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Magical Goal-line and a Flattering Scoreline

By Santosh Benjamin :  28/02/2009 :  Comments (22) :
I was thinking to myself before the game how there couldn't have been a better game for us after the loss of Mikel. The problem with assuming things or even worse, taking things for granted, is that they end up biting you in the rear end.

I was curious to see which of our walking wounded had recovered in time for the game and was pleased to see both Pienaar and Fellaini start the game. Lescott was rested to avoid the risk of a ban since he was one yellow short of a automatic suspension. Neville wasn't allowed that luxury since Rodwell was missing with injury. Hibbert slotted into his right back place and Yobo next to Jags in the heart of our defence. Jo up front alone although Cahill was alongside him for all practical purposes playing an advanced midfield role. Steve "Evil" Bennett was the ref and I didn't expect any favours from him.

We started brightly with a Baines cross eluding a jumping Cahill (who ended up falling awkwardly, thus making my heart skip a few vital beats!). After that, West Brom dominated possession and actually passed the ball really well at times. Thankfully for us, their finishing was not up to the mark and so we survived. Koren then took a shot from outside the box that went just wide.

After almost half an hour, Hibbert went off with an injury and Ossie came on, with Neville filling Hibbert's place. Pienaar, who started on the left, moved over to the right later on, was looking good in short spells but kept getting fouled. West Brom continued to use the wide areas well with Zuiverloon especially doing well on the right. Howard had to be quick off his line to thwart the run of Fortune. A free kick we got was well and truly wasted by Jags.

Just as I thought that the half would end scoreless, a free kick from Baines found Cahill unmarked (actually, Fellaini and Yobo too) to head past Carson. The replays showed that Yobo and Fellaini may have been marginally offside. The standard celebration followed at the corner flag.

West Brom didn't give up after that and continued to threaten us when they had possession. All-in-all, a poor first-half showing but at least a goal to show and a clean sheet too. The second half started the same as the first with West Brom passing the ball well but failing in the final third. Koren hit a screamer just past the upright as they made their intentions clear. Fellaini, who had given up a few silly fouls in the first half, got himself in the ref's book for what looked to be an innocuous challenge. He was later taken off and Saha was sent on to take his place.

A scary moment came our way when, after an attempt by Donk, the ball was cleared magically off the line by Jags and Howard held onto the ball. Replays showed how good the decision actually was.

There were a few spells where we showed our passing skills but that cutting edge was missing in the centre of our midfield. Hope that Rodwell recovers soon to take that place coz neither Fellaini nor Castillo appear able to. A one-goal lead seemed dicey and i was hoping that we could get another one somehow. Just then the ball fell to Saha, who turned and from just outside the box unleashed a left footed skimmer that found its resting place in the back of Carson's goal.

2-0 and we should have been comfortable and yet we allowed ourselves to be scared by the likes of Fortune and Moore. Moore then hit the crossbar with minutes left and we scrambled the rebound away. We held on for the final whistle and 3 valuable points but it wasn't a great display by any means.

Player Performances:

Howard: We often take him for granted but I can imagine us being equally lost (or even more) like in midfield if we lose him. Another clean sheet for him.

Hibbert: Looked good when he was on and hope the injury isnt going to keep him out for long since we need Neville in midfield for the home stretch.

Jags: That goal-line clearance apart, he was magnificent again in the heart of our defense. Hope he stays away from our right back slot and free kicks though!

Yobo: Commanding headers in defense from him and an overall good game but I prefer Lescott and what he offers.

Baines: Can't believe that we were planning to sell him. He has been great for us on the left and the assist for the goal was a fitting reward.

Neville: Avoided a booking and played well in midfield and at right back. Proud to have him as our captain.

Fellaini: Better than the Newcastle game but still not playing as well as he was earlier in the season. Got himself in the book again. Like Andy Gray said ? "it's not like he can hide from the ref after a foul with his height and that hair".

