A new job hastened my move northwards to the potteries so Stoke City are now the closest premiership team for me to catch one of our games at. Getting to Goodison is harder than ever these days because of the lack of a direct train to Liverpool despite being geographically closer than I was before. Ah well, will have to wait until I?m on the road, then it?ll be easy. So for the time being it is away games close to me and the odd match at Goodison when work / finance / studies allow.
An awkward team to select for Moyes with the reports beforehand casting doubts over Osman and Yobo alongside the definite misses of Jacobsen, Saha, and Pienaar. Personally I was hoping Cahill would be fit enough to start so we could at least not have to run the risk of Jags in midfield. We all know he?s like a fish out of water there. And Moyesy sprung a surprise! Cahill was in the starting line up alongside Castillo and Fellaini. Half of me was elated, the other half worried. Would the new boys bed in? How fit would Cahill prove to be? Either way, a midfield compliment of specialist midfielders was a welcome boost despite my doubts.
The game started off stodgily with Everton having a better shape and balance to them than in the previous 3 games. I was initially slightly dubious about Moyes?s decision to put Big Vic on the right of midfield but personally I thought he had a good game and was a good strong outlet down there for us. Lecott at left back at the expense of Valente or Baines was a wise move as it added height and power to defence and allowed Jags to play at centre back where he had a solid game. We didn?t look particularly cohesive as a unit though, but this is to be expected considering the two new midfielders have barely trained and don?t speak English.
Castillo hit a couple of wild passes early on and I was fearing the worst, but he grew into the game and took up some handy positions, made some sensible and timely tackles and played the ball frugally and sensibly. With any luck he?ll develop and grow into the team and we?ll look the better for it. Fellaini is a mammoth of a man! What impressed me was his composure on the ball and he refused to be bullied by the Stoke bruisers who seemed to be especially targeting him. He didn?t really dominate in the air as much as you might expect though. Still, early days.
Not much happened in the first half except for two or three spells when we managed to get the ball on the deck after extended bouts of Stoke hoofball and put together a few passes. Stoke were all about huff and puff with an admirable work ethic, but with little end product except a couple of raids down the sides of the Everton penalty box which ended with Fuller or Lawrence being forced wide. No real threats to Howards?s goal. Rory Delap hurled in a couple of his trademark throws first half but we looked comfortable. I thought ?he must have had a lucky day against Villa?.
We began to assert some pressure in possession towards the end of the half and I could smell blood. Sure enough a neat little exchange between Arteta, Fellaini, Cahill and the Yak ended with the Yak calmly placing the ball wide of the stoke keeper. A great finish. For such a big man the Yak has excellent balance and he has an amazing ability to caress the ball into the net. He knows that placement is more important than power at times. We saw out the half and I settled down to read the programme and not draw unwarranted attention to myself from the febrile and very vocal Stoke hordes.
The second half kicked off and we were in control. Stoke seemed strangely subdued and the crowd were quiet. Everton pressed forward and were moving the ball nicely. Free-kick to us on the right hand side of the box and the ball was lofted in from Arteta resulting in a glanced header from Anichebe that crossed the line even though Cahill followed in to make sure. 2-0! Surely we were home and dry now? The Toffee away contingent were in full voice, the Stoke crowd subdued and we had control. I smugly settled back expecting us to tank these artless cloggers and show them what the Premier League is about.
How arrogant of me! This kind of attitude breeds complacency and I have to ask if this was what went through some of our players minds. Stoke were not looking particularly threatening but they won a soft thrown in down their right. Up stepped their dangerman. When someone normally says ?dangerman? you think of Thierry Henry or Christiano Ronaldo, hell Mikel Arteta or the Yak fit the description! But not Rory Delap, the journeyman?s journeyman. But by the end of the match I was filling my pants every time he lumbered over to the by-line to take a throw-in 50yds from our goal. For Stoke?s first goal he hurled in a howitzer that Howard punched into a ruck of players, I think Yobo half flailed at the ball (could be wrong, was hard to see) the ball bounced out to the lurking Olofinjana and he hammered in a volley that Howard couldn?t get a sniff of. 2-1, the Stoke hordes woke up and their team got their fight back. We lost our composure.
Shortly afterwards a piece of sloppy play by Arteta led to a Stoke break with Ricardo Fuller hurtling towards goal with Yobo ahead of him blocking the ball. I was right in line with play and Yobo fell over, Fuller got the ball rounded Howard, Goal! 2-2. Or maybe not, the linesman / ref ruled it out for a push. We were lucky, I didn?t see a push, Yobo just had one of his ?moments?. A lucky, lucky escape. Especially as 5 minutes later Stoke were level. That world class throw-in taker hurled another humdinger into the box, pandemonium and the ball whizzed past Howard having hit the Jag and ended up in the net. I felt for the Jag, he had an great game aside from that, making several excellent tackles and well timed headers.
