COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
Where you at Goodison Park January 16. 2010? On a night that took me back decades, I saw a display from the Blues over 95 mins that rolled back the years to when we had teams who won things.
Was it the sixties or eighties style? No matter, tonight we put together a football performance that had everyone salivating. Solid defence, fluent and effective midfield and a will to impose themselves upon a team assembled with money we can only dream of. Make no mistake, this City side came with intent and played to a standard that may well have crushed lesser teams, only to flounder on the rocks of a motivated and talented team that played the game with conviction, pride and with a point to prove.
The opening exchanges saw City take some initiative and Petrov went close then Santa Cruz after no more than three mins limped off to be replaced by the expensive Brazilian Robinho. You could just see we were up for it and Bilyaletdinov had a header from a Donovan cross find the arms of Given.
Robinho had a shot that went well over and then, on the 20 min mark, Donovan got in on the left after receiving a Saha pass only to lob Given but miss the far post. I thought he should have scored with a little more composure but in your first home game maybe he was a little overwhelmed.
We now seemed to be getting well on top; from a Donovan corner, Fellaini headed into the keeper then he fired just wide, to be followed by Bilyaletdinov having a shot tipped over. After the 30-min mark, Saha was fouled some 20 yards out and up stepped Pienaar to strike sweetly and catch Given out at the near post and give the Blues a well deserved lead which was received rapturously by those in attendance.
The Blues were on the up and Bilyaletdinov, after some good work to get past his man, fired just wide when I was ready to yell Goal! It was that close. We were on top but City were not lying down and Bellamy had a go that brought a few flutters.
The board went up for time added on, the Blues attacked and Richards was observed pulling at the shirt of Saha, the linesman flagged and put the flag across his chest, penalty! The City players argued long and hard but to no avail. Up stepped Saha, blasted straight down the middle; 2-0... half-time and well worth the scoreline.
The half-time chat was one of plaudits with the caveat that we needed more of the same.
City introduced Benjani for Petrov which didn’t bother me that much as it didn’t address the domination we had in a midfield dominated by the excellent Fellaini — in fact, I had to check the programme to see what number the much lauded Barry was wearing as he certainly had not had the influence that some accord him. In mentioning the programme, Moyes in his notes pulled no punches regarding the Lescott transfer.
The second half saw the Blues in no mood to surrender the lead but not in a ‘sit back’ mode. Cautious, yes but forever looking to get forward, we had a scare some 55mins in when Richards clattered Pienaar but thankfully he recovered. We were best all over the park with midfield dominating in a fashion I have been longing for what seems like decades.
Mancini had seen enough of Robinho on the hour mark and the sub was subbed, what ignominy for such a shirt seller. SWP was introduced but made little difference, Fellaini was the midfield maestro and in one cameo he demonstrated exquisite footwork to leave Bellamy bemused which brought the crowd to its feet and fair play to Bellamy, he congratulated the Belgian at his first opportunity.
We were well on top and playing football that made ‘joined up’ seem inadequate; City were just not at the races which must make their benefactors realize that money alone isn’t the be-all and end-all but merely a precursor to steady team building.
With 20 minutes remaining, the manager withdrew Distin, replacing him with Coleman, which saw Neville in the right-sided centre-back role with Heitinga moving over one but the game proceeded seamlessly. I hope it was tactical considering his lay-off rather than injury.
The confident City fans were silenced and the faithful regaled them and their club by chanting ‘Lescott, Lescott, what’s the score?’ Much has been made of late on this website regarding atmosphere, standing and acoustics. Tonight, the players provided the platform for atmosphere and it was forthcoming in abundance. Is that the answer?
We continued to have the better of things and, on the 80-min mark, firstly Fellaini got his head to a Pienaar corner and Given made a great save to tip it onto the bar... then Cahill rattled the bar with a trademark header. City tried but, on the day, they were dominated and at times outclassed by a resurgent Blues.
Injury time came and went, the City support evaporated before the whistle and, at the whistle, celebrations broke out among players, manager, and fans. None celebrated more than the manager. This was truly an event that the faithful have been waiting for ages.
Overall, I thought I was in heaven at times, such was the fare on show, it was truly a throwback to times gone by. Good football, grit, determination and belief and togetherness among those who wore the Blue on the day, in a display that both Catterick and Kendall would have approved of. Of course it begs the question, can the club move on from here?
As the bench suggested that we are over reliant on senior players' availability but, with players still to return from injury and international duty, suggests even without ‘Middle East Millions’ a good fist can be achieved with prudence and good management throughout the club. A shed load of money would help but only as a building block to what we already have. I say this as we do need to have the wherewithal to convince players that Goodison is the place to be and avoid the Rooney and Lescott scenarios.
Man of the Match today was Fellaini as he was the midfield presence that rich clubs will wish to obtain... but also players like Heitinga, Pienaar and Saha will be on many radars. However, these players can only perform to their standard today with the help of every other player within our squad and each and every one of them contributed tonight within the manager’s tutelage.
