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From my seat: Benfica (A)

By Ken Buckley :  22/10/2009 :  Comments (14) :

Time and money ensured I watched this in the company of fellow fans and ESPN. What a shambles... eleven players missing — that’s a whole team — out of those eleven nine were injured and two ineligible.

Two lessons there:

No 1: you know your commitments for the following season from the end of May and having adequate resources to meet those commitments should be paramount.

No 2: Injuries happen all the time in football and have to be dealt with but signing players so late that they become ineligible for a major European competition borders on incompetence.

I mention this because the injuries to at least four players were well documented to be long-term and serious with no guarantee that they could ever recapture their former form, one of which was our only central midfield creative force, yet the club were unable for whatever reasons to offer any more than last-minute buys on the back of funds received for a player that wanted away to richer pickings since January last and none addressed the Arteta void. Given this scenario then the mauling at the hands of both Arsenal and Benfica should not be a surprise as in both games we were unprepared and punished.

Tonight, the first half seemed to be one of Benfica sizing us up and realising the half-time 1-0 scoreline flattered us.  They must have noticed we had no defence, no midfield... and, if the Yak could be isolated, no threat going forward.

Second half, they targeted Gosling... thus bringing the excellent Hibbert over to help him and on every occasion left the equally excellent Distin and the inexperienced Coleman vulnerable. Their insight was spot-on as the score went from 1-0 to 4-0 down in a matter of minutes.

With Benfica showboating ,our misery was compounded when Bilyaletdinov was withdrawn with an obvious strain of some sort that puts him in the Baines category (who picked up a calf strain in training) of ‘when will we see you again’.

Their fifth goal was celebrated almost apologetically, such was the gulf between the teams and the final whistle was our only consolation.

It would be easy and cheap to slag individual players off tonight as the rag-bag nature of the team rendered it no more than a scratch team put out to fulfil a fixture and no more. In my view, on the night only Howard, Distin, Hibbert and Yak looked like players who put in a professional performance but in the end they were engulfed.

Bolton away next and the worry that we now seem to have ten players on doctor's notes and only Heitinga and Neill to come in; that spirit and togetherness needs to shine through more than ever.

48 hours later and it’s Spurs in the Carling Cup — what an exciting time to be a Blues fan because, by then, it may be a case of how many senior players are able to come to the plate or how will the youth team fare against Spurs reserves.

Still, as the manager says, when all the injured are back, we will again be a force and I believe him; but I have this nagging worry of When is "when"..???  And where will we be then???

Such is this unpredictable game of footy; keep your spirits up and who knows... this time come May, we may be top four, Euro Cup winners, and have been to Wembley three times.

Reader Comments

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Stuart Downey
1   Posted 23/10/2009 at 09:18:42

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I don’t want to slate any individuals, mor motes as seems to be the growing trend. For me, we were simply forced to play two young inexperienced full backs who weren’t good enough at this pretty high level. When benfica capitalised early on in the 2nd half our heads dropped and it all went to pot.
Mark Hill
2   Posted 23/10/2009 at 09:14:03

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it was a rag bag performance, sure, and Benfica, ’looked’ like they had some good players.

They played us off the park to be honest, but like the Rangers fans i stayed till the end. I was personally disappointed with what i saw, like you say there is no point criticising individual players here, and you are right in highlighting the fact we bought players too late for them to be able to play in the Euro. It makes you wonder why, i can only assume it’s because the club has no money for the manager to buy players until the sky cash comes in.. which ultimately leaves a sour taste, and you can’t help but point the finger. but where is the money going, this is happening year on year. Personally i rate Moyes, but how can he produce a team when its managed (financially) like this. Why isn’t he given adequate funds like most (seemingly) managers at the start of the transfer window. I am guessing he would be planning who he wanted to buy....or is it simply lets see who is left and try to pick a couple of gems up from there....

