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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Saturday 9 February 2008; 3:00pm
Everton 
1-0
 Reading
Jagielka (61') 
Half Time: 0-0
  
Attendance: 36,582
Fixture 26
Referee: Mark Halsey

Everton Sleepwalk to Narrow Victory

A looping header by Phil Jagielka just past the hour mark settled a keenly contested but poor game overall from Everton's perspective and condemned Reading to a seventh-successive defeat.

Seemingly gripped by a collective malaise or merely a complacent belief they merely had to turn up to win, the Blues showed precious little of the attractive passing football of which Moyes was boasting a few weeks ago. For long spells in this game they just couldn't find any attacking rhythm so it wasn't altogether surprising that a goal by a defender would prove to be the difference for David Moyes's side.

Having taken the decision to axe Yakubu for arriving back from the Africa Cup of Nations two days late, Moyes was able to deploy his favoured 4-1-4-1 formation with the inclusion of Tim Cahill, that despite his having flown more than halfway around the world just two days earlier following World Cup qualifying duty for Australia. Andy Johnson was tasked with spearheading the attack while Joleon Lescott moved to left back to accommodate the return of Joseph Yobo.

As they did at Blackburn last week, Everton took about 20 minutes to start getting into the game leaving Steve Coppell's side to take the early initiative. Steven Hunt gave Tim Howard a scare inside 60 seconds with a direct free kick that the American saw very late because of the sunshine in his eyes but he smothered the shot at the second attempt.

Kitson then headed Nickey Shorey's cross over the bar but while the Royals had the greater purpose early on, their deficiencies in the final third meant that Everton weren't really troubled. Neither was Marcus Hahnemann in the Reading goal, though, until the 20th minute when Johnson latched onto Mikel Arteta's forward pass and turned inside before shooting straight at the 'keeper.

But with no one seemingly willing or able to get the ball into the deck and make something positive happen, it made for a dismal spectacle and one which was earning the escalating frustration of the home crowd. Top-four fare it certainly was not.

The torpor of the first half was lifted only in the final few minutes before the break when great skill by Leon Osman to lose his marker enabled him to cut it back for Cahill but he shinned the bobbling ball embarrassingly wide. Former Blue, John Oster, then curled a free kick onto the roof of the net before Cahill connected with Arteta's first decent set-piece delivery of the half but headed inches over from close range.

Whether it was because of injury or his relative anonymity in the first 45 minutes — in truth, he wasn't really worse than anyone else — Moyes removed Fernandes at the interval and went 4-4-2 with the introduction of James Vaughan.

The young striker immediately gave Everton some much-needed vitality. And after Lee Carsley had bobbled the first chance of the second period a few yards wide, Vaughan expertly escaped the clutches of Sonko by the touchline, drove inside and slid an inviting ball across the face of goal. Unfortunately, it skidded a couple of inches in front of Cahill's toe and also evaded Johnson at the back post.

Sensing the home crowd's annoyance and an opportunity given their hosts' lacklustre efforts, Reading stepped up a gear after that and started moving the ball about and getting the ball to the front two more quickly. But a couple of efforts by Kevin Doyle that went wide aside, they weren't able to really threaten.

Instead, Arteta found his range from corners on the left side and Everton made the breakthrough. Vaughan had headed one corner narrowly over and Cisse had been forced to head another behind before Osman picked up a clearance from a third corner in two minutes and lofted the ball over a defence in the process of stepping out. Unfortunately for them, both Doyle and Mateovsky were playing Jagielka onside and he looped a header over Hahnemann and into the far corner to break the deadlock.

The goal was just what Everton needed to emerge from their shell and start to take control of proceedings in the manner in which you'd expect from a team currently sitting fourth in the table.

The ball broke for Arteta in the area four minutes after the goal and he pushed it wide of his marker to Johnson but the striker's cross-cum-shot was blocked. Then, Osman's attempted cross from the left flank bounced off the face of the crossbar and was picked up by Arteta on the other side. The Spaniard skipped inside two players and shot but his effort was closed down.

The Blues were still poor overall, though, with Howard resorting once again to punting high balls towards the front two, Neville giving the ball away at almost every opportunity, Carsley looking uncharacteristically lead-footed, Arteta double-marked and Cahill drifting in and out of proceedings.

Once again, it was the precocious talents of Vaughan that intermittently livened up the affair and with 14 minutes left he collected a cross from the right with his back to goal, flicked it up and delivered a stunning overhead kick that Hahnemann palmed behind for a corner at full stretch.

With increasing urgency, Reading kept searching for a way back into the game and were awarded a third direct free kick just outside the box in the 78th minute but Cahill in the wall did his job and blocked the effort.