Stoke really had the bit between their teeth and went for it. They lack any form of guile. They just bully teams and are very committed. Their physical presence and never say die attitude makes them hard to play against. The crowd could smell blood and we looked rattled. At this point I have to praise Phil Neville. He was in my line of vision and I could see and hear him encouraging and cajoling his teammates; defiantly a rallying and calming influence. I often take the piss out of him for his limited ball skills, but credit where credit is due today; he put in a solid performance and kept his team going in the face of the Alamo.
Having withstood the storm the referee decided to make up for disallowing the Fuller ?goal?. A break down our right led to the ball being played towards the Stoke penalty area... hand ball! After a lengthy pause, a free kick was given ? much to Moyes?s disgust. He couldn?t contain his frustrations and was ordered from the dugout. My mates watching the game on Sky were texting me all throughout the game and informed me it was a penalty as the handball was 2 yds in the box. Still, swings and roundabouts, we should have been 3-2 down by rights...
As I was texting my mate about the penalty I heard a roar from the Everton away contingent. I looked up and saw Tiny Tim Cahill wheeling away from the goal to race to the corner flag to do his by now familiar boxing routine! Fantastic. Um, sorry I can?t report on the goal. See? That is a lesson to us all, don?t text at games! I?m assured by the aforementioned friend it was a great header. I?ll watch Match of the Day later for verification!
Credit to stoke, they didn?t give up. We had roughly 10 mins to weather the storm and we stood up and held them at bay. It was agony. The ball was constantly lumped towards our box and we were on the back foot. Fair play to Stoke they didn?t let us settle at all, they were really, really desperate to get something from the game. First Moyes sent on Rodwell for Cahill who had had a decent, battling return topped by a vital goal. Rodwell?s first contribution? To skew a clearance for a throw in and in the process turn my pants a deeper shade of brown. Seriously, the Stoke crowd were trying to suck the ball into the net and those throw-ins are hard to deal with. You can?t play offside and Stoke hem the keeper in. That ball can go anywhere. Luckily we held out.
The 4th official gave 5 mins of extra time. My pants couldn?t take much more. They had to. Yobo sliced a clearance into touch on the stoke left flank. In whirled the ball from Delap but mercifully Howard caught the ball. One last chance for a break from us, a couple of Stoke shots into the side netting and then the final whistle! Hallelujah! That was a game of peaks and troughs. We deserved to win it for the fighting spirit we showed. We could have totally capitulated but we stood firm. Our superior technical ability was the difference too.
Stoke have little guile or technique aside from Fuller, Lawrence and Olofinjana. We?ve been there. Only a few seasons we were using similar tactics to get results and coming unstuck against teams who demonstrated better technique and invention. It?s nice to have the boot on the other foot.
Hopefully when the new midfield boys settle in we can dictate this kind of game rather than only showing our technical superiority in flashes. We do need to start keeping clean sheets again, especially at home. Two away wins out of two is great, but we need to turn Goodison into a fortress once more. So on the whole we rode out luck (but to these blue spec tinted eyes) we deserved the win. Onwards and upwards!
Liverpool at home next, should be interesting.... [Editors Note; Err... Andy, there's something like three games to play before that!!!]
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1 Posted 14/09/2008 at 19:52:54
Up next it’s Standard Leige home on Thurs night then Hull away on Sunday, before derby then Liege away. Re Going the game by sitting with the home fans, but slightly off thread, I’m going to Liege away so any spares’d good! Any ticket leads please Email me at Mike1878@gmail.com. Should be a good atmos in Liege for a bevy in the city centre and hopefully we’ll get through without more brown trouser issues a la Metalist away! With Castillo looking promising and Cahill back (plus possibly Ossie, Pienaar and Saha also available) I’m feeling a whole lot more confident than on 30th August! COYB!
2 Posted 14/09/2008 at 19:59:49
3 Posted 14/09/2008 at 19:31:51
But what is it with us nowadays that, as soon as we are doing good, we seem to implode?
The same defence that was so strong last season does not seem to be working these first 4 games. The Blackburn game was almost a carbon copy of the Villa game at the end of last season when we were in control, took the lead, then just imploded. Hell, before the Pompey second goal, I really thought we would go on and win comfortably... how wrong i was.
In the end... it's early doors, 6 pts from 4 games is not great but so what!! ? look at Tottingham... I agree that I was quite impressed with our two new debut boys as well, a few games (hopefully in time for the L team at home) and they look like good additions.
