Marouane Fellaini returned after sitting out the FA Cup tie at Macclesfield, and immediately risked that dreaded 10th yellow card with a dreadful elbow in the face of Zayette. Fortunately the ref either didn't see it or ignored it, but it gave some nice spice to the early minutes of this encounter, which saw the return of the much hated Nick Barmby. Fellaini was the focus, Moyes obviously believing he had to learn how to avoid bookings... but the early indications were he had learned nothing.
Lots of aerial stuff in the first 5 mins, but Everton were trying to get the ball on the ground when they could and played some nice passing around the Hull area. Every high-ball contact involving Fellaini looked ugly, but Atkinson was reserved until the Big Fella clumsily clipped Mendy's heels after just 13 mins and was given his final warning.
But a perfect response came after 17 minutes, when some more good play on the Everton left saw Baines whip in an excellent cross that Fellaini, clearly offside, glanced sweetly into the net with his beehive barnet.
Osman did superbly to rescue a lost cause but his lashed cross was avoided by everyone. Cahill put in an even better cross that Fellaini only glanced again when a full-force header was called for and he should really have scored. On the next attack, Fellaini clumsily backed into the Hull keeper, who collapsed in a heap and drew further attention to the Big Fella but the first yellow card of the game went to Hull's Mendy for a foul on Pienaar.
Cahill won a fee-kick just before half-time and Mikel Arteta drove an absolutely stunner, top corner! He got lucky again with the wall dodging out of the way but it looked fantastic. Just what Everton needed to nail Hull, and fully deserved in a difficult half against a very feisty Hull team.
Half-time ... and would Moyes make the sensible decision to save Fellaini from his inevitable booking? Of course not. Don't be so silly. It only to took 90 seconds for the big Fella to stick his foot up in Turner's face (even though Fellaini was looking the other way at the high ball) and draw that inevitable 10th yellow card that means he will miss both upcoming games against Liverpool.
Zayette finally went into the book after he jumped all over Cahill. Cahill was then given a stupid yellow card for an inelegant late run in on a lost ball that Myhill picked up. Ricketts was next in the book for a late challenge on Cahill ass Everton tenaciously resisted Hull's physical disruption of the game to maintain control over the game.
Giovanni, perhaps Hull's most flamboyant goal threat, was withdrawn for Cousin, and Cahill won another nice free-kick for Arteta but he blazed it poorly over the bar. The war of attrition continued to the final whistle, with Everton accomplishing something special — the first team top prevent Hull City from scoring this season on their travels.
A well accomplished victory.... but at what price for those crucial games against Liverpool, with the stupidly unnecessary but inevitable booking of Fellaini.
Everton continue to roll on in an impressive run of form as they saw off the surprisingly impotent challenge posed by Hull City — a team that has made "putting it up 'em" a mantra in their maiden Premier League season — to consolidate sixth place in the division and keep Arsenal in touching distance above them.
The performance may not have been spectacular, their two goals proving to be a couple of rare moments of class in an otherwise scrappy and bad-tempered affair that at times felt more like a middle-weight bout than a football match, but a fifth win in six games and another clean sheet, this time against the only English team to have scored in every away league game before today, was no less welcome for it.
And, perhaps inevitably given the pre-match focus on his proximity to a two-game ban that would rule him out of the derby double-header against Liverpool, one Marouane Fellaini was at the centre of most of the action and the controversy. The Belgian international lit the touch-paper for the ill-will that regularly flared up during the game with an elbow to the face of Kamil Zayatte before the first minute had elapsed, scored the opening goal from a clearly offside position, escaped censure when referee Martin Atkinson again missed an infringement with the elbow later on, before picking up that decisive 10th booking two minutes into the second half. Whatever he is supposed to have learned about tackling, challenging legally in the air and not making clumsy tackles has clearly gone over his massively-coiffed head.
The referee, who looked hopelessly out of depth for long periods, may have missed Fellaini's blow to Zayatte after just 56 seconds when the two rose to head Phil Jagielka's long free kick from the back, but the swollen eye and bloody nose that quickly appeared on the Guinean's countenance would have offered Atkinson proof at least of contact.
