COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL
Match Report: Everton v Birmingham City
Having taken in the delights of Huddersfield for a uni reunion on the Saturday, I was therefore caught in horrendous snow on the M62 as I travelled to the match. If you put your foot down, that journey can take little over an hour though this simply wasn’t an option today as the snow ploughed down — a snow plough would have been more useful. Needless to say I was late for the pub though that made my solitary beer all the more nicer.
I heard the team news in the car and was a little surprised to hear Osman had made it back into the starting XI having been out injured for a while. Cahill back in the team wasn’t a surprise. The referee was Stuart Atwell. We attacked the Park End in the first half.
We started on the front foot, taking the game to Birmingham from the first whistle, and had already had an effort on goal in the shape of a Cahill header prior to Bilyaletdinov’s well taken goal. After good work by Saha, the Russian wriggled into the box before smashing the ball home past the helpless Joe Hart. Get in there!
Having started well, it was then important to build on the early goal. This we did... though, despite plenty of pressure, we failed to add to this lead before Birmingham City leveled. Cahill came close, smashing the ball at goal from quite an acute angle but just clearing the crossbar. Louis Saha actually did score, slotting the ball home despite Hart getting a hand to the ball but the linesman adjudged it to be offside. Darn!
At 1-0 I was quite conscious of Birmingham nicking a goal at any stage and my worry proved to be correct when Larsson finished smartly in the penalty area after a nice pass from Christian Benitez. That was Birmingham’s first attack and the bleeders went and scored. Frustrating.
The visitors grew in confidence from this and probably would have scored themselves if not for an outstanding last-ditch challenge from Tony Hibbert on Cameron Jerome, I think. The rest of the half was rather edgy and, after so much promise with a great early goal, it was a bit frustrating going into the second half level.
Whilst we controlled the second period with vast amounts of possession and despite numerous shots on goal, we failed to hit the target once I don’t think in all that time. Birmingham City’s defence was competent – very no-nonsense though Joe Hart didn’t have a save to make. It was the wasteful shooting which let us down. Saha blazed over a few times, Cahill very nearly scored lunging at the ball with a diving header, Pienaar replicated two curling drives over the bar and a fully fit Yakubu may have scored when put through on goal by I think Saha but it was smothered by Hart.
Despite all the possession we had throughout the game, it's difficult to come away from it feeling as though we deserved to win. Countless balls were played forward only for them to be cleared out every time by Birmingham City’s giant centre-back partnership of Johnson and Dann. As Ste mentioned on the way out, it's Everton’s lack of Plan B which lets them down a lot of the time. If we have one method of play, we’ll just keep trying that, even if it evidently isn’t working. We’ve got to be more dynamic than this to salvage games like this.
The real kicker came just as I finally got home. Radio City were replaying the commentary of the highlights as they wrapped up their show and it emerged that the first half goal by Saha actually should have stood. I’ll be keen to see that one on Match of the Day 2 later. I’m convinced that had we have gotten that second goal we’d have gone on to win this one comfortably. Come to think of it, that linesman was flagging none-stop all game long, so it looks like we’ve been screwed by the officials again with this one… though it's easy to blame them when results aren’t going your way — just ask Rafa Benitez.
Have a great Christmas. Let’s rev up the engine for the second half of the season.
- Howard: Not a huge amount to do but did make some tricky catches and distributed well. 7
- Baines: Did quite well defensively and offensively. 7
- Neill: My man of the match. I thought he dealt with Jerome brilliantly in the second half and distributed very well. 8
- Heitinga: Quite comfortable in defense. 6
- Hibbert: Did alright I suppose, at least defensively anyway. Made a crucial tackle in the first half to deny Jerome. 6
- Bilyaletdinov: Other than the goal did nothing. 5
- Osman: I thought he did very well though notably wilted as the game went on. It made me think that if Osman is knackered after one game having been out for two months, how long will it take for Arteta, Jagielka, Anichebe and the likes to get back to fitness once they’re finally back? It may well be that we have to stick with what we’ve got for the rest of the season. 7
- Cahill: Struggled through the game really. Not at his best. 5
- Fellaini: Had a cracking game. One of his best in a blue shirt. The key now is to sustain it. 8
- Pienaar: Did very well though final ball delivery let him down a bit. We’re such a better team with him in it. 7
- Saha: Not at his best at all. 5
- Yakubu (for Bilyaletdinov): Didn’t quite get into the game. 6
- Vaughan (for Osman): Was a big surprise though great to see him back… again. Hope he can stay fit. Not on long so difficult to judge though he did put himself about well. 7
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1 Posted 21/12/2009 at 01:37:03
I am concerned for Jags and Arteta as they had ligament injuries and had to have surgery to fix it. It takes a while for the ligaments to get stretched back to normal in addition to getting back in to overall match fitness. Should’ve gotten 3 out of this one, you have to wonder if Saha was on top of his game if this one would’ve turned out differently. Sunderland next, we need to capitalize.
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