Are we that good though that we can leave out the like of Baines? Is Lescott better at left back rather than centre defence? Is Anichebe right, Arteta left a good balance? Where does Leon fit in? Or is this just the headache we?ve all been waiting for?
And WHAT do I say about Cahill? Apart from if you had the choice between him and Gerrard (who is an excellent player by the way, sorry) but I really think (no bias, honest) that he contributes so much more... Anyway, early doors like I say, but with Tim back and the two new boys, I?m quite confident (confident of what? Marshy might ask...) Confident that we will still be one of the teams pushing the Sky 4, COYB
4 Posted 14/09/2008 at 20:13:46
5 Posted 14/09/2008 at 20:26:24
I?m glad Moyes pickes the team and not you!
6 Posted 14/09/2008 at 20:34:25
Watch MotD2 tonight and you will see Fuller make contact with Yobo?s right leg, knocking it onto his left sending him over, he wasn?t outmuscled, he was fouled.
Jags did what he does, defend; however, I am scared when the other teams play the long ball, he just can?t seem to judge the flight of the ball correctly and he definitely has a ten-bob head.
I also think that for their second goal Howard actually pushes their player into Jags and possibly causes Jags to cock his header up.
7 Posted 14/09/2008 at 20:59:17
8 Posted 14/09/2008 at 20:55:38
Castillo and Fellaini,if they didn?t know much about English football they do now.
I just cannot wait until the defence starts making clean sheets. I rate Jags a lot in the middle of defence,like someone said above it is about confidence and form,of which there seems to be little at the moment but it will come again.
So good to see Cahill back and delighted to get that win even if it was edgy at times.
Wiley was a total disgrace. Again.
9 Posted 14/09/2008 at 21:49:59
As for the Yobo incident I have now heard opinions from 8 people who watched the game on sky and 4 say Yobo was fouled, 4 say he fell over like a sack of spuds. No matter, we won so it is pretty academic!
As for my wonky end point about Liverpool being next, I had a moment of madness and failed to write "our next home league game" anywhere in that sentence. DOH! My point being that we need to stop letting in silly goals and transfer our away form to home form to start to pick up momentum.
10 Posted 14/09/2008 at 22:48:54
11 Posted 14/09/2008 at 23:00:48
I am fairly certain that AJ was forced to leave after chasing too many of Jagielkas long hoofs up the pitch.
Lescott is a centre-back, pure and simple.
12 Posted 14/09/2008 at 22:28:54
Yobo and Jags were solid! Jagielka's work ethic is second to none and covers well for Yobo?s lapses of concentration. Lescott's best position for now certainly is LB. Eventually when we have more of a settled team (we haven?t exactly started with one of those have we?), are a little more solid in midfield, and have solved the missing Carsley role (hopefully Fellaini is the answer), we can try Yobo and Lescott in the middle with Baines on the left. Moyes should try this combination again in the Carling Cup.
But for now the back four that did us so proud last year must be deployed in order to stop us leaking goals. Ok so we leaked soft goals today but we didn?t exactly have a familiar team out what with the new guys and Vic on the wing. As said above, Jags is a confidence player and I believe a couple more games in the middle and we?ll seal the leak.
I have to say also that I was screaming at Yobo at first as I believed that he had fallen over but Tony is right, their guy catches Yobo and the right decision was made. Only God knows how that pen wasn?t given. That was a howler from Wiley on the ?Clattenburg? scale!! I was wondering where the hell he got 5 mins injury time from???
Anyway, great to see Cahill back and just can?t wait for Pienaar, Osman and Saha(?) to be fit. Still really need a classy footballing central midfielder though. The future looks bright......... COYB!
13 Posted 14/09/2008 at 23:30:13
14 Posted 15/09/2008 at 00:17:49
If Jagielka was our best player today then I can only say I fear for our future.
15 Posted 15/09/2008 at 00:38:06
16 Posted 15/09/2008 at 01:21:49
17 Posted 15/09/2008 at 07:01:52
Lets hope he settles and does a job for us. It’ll be interesting also to see how the Arsenals and Chelskis deal with Rory Delap.
18 Posted 15/09/2008 at 07:09:28
Kev you missing the point. We should sign Delap or some new Jay Jay Okocha. Who needs free kicks? Just kick ball into the stands and then launch it like from catapult! ;)
Ped Pearl you’re 100% right about NV. Nuno is much more experienced than Lescott at LB. Perhaps not enough pace, but certainly best LB at the club. You know Everton could be the only club in EPL with 3 established LB. At least one position have enough cover. I do not agree about Yobo and Lescott. It doesnt work as it should. At least IMHO.
And to end with Pants plot: My pants had enough when Everton conceded 2nd. In the future Timmy deserve a statue outside the ground.
