After negotiating the Wallasey tunnel (£1.40?!?!?) and then parking in the shadow of the Tin Shed (£8?!?!?!), the day started off by bumping into ITV's Gabriel Clark, who was doing a feature about the FA Cup Final and "what it means to a club like Everton..." blah blah blah. All very patronising. I consumed a burger the size of my face which didn't actually taste of anything, bought a commemorative Cup Final scarf (£7.99?!?!?) and inspected the players' bling-bling cars and pick-up trucks.
Everton started well and created two early opportunities, through Pienaar and Saha, although the whole team seemed reluctant to stick their foot in and risk getting crocked before Wembley. Which was perfectly understandable. Then West Ham had the poor manners to score a belter, through Radislav Kovac. The home team stepped on the gas, and when Louis Saha got the ball trapped under his feet at the edge of the box, Cahill burst into the box, rolled the ball away and was tripped by West Ham's young centre half, James Tompkins. I had an excellent view in the Park End, it was a definite penalty but an extremely harsh red card.
In the second half, 10-man West Ham took off the ineffective Di Michele and Tristan and brought on the "much-better-than-you-think" Carlton Cole who worked harder on his own than the previous two put together. Jonathan Spector came on to fill the gap left by Tompkins but he spent the second half chasing Pienaar's shadow. In the 48th minute, a well rehearsed corner saw Yobo spin around behind Cahill and Lescott and find enough room in the 6-yard box to take the ball down and fire it home through Upson's legs. 2-1 and the party could start in the ground.
West Ham were always a threat on the break (their fans were excellent by the way) and Boa Morte and Cole both tested Tim Howard, but when Pienaar sold Spector an audacious dummy and raced to the byline, Saha was there to finish the game off from 2 yards. Cue a number of substitutions ? the introduction of youngsters Vaughan & Rodwell enforcing Everton's well founded youth development policy. Jo replaced Cahill, much to the frustration of those around me, but Gosling remained on the bench.
A few thoughts occurred to me during the closing stages of the game. First, I sometimes forget how much energy and commitment Tim Cahill puts into each game. He doesn?t stop running, or tackling, or chasing, or harrying. It?s unfortunate for Fellaini that he?s in the same team, as the big Belgian?s movement is statuesque most of the time. However, Fellaini has wonderful control for a tall chap, and his chest-traps alone are always excellent, which brings other players into the game.
Phil Neville must be the noisiest footballer in the Premier League, constantly barking at his colleagues to get in position. He still splits some Evertonians as to his passing and crossing abilities but, for leadership and organisation, he scores highly in my book. Joe Yobo had a typically brilliant-yet-awful game, winning most things in the air but seemingly able to fall over when clearing on the ground. Baines and Pienaar are as good a left-sided combination as I?ve seen in the league this season, and Leon Osman consistently looks too lightweight to cope with the Premier League, but then pulls wonderful passes and control out of nowhere.
The final whistle blew and summoned the whole team and coaching staff onto the pitch for the lap of honour, including the injured Yakubu, Anichebe and Phil Jagielka, who was still on crutches. Then the news came through that Villa had drawn at Boro and we were up to fifth! Just the 17 matches in the Europa League and we're Champions of (little) Europe.
I headed off to Manchester to grab dinner with some friends before driving home and just catching the end of Match of the Day. ?Come to bed? said the wife, but you know I just had to watch the whole game again on Football First, for the day to be complete!
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1 Posted 19/05/2009 at 08:59:07
2 Posted 19/05/2009 at 12:36:44
3 Posted 19/05/2009 at 19:10:40
4 Posted 21/05/2009 at 11:11:20