I enjoyed tonight and can only hope that performances like this can continue. With the returning players to bolster our efforts, we can yet salvage something from the abyss of such a traumatic start. If not in the January window, can the club help the manager early in the August window with some finance from somewhere that can both keep and enhance the present squad? Tonight demonstrated that we are not that far off. Over to you, Chairman and board. I wish you well.
As I walked back to our watering hole tonight, there was a buzz about the place, optimism abounded and walking through one alley I spotted a current Liverpool season ticket nailed to a fence. I thought, "I will have that...." Well – you can’t have enough nails, can you?
Next we are up for the cup. See you there
UP THE BLUES
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1 Posted 17/01/2010 at 06:18:45
2 Posted 17/01/2010 at 06:32:19
BUT, my buddies I was with earlier in the evening are all fans of other teams. They’ve been watching our games recently, and they all agree we are suddenly a much better team to watch as a neutral. And none of them look forward to playing us.
I’m still to be convinced, as I believe we need to sustain these performances before we can claim that the magical corner has been turned. But at the moment it does making us more watchable — when I can actually remain awake!
Excellent report as ever, Ken.
3 Posted 17/01/2010 at 06:40:22
Everton have this hoodoo hanging over them regarding top 4 clubs. Well City are the wannabes, they’ve spent like it and they expect it, and we were better than them in every department today.
Howard - 6; did he have just the 1 save to make?
Neville - 7; kept Bellamy very quiet and slotted quietly into CB
Heitinga - 8; kept Tevez quiet, and assured ball use
Distin - 7; comfortable on his return.
Baines - 9; very close to MotM, excellent in every part of his full back role
Donovan - 7; settling nicely
Fellaini - 9; MotM, won everything in front of their back 4, misplaced 2 passes out of god knows how many
Pienaar - 8; would have been a 7 if not for the free kick. Vital to our team, though not sure, as some suggest, that his best position is CM.
Bilyaletdinov - 8; reacted well to being benched recently. Should have scored, and that is my only criticism, though fine save from Given
Cahill - 8; best game in a long time for Tim. Harassed & outmuscled the City defence, but I thought he should have scored with what was essentially a free header.
Saha - 7; 2 assists, 1 goal. Fairly quiet otherwise.
Coleman - 7; offered yet more evidence of his first team credentials
Vaughan - 6; enthusiastic
Baxter - 5; on for 2 minutes
Great report Ken, I also hope this is the start, not the peak.
4 Posted 17/01/2010 at 10:10:45
The Everton midfield has dominated the last two matches (Arsenal & Man City), and I was a bit concerned at the beginning to find the Osman was out with an injury. But I need not have worried as Bily gave an inspired performance — probably as a result of being on the bench last week and seeing the effort put in the boys against mighty Arse. Donovan has been a great addition to the squad, and hopefully it will inspire Moyes to bring in a permanent right-sided midfielder with pace & vision.
And all this must be doing a world of good to Rodwell, as he sees the performances put in by Fellaini, Cahill, Pienaar, Billy, Osman, etc he will know the level at which he needs to play to get back into the team.
The future is bright, Blue & happy !!
5 Posted 17/01/2010 at 11:36:13
As one of my mates, who grew up with me on the Gwladys St terraces said... "You know, if you closed your eyes it was just like watching the 66-70 team."
6 Posted 17/01/2010 at 12:40:01
In my drunken stupor, I was going to write that if we’d played like this all season we’d be title contenders... but held back. However, no doubt this team can beat anyone. Roll on the derby, I might break a decade old self-imposed ban on going to the dark side and get myself a ticket.
7 Posted 17/01/2010 at 12:53:20
From what you described and from the highlights (which probably don't do us justice), I saw a great performance. I hope we can keep improving as more players return. We have a tough month coming up and will need much more of the same.
"It's a grand old team to play for,
It's a grand old team to support...."
8 Posted 17/01/2010 at 13:26:15
MotD is now about ex-players who believe they are celebrities, because as much time is spent with their ’expert’ analysis than is showing a game. I never thought I’d say it but Thank God for Sky.
9 Posted 17/01/2010 at 13:33:44
Watching Everton this season has been like watching the metamorphosis from slow moving, vulnerable caterpillar to beautiful soaring butterfly. We seen over the last few games a lot of improvement but that first half yesterday had me shaking my head in disbelief at some of the glorious football being played.
The whole team gave everything and Screech’s play almost had me in tears. The only sour note was Pienaar shrugging off Baines in his eagerness to celebrate with the bald steward, but I’m sure Leighton’s big enough to take it on the chin.
I cant wait for the derby. The shite must be quaking in their boots cos they know we’re going annihilate ’em.
10 Posted 17/01/2010 at 13:47:41
After watching the last few games, I had a feeling we’d turned a corner and were going to beat City, but I thought the match would have been closer than it turned out to be (I’d had a bet on 3-2).
Can’t wait to get down to my local boozer tonight... there’s a few City fans that have been getting carried away recently, and it’ll be interesing to get their view of events (always a laugh... ’we were robbed’, ’it was offside’, ’poor refereeing’, etc!).
11 Posted 17/01/2010 at 14:03:36
I think Osman would’ve done better given the same circumstances.
12 Posted 17/01/2010 at 16:48:28
13 Posted 17/01/2010 at 17:23:43
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