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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Saturday 30 August 2008; 3:00pm
Everton 
0-3
 Portsmouth
 Yakubu missed pen (47')
Half Time: 0-2
 Defoe (11'), Johnson (40')
 Crouch (62')
Attendance: 34,418
Fixture 3
Referee: Mark Halsey

Match Summary

Despite all the new signings this week, none of them were in the starting line-up that featured Jack Rodwell in the middle with Yakubu and Vaughan together in attack.  The only new name on the bench was that of Lars Jacobsen as Everton took on Portsmouth who sit at the bottom of the Premier League having lost both their opening games.

Portsmouth were sharp on the break and it didn't take them long to score. Defoe got in off a long throw that Crouch headed on to Defoe and managed to squeeze it inside the post despite close attention.  Defoe was tormenting Everton, and very nearly scored again, but for a desperate save from Howard.

Yakubu put in a beautiful cross that James pushed on to the post and Mikel Arteta thought he had scored with the rebound but the England keeper stopped that one as well.

Everton struggled to respond but Baines did well going forward, as Vaughan nodded his cross down to Yakubu whose shot beat James but was cleared off the line.  Vaughan should then have done better when he was surprised on the next attack.

In a simple move a little before half-time, Portsmouth moved further ahead, Defoe setting it up easily for the advancing Glenn Johnson, who pushed easily past Osman to prod the ball into the net.  Now a mountain to climb for the Blues...

The second half had hardly begun when Johnson was adjudged by Mark Halsey to have committed a professional foul on Vaughan... Penalty! Yakubu strolled up nonchalantly and popped it nicely for his old Portsmouth teammate James to save easily... Unbelievable!?!  Why oh why did Arteta not take it???

Baines delivered a beautiful ball in but Vaughan timed his run in wrong and missed it, and around the hour mark, the young striker was withdrawn in favour of another young striker, Victor Anichebe, back from the Olympics with a silver medal. 

In a sweeping move, Defoe picked a ball off Davis, and chipped the ball beyond Howard onto the bar, it bounced down over the line and out again conveniently for Crouch to make certain.  The goal  sealed the game for Portsmouth with 20 mins to go.  Osman limped off to be replaced by Jose Baxter.

It was huff and puff to the end, and the inevitable boos, a free kick finding Lescott but flying over the bar to sum up Everton's dismal fortunes on what was supposed to be a day of consolidating another run for teh Uefa Cup places.

Portsmouth were a lot sharper, better organized, and obviously a lot more creative going forward.  They become the second visitors to {cough} Fortress Goodison this season, the second team to score three goals, the second team to walk away with a win.  What was that about Doom and Gloom???

Michael Kenrick

Dispirited Blues crumble at Goodison

The battered state of morale at Everton was laid bare at Goodison today as the Blues fell apart after conceding two first-half goals and then seeing David James deny their ticket back into the game at the start of the second when he saved Yakubu's over-elaborate penalty.

Three down with a little over an hour gone, David Moyes's side had more or less given up the ghost prompting a slow exodus and a morgue-like atmosphere inside the Old Lady not experienced for many a season.

Still without crucial midfield duo Tim Cahill and Steven Pienaar and with Segundo Castillo unavailable until his international clearance comes through, Moyes was forced to field an almost unchanged line-up from the disjointed and inexperienced side that began at West Bromwich Albion last weekend.

With James Vaughan fit enough to start, Jose Baxter dropped back to the bench and the Blues played 4-4-2 with Phil Jagielka and Jack Rodwell in the centre and Mikel Arteta and Leon Osman rounding out midfield.

The game began in scrappy fashion with neither side settling into any kind of rhythm but if Pompey had had their confidence knocked by successive defeats by Chelsea and Manchester United in their opening two games they didn't show it.

With 10 minutes gone they went ahead when Jermaine Defoe picked up a knockdown from their aerial threat, Peter Crouch, and impressively held off Joleon Lescott in a crowded section of the area before sneaking a shot past Tim Howard and into the corner of the net.

As the home side struggled to build up any sort of momentum, the visitors almost doubled their lead seven minutes later with an almost identical chance but Howard made an excellent save to guide it past the post for a corner.

