COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
Before kick-off the great Eusebio was introduced bringing back memory of his exploits in this stadium, he received a great ovation and his body language suggested he knew his countrymen would triumph once again.
In the first half, the acrid smell of spent pyrotechnics hung in the air and the folly of transfer activity early doors to compete in such competitions was evident on the pitch. We lined up 4-5-1 which suggested the manager thought a draw was the best possible result and this was reinforced when it became evident that the one up front would operate as a second left winger!
We did however start at a high tempo in that first half, but there seemed to be a lack of joined-up thought and, although Bilyaletdinov and Rodwell tried to inject some purpose, no-one seemed to have the slightest idea what it was they were trying to achieve. As the game progressed, those two fell back into the malaise that emanated throughout the team.
Through sheer endeavour, we did have some half chances in the first half. Cahill, Fellaini and Baines had either headers or shots that were just wide or straight at the keeper but, on the counter, Benfica looked dangerous whenever they did go forward and the chance of the first half fell to them when, just before the break, a cross saw a header hit the post and the follow up from Saviola was superbly saved by Tim Howard.
0-0 at the break but little to enthuse over and a glance at our bench left little to raise optimism for the second period. Second half and it was almost déjà vu from the first encounter when they hit us for three in no-time.
The dangerous Di Maria outpaced our defence from a superb through ball but luckily for us shot over; next he tried a long range one that Howard did well to tip over.
We attacked and got a free-kick which was well delivered but Cahill and the hapless Gosling got in each other’s way and Benfica broke at pace and to be fair at least four defenders got back with them but unfortunately in the melee that ensued the ball broke to Saviola in the box and he made no mistake.
Benfica now seemed more relaxed and were playing us off the park; when substitutions took place, the gulf between the squads was emphasised. Just before Benfica scored again, Aimar was introduced and was instrumental in the goal.
We responded by taking off the hapless Gosling for the equally hapless Jo in a reshuffle that saw Cahill right mid-field and Jo to join the Yak who both took turns in getting in the way of Bilyaletdinov down the left.
Benfica were now strutting their stuff and another attack saw the ball slotted into the corner of our net with Howard appealing for off-side, no flag, the goal stood and a bit of an exodus of fans started and continued as Benfica saw fit to replace their ace Saviola just knowing it was game over.
We did try for a last hurrah and indeed Distin did have a good chance beaten away by the keeper but that was about it and on the whistle some of those still left in the ground gave half-hearted boos but the majority just trudged away reflecting on our plight.
MotM... well there wasn't one really but I would give it to Hibbert for being the only player who was better than his counterpart.
Overall, I thought this game summed up our present position where lack of proper transfer activity caught up with us. Injuries aside, our lack of depth was evident in trying to compete on four fronts when two of our fit transfer incomers were signed too late to take part and long-term serious injuries were known well before the transfer window opened.
I don’t blame the manager or players but sadly have to concede this great club is no shape to take on the opportunities that our finishing league position afforded us. All is not lost, we can still qualify for the knock out stages of the Europa Cup and with returning players may well be able to give a better account of ourselves in this competition as well as the Premier League and FA Cup but I for one have doubts that we can again next season start as the best of the rest — never mind challenge for a top four spot.
Unless something changes within the club and we can once again get the manager's choices in early, then the rumours regarding Pienaar and Rodwell may well see us yet again getting the best deals possible and yet more last minute punts.
Still who knows in football, I remain ever hopeful and three points at the Hammers will go some way in alleviating my present angst.
See you Sunday...
UP THE BLUES
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1 Posted 06/11/2009 at 16:10:32
"sadly have to concede this great club is no shape to take on the opportunities"
Totally agree with this - you can get away once possibly twice but eventually this sort of fiasco catches up with you and it has done this season.
Blue Bill has a lot to answer for, ofcourse this is everton and we never get answers. A football club which once graced the elite and Europe is now a mere average premier league club. Sad times ahead im afraid.
2 Posted 06/11/2009 at 20:29:07
3 Posted 06/11/2009 at 22:05:54
4 Posted 07/11/2009 at 06:26:51
NOT WAVING, DROWNING.
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