While the referee was clearly prepared to give Fellaini the benefit of the doubt, Zayatte took his grievances out on the player himself, poleaxing the Everton midfielder with a hefty mid-air challenge that sent his opponent crashing to the Goodison turf like a sack of spuds. The home crowd, with their vocal chords already exercised by ceaseless booing every time Nick Barmby got near the ball, bayed their disapproval as one but Zayatte escaped punishment.
Fellaini, however, received a last, stern warning from the official in the 14th minute, leaving what seemed an eternity between then and the final whistle for the big fella to escape that dreaded yellow card.
In the midst of the full-blooded challenges, the niggles, the back-biting and afters, though, Everton took the lead. A nice build-up down the left in the 18th minute involving Leighton Baines and Stephen Pienaar, easily the best passage of play thus far, ended with the full-back swinging in a perfect cross to Fellaini and he glanced the ball past the 'keeper. The number 25 had had a torrid time of it in the opening exchanges and the feelings of validation simply gushed out of him as he celebrated in front of the Gwladys Street end.
Video replays would show that he was a yard offside when Baines struck the ball but given the bad blood that had developed over the previous 17 minutes, no one would really have felt guilty.
After Leon Osman had twinkle-toed his way to the byline and flashed a dangerous ball across the face of Myhill's goal, Fellaini could — and probably should — have doubled his tally. Tim Cahill, again handed striking responsibilities despite Victor Anichebe being fit to play, bent a perfect cross in from the right giving the Belgian a gilt-edged chance to power a header goalwards but, instead, he could only guide it well wide.
For all their dominance, though, Everton weren't troubling Hull's goal often enough. Pienaar, who has been a little off-key for a while now, struggled to make a real impact and Mikel Arteta was all too often guilty of being too nonchalant in possession to dictate proceedings.
Hull, though, just weren't at the races offensively at all. They didn't get out of their half until the 10th minute and the only time Tim Howard looked remotely concerned in the entire first half was when Michael Turner rolled a side-footer a yard or so wide of his upright 10 minutes before the break.
That half-time interval was approaching when Fellaini rose once more to meet a corner from the right and again led with his elbow, this time into Turner's face and if there was doubt over intent where the incident with Zayatte was concerned, there didn't appear to be this time. Fortunately, none of the officials saw it and what would surely have been a straight red card was avoided.
There was still time in the half, though, for Arteta to emerge from his shell, reach into his box of tricks and pull out another blockbusting free kick. Cahill was shoved by Turner 25 yards out and central to the goal and Arteta needed no more invitation than that to set his sights and drive home an unstoppable shot. Reminiscent of his strike against Sunderland and no less deadly, it was a fine way to go into the dressing room.
2-0 up and comfortable, David Moyes had the opportunity to remove Fellaini and perhaps play Segundo Castillo for the second half. But Moyesey's a stubborn bugger and he persisted with his yellow-card magnet in the second period. It had barely begun before he was involved in a high but innoncous-looking challenge and was booked by the referee for one offense too many. The crowd and Moyes were incensed but could not have been surprised... it was just a matter of time.
Having found his plums, Atkinson finally booked Zayatte for flooring Cahill for the umpteenth time and eventually did the same to Turner, Ricketts and Marney, while also erroneously booking the Australian when he collided with Myhill through no fault of his own.
By this stage, the game had fizzled out as a footballing contest. Everton were comfortable and only really threatened when Osman controlled Tony Hibbert's centre before skying his shot and Victor Anichebe, a 72nd-minute replacement for Cahill, was sent sprawling in the area but the referee waved play on.
Hull, meanwhile, started to exert a little more pressure in the closing stages but never looked remotely like scoring until Daniel Cousin headed a deep cross well over Howard's bar three minutes of time. That allowed Moyes to throw Jack Rodwell on for Arteta in injury time and Pienaar and Fellaini to indulge in a little show-boating to run the clock out. It infuriated Fagan so much that he impetuously hacked Fellaini down and he too went into the referee's notebook before the final whistle brought a halt to an ugly but perversely satisfying contest from Everton's point of view.
In terms of the character of this game and the controversy that always seemed to bubbling away under the surface, this was probably a good warm-up for next Monday's Premier League collision with Liverpool at Anfield — though it's safe to assume that a few more of the cards flashed today would have been red had this been a derby game.