Slowly, the Blues began to show some self-belief and Leon Osman had their first shot of the game in the 20th minute when he drove over from 20 yards.

Then, a couple of minutes later, Arteta thought he had levelled by finishing the best move of the match thus far. Yakubu out-foxed two defenders by turning smartly and accelerating to the byline before crossing hard and low to the six yard box where the Spaniard fired goalwards but David James's unbelievable reaction save with his fingertips pushed his shot onto the post. Surprised to see it ricochet back to him, Arteta was unable to steer the rebound home and the 'keeper smothered the ball.

10 minutes later, Vaughan headed Leighton Baines's deep cross back across goal where it looked for all the world as though Yakubu would nod home on the line but Younis Kaboul was on hand to hook the ball away to safety from Portsmouth's point of view.

While far from impressive, the Blues at least looked capable of getting something from the game while there still only a goal in it. Indeed, another half chance arrived 12 minutes before the interval when Yakubu latched onto Osman's through-ball but could only fire a left-foot, first-time shot into the crowd.

With five minutes of the half left, though, Pompey went 2-0 ahead in embarrassingly easy fashion. Again, the lively Defoe was involved and he picked out the run of Glenn Johnson with a well-timed pass, leaving the ex-Chelsea full-back to saunter unimpeded through the defence and tuck the ball past Howard.

An Osman chest-down-and-half-volley that he fired straight at James was the home team's last contribution of the first 45 minutes as they went into the interval with unease unmistakably emanating from the Goodison Park stands.

Performance-wise the first half had been little different from the pattern of sloppy distribution and too many long balls established in the first two games against Blackburn and West Brom. This time, at least, they got the ball down to the byline and caused some very real problems for the Pompey defence and but for James' reactions, would have scored at least once.

The most glaring problems were in central midfield where, again, Jagielka floundered and Rodwell's inexperience continued to be a factor. The absence of Lee Carsley to break things up in front of the back four was never more apparent than it was today, with vast spaces opening up for the Portsmouth midfield to exploit going forward.

2-0 down at half-time, the best you can hope for is an immediate breakthrough after the break and Goodison came alive in the 47th minute when the ticket back into the game arrived. Johnson knocked Vaughan to the ground to prevent him challenging for a flighted cross from the right and referee Mark Halsey pointed to the spot.

Instead of Arteta, though, Yakubu, with two goals already this season, elected to take the kick but rather than keep it simple as you surely must do in this type of situation, he twice halted his run-up to prompt James into showing his hand early but when the England 'keeper failed to budge, Yakubu had no option but to try and beat him with reduced power and poor placement at the ideal height allowed James to beat the ball away for a corner.

That knocked the stuffing out of both the team and the home faithful and it soon became clear that there was no way back. Heads dropped, the team stopped doing what had proved moderately successful in the first period and when Vaughan left the game just before the hour mark having run his unfit legs off, their potency was reduced as well. Victor Anichebe replaced him after missing the first two fixtures because of his involvement at the Olympics but he didn't have the same impact.

The Blues' misery was compounded in the 62nd minute when Defoe collected Sean Davis's clever back-heel and expertly chipped Howard from the edge of the box. The ball cannoned off the bar and appeared to drop behind the line but Crouch, the only player to follow up — Lescott stood rooted to the spot — nodded the ball past Howard just to make sure. (Crouch would later be credited with the goal by the FA's Dubious Goals Panel.)

There were flashes of hope that Everton might make a game of it after that. Yakubu's volley from the angle was again foiled by James, Lescott's improvised effort just cleared the bar from the resulting corner, Arteta blasted a rising direct free kick too high, and Lescott again came close when he headed Baines' free kick just over, but on the whole there was no one in central midfield to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Indeed, there wasn't much of a central midfield at all and it got worse when Osman hobbled out of the action with 20 minutes left, replaced by Baxter.

All in all, a very disiprited performance and one that was worrying because of how easily the team seemed to give up in the second half. Ordinarily, a Moyes team doesn't just lie down and accept defeat but right now it's hard to escape the rising mixture of frustration, anticipation and expectation that must be radiating from the terraces as a summer transfer window that was utterly fruitless until a few days ago seems to have undermined any assault on the top four before it's even begun. Two home defeats, six goals conceded; that is entirely out of character for the Everton that this team has become under Moyes's stewardship.

