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COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

FA Cup dream dies

By Paul Traill :  23/01/2010 :  Comments (7) :

Match Report: Everton vs Birmingham City

I couldn’t decide whether to drive or get the bus to the game today though in the end opted to drive, picking up the lads, parking up and getting the pub for about 1.30pm. I see ITV are just as supportive of the ‘Sky Four’ as, well, Sky TV. They showed Liverpool twice in the last round as well as Manchester United and Arsenal. In this round with Liverpool and Man Utd already out of the competition they plumed for Arsenal again and for the televised game Preston vs Chelsea…I mean what a waste of time that was. As if that was ever going to be anything other than 2-0 to Chelsea.

Probably no surprise either then that their also airing Scunthorpe vs Manchester City tomorrow. At least the BBC would show something a bit more ‘romantic’ like Accrington Stanley vs Fulham. The pub was lively, we were optimistic and were pretty chuffed to hear the team news that Arteta had made the bench after so long out injured. Welcome back Mikel. The team remained unchanged. McFadden featured for Birmingham City. Howard Webb officiated.

All that optimism went up in smoke as in the first half we started badly and got worse, and worse, and worse. It didn’t take Birmingham City long at all to get a grip of the game and they went in front when a poor free kick delivery from Baines was cleared upfield and somehow, from a ball in the box from the right Benitez got his head on to it and planted it into the net. Terrific! Eight minutes into the game and we find ourselves a goal down. Unfortunately we never recovered.

Not in the first half anyway. We just couldn’t get it together and the only effort on goal that comes to mind was a Fellaini shot which he hit from about 25 yards out when falling backwards resulting in it sailing well, well over the crossbar. The shape was all bad and nothing really worked. Bilyaletdinov looked disinterested, Donavon clueless and the midfield woefully imbalanced.

With all this then I probably shouldn’t have been so numbed when Ferguson took aim at goal down at the Park End and hit a low drive past the helpless Howard. 0-2 and we had a mountain to climb. Gary had gone down for a pint by this point and it was only later on when I saw him for the second half did I learn of a stunning flick by McFadden in the lead up to the goal…the little bleeder. They always come back to haunt you eh!

With little time left in the half Baines was played through on goal with a great chance but seemed to completely panic and crossed the ball harmlessly out of play. That was pretty much it for the half. We had to improve in the second half or we were out.

It was inevitable Bilyatletdinov would be removed from proceedings at the interval as he was simply awful in the first half. This allowed the Pienaar and Baines combination to resume and Osman could have a go at dictating things in the middle. It took a few minutes to get it all going but once we did we were back into the game, though prior to this Larson had drilled an effort wide of the target from distance, and Benitez had wasted a good chance tamely placing it straight at Howard when put through on goal. Had either of these been converted it would have been game over.

Still, having survived these forward breaks we managed to push on and the rest of the game was simply all Everton. Fellaini had headed one narrowly over the bar from a cross from the right before Osman got us back into this one. Baines got free down the left hand side and played a ball back for Pienaar. It somehow ended up with Osman however who placed it nicely into the net. With just 10 minutes of the second half gone we had plenty of time to get ourselves square in this one.

Well we had the chances but just couldn’t convert. An off-form Saha missed two golden opportunities which you’d usually expect him to score. He’ll wonder how he didn’t. Saha went down in the box in what looked a penalty but Webb didn’t give it…Fellaini did all the good work but then hit his effort too close to Hart who parried it out for a corner…and then late on he hit an effort just wide of the goal. It just wasn’t to be for Everton.

A few observations. Whilst you can’t ignore the ineptness of the first half display, in all fairness we really oughta have converted one of them opportunities in the second period. Saha bangs them in for fun so was just one of them days if you ask me…I don’t think we deserved quite as much negativity as we got on the Radio City phone in on the way home anyway. Otherwise, Howard Webb…the best referee in the country? Please. We all probably saw his howler at Anfield the other day but he and his linesmen today were so inconsistent its untrue…really ruined the game today I thought. Should have been subbed! Another thing: I don’t like Birmingham City! I’ve seen them do this many a time now with their time-wasting tricks, and ‘hands-in-the-air’ appealing for decisions on every given moment. They’re an ugly side but I guess they’ve discovered how to win ugly. McFadden won’t have liked his reception as he got subbed at the end but it was semi-deserved. He was mouthing off all game and basically being a bit of a dick. Was never well-liked anyway I guess…

Taking the positives, or positive I guess…how great was it to see Arteta back on the field? He looks admittedly rusty but its great to see him back on the park and playing. The reception he received was terrific…he’s simply adored by the fans. Lets hope he can get back to his best again.

