COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL
With me, who’s always seemingly driving to the game these days, working in Manchester I e.mailed Ste early in the day telling him to just meet us at The Spellow at 7pm and that I’d let Gary know the same deal. It would’ve been a perfect plan except I uselessly forgot to inform Gary, who finally touched base at 5:40pm wondering what the plans were. I was picking another mate's dad up somewhere off the East Lancs road by the time I got his desperate message. I told him to see if he could get a lift with Ste and left them to it.
Being from Wirral I’m not overly familiar with the surroundings of Liverpool and couldn’t believe how quickly we made it to the ground. My mate and his dad just wouldn’t have it when I told them I normally park in a secure car park for a fiver and navigated me in and around County Road looking for a space of which we eventually found not too far from The Westminster and The Springwood pub, or “’da Springy” as they called it. Cracking fellas.
After finally parking up, I was running late and left the fellas to it, grabbing a chippy and getting to The Spellow at about 7:15pm. The lads were nowhere to be seen and, when I got in touch, they were running late ‘cos Ste then had to detour to pick Gary up. All my fault!
I gathered the team news whilst I had a few beers in wait and as expected Fellaini started with Arteta also (unexpectedly for me) making the XI. The subs bench is now looking a lot stronger also, with Nash, Yobo, Castillo, Anichebe, Gosling, Rodwell and I think Jutkiewicz all featuring. Arsenal’s big change was William Gallas back into the defence to replace Kalo Toure though they were otherwise quite familiar. Andy Marriner was the referee. We lost the toss yet again!
Arsenal certainly started off the better team and got into their fast, vibrant passing rhythm quite early on. Everton defended Arsenal’s opening well though and once they settled had a good 10-15 minute burst of their own and they came close to going ahead when good work down the left hand side between Pienaar, Arteta and Baines resulted in a low ball in from the left-back which Fellaini got to first, though Djourou was very quick on the scene, making a great tackle and sliding the ball behind for a corner kick. Fellaini and Cahill in particular were a real handful and must be just hell to play against. Baring any cock-ups I’ll look forward to seeing them both in action next Wednesday.
There were very few chances in the remainder of the half and the atmosphere was fairly subdued in the Goodison mist. I recall Van Persie firing well, well wide with a half-decent opening but that was pretty much it. 0-0 at half time and we’d certainly have to up our game in the second half to win this one.
Well, up it they did and what a second half performance by Everton. We BATTERED Arsenal in the second period. Arteta orchestrated, Neville held, Fellaini and Cahill menaced whilst the back four gave Howard very, very little to do. Osman (who’d had a poor first half) got himself more into the game and Pienaar worked his flank well with Baines. The lot of them were simply outstanding.
Cahill had warned Arsenal right at the start of the second half when he fired into the side netting with a half decent opening. That said, I’m not sure quite how much Arsenal could have done about the goal. Pienaar, Arteta and Baines again combined well, resulting in an inch perfect cross by Baines towards Cahill. The Aussie read it superbly, rose superbly and headed magnificently to find the corner of the net past Almunia’s desperate outstretched right hand. He naturally made straight for the corner flag in what was his 100th career club goal. Congratulations Tim. Top man.
You felt Arsenal might show some fight after that but Everton continued to dominate, with Cahill smashing another effort straight at Almunia which he unconvincingly parried to safety. Arsenal changed it, replacing Sagnal and I think Song with Bentdner and Eboue. It didn’t really have the effect Arsene Wenger wanted. Arsenal’s had a great chance when Van Persie headed straight at Howard with a reasonable opportunity from a free kick. I looked at the scoreboard for the first time all half and only nine minutes remained. Word filtered round that Liverpool had only drawn at Wigan. Ha!
I seriously thought we’d done this one and maybe had Pienaar ran the ball into the corner instead of trying to slip in Anichebe in injury time (only to overhit it to Almunia) maybe we’d have done so. As it is, top teams can sting you when you least expect it and that’s what happened here. A good ball was played forward long by Arsenal. I don’t really know if Jagielka should’ve cleared it or not, it seemed like a brilliant ball really and Van Persie was in behind him, albeit in an impossible shooting position. In an instant he half-volleyed a screamer first time past Howard and into the net. Sickener. Goodison was stunned. Arsenal were jubilant.
The referee let play go on for just a little bit longer and the ball was actually in both penalty boxes one last time but Jagielka’s clearance signalled game over. Gutted.
As we left the brave chant of “Everton, Everton” rang round Goodison. You can’t criticise the boys when they play that well. Out on Goodison Road my spirits were lifted by some nutter shouting his head off. “WE ARE EVERTON! WE ARE EVERTON!” he shouted. “KEEP YOUR HEADS HELD HIGH. 40 YEARS OF LUCK THEY’VE (Liverpool) HAD. 40 YEARS. THEY DON’T EVEN KNOW THE MEANING OF THE WORD FOOTBALL. KEEP YOUR HEADS HELD HIGH. WE ARE EVERTON!” He’s got a good point.
We walked back to the car and with only one of the two tunnels being open, and having to stop for petrol, as well as drop the others off, I was home a lot, lot later than planned.
Bring on Man U! It’s nice to go into these games with confidence, even without strikers. After all… WE ARE EVERTON!
- Howard: Genuinely sod all to do. What a kick in the balls eh! 7
- Baines: He’s grown on me no end. Cracking cross for the goal and a sound defensive display to boot. Can’t see him leaving the team the way he’s playing. 8
- Lescott: Solid. Defo back to his best. 8
- Jagielka: Solid. He’s just so dependable this season. My MOTM. 9
- Hibbert: Picked up an unfair booking I reckon as I thought he won the ball. He’s looking good also and his distribution has improved massively if you ask me. 8
- Neville: Mopped up superbly at the back. Made the odd error but always got back and recovered well. 8
- Arteta: Had quite a quiet first half but was very instrumental in our much improved performance in the second half. Can do better but not fully-fit either of course. Got booked also. 7
- Pienaar: Will be going through that overhit pass over and over again but had a good, solid industrious game. Combines brilliantly with Baines. 7
- Osman: After a rather poor first half, got much more into it in the second. 6
- Fellaini: Good to see him back and good to see he’s had a trim also! That haircut was getting out of hand. Had a decent game…was his usual menacing self and low and behold, he didn’t get booked. 7
- Cahill: Superb mate. Congratulations on your 100th career girl. Just a shame we couldn’t hold out for ya. He came off with an injury near the end but I doubt that’ll keep Timmy out of the next two huge games! 9
- Anichebe (sub for Cahill): Not on long. Can’t judge.
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