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COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Match Report - Not hard work

By Paul Traill :  21/08/2009 :  Comments (1) :

Match Report: Everton vs SK Sigma Olomouc — Nice NOT to make hard work of a European qualifier

After the doom and gloom of last Saturday’s horror show against the Gunners, Everton had a welcome early opportunity to respond against ‘Sigma’, the Czech outfit. I was weary of this one and convinced we were going to make a complete pigs ear of it, such as has seemingly been the norm in recent years.

It was a bit of a marathon getting to the game. As I work in Manchester I drove home FAST down the M62, picking Ste up by ‘da cobbles’ by the Birkenhead tunnel and on to my latest ‘free parking’ area. At least I thought it was free… the ‘watch yer car’ staff suggest otherwise.

We usually congregate at The Spellow for games but, as it was just Ste and I this time, we thought we’d try elsewhere and opted for the rather strange Horlich Castle. As I got to the bar the lady asked what I wanted. As she did this the guy next to me shook his head and flapped in exasperation. “I think he was next” I said to quell the guys flap. “He was, but he’s already had a drink so you should be next” said the barmaid… OK, if that’s the rule.

Whilst in the pub, Ste and I, probably like everybody else, moaned about the Lescott situation, but more so about how Everton have let this drag on all summer long rather than Lescott himself. After just the one beer, we headed on to the game.

For once we attacked towards the Park End stand in the first half. It was Neville, not Rodwell who replaced the ‘jibbed’ Lescott at centre half with Rodwell therefore replacing Neville in midfield. The only other change from that which got so destroyed by Arsenal on Saturday was Saha in up front in place of Jo.

Not entirely unexpectedly, we took quite a while to settle in this one… particularly in defence. With consummate ease at times Sigma cut us open in the early stages and, if not for some alert goalkeeping by Howard and a questionable penalty rebuff from the referee, we could easily have been behind early on in this one. Defensive uncertainty was there for all to see and if we hadn’t have survived them first 20 minutes, I’m not sure what would have happened.

Still, survive it we did, and we didn’t half settle once we went ahead. Suspect goalkeeping and defending allowed Saha to nip in at the near post and somehow volley the ball into the net from a Fellaini cross. 1-0 Everton. Relief more so than joy.

The second goal came from a free kick that was whipped in but cleared only as far as Jack Rodwell, who excelled in midfield throughout. He took a touch, seemed to take an eternity before unleashing a left foot drive practically straight at Drobisz. Somehow the keeper dived past it and Everton now had a comfortable two-goal cushion.

Just when you thought it was safe, Sigma nearly took advantage of Everton’s defensive uncertainty when a good ball across the box was only narrowly missed by Ordos as it zipped across goal. Had he have connected I just don’t know how the second half would have gone.

As it turned out, it went just fine. Early on in the half, Rodwell made certain of the game with an absolute belter. A corner was whipped in and punched clear by the keeper. The ball was then played back to Rodwell who spanked it into the corner of the net and in off the underside of the bar from about 25-yards out. What a goal.

Saha wasn’t finished yet either, getting his head down and taking a few touches before unleashing a ferocious low drive past the keeper and into the corner of the net. Osman came close also, capitalizing on a flap of a clearance from Onofrej and drilling a first time drive which was well tipped round the post by Drobisz.

Late substitutions provided cameos for Gosling, Jô and Vaughan as Everton went for the massacre, but 4-0 was about fair overall. Once we got our early jitters out of the way and sourced a goal, we were comfortable and in the second half were particularly excellent at times.

Hopefully that’s the Arsenal game out of our system. Now we should, one way or the other, get this Lescott garbage out of our system before it has too much of a detrimental effect on the rest of the squad.

Neville cannot go on at centre-back.

Player Ratings:

  • Howard: Made a crucial, if over-exaggerated, save from Petr in the first half at 0-0. Otherwise was sprightly off his line and communicated to his defence well. 7
  • Baines: Combines attack and defence excellently and also seems to have a telepathic relationship with Pienaar. 8
  • Yobo: Neville probably needed more help from the Nigerian skipper than he received. 5
  • Neville: Did what he had to. Got caught out a few times but to be expected as he’s not a centre-back. We really need to sort out cover ASAP. 6
  • Hibbert: Had a good game. Made some excellent tackles in the second half and supported the attack well. Is this gonna be Hibbert’s goal-year? 7
  • Rodwell: Two goals, one fortunate, one quality, but it's his composure and intelligence on the ball which impressed me most. No, not everything he played worked but he’ll only get better and better really. My man of the match. 8
  • Fellaini: Comfortable though not spectacular performance from the giant Belgian. 7
  • Cahill: Was the engine of the team tonight I think. Did all the dirty work well. 6
  • Osman: Got better as the game went on. Seems to suit European football. 6
  • Pienaar: Improved as the game got older. We need him at his best for now. 6
  • Saha: Two goals and a quality hard working performance from the Frenchman. 8
  • Gosling (for Rodwell): Did alright. Loves to take players on. 6
  • Jo (for Saha): Good bit of taking the piss out of the defenders I guess. 6
  • Vaughan (for Pienaar) Didn’t really get into the game. 5

Reader Comments

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Tom Edwards
1   Posted 22/08/2009 at 08:39:07

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Paul -- I have been to the Harlech Castle many times. Is the Horlich Castle anywhere near it?!

Can’t agree with a 7 for Fellaini. He looked like he was having one of his numerous ’can’t be arsed to pass to a blue shirt and will wander where I feel like’ matches’. Still, 4 goals to take over there is a good cushion and even we shouldn’t botch that.

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