With six minutes to go, though, their best chance arrived when, wholly out of charatcer, Lescott badly misjudged Hunt's cross-field ball to substitute Kebe and the big striker surged forward into space and fired goalwards. Thankfully for Everton, Jagielka capped another man-of-the-match display with a superb lunging block to deflect the effort away from danger.

From the resulting corner, the ball deflected off Carsley's arm and fell to Harper whereupon his low shot clipped the outside of the post. It was another let-off for the Blues but they could and should have wrapped it up with five minutes left of normal time when Johnson raced into Vaughan's excellent flick-on, took it around the 'keeper but with just the defender near the line to beat, he side-footed into the side-netting. The perfect chance to silence his doubters and he, unfortunately, he blew it.

Still, Reading's attacking limitations meant that Everton were able to see out the last few minutes in relative comfort and claim a victory that they deserved on the balance of play but one which was also secured with an element of fortune about it.

Put simply, though, the Blues are going to have to play much, much better in their final 12 games if they are going to claim that prized Champions League spot. In contrast with the best performances before Christmas, this was bloody awful and of the two key absentees, you have to say that Steven Pienaar — a player always looking to keep it on the deck and make things happen — rather than Yakubu would have made a real difference.

Three points when you're playing badly, though, is the sign of a strong team so Moyes will be happy enough but he knows they can play much better. A display like that in Bergen in midweek or at City in 9 days' time will almost certainly get punished.

Player Ratings

Howard: Didn't really have to do much, to be honest. 6

Neville: His worst display for a while. Barely found a blue shirt all game and gave away a number of those free kicks he seems to love giving away in dangerous areas. 5

Lescott: Pretty good overall back in the left full-back role and certainmly got forward regularly but while he has the sense of purpose, the confidence and the acceleration to get past men down the flank, he lacks the agility required in a wingback. Still, an able stand-in while Leighton Baines sorts out his ankle. 8

Yobo: Like he'd never been away. 8

Jagielka: Continued to show that he has settled in brilliantly in central defence and made two crucial interventions in this game: his goal and the block to deny Kebe's goalbound shot. 8

Carsley: Not the best we've seen from him this season. Looked a little jaded. 6

Fernandes: Like most the midfield apart from Arteta, fairly anonymous and out-of-sorts in the first half before being withdrawn for the second half. 6

Osman: Typically busy without being consistently effective. 7

Arteta: Finding it hard being double-marked and kicked about when he gets boxed in on the touchline. Still, managed a couple of his customary flashes of mesmerising skill and had an indirect assist for the goal. 7

Cahill: While he didn't look especially jet-lagged, he continued in the same vein he was in before leaving for international duty — erratic.

Johnson: More running, more chasing, more important set-pieces won but fluffed one of only two chances he got by firing into the side-netting. 7

Vaughan (on for Fernandes): It might be a stretch to say that he changed the game because it was likely that the Blues would eventually bludgeon something home from a corner at some point but he did add an extra dimension of vigour to the team that had been missing in the first half. Would have loved to have seen that overhead go in or for him to get an assist with AJ's miss but he did really well overall. 8

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

Still smarting no doubt from the controversial finale to their visit to Blackburn last Saturday, Everton return to Goodison Park for their only home Premier League fixture in the month of February where they will play host to Reading. The villains of the piece, Messers Wiley and Hunter, have been given a slap on the wrist and barred from officiating this weekend (Wiley will play fourth official) but that will be of scant consolation to Everton who won't get the two extra points they earned at Ewood Park.

Officially goalless, though, in their last three games, Everton will be hoping that a game against the team currently sitting one place above the drop zone, on a six-match losing run, and with one of the worst defensive records in the division — Reading shipped seven at Portsmouth and six at Tottenham — will help them get back on the shoresheet and into winning ways.

The expectation was that Yakubu would be back and that David Moyes could make immediate use of his goal threat but the NIgerian striker returned two days late from Africa Cup of Nations duty and has been dropped from the squad for this weekend's game. He may feel more of the manager's wrath and be omitted for the first leg against Brann as well.

Joseph Yobo chose to fly straight back from Ghana, though, but he could miss out on a starting role for entirely different reasons. The form of Phil Jagielka alongside Joleon Lescott has been excellent in recent games so there is no guarantee that Yobo will walk straight back into the starting line-up. In the end, it may be Leighton Baines' fitness that is the deciding factor; Baines has been struggling with an ankle complaint but still managed to play in the goalless draws against Tottenham and Blackburn. If he isn't fit enough to play this weekend, Lescott may move out to left back again.

