an early lead, Boro really should have done in the sixth minute when they carved their hosts' defence open and George Boateng only had to poke it beyond the returning Tim Howard to score the opening goal but instead he merely steered it wide of the post and behind for a goal kick.

A minute later, James McFadden flicked on a corner at the near post, a defender headed it up off the line and, with the ball dropping invitingly, Joleon Lescott had enough time to pick an empty spot in the opposite direction to which Mark Schwarzer was moving and plant a header into the corner of the goal. Not only did that goal put the Blues ahead, it also established Lescott as Everton's top scorer this season in his own right.

Undeterred for the time being, MIddlesbrough engineered another gilt-edged chance in front of Howard's goal but, having done the hard work by controlling well and side-stepping Alan Stubbs, Gary O'Neill fired tamely straight at Howard with the whole goal to aim at.

Everton, having dropped uncharacteristically deep as they defended the lead, might have doubled their advantage after 18 minutes but after a short-corner routine ended with an inviting header for the unmarked Yakubu, the Nigerian powered it well over.

The visitors went even closer seven minutes after that when a terrific run to the byline and cross by Luke Young found Dang Cook Lee who rose above Tony Hibbert but cannoned a header off the face of the bar.

Arteta was, unsurprisingly, Everton's main threat from open play and he forced Schwarzer into a leaping catch when he jinked and then accelerated inside his marker from near the touchline and unleashed a deflected shot towards the top corner.

And the Spaniard was involved again four minutes before the break when he laid a nicely-weighted ball forward for Hibbert but Pienaar could only head over from 12 yards out. McFadden, Phil Neville and Arteta all then had tame efforts easily saved by Schwarzer as Everton finished the half the stronger of the two sides.

A goal up and with Boro apparently having run out of steam, the home side didn't appear all that desperate to pile forward in the first quarter of an hour after the interval but the first noteworthy incident of the second half was the decisive one and it featured a rare goal from a nicely-worked move in open play.

McFadden drove forward towards the area before slipping it a little behind Pienaar but the South African did well to push it into the path of Arteta with his heel and then receive a well-timed return ball around eight yards out which he slid past the out-stretched leg of a defender and the despairing dive of the 'keeper to make it 2-0.

Apart from Mido rifling a 20-yard volley off the stanchion behind Howard's goal, that was pretty much it from both sides. Yakubu was pulled off in favour of Victor Anichebe in the 66th minute before Moyes took out some insurance by introducing Yobo for McFadden and pushing Leighton Baines into left midfield 10 minutes later.

Given that it was his birthday and he'd been included in the team, it would have been a nice gesture to give Andy van der Meyde a run out in the last quarter of an hour as well but Moyes wasn't in such generous mood and it was Lee Carsley who came on a couple of minutes into injury time for Arteta as Everton made sure of a clean sheet and a comfortable victory.

So, a 2-0 win, the Blues' first home win since the opener against Wigan, and a return to the top five in the Premier League but there is still plenty of room for improvement, most notably in defence where opposition sides are still finding it all too easy to carve out clear scoring chances, and in central midfield which remains the most worrying part of the current team.

Carsley got the nod in midweek at Sheffield Wednesday but was dropped back to the bench in favour of Phil Neville today who partnered Phil Jagielka. Neither player really looked up to the job, with Neville again guilty of poor distribution and Jagielka having an awful first half before improving a little in the second period.

At full back, it was Baines who disappointed a little with a fairly anonymous performance and, perhaps, some loose positional play that allowed too much service to come from Boro's right flank in the first 45 minutes, while Hibbert put in the kind of dogged defensive display that was his hallmark before things started to go a little awry at the beginning of the campaign. He was even involved a pleasing number of times overlapping down the right flank to deliver crosses from the byline, something Everton just don't do enough of.

Overall, a solid if unspectacular platform on which to approach Thursday's challenge in Kharkov where the Blues will need all of Arteta's guile and inspiration if they're to rescue the tie and qualify for the group stage of the Uefa Cup.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

Having safely negotiated their way around a potential upset at Hillsborough on Wednesday night, Everton return to Premier League action against Middlesbrough in front of the Sky cameras on Sunday afternoon.