Much has been made of Moyes's demeanour in recent weeks, starting with the stories from Chicago where he appeared to have lost patience with the lack of funds and ending with yesterday's interview that was published in video form on The Telegraph's website. It showed a man who has clearly been burning the candle at both ends during a frenetic week of transfer activity and whether it was merely fatigue that lay behind the terse responses, the bloodshot eyes and drained countenance or something more deep-rooted and ominous, you have to wonder how much of it seeped into the players.

If there is room for optimism on what was a very dark day, it lies in: the fact that, (at the time of writing) two new faces have been added to the squad — there may be two more in the form of Louis Saha and Victor Obinna announced tomorrow — both addressing areas that badly needed reinforcing (right back and central midfield); the two-week break that the team now has until their next game at Stoke; and the fact that even accounting for injuries, this still is a far better team than the ones that kicked and struggled their way through the worst periods in the mid-1990s and the nadir of Walter Smith's tenure.

In other words, if they can start playing the right way again, rediscover the fire in their bellies, and tighten up at the back again then a scrap against the drop is not going to be on the cards despite our early occupation of a place in the bottom three.

Of course, the days of even mentioning the dreaded "R" word were supposed to be long gone. Top six and maybe top four is supposed to be the goal after last season's achievements but whether this Everton squad has what it takes to turn around this bad start and put together the sort of run of results that it would take to break the monopoly of the Sky 4 may only be answered in the transfer market between now and 11:59pm on Monday.

Player Ratings:

Howard 6 — Hard to hold him to account for any of the three goals as he probably couldn't have saved the first, was badly exposed for the second and soundly beaten by what was, in all honesty, a superb chip for the third

Neville 7 — He takes a lot of stick and rightly so for the most part but today he was probably Everton's best player

Lescott 6 — Not exactly covering himself in glory in home games back in his preferred central defensive berth with some loose marking

Yobo 6 — Like Lescott, probably at fault for not being tight enough to Pompey's front two

Baines 6 — Decent going forward but erratic in defence. Should he have tracked the run of Johnson for the second goal instead of ending up 15 yards behind the ball at the end? Probably so. By contrast he did some really good things in defence at times

Jagielka 5 — The sooner Moyes can pull him out of central midfield the better because he's getting badly exposed there

Rodwell 6 — A real baptism by fire for him. It's not his fault that his tender years and inexperience preclude him from really commanding things in the middle of the park but he is starting to do the simple things better and has not had a bad game so far

Osman 6 — Things didn't quite come off for him today, sometimes let down by a poor first touch by Yakubu or a general lack of space around the Portsmouth area

Arteta 6 — Not a good game by his high standards but he was, nevertheless, at the heart of the best moments and was desperately unlucky not to score in the first half

Vaughan 7 — Ran his socks off, harried, almost created a goal for Yakubu and won the penalty. Next to Neville, the best performer in Blue today

Yakubu 6 — Despite his two goals before today, he still doesn't look like he's at his sharpest. His first touch is by turns perfect and abysmal, he's still dropping back too deep to collect the ball and today he resorted to just shooting on sight out of frustration. You still got the feeling that he'd tuck it away if he got the right chance, though; sadly it never came

Subs:

Anichebe 6 — His hopes of a heroic return to the team were scuppered with five minutes of him coming on when Pompey got their third. Ended up chasing shadows and didn't get much of a look in

Baxter 6 — Came on for the last 20 minutes but the game was up by that point

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

While the recruitment drive to bolster what remains a pitifully small squad continues off the pitch, business on the field continues this weekend as Everton entertain Portsmouth in the third Premier League fixture of the new season.

Even without the extra options offered by newcomers Lars Jacobsen and Segundo Castillo — and there's no guarantee that either will start; Jacobsen isn't match fit and Castillo has his work permit but is awaiting international clearance — this could provide a better idea of where the Blues are in the early going. Both the home defeat by Blackburn, a game that Everton could have won yet ended up losing at the death, and the flattering victory at West Bromwich Albion last weekend, featured long spells of awful play by David Moyes's men but were also punctuated by flashes of the form that carried them to 5th place last season.