Never mind eh. It’s about how we respond. Sunderland will be just as disappointed to lose at Portsmouth today. Stuff them Wednesday, win away at Wigan and get that result at Anfield and all will be quickly forgotten,

Player Ratings:
Howard: I don’t know how accountable he was for the two goals as it was down the other end of the pitch so can’t comment on that. Otherwise he claimed his crosses well and distributed competently. 6
Baines: Put the work in but continually received some poor balls from some of his teammates. Not one of his best games at all but was less accountable for the result than most. 6
Distan: Had a shocker if you ask me. Defense shaky. Distribution shoddy. Maybe Senderos will walk straight into the team. 4
Heitinga: Taking responsibility well. Good when he tried to drag McFadden off as he wasted time near the end. Definitely the pick of the centre backs. 6
Neville: Did alright. Wasn’t helped at all in attack or defense by Donavon. 6
Fellaini: My man of the match. Took control and responsibility in the game when it was needed and was unlucky not to score. 7
Pienaar: Was much more effective in the second period when moved out to the wing. Wasn’t quite at his best but that’s credit to hard-working Birmingham City. 6
Bilyaletdinov: Infuriatingly disinterested in the first half before being hauled off. Disappointing. 4
Donavon: Needed to get out onto the wing in the first half but strangely didn’t. Was better in the second half when he WAS out on the wing before subbed. 5
Cahill: Did he play? I don’t remember anything he did. 4
Saha: Missed the key chances. Had an off-day. Thankfully he hasn’t had too many of them this season. 4

Substitutes:
Osman (for Bilyaletdinov): Scored our goal but didn’t do a lot else. 5
Vaughan (for Saha): Put a shift in. Was unlucky with that overhead volley. 6
Arteta (for Donavon): Very rusty but great to see him back. Offered something different. Well done Mikel. 7

Reader Comments

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Dermot Ryan
1   Posted 23/01/2010 at 23:10:29

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Thanks for a great match report. Watched it on the tv, so I have a couple of questions for those who were there:

I thought the crowd (understandably, perhaps) seemed either frustrated or subdued for much of the game. Unlike the Man City performance, didn’t get behind players (maybe because you need to show some fucking desire to get encouragement). What was the atmosphere like today?

Was Saha injured when he came off?
Simon Kirwan
2   Posted 24/01/2010 at 00:21:16

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Lol — Neville rated 6.

Ok we all love capn "Pip".. great integrity, "Moyesie's eyes 'n' ears", Captain Marvel. Great leader... yawn.

Neville is nowhere near good enough attacking. He doesn't get lynched like Hibbert 'n' Ossie because of this great myth that he’s an immense leader.

You can, have both yano

Furthermore, Distin is utter shite. The number of times he has sprinted 40 yards and missed the header exposing Howard is amazing this year. Would be my last CB pick.

Bily just looks disinterested, maybe having problems adapting. Hope he does a Felli next year...
James Stewart
3   Posted 24/01/2010 at 01:25:09

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Bily is just shit and people don’t want to admit it was £9m wasted.
Eric Myles
4   Posted 24/01/2010 at 01:47:37

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Looked like Arteta resumed where he left off.
Taking all the set pieces he couldn’t beat the first man from he corner or clear the wall.
Baines, Pienaar and even Bily and Donovan have been doing much, much better in his absence.
Time to give the job to someone else.
David Thomas
5   Posted 24/01/2010 at 12:08:58

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Eric Myles

Baines's set pieces have been appalling this season. I wouldn't let him anywhere near another set-piece situation.
Paul Davey
6   Posted 24/01/2010 at 12:11:30

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Eric Myles... get out of it, Arteta is only back, plays for ten minutes and you're already slating him. He was our best midfielder last year before he got injured. Give him a chance.
Richard Murray
7   Posted 24/01/2010 at 14:26:09

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Not that I’m not appreciative of his goals this season, I am, but is it just me - or has Saha being having an off day for about two months?

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