Gosling: Needs to improve his crosses and his shots on goal. Give him time...

Pienaar: Did a great job today. If he was in a "Top 4" team, he woulda got more of the opposition booked for the incessant fouling. Great one-two with Fellaini.

Cahill: "He's not a midfielder any more, he's a WINNER" said Martin Tyler and Andy Gray which was a fitting line for the man who has Blue running through his veins. Great goal and great work ethic getting back too. Amazing player, Amazing human being.

Jo: Has looked slow and tired in the last 2 games. Maybe will do better if he plays alongside Saha. Was smiling though when he came off, which was nice to see.

Subs: Osman: Was muscled off the ball too often in my opinion.

Castillo: Not upto the mark at all.

Saha: What a moment of individual brilliance from him. Has great potential and hope we can reap the benefits of that in the remaining games.

Tough midweek away game to Blackburn and an even tougher FA Cup game with Boro (who just beat Liverpool by the way, effectively ending their title hopes). We need to play our socks off and take our chances or the run may end. I loved Moyes in his post-match conference. Calm, collected and realistic (Have you even heard of those, Rafa?). He liked the win but not the performances. Agreed that some guys looked tired and hoped to sort things out in training. All the best with that. Onwards and Upwards.

Reader Comments

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Anthony Dyer
1   Posted 01/03/2009 at 17:51:50

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I suppose the difference between yesterdays performance and the one at Wigan earlier in the season was the result.
With Villa dropping 2 points today after being 2-0 up and United winning the Carling cup on pens things look a lot rosier than we could have hoped.

But we cannot hope to progress up the league if we perform as we did yesterday. I acknowledge that some players are not 100% fit and a few are showing signs of weariness.

It is now up to Moyes and the backroom staff to work their magic and get as many players as possible to give it their all as we approach the finishing line.

We have without doubt an opportunity to make this season a great season and that should be enough motiviation to all those involved.

As fans attending the games we too have a responsibilty to show our passion in every game between now and the end of the season.

If we could somehow treat every game like we did the Villa and Liverpool games it could make an awful lot of difference to what Everton end up with come seasons end.
Come on Blues let’s make it an outstanding finish to the season.
john sreet
2   Posted 01/03/2009 at 18:00:22

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It was the perfect game, West Brom can’t defend, and have no sting................what else would you want?
chris mccullough
3   Posted 01/03/2009 at 18:10:32

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in my opinion the rest of Everton’s season is dependant on Jack Rodwell’s form. Our defence is sound. There are goals in the team. Without Arteta only Rodwell has the required composure and vision to link defense and attack. It was sorely lacking yesterday. can a 17 year old win us the FA cup or get us into the champions league?
Ajay Timothy
4   Posted 01/03/2009 at 18:52:27

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I thought it was one of our worst performances this season where we got someting out of the game. I know we are missing Arteta but how this team loses its shape when he ii out is a mystery.

With players the calibre of Castillo, Fellaini, Gosling, Osman, Jo, we should have enought to beat the likes of WBA.

Too many of the aforementioned players went missing again. I just hope we get it sorted out before Sunday.
Gavin Ramejkis
5   Posted 01/03/2009 at 19:09:17

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Ajay a little astray with your "too many of the aforementioned went missing", Osman came on late and improved our midfield no end, Gosling is still a kid but still has pace to burn and caused trouble with their defence when he ran at them, his finishing was piss poor but again he’s just a kid, Fellaini was woeful; and won nothing besides a yellow card, if Moyes can’t sort that lad’s head out and stop him giving away stupid fouls then he needs to ship him out, Jo doesn’t look as lethal without a decent build up from midfield rather than the hoofball he had against West Brom - that suits Saha more, and finally Castillo, yes he doesn’t look good enough but he at least tried when he came on.
Mark Stone
6   Posted 01/03/2009 at 19:42:15

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Not having a pop here Santosh, it’s more of a query. You say we need Neville in midfield for the home stretch. I agree. However you’ve made no bones in the past about the fact that you percieve Neville to be a RB and that you think he’s a useless midfielder. What is it that made you change your mind?
Ajay Timothy
7   Posted 01/03/2009 at 19:56:53

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Gavin - I cant fault any of them for lack of effort but when the end product is just not good enough then that is when we all get frustrated. Osman always tries but as Santosh suggested he gets knocked off the ball too easily.