The midweek Carling Cup victory at Sheffield Wednesday was interesting on a couple of levels: firstly, despite it being a banana skin in waiting due to their low level of confidence following three poor results, the Blues eventually came away comfortable victors; and, secondly, three players who have attracted a fair degree of criticism lately were pivotal in securing the result.

James McFadden, a hero for Scotland but still inconsistent in Everton colours, notched two conventional striker's goals (as opposed to the stunning strikes that are becoming his international hallmark).  Yakubu grabbed his second since joining the Blues as their record signing a month ago.  And Phil Neville, seen by an increasing number of fans as a misfit in central midfield, has been praised by his manager for inspiring from his more natural full-back position the second-half performance that secured the Blues' passage to the Fourth Round.

It leaves David Moyes with some interesting selection choices this weekend, although key injuries are still making that task easier than he would surely like.  Andy Johnson (groin strain), Nuno Valente (foot injury) and Tony Hibbert (groin and ankle injuries) are the latest doubts that have been added to existing concerns over Mikel Arteta, Thomas Gravesen and Tim Howard.

Gravesen has managed just 20 minutes since signing on loan from Celtic before the transfer deadline, while Arteta has now missed three games.  Both are vital to the Blues' chances of progressing on the three fronts on which they are currently fighting and with the second leg in Kharkov looming on Thursday, the manager is going to need some good news from the treatment room.  Arteta apparently has an outside chance of providing him with that boost but the Grave Digger is almost definitely out of contention.

If, as is expected, Hibbert is ruled out, Moyes has the option of deploying Neville or Phil Jagielka at right back. Joseph Yobo, who sat out the Sheffield game due to illness, could return to central defence at the expense of Alan Stubbs, while Leighton Baines is almost certain to resume his starting role at left back.

In midfield —assuming Gravesen and Arteta miss out again — he can perm four from Lee Carsley, Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar, Jagielka and Neville, while up front it looks as though it'll be a choice between McFadden, Yakubu and Victor Anichebe if AJ is ruled out.

As the United and Villa games proved, the availability of Gravesen and Arteta could be key.  The Blues are desperately short of inspiration in midfield without them and although Pienaar is showing encouraging signs of adapting to life in the Premier League, he still looks some way short of filling the void that is left by Mikel when he's out of the side.

In comparison to Everton, you would think that Middlesbrough, with just one away win — and only two overall — and two draws to their name so far, have made a poor start to the campaign but victory at Goodison on Sunday would see Gareth Southgate's side leapfrog the Blues in the table.

Shorn of the likes of Yakubu, replaced by Mido, 'Boro don't quite have the cutting edge they used to but have still out-scored Everton so far this season and their top scorer in the League, Stewart Downing, has one more than Lescott and Osman, who top the Blues' scoring chart with two.

Nevertheless, this is one of those games that we should expect to win given our aspirations this season and the recriminations will likely only intensify if we don't.  Such is the pressure to succeed on Mr Moyes...

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Stats

May appear here later

Steve Flanagan

Thatll Do

After our usual pub congregation we were at the match and in our seats in good time for this one, in a perfect opportunity for Everton to get the season back on track.

Tim Howard made a welcome return in goal with the other changes from Wednesday night's game being Baines returning to replace the injured Valente, Arteta (making a very welcome return) replacing the mysteriously absent Leon Osman, and Carsley dropping to the substitutes' bench to accommodate Phil Neville.  Yakubu and McFadden started up front with Johnson still nursing a groin strain.  Andy van der Meyde was amongst the substitutes and Mike Riley was the referee.

We lost the toss and thus attacked the Gwladys Street in the first half.  With the game seeping in to a dull struggle in the first few minutes, Everton won a corner.  Sensing the opportunity a lot of players were thrown into the box and the result was a Yakubu header that looped back off the bar.  Lescott was first to react however and headed home the rebound giving Everton an early advantage.