Moyes will, of course, have to plan for that game without Fellaini but he could not ask for better form to take into a match against the Dark Side. Six games unbeaten and six consecutive clean sheets, the first time any Everton side has achieved that since Joe Royle's tenure in 1995.
For many Evertonians there's only one thing on their mind right now and that's the derby double-header against Liverpool later this month. For me, with my latest column out the way, I'm trying to push thoughts of the Dark Side as far to the back of my mind as possible and focus on the three points on offer when Hull City visit Goodison this weekend.
It's testament to the character of the players and David Moyes's ability to keep restoring faith in his managerial prowess during the times when his resources are at their most stretched that the Blues are 6th and close enough to bother the top four going into the first Premier League fixture of the New Year.
With no striking reinforcements yet made during the current transfer window — and, it would appear, no new faces imminent — Moyes will soldier on with limited resources up front and rely on his side's impressive resolve and ability to grind out results to see him through for the time being.
Victor Anichebe, the only recognised striker available, is fit again after recovering from a back strain but struggled to make an impact against Macclesfield Town last weekend. It's expected that he will start on the bench again as Tim Cahill, who scored in Everton's 2-2 draw at the KC Stadium earlier in the season, again leads the line.
With Joseph Yobo still out with a hamstring strain, the team should be unchanged from the Sunderland game at the back too, meaning Tony Hibbert staying at right back, Leighton Baines getting more time to impress on the left and the thus-far solid Phil Jagielka-Joleon Lescott partnership continuing in the centre. (Indeed, top their enormous credit, Everton haven't conceded a goal since that heart-breaking 3-2 loss against Aston Villa six games ago.)
It's in midfield where Moyes has something of a dilemma given the disciplinary tightrope being walked by Marouane Fellaini. One more booking would take the Belgian's tally to 10 yellow cards for the season and trigger an automatic two-match suspension. Obviously, if he were to collect that booking against Hull, he would (I'm fairly sure) miss both derby matches, so Moyes may be tempted to leave him on the bench and opt for fit-again Segundo Castillo or perhaps hand Dan Gosling his first senior start. (Lescott is also one card away from a ban but the manager has little choice but to play him.)
Hull have, of course, been the surprise package of the season so far. Given the fact that they gained entry to the Premier League via the playoffs and were therefore expected to fare the worst of the three promoted clubs, the start they made to life in the top flight was nothing short of astounding; an example if ever there was one of determination, organisation, team spirit and a lack of fear combining to produce a string of fine results.
Despite riding high In the top six into the month of December, though, the wheels were bound to come off the Tigers' challenge and they've not registered a victory since beating Middlesbrough six games ago.
More worryingly for manager Phil Brown — but a cause for optimism by Moyes — Hull have shown a tendency to ship goals when things have turned sour, conceding nine in back-to-back defeats to Sunderland and Manchester City last month and five at home to to Wigan back in August.
On the flip side, though, they gave Manchester United a real scare at Old Trafford, inflicted embarrassing defeat on Arsenal at The Emirates and held Liverpool to a 2-2 draw four weeks ago, so they will certainly be no pushover for an Everton side that has still only registere two home wins all season.
What will work in the Blues' favour, though, is the belief that players and fans have in the Everton team coupled with the feeling that the pain of the Villa defeat was a turning point in the season. Not only that, their last game at Goodison, the 3-0 win over Sunderland, showed that even without a recognised striker, there are goals in the side.
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2008-09 Reports Index|
|When Skies Are Grey||Report|
|Everton fans' reports|
|Other media reports|
|4 the Game||Report|
|Arteta (93' Rodwell)|
|Cahill :58' (74' Anichebe)|
|Subs not used|
|Van der Meyde|
|HULL CITY (4-4-2)|
|Marney :65' (54' Fagan :94')|
|Giovanni (66' Cousin :75' )|
|Subs not used|
|Premier League Scores|
|Saturday 10 January 2009|
|Aston Villa||2-1||West Brom|
|Sunday 11 January 2009|
|Wednesday 14 January 2009|
|Premier League Table|
|After 17 Jan 2009