But back to last night, i thought depsite Coleman being his first start should be given credit at least his head didn’t go down, i have to wonder what other folk see in Gosling, that i don’t at the moment, i am more than happy to be proven wrong. For me he has looked decent in a couple of games, a Euro one stands out...but that’s it. Cahill for me, whilst i am sure he ran about a lot, didn’t do much and i think Fellaini was pretty poor. I think the manager got it wrong too, 4 across the middle with such a weak back four, for me against the likes of a passing team like Benfica, was just plain naive....but we all make mistakes, lets hope we learn from these. It is a worry too when all our players are back, where will we be exactly....tenth now....couple of wins just outside the top four, couple of losses just above the bottom’s going to be an up and down season, that’s for sure....
Greg Murphy
3   Posted 23/10/2009 at 11:08:07

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Stuck between a rock and hard place, which Moyes undoubtedly was (Baines’ absence was a hammer blow), he didn’t have to go and then glue himself in.

Really speaking, he only had two options open to him (*), one of which was merely the lesser of the two evils: either play three players out-of-position (or in a very unfamiliar role); or just play one player (Coleman) out-of-position.

Had he played Hibbert in his usual right back slot then at least both he and Distin would have been in their proper positions. Then factor in that Rodwell is a centre half by trade (yeah, sure he’d have been raw) then we would have had three out of the back four in their nominally correct positions or, in Rodwell’s case, at least a position they were very familiar with (and certainly Distin could have led and helped him). Only Coleman would then have been out of position.

Add to that the fact that Gosling could then have played in midfield then we would have only have had one player (Coleman) out-of-position.

Instead Moyes chose to compound the hideous problems he was already facing by ensuring that three players, not one, were out of position.

And we only had one defender (Distin) in his correct berth.

Sometimes you’ve got to at least help yourself but Moyes just didn’t do that last night. He made a bad problem even worse.

Don’t get me wrong, with Rodwell at centre back and a midfield of Gosling, Cahill, Fellaini and Bilyaletdinov we’d still have been beaten. No doubt about it. Probably 2 or 3 nil (and wincing at the fact that it could have been five). But psychologically it wouldn’t have been quite as debilitating and we could genuinely have claimed that "the lads can hold their heads up".

Instead it was 5.0 (and we’re wincing at the fact it very easily could have been 9.0 - they hit the bar, Howard kept two certs out and there were crosses skidding across the box all night) and we’re left with God-knows-what psychological damage and a truly battered morale (not to mention that our European reputation has taken another Bucharest-style battering).

Make no mistake, the one-off defeat in a group that we still could very probably win, is, paradoxically, neither here nor there.

The lasting damage that this defeat could have is the bigger issue.

Moyes really is his own worst enemy at times.

(*) well he actually had three options because he could have played Saha from the off instead of Jo - but he got that wrong, too.
Dick Fearon
4   Posted 23/10/2009 at 11:13:44

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Ken, yours was a reasonable and fair comment. I am convinced that our current injury problems are partially the fault of a bad pre season preparation. That jaunt to the USA does not bring the players anywhere near being ready for the season start.

And another thing, why does David Moyes go on that jaunt? His well paid and highly credentialled assistant could or should be able to handle that. To bring a team into our state of unfitness cannot be that hard. Moyes could use that wast of time in sorting out transfers and contracts.

One or two self-inflicted injuries at any one time can be put down to bad luck but most of our injuries fall into that category. Whoever is our fitness expert he should hang his head in shame. Come to think of it, do we have a specialised fitness expert?

Steven Horrocks
5   Posted 23/10/2009 at 12:12:54

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Always like to read your report first Ken on this site. Shall we say a slightly more balanced view of proceedings!

Didnt see the game but listened in increasing gloom to Radio Merseyside - always enjoy Dave Prentice’s thoughts as co-commentator.

With our full strength team, a draw would have been a fair result. Benfica are no mugs this season and a tie there would be hard for most teams.

Having a debutant out of position, our reserve right midfielder at right back, our reserve right back at centre back was always going to lead to problems.

Then add in no Pienaar & Cahill out of position. Not good.

Billy is still trying to fit in and Rodwell would be due a rest by now if the likes of Neville / Arteta were fit.

I agree with you though that signing players so late that they are ineligible for the competition is poor to say the least.

BUT -we still have three games to go in the group, two of them in L4, and making the knockout stages is still in our own hands.

Now onto the land of the pastie and worried sheep on Sunday!