Timmy is epitomy of Great Everton. Our beloved Little Blue Devil. We need 10 more Cahills!
19 Posted 15/09/2008 at 07:45:32
20 Posted 15/09/2008 at 08:07:42
The 2 new fellas in midfield need to settle in and find their place. The worrying thing is that the back 4 seem to be struggling to find the solidity which served us so well last season. But there hasn’t been the same 4 for any run of matches yet, plus little protection from midfield.
Great to see Timmy back and scoring and thought Anichebe did well. He had a tough task being the 2nd striker and the 5th midfielder in one package....
Jags did OK, own goal aside. Like I say, the team needs time to gel.... 2 new lads in for their debuts, Cahill’s first run out in 6 months or so..... was never gonna be pretty. 3 good points, teams will play better and lose at the Brittania.
21 Posted 15/09/2008 at 08:09:43
"Just a thought on Castillo. That had to be the worst debut by an Everton player I?ve seen. Did he make a pass to a blue shirt?"
I don?t know whether some people are watching actually the game or just come here to moaning.
Castillo was the Everton player with most ball contacts 49, 22 in the forward zone, best completion rate - 90% (44 of 49) and most tackles giving away only one foul and you say that this is the worst debut by an Everton player ? Joke.
22 Posted 15/09/2008 at 08:51:25
Penalty was stone-wall, nailed-on, 100% clear penalty. I don’t know how the lino flagged for and the ref gave a free-kick instead of a pen. Was very, very clearly inside the box and the lino was right there. Very surprising decision.
23 Posted 15/09/2008 at 09:28:29
Yobo and Lescott are a comedy duo in the centre of defense and the latter?s future must be as a permanent fixture at left-back. Against more guileful opponents than Stoke this team would have been massacred.
24 Posted 15/09/2008 at 09:46:31
Castillo started very well, but I put the Hillman on him by telling all around me how he hadn't put a foot wrong so far ? cue some wayward passes, early days though
Am I alone in thinking big Vic was terrific in a position that's totally alien to him? He's still a big kid, but I was well pleased with the way he got up and down the line with some good defending and powerful running, he definitely deserves another run there.
25 Posted 15/09/2008 at 10:50:22
Gosling may be "one for the future" but with everyone fit he seems to be fourth choice right back .Like Turner, I don?t think he?s going to get a fair chance.
26 Posted 15/09/2008 at 12:10:58
27 Posted 15/09/2008 at 13:54:41
Me and you apparently watched different games. Castillo was a breathe of fresh air to me after some idiot hollywood passes early he looked the part more than Felliani yesterday. He tracked back to help the back four and I believe he didn’t make a errant pass in the second half. Actually made me feel good going forward finally a player in the Makelle mold that should take pressure off our back four.
28 Posted 15/09/2008 at 15:07:35
29 Posted 15/09/2008 at 15:05:12
The player we miss in playing football is Osman. He is the only one who tries to keep the game flowing and give the other creative players time to create. Our new boys were naturally slower, taking time to find players or playing quickly purely to get out of trouble.
Phil Neville was a real captain taking responsibility always to give them an out and forever providing a lead. He is not appreciated enough, wrongly in my view. I think Moyes opted for height and muscle probably rightly because in the end we out-muscled Stoke but I do not think we will see this same team that often.
30 Posted 15/09/2008 at 20:44:16
I think Stoke’s style will serve them well this season. It’s more akin to Rugby, kick for the corner’s and then launch it in. I think the southern jessie’s will really struggle against them. Get ready for the whingeing from the Arsenal’s, Chelsea’s and Spur’s lol.
Whilst obviously not for the football puritan’s we cannot blame Pulis for using Bolton’s, Wimbledons or damn it our past breed of hoof it football. I’m just glad that we are attemting to play are way against these physical teams instead of reverting to type
31 Posted 15/09/2008 at 21:44:17
Stefen Wren anyone?
32 Posted 16/09/2008 at 12:10:56
BTW, I also think Yobo/Jags is clearly the best combination in central defence.
33 Posted 16/09/2008 at 13:22:25
Ask your arl fella if you didn't see the early eighties...
34 Posted 16/09/2008 at 13:47:36
35 Posted 16/09/2008 at 15:56:14
Was fffing funny though.
36 Posted 16/09/2008 at 21:00:52
37 Posted 17/09/2008 at 16:47:45
Neville - Jags - Yobo - Lescott
Arteta - Castillo - Fellaini - Baines
Cahill - Yak
(Turner - Rodwell - Gosling - Valente - Osman - Vaughan - Anichebe), and with Pienaar and Saha to come in when fit.
Oh, worst debut... wasnt PK?s against Villa pretty poor? :S
38 Posted 19/09/2008 at 10:41:35