Middlesbrough reacted quite well to this and created a few chances of their own, with Gary ONeil coming close with a turn and shot which was well saved, and Lee missing a sitter with a free header that hit the bar from four yards. Thats not to say we didnt have chances of our own, however, with Yakubu and Pienaar both heading over with good opportunities in what was a lively first half.  Yakubus opportunity was a really good one and one which he should have scored against his former club.  Overall at half time we had to be quite satisfied with the score.

The second half was a bit more of the same with Everton tightening up a bit more at the back.  We sealed the game effectively with a nice move which saw McFadden play a cute ball inside the box to Pienaar, he flicked beautifully first time into Arteta who took on his man and passed a nice ball back to Pienaar whod pealed away into space.  The South African hit it first time on the stretch to prod the ball into the goal and that was about it.

After that we basically shut up shop and saw the game out quite professionally, although it was very dull from there forth.  We had a few sporadic substitutions to kill the game a bit with Yakubu, McFadden and in the last minute Arteta being replaced by Anichebe, Yobo and Carsley respectively.  All in all Everton had Middlesbrough at arms length and it turned out to be a very comfortable, albeit boring victory, and one which we needed with such a crucial game coming up on Thursday night.

Player Ratings:

  • Howard: Looked a little shaky leaving his line but was generally untroubled. 6
  • Baines: Not quite at his best although Middlesbrough didnt exactly pose much of an attacking threat down this side. 6
  • Lescott: My man of the match. Looked extremely comfortable and chipped in with another good headed goal. 8
  • Stubbs: Held it together well at the back. 7
  • Hibbert: Looked a bit more like his old self and didnt give the ball away as much as he has done of late. 6
  • Pienaar: Very good and very lively. Took his goal well and seems to be settling in quite nicely. 7
  • Neville: Gave the ball away on countless occasions but does have a good presence in the middle. 6 Jagielka: Like Pienaar, is starting to settle and you feel theres a lot more to come from him. 7
  • Arteta: Were simply lost without him! Had a hand in both goals and will be so, so crucial on Thursday night. 7
  • Yakubu: Still looks rather lethargic and missed a good opportunity. 6
  • McFadden: Was central to most things we provided in attack. Had a good game. 7
     
  • Anichebe (for Yakubu): As usual he put himself about well. Yakubu take heed! 6
  • Yobo (for McFadden): Brought in to marshal Boros giant centre back David Wheater, and did so comfortably. 6
  • Carsley (for Arteta): Not on long, cant judge.

 

Author

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EVERTON (4-4-2)
  Howard
  Hibbert
  Stubbs
  Lescott
  Baines
  Neville {c}
  Jagielka
  Pienaar
  Arteta (89' Carsley)
  Yakubu (65' Anichebe)
  McFadden (78' Yobo)
  Subs not used
  Wessels
  Van der Meyde
  Unavailable
  Gravesen (injured)
  Cahill (injured)
  Vaughan (injured)
  Johnson (injured)

MIDDLESBRO' (4-4-2)
  Schwarzer
  Young
  Wheater
  Woodgate
  Taylor
  Rochemback booking:49'
  Boateng
  O'Neil :34'
  Downing
  Mido booking:43' (Craddock 62')
  Lee booking:55' (Riggott 72')
  Subs not used
  Jones
  Cattermole
  Hines

Premier League Scores
Saturday 29 September 2007
Birmingham 0-1 Man United
Chelsea 0-0 Fulham
Derby 1-1 Bolton
Man City 3-1 Newcastle
Portsmouth 7-4 Reading
Sunderland 1-2 Blackburn
West Ham 0-1 Arsenal
Wigan 0-1 Liverpool
Sunday 30 September 2007
Everton 2-0 Middlesbro
Monday 1 October 2007
Tottenham 4-4 Aston Villa

Premier League Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Arsenal 19
2 Man Utd 17
3 Man City 16
4 Liverpool 15
5 Everton 13
6 Portsmouth 12
7 Blackburn 12
8 Chelsea 12
9 Aston Villa 11
10 Newcastle 11
11 West Ham 10
12 Wigan 8
13 Birmingham 8
14 Middlesbro 8
15 Sunderland 8
16 Fulham 7
17 Reading 7
18 Tottenham 6
19 Bolton 5
20 Derby 5
After 1 Oct 2007


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