Match photo
Yakubu: left out of the squad after he returned from Ghana two days late

Which formation Moyes chooses may now be down to the Tim Cahill factor. The Australian flew back from his home country on Thursday having played for most of the Socceroos 3-0 win over Qatar but the length of the flight and the consequent jetlag means that it is not clear yet whether he will play any part for the Blues this weekend.

Cahill is usually pivotal to the success of the 4-1-4-1 formation — although he has been off-form in the past few outings — but if the manager can pair Johnson and James Vaughan up front in a 4-4-2 — Victor Anichebe is injured, reducing Moyes to just two available strikers — then the Australian's presence won't be so important. Mikel Arteta, Manuel Fernandes, Leon Osman and Lee Carsley are all expected to play come what may; Steve Pienaar is out injured but has an outside chance of being fit for the midweek visit to Bergen for the Uefa Cup clash with SK Brann.

With the Blues' nearest challengers for the much-coveted fourth spot, Liverpool, visiting Chelsea — the West Londoners haven't lost a league game on home soil for over 3 years — victory over Reading is vital and anything less would be considered a massive letdown. Should Rafael Benitez's side lose and Everton win, it would open a four point gap between the two sides.

Additionally, most of the teams in proximity below Everton face difficult away games this weekend: Manchester City are at Old Trafford for the Manchester derby; Blackburn travel to Arsenal and Portsmouth are at Bolton. Only Aston Villa will fancy a relatively easy ride against Newcastle United.

Certainly, Yak or no Yak, Moyes's boys have what it takes to see off Steve Coppell's struggling Royals but they should beware that while Reading are apt to concede goals, they can also score them at the other end. Not an easy game — none of them are — but a winnable one for sure.

Lyndon Lloyd

3 points is 3 points

In all my time going to The Spellow before the game Ive never had it so easy getting served, so having arrived there at around 1:30pm Gary and I somehow sunk 5 beers each before making our way to Goodison.

As I suspected Lescott was going to be preferred at left back with Yobo returning to the heart of defence alongside Jagielka and this was proved to be correct.  With Yakubu Awol for most of the week the rest of the team literally picked itself.   Mark Halsey was the referee as Everton attacked towards the Park End in the first half.

To say the first half was largely uneventful would be a massive understatement.  It was simply dreadful.  So dreadful in fact that I took the rare step of going for a half-time pint with still 10-15 minutes remaining in the half.  The only actions of the half which I recall were a Johnson shot which was straight at Hahnemann, a couple of free kicks from Hunt which werent difficult to deal with, a bad Cahill miss and a Cahill header from a corner that went over the bar.

The second half was mildly improved though Everton didnt really deserve to grab the victory.  With the second-half introduction of James Vaughan at the expense of Manuel Fernandes, Everton had a bit more vigour which I guess just about carried us over the line.  The goal came when a corner was half-cleared to Osman who lofted the ball back into the box.  Reading ran out trying to play offside.  Jagielka held firm and was onside.  He then headed the ball across goal where it looped over and into the net.  He probably didnt mean it but sod it.  It went in so you take it.

Reading may feel hard done to not to have won a penalty when a cross in struck Carsleys hand.  From the resulting rebound Harper drove a shot onto the post when he was a shade unlucky not to have scored.  At the other end, Vaughan went close with a fantastic overhead volley and also played a great ball across the box which only just evaded Cahill and Johnson.  Oh, and late on Johnson missed an open goal but that was pretty much it.

We didnt play well but we won.  3 points is 3 points.  Sometimes youve just gotta grind it out.

Player Ratings:

  • Howard: Not really much to do but did things well I thought. 7
  • Lescott: Excelled both in attack and defence. 8
  • Yobo: Settled in again just fine. 7
  • Jagielka: My man of the match. I really werent impressed at all for a while in his early days at Everton but hes looking excellent lately and deserved his goal. 9
  • Neville: Gave the ball away quite a lot but was sound defensively. 6
  • Carsley: Probably just about the pick of the midfielders for me. 7
  • Arteta: Not quite at the races today. 6
  • Fernandes: Werent looking bad but was subbed at half time. 6
  • Cahill: Really poor I thought, 4
  • Osman: Great in patches but drifted in and out of the game well too much. 6
  • Johnson: Worked hard but missed a great chance at the end. 6
     
  •  Vaughan (for Fernandes): Contributed a lot towards getting the victory. 8

Paul Traill

Matchday Stats

Everton go into their 7th match against Reading (and their 4th match at Goodison Park) on Saturday looking to extend their current unbeaten run in the league to 6 matches. 

In the last 15 League matches, Everton have only lost twice, to Manchester United and Arsenal, and can include a 1:1 draw at Chelsea in that run.  Since the derby defeat, Everton have gained 31 points out of a possible 45, averaging just over 2 points per game – which would see the club gain 71 points in total if they can keep that level up.