I know Gosling is a kid, albeit older than Rodwell, but when he puts on that shirt the assumption he is that if he is good enough, he is old enough.

No question that Castillo did try but is not good enough and I praise the gods that we didnt stump up over 15 miliion on Jo as I dont believe that he has what it takes to be a premier league player.

Fellaini just blows hot and cold. Before his suspension we all loved him. Now he is a walking disaster that needs sorting out.
Mark Stone
8   Posted 01/03/2009 at 20:04:07

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Same for hibbo, incidently. Again, not having a pop here just wondering when/why the criticism of these players became praise. Are we now all agreed that Moyes was (contrary to popular toffeeweb opinion) right to stick to his laurals regarding these two?
Mark Stone
9   Posted 01/03/2009 at 20:08:53

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"With players the calibre of Castillo, Fellaini, Gosling, Osman, Jo, we should have enought to beat the likes of WBA."

Erm ... we did?
Aiden Doyle
10   Posted 01/03/2009 at 19:56:25

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I really can?t see how people can make comments like ?Fellaini was woeful?. Check out yesterday?s match stats:

When you compare Fellaini to Tim Cahill, he passed the ball more frequently and more accurately, won the ball more often and would have nodded in the opening goal if Tim hadn?t beaten him to the punch. Somehow though, there?s a whole section of the fanbase who reckon Fellaini shouldn?t have bothered turning up and that Cahill added to his legendary status.

It?s the same with the whole ?Leon Osman?s too lightweight for central midfield? argument. He?s won more tackles than anyone else in the squad & is the only Everton player to rate in the top 20 tacklers.

The fact is that too many people are judging performances on their own preconceptions, rather than on the evidence of what actually took place.

Jimmy Crack
11   Posted 01/03/2009 at 21:49:13

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"we need Neville in midfield"

never thought I’d see the day...
Keith Glazzard
12   Posted 01/03/2009 at 21:58:45

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Good on you Jimmy.

It just shows you how far he has come on with us (and players do improve with us - just watch the Big Fella go next year and thereafter).

And Rodwell is the same age as they said Rooney was the saviour of English football - when he played for us, its been a bit downhill for him since then. And the same age Kendall was for his first FA Cup final.

Shit happens, but things are possible.
Santosh Benjamin
13   Posted 01/03/2009 at 23:29:41

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No offence taken. I appreciate the query.

About Phil Neville: I agree that i have said on many occasions that Phil Neville was better at right back than in the heart of the midfield. I still think thats his best position but with the available resources till the end of the season, i feel that his role in midfield is more important. I have given him stick for his lack of passing but he has improved a lot.

About Hibbert: I have given this lad more stick than I can remember coz he was really bad at times. He has been a changed person after he came back from injury though. His tackling and timing have been much improved. He still lacks the skills going forward but he does his primary job of defending very well these days. So much so that i missed him in the Newcastle game.

Ped Pearl
14   Posted 02/03/2009 at 00:16:05

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Santosh - I think people often forget that Neville has played for England in midfield - he was a little lost when playing with Carsley as he was asked to play a slightly different role.
Cant agree with you over Osman either - sorry but he played well I thought... obviously the only real answer to fill Mikels boots.
Castillo - he is getting better every game. He looks driven... he now knows whats needed and you can see that he is getting more confident with each game.

