COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL
The pub was strangely quiet – probably because others had similar travel chaos as we watched Chelsea rack up a cricket score (literally given the England cricket teams performance in Johannesburg) against Sunderland. Ste fought with his phone to get the team news in the pub before the game but to no avail so we had to rely on the match announcer at Goodison Park. As the teams came out it was clear there was no Lucas Neill – not even amongst the substitutes. I was surprised by this. I thought he’d be making his farewell appearance from the off but it was good to see Distin back and playing. Otherwise Leon Osman was also absent, twice in a row he’s played a game, missed a game now. Bilyaletdinov replaced he. The substitute bench looked bleak and was full of kids – you know we’re a bit stretched when Adam Forshaw makes the bench.
Manchester City looked…expensive. Tevez, Santa Cruz, De Jong, Barry, Zabeleta, Garrido and Given amongst the team…and Wright-Philips and Robinho amongst the substitutes. Man. City winning every game since Mancini took charge, 15 points between the two teams at kick off and us still pretty depleted by injuries…the enormity of the task was palpable. The atmosphere was rocking. Andy Mariner was the referee. Just before kick off we had a minute’s applause for Alex Parker, an Everton Championship winner in 1962-63 and for the Haiti earthquake disaster. Whilst I think its great that we recognize these things I think we’ve got to be more sensible about how we respect them. I think the first time we did this minutes applause rather than minutes silence was to commemorate the passing of George Best. That made sense as he was such a colorful character who brought a lot to the game, but for instances like this I feel a minutes silence is much, much, much more appropriate though that’s a debate for another day.
We attacked the Park End in the first half. I felt Manchester City sustained decent control of the game in the 15 minutes as they kept possession well and Tevez chased and harried. Santa Cruz came off early on with an injury, making way for Robinho who tormented us so well her last season. He had a decent chance almost straight away actually, just failing to control his volley and over the bar it went.
Once Everton put a few things together they seemed to start believing more. The more they believed the more they passed it. The more they passed it the more chances they created and the harder they worked. Resultantly Man City had no answer.
The goal had been coming long before we did take the lead. Bilyaletdinov smashed an effort goalwards which Given tipped over the bar and Donavon got himself into the box on another occasion, chipping the ball over Given but across goal rather than in it. The goal did come when Saha ran at the defense, getting challenged by Zabaleta and going down for a free kick. I though it looked a bit too tough an angle to be attempting a free kick from but Pienaar obviously thought otherwise, clipping the ball over the bar and just inside the post to give Everton the lead. Given got a good hand to it and will probably have thought he could have kept it out. Get in. Someone’s really gotta have a word with Pienaar for his goal celebrations eh. Thankfully he seems to have stopped ripping his top off now when he scores as that’s a yellow card, but so too it leaving the pitch. Quite why he had to go and hug a steward I’ll never know. Thankfully the referee let it go and didn’t book him but a stricter referee would have done so... imagine that was Wiley, Atkinson and the likes. Still, he got away with it. 1-0.
With 10 minutes left until the break you’d have taken that at half time. We nearly doubled our money when Bilyaletdinov smashed a great effort wide of the post with Given helpless. We’d dominated the half pretty much but Bellamy so nearly pegged us back down the other end, wriggling into the box and curling an effort goalwards which Howard got a finger to, tipping it round the post. Just when you thought that was it we only went and got a penalty ourselves. Saha tried to dribble into the box, Richards tugged his shirt, the linesman flagged and Mariner gave a penalty. I was at the other end of the pitch and didn’t see what happened though quite a few people around me started appealing quite loudly. I’ve seen a replay since and Richards does give him a tug. It’s quite a soft penalty but foolish by Richards you have to say and if you do that there’s always a chance you’ll give something away. Man City were vociferous with their protests and it was quite a while between us getting the penalty and taking the penalty. It was Saha who stepped up. I wasn’t confident he’d bury it…I never am, though score he did, going down the middle as Given dived to his left. Half time 2-0. Brilliant Everton.
Speaking to Ste at the break we were pretty sure City were going to come out all guns blazing for the second half, and so it was to Everton’s credit that we maintained the tempo and kept pressure on City throughout the half. Fellaini was awesome in the defensive role whilst Pienaar in particular was also class. Defensively we held firm and were quite comfortably throughout. We won the battle and City were helpless with the half time introduction of Benjani futile and substitute Robinho substituted for Wright-Philips…that’s gotta be embarrassing.
As the game wore on we created more chances ourselves. Fellaini nearly capping off a perfect performance, heading goalwards from a corner with Given expertly saving his effort, tipping it onto the crossbar, and Cahill also heading at goal from a Baines cross but also striking the crossbar, this time unaided by Given. On another day we’d have won this more comprehensively but 2-0 was just fine. Even with Distin coming off with 20 minutes to play City still couldn’t find a way through. I hope that weren’t serious now we no longer have Neill, and I hear Yobo got himself injured playing for Nigeria yesterday also.
Probably the moment of the game came late on when Bellamy attempted to launch an attack only to run the ball a little too far. Fellaini stepped up, winning the ball back with an audacious bit of skill. That lads really seeming to realize his awesome potential now. Lets hope he can keep this up for the rest of the season.
If you’d have asked me 10 games ago or so when we’d been spanked away at Hull what I hoped for with the rest of the season I just don’t think I could have given a positive answer. Sporting Lisbon away looked daunting, another stab at the FA Cup looked unlikely and anything better than 10th in the league looked rather impossible. My how things can change. Now the FA Cup looks more prospective with Manchester United and Liverpool already eliminated. The way we’re playing I wouldn’t put beating Sporting Lisbon past us and who’s to say we can’t push on in the league. 12 points from fourth…keep pushing on and you just never know.
Well done Blues.
Howard: Made a great save in the first half. Remarkably wasn’t tested much afterwards. 7
Baines: Had a quality game from left back. Both in attack and defense. 9
Heitinga: Continued his excellent form. 8
Distin: Almost as if he’s never been away…hope he wasn’t forced off with a serious injury. 7
Neville: Coped well both at right back and centre back. 7
Fellaini: Wow. What a performance. You just can’t ask for more to watch. The bit of skill against Bellamy was worth the admission fee alone. My man of the match. 10
Pienaar: Always exciting when he gets the ball. Scored a good goal and was everywhere on the pitch. 8
Bilyaletdinov: Still adapting and it will take time, probably all season but he’s working hard, getting in good positions and all in all, doing pretty well. 7
Donavon: Not quite as impressive as last weekend at Arsenal but did pretty well before subbed. 7
Cahill: A bit in and out of the game but certainly put the work in. Unlucky with that header. 7
Saha: Worked tirelessly and scored his penalty. Caused them problems all evening. 7
Coleman (for Distin): Great enthusiasm. I love how attacking minded he his. 7
Vaughan (for Saha): Similarly. Love his enthusiasm. Just great seeing him back. 7
Baxter (for Donovan): Not on long. Can’t judge.
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1 Posted 17/01/2010 at 18:57:16
2 Posted 17/01/2010 at 13:59:38
So can I say it here — how much I enjoyed his savaging of Bellamy's ankles in from of the Bullens Road. Every match he plays he leaves me with a good memory. Hats off to you Seamus!
3 Posted 19/01/2010 at 20:26:03
4 Posted 19/01/2010 at 21:14:29
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