Alan Rycroft
6   Posted 23/10/2009 at 12:38:34

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dear All,
Hugely disappointing Benfica looked like Barca! Everton a bunch of school boys some of thenplay was embarrassing! I am sure they thought wow is this the English premier league, even young resrevce players should be better than the evidence of last night - they should be able to pass and run at their man, defenders should be able to defend etc. ! It was shocking> the Yak looks a mere shadow of his former self adn he’s been out for aeons now, Jo could only look with envy at the masterclass of south amercian skill and technique shown by the other team. Absolutely appalled - we are savaged and it sould have been 10 nil they let us off a bit! I sometimes think I don’t want to watch this lot anymore, I had a slight hope we could win Europa but no way now as long as there is Benfica etc. who are literally a different league even from our strongest side. We can’t just say it was a one off and it was our weakest team - at least six first teamers were there and all were dreadful! Only young Jack gave it a real go really.
Dennis Stevens
7   Posted 23/10/2009 at 13:54:21

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Ken, your point No. 2 hit the nail on the head - imagine the impact on last night’s team of having Heitinga & Neill, & perhaps an additional midfielder (had we signed one) available for selection. This match was very much lost during the summer & it’s not the only one so far, nor will it be the last this season.
Kevin Gillen
8   Posted 23/10/2009 at 13:54:50

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Well said, Ken, if stating the blindingly obvious is to be merited! No disrespect to you, Ken, it needs saying, the planning for this season has again has gone awry and the blame appears to lie solely at the feet of the board. No doubt Moyes wanted players in early and more than he got. Yes it appears the Lescott money has been spent but Everton fans are being short changed. When are we going to be ready for the season in August?
Ajay Gopal
9   Posted 23/10/2009 at 14:20:35

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Ken, thanks for the report. I too got to see the game live here in India. The 1st half was pretty good I thought — very little hoofball, kept decent possession, players running at the opposition, every-body putting in effort and rallying each other, and even though Benfica had more genuine chances than us, we did not look outplayed by any stretch of the imagination.

I was really looking forward to the 2nd half, honestly believing that Everton had a goal in them, but alas the 1st 5 minutes left me shell-shocked — the players and Moyes, too looked totally devastated. Oh, for a certain Phillip Neville in that situation to calm nerves and get the boys going again. There were no leaders on the pitch, yesterday, and to be honest, we were fortunate not to be hit for more than 5.

Ken, valid point about not moving in for Heitinga & Neill earlier, but we all know by now the Lescott saga, and essentially, the whole club was distracted by it. We also missed a trick by not getting Krancjar before ’Arry picked him. (You've got to give credit to old ’Appy Arry, as soon as he had Modric out with an injury, he moved swiftly to get a replacement, unlike our beloved management, who have waited and waited hoping that injuries would heal fast.)

But, all said and done, the horrific injury crisis would have taken its toll on ANY team, leave alone Everton who are so short of resources.

We can’t have any more injuries now, can we ? (Never played professional football in my life, but I am heading over to buy myself a new pair of shoes, just in case).


Dave Richman
10   Posted 23/10/2009 at 14:20:39

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Alan Rycroft!!!! Well said that man..... almost word-for-word what I’ve been thinking, and saying on other threads.

But it appears from a great deal of the opinions expressed that once we have an injury crisis, then you can’t expect the players that come into the side to have a rudimentary grasp of the basics of the game.... i.e. Pass and move (and critically to a player wearing the same colour shirt), basic ball control .... get in the occasional tackle..... and SPRINT every now and again.... shoot on target..... etc etc

We must have the only Brazilian in world football whose first touch is invariably worse than the average 11 year old.

I can accept a battering, truly I can.... but it’s the manner that grates. Excuse what you like, technically we were in a different galaxy to their players, and that’s down to coaching..... or lack thereof. Or not giving a rat[’s arse while collecting the kind of salary that us mere mortals can only dream of......

So no, it’s not good enough for me. And, dare I say, it’s not good enough for Everton Football Club
Larry Boner
11   Posted 23/10/2009 at 20:27:28

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I sat with my son (16) to watch the game, we agreed that, given the injury situation a win was out of the question, but a backs to the wall display with all getting stuck in and giving 100% we may get a draw.