However, Everton are also looking to score their first goal since 20 January, thanks to the efforts of the officials last Saturday, when they beat Wigan Athletic 2:1

Everton's record against Reading:

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Premier League

3

1

1

1

3

2

Division Two

2

2

0

0

5

2

League Cup

1

1

0

0

1

0

TOTALS:

6

4

1

1

9

4

Our record at Goodison Park against Reading:

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Premier League

1

0

1

0

1

1

Division Two

1

1

0

0

3

2

League Cup

1

1

0

0

1

0

TOTALS:

3

2

1

0

5

3

The last match between the sides was on 18 August 2007, earlier this season, at the Madjeski Stadium, when Everton suffered their first defeat of the season, losing 0:1

The last match between the sides at Goodison Park, was on 14 January 2007 when two Everton players, Andy Johnson and Joleon Lescott.  Unfortunately, Lescott put the ball into his own net in the 1:1 draw.

This will be Everton’s 14th match on 9 February:

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Division One

9

5

0

4

18

15

Division Two

1

1

0

0

2

0

FA Cup

2

2

0

0

5

2

Fairs Cup

1

0

0

1

1

2

TOTALS:

13

8

0

5

26

19

Not only have Everton not drawn on this date, but this will be the club’s first Premier League match on this date as well.
The last match on this date was in 1991, when a goal from Pat Nevin was the only consolation in a 1:3 defeat at Anfield.

The last match on this date at Goodison Park was in 1988, when Everton finally beat Middlesbrough 2:1 in an FA Cup 4th round, 2nd replay, with the goals coming from Graeme Sharp and a Tony Mowbray own goal.  This was Everton’s 7th FA Cup match that season, as the 3rd round tie against Sheffield Wednesday went to a third replay!

Milestones that can be reached this game:

  • If the match ends in a 0:0 draw, this will match the club record of 3 consecutive 0:0 draws in the League, which will also be the club record for the number of consecutive draws in Premier League matches.  The only other occasion of 3 consecutive 0:0 draws ran from 13 February 1982 to 27 February 1982, when a 0:0 draw away to West Bromwich Albion was sandwiched in between 0:0 home draws against Stoke City and West Ham United.  This run was ended with a 0:3 defeat away to Ipswich Town the following week.
  • If Everton take their scoreless revenge out on Reading and score 5 or more goals, then the fifth goal will be the 350th scored by the team under David Moyes.
  • If Everton concede a goal, then the first will be the 6,000th goal the club will have conceded in all League matches.
If Everton concede 2 or more goals, then the second will be the 800th the club will have conceded in Premier League matches.

Steve Flanagan

* Unfortunately, we cannot control other sites' content policies and therefore cannot guarantee that links to external reports will remain active.

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EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Howard
  Neville
  Lescott
  Yobo
  Jagielka
  Carsley
  Fernandes (46' Vaughan)
  Arteta
  Osman
  Cahill
  Johnson
  Subs not used
  Wessels
  Valente
  Hibbert
  Van der Meyde
  Unavailable
  Yakubu (disciplined)
  Anichebe (injured)
  Gravesen (injured)
  Gardner (injured)
  Pienaar (injured)
  Jutkiewicz (loan)
  Vidarsson (loan)
  Kissock (loan)
  Boyle (loan)
  Spencer (loan)

READING (4-4-2)
  Hahnemann
  Shorey
  Murty
  Sonko
  Cisse
  Harper
  Mateovsky
  Oster (81' Kebe)
  Hunt
  Doyle
  Kitson (75' Long)
  Subs not used
  Federici
  Rosenior
  De la Cruz

Premier League Scores
Saturday 9 February 2008
Aston Villa 4-1 Newcastle
Bolton 0-1 Portsmouth
Derby 0-3 Tottenham
Everton 1-0 Reading
Middlesbro' 1-0 Fulham
Sunderland 2-0 Wigan
West Ham 1-1 Birmingham
Sunday 10 February 2008
Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool
Man United 2-1 Man City
Monday 11 February 2008
Arsenal 2-0 Blackburn

Premier League Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Arsenal 63
2 Man Utd 58
3 Chelsea 55
4 Everton 47
5 Liverpool 44
6 Aston Villa 44
7 Man City 44
8 Portsmouth 41
9 Blackburn 39
10 West Ham 37
11 Tottenham 32
12 Middlesbro 29
13 Newcastle 28
14 Sunderland 26
15 Bolton 25
16 Wigan 23
17 Birmingham 22
18 Reading 22
19 Fulham 19
20 Derby 9
After 11 Feb 2008


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