If fit Osman will play on Sunday v against Boro - no doubt.
Ciaran Duff
15   Posted 02/03/2009 at 01:59:59

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Red - I know he was only on for a short spell but I thought Castillo was rubbish. His passing was poor and his marking, tackling and covering non existent.

I thought we got off very lightly on Sat. WBA deserved a goal or two. The main area of concern was the middle of the park. They carved us up in that area and it looked eerily like how we played earlier in the season. Obviously Mikel is a big loss. Hopefully getting Neville back as the holding MF and Rodwell alongside will help in that area. However, the alarm bells are ringing in my head for the upcoming games. No pun intended but Santacruz would have crucified us on Sat.
Michael Tracey
16   Posted 02/03/2009 at 02:39:50

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I thought that once Hibbert went off and Neville went in at RB then we looked better. Hibbert is not good enough and is only in the side now because of injuries and the fact we are short on Defensive Midfield type players.
Dan McKie
17   Posted 02/03/2009 at 09:29:48

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Bit unfair on Osman, I thought he took a little while to get into the game (but was thrown on early after a stomach injury) but 2nd half he was composed on the ball, passed it nicely and even got stuck in.
Iain Love
18   Posted 02/03/2009 at 09:45:29

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Since losing Arteta we have played against a poor 10 man Newcastle and drawn and a WBA team that although they are easy on the eye are bottom and rightly so , the league does not lie. i fear that when we play a half decent side we will suffer, Unless "sorry about this" we play for draws from now till the end of the season or until we get players free from injury and on form. 11 games left in the league 11 points from those games should keep us 6th (maybe 5th) and get us in Europe next season. After all that has gone on that would be FANTASTIC.

Now I realise that is not going to sit well with a lot of people but playing for a draw doesn?t mean not winning games it just means trying not to lose comes 1st and keeping our 6th place. Let's face it, I can?t see us getting in the top 4 now and 5th or 6th doesn?t make a massive difference now Manure have the Carling Cup. It also might suit us more considering so many teams we will play are going to be looking for 3 points to get them out of relegation trouble and will be open to the counter attack which is great because without Arteta we will / have struggled to open teams up.

The cup by the way is a different matter.

Jeremy Buckley
19   Posted 02/03/2009 at 11:17:55

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I’m hoping for big things NEXT season! Rodwell, Gosling, Fellaini are all going to get better with a little more experience. With a fully fit squad next year we can do much better in my opinion.
Paul Sullivan
20   Posted 02/03/2009 at 12:50:13

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Watching the game I noticed something. It was like 2 different Everton teams. On the left, an Everton team passing and moving, playing one-twos, interchanging positions, crossing with quality, inventive and creative. And one on the right, static, paceless, hopefully hoofing the ball into the inside-right channel (how many times?). Baines and Pienaar were excellent, Hibbert and Gosling were not on the same wavelength. I don’t think it was Gosling’s fault I just think it highlights the gulf in class between Hibbert and Baines. I know Hibbert is good defender but that’s only good enough for a mid-table team. The top teams have full-backs who are key players in their attacking moves, players with pace and skill who can pass, beat a man, shoot, cross and then still have enough about them to sprint 60yds and dispossess a breaking winger. I like Hibbert he’s an honest feller who deserves a lot of credit for getting to this level in football, but really he is the next player we need to replace if we are to do better than 6th.
John Doe
21   Posted 03/03/2009 at 10:15:03

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It may be unbalanced but I actually think the Hibbert/Baines system is working quite well. The fact we have a ’stay-at-home’ right back allows Baines to bomb forward at every opportunity without leaving us short handed at the back... and the Pienaar/Baines combo is a real weapon.

A big game coming up vs Blackburn. It’s the kind of game you get something out of if you’re a contender for 4th/5th.
Tim Wardrop
22   Posted 03/03/2009 at 10:20:55

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Just thought I’d say that Pienaar was excellent on Saturday - easily our best player. If only he was more of a goal threat he would be one heck of a player.

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