After approx 10 min my son changed his opinion and said that the midfield were not connected to the defence or attack and we were playing with 9 men, singling out Jo and Fellaini as taking no active part in the proceedings, with Cahill little better.

We could not believe that we had got to half time only 1 down, but as in the FA Cup Final we could see that the right side of the defence was being targetted, my son predicted a hammering if we did not change at least one of Jo or Fellaini and provide cover for Coleman.

5 mins into the 2nd half it was 4 nil, we were now looking at any score with the senior players doing nothing to stem the tide and Moyes inactive.

If Fellaini is a player then I know nothing about this simple game, football. I gave him the benefit of the doubt last year as he was adapting to a faster pace of football, scored a few goals, but any player who is sent on to the pitch with no given position or responsibilities and is told not to tackle and is 6ft 5ins tall would get a few goals.

As an example his total inability to turn with the ball and start an attack is painful to watch, whenever he recieves the ball with back to goal he will play the ball back to the person who has just passed to him, his jumping and heading is abysmal, and for a midfield player he has no pace over the first 10 yards, vital to maintain possesion.

I would have thought the coaching staff would have worked on these failings, but every game I go to is the same, people pick on Osman- lightweight etc - but if Fellaini had half the heart that he had he would be a good player, Ossie takes a lot of stick from the crowd, especially where we sit, but he keeps trying.

We have had our run of easy games, the only two decent teams we have played have put 11 goals past us, the injury situation is worsening when we thought players would be returning to bolster the squad, the only good thing about Thursday was Jagielka training with the squad pre match.
Ray Kelly
12   Posted 23/10/2009 at 21:05:28

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Dick Fearon you have brought something up here that our group were discussing last night as we drowned our sorrows in Lisbon. There is a lack of fitness and stamina right across our full squad; what the fuck goes on pre-season and what the fuck do the players do in training?

Does Moyes and his No 2 ever get the players in to discuss the opposition we are to face? Do they highlight certain opposition players for our players to analyse?Show them videos of the opposition?

Obviously not, it's get out there and we'll hope for some luck, a new record low from DM, fucking unmitigated shambles!

Danny Harris
13   Posted 23/10/2009 at 21:32:04

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there is plenty wrong with our football club at the minute. if you believe it to be the manager,players or the board .lets forget the board thats for another day.we are stuck with the manager for a while because of his good record over the last 3 yrs which will buy him some time. this is my honest opinion on some our players felliaini- how was this guy ever worth 15m offers nothing going forward and cant defend without fouling cahill-he cant pass,goes missing in games and nowadays cant shoot jo-cant control the ball and certainly cant beat a man and i wont mention is eratic shooting yobo-the david james of center backs can look brilliant for 85mins but then make the worst decisions that always will cost you games hibbert-in the top 3 worst right backs in the prem lge osman-lightweight who goes missing and has one good game every 8 heitinga-its early but he is slow cant read a game and does not even know where is best position is neville-hard worker and thats where his qualities end the thing im trying to get at is we will never get any better with all these players i have just mentioned.i would be happy to see all these go and start a fresh because any manager could not make them into great players who you would love to pay to watch.non of these could ever play the style of football arsenal do and i think deep down we would love to see that style of football at goodison
Derek Thomas
14   Posted 24/10/2009 at 05:55:25

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Disclaimer: this is not a criticism of you Ken, you write it how you see it. I have never read a bad one (match report). You put all the pertinent facts in and maybe a bit of comment, 95-5 % job done sorted.

But this time even you are moved to editorialise, such is the shambles and rightly so.

The sad fact is that for many parts of the match, well mainly the 1st half and (yes I know before I say it) apart from the goals we ’ looked’ better in the style and manner in which we played than the Wolves and Stoke games... at home, 4-5-1 with 2 holders Vs Wolves and AWAY (ffs) Vs Benfica 442 (???)

Given the circumstances, aka shambles, that was our selection options. If ever a game cried out for the 4-6-0 Vs the RS in the Cup formation this was it.

Moyes, you are inept.

TAXI! Taxi for Mr Moyes!

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