Despite the disappointing performance, the win at The Hawthorns will have provided some much-needed self-belief and will have re-affirmed the mantra that if you feed the Yak, he will score.

Two goals in as many games means that Yakubu is already of last season's 21-goal haul, and with James Vaughan another week closer to full fitness and Victor Anichebe back from Beijing, things are certainly looking up in attack.

match photo
Feed the Yak and he will score

At the back, there were question marks over the medium-term fitness of Phil Neville — rumour, since quelled, suggested that he might need surgery to correct damage to his ankle — and while he did pass a fitness test last week to play the 90 minutes against Albion, he probably isn't near 100% going into this weekend either. Nevertheless, depending on the formation the manager chooses, an unchanged back four is a possibility against Pompey.

It's in midfield where the problems are at their most pressing, with Tim Cahill, Andy van der Meyde and Stephen Pienaar on the injured list until October, and Moyes having to rely on the inexperienced duo of Jack Rodwell and Jose Baxter. If Castillo's authorization arrives in time it would not be a surprise to see him make an immediate debut in defensive midfield, but Vaughan and Anichebe allow for the deployment of a 4-4-2 formation as a contingency.

Either way, Rodwell will likely retain his place and Phil Jagielka could either drop back to partner Joseph Yobo (with Joleon Lescott moving to his less favoured left-back slot at the expense of Leighton Baines) or take his place on the bench.

Pompey's poor start to the season may have owed to a horrible fixture assignment that pitted them against Chelsea and Manchester United in their first two games but their failure to register even a goal in either game means they won't come to Goodison full of confidence.

Their chief weapon will no doubt be gangly ex-dark sider, Peter Crouch, who was Harry Redknapp's big-money acquisition of the summer, and Jermaine Defoe has also made a relatively successful start to life with the south coast side after joining in January.

With Niko Krancjar ruled out with injury, the onus will fall on Lassana Diarra to provide the inspiration from midfield but if Everton can hit their stride and play more like they did a few months ago, there shouldn't be too much to fear as they bid to make it two wins in two.

Lyndon Lloyd

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

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2008-09 Reports Index
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EVERTON (4-4-2)
  Howard
  Neville
  Yobo
  Lescott
  Baines :87'
  Rodwell
  Jagielka
  Arteta
  Osman (70' Baxter)
  Vaughan
  Yakubu (60' Anichebe)
  Subs not used
  Turner
  Jacobsen
  Valente
  Wallace
  Kissock
  Unavailable
  Castillo (clearance)
  Saha (medical)
  Cahill (injured)
  Hibbert (injured)
  Pienaar (injured)
  Van der Meyde (injured)
PORTSMOUTH (3-5-2)
  James
  Kaboul
  Distin
  Campbell
  Johnson
  A Traore (78' Hreidarsson)
  Diarra
  Diop
  Davis (92' Mvuemba)
  Defoe (72' Utaka)
  Crouch
  Subs not used
  Ashdown
  D Traore
  Lauren
  Sahar
Premier League Scores
Saturday 30 August 2008
Arsenal 3-0 Newcastle
Bolton 0-0 West Brom
Everton 0-3 Portsmouth
Hull City 0-5 Wigan
Man United P-P Fulham
Middlesbro' 2-1 Stoke City
West Ham 4-1 Blackburn
Sunday 31 August 2008
Aston Villa 0-0 Liverpool
Chelsea 1-1 Tottenham
Sunderland 0-3 Man City
Premier League Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Chelsea 7
2 Liverpool 7
3 Man City 6
4 Arsenal 6
5 West Ham 6
6 Middlesbro 6
7 Aston Villa 4
8 Bolton 4
9 Man Utd 4
10 Blackburn 4
11 Newcastle 4
12 Hull 4
13 Wigan 3
14 Fulham 3
15 Stoke 3
16 Portsmouth 3
17 Everton 3
18 Sunderland 3
19 Tottenham 1
20 West Brom 1
After 1 Sep 2008




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