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COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Points on the board

By Paul Traill :  27/01/2010 :  Comments (27) :

Match Report: Everton vs Sunderland

Not optimistic at all. It’s funny how one bad performance can soil so much belief after two class performances against Arsenal and Manchester City. Despite plenty of comfortable wins over the Black Cats in recent years I didn’t have a good feeling about this one. With so much speculation surrounding him at the moment I was convinced Kenwyne Jones was to score in a 1-1 draw and nearly put a bet on the outcome. It was a good thing I didn’t.

Looking at the team news from the pub Jones wasn’t even starting for Sunderland. Osman was for Everton though, in the only rather unsurprising change from Saturdays defeat against Birmingham City with Bilyaletdinov making way. He had good company on the bench for once to with Arteta, Vaughan, Anichebe and Senderos all joining him as our injuries start to clear. The referee was Phil Dowd. For a nice change we attacked the Park End in the first half.

We were out of the traps fairly quickly, the boys with a point to prove after the weekend. It didn’t take us long to get our noses in front either, pretty much with the first chance. It was out of nothing really. A ball lofted in from the left hand side by Fellaini, nodded goalwards by Cahill and directly into the corner of the net. 1-0…after just six minutes…exactly what we needed.

The game continued in the same vain with Everton keeping up a steady tempo and Sunderland not really having any answers. We doubled our money when Donavon gambled, making an excellent run into the box, getting on the end of Cahill’s header and burying the ball past Dean Gordon on the half volley. Gordon probably should have saved it but it was well taken by USA’s starlet. Chants of ‘USA’ rang around Goodison Park.

We still maintained control of the game and Steve Bruce was forced into a tactical change as Sunderland were so bad. Kieran Richardson’s attitude personified Sunderland’s performance. A he was subbed for Jones on 24 minutes with your team 0-2 down you’d expect him to run off quickly, instead he strolled off slowly…the cheeky little git.

Osman did all the good work though then couldn’t quite finish when he took some nice touches before shooting just a bit too close to Gordon and without sufficient pace…that would have been some goal. The only other chance of note from us was a Leighton Baines free kick which at first looked a goal until you realized it had about as much pace on it as Osman’s pervious effort…so Gordon fell on it. The half looked safe…the game looked safe but then just on half time a cross from the left was met by Jones but his effort was woefully off target…thank God for that.

In the main the second half was largely uneventful. Who knows what would have happened if Donavon, having rounded the keeper managed to get the ball into the net rather than into the midriff of McCartney on the goal line. Likewise if Saha had have taken his opportunity to shoot when played through on goal only to be denied by a last ditch challenge by Mensah. However both chances went begging and as the clock ticked on the tactic became one of containment as we held onto our 2-0 lead.

At 2-0 things can chance quickly so I was skeptical if bringing a rusty Arteta into the game would be beneficial. I was glad to be wrong though. Not at his best yet of course but he seemed to have a bit of a calming effect on the midfield and quickly got back into pulling the strings. Great to see him back.

Elsewhere Vaughan and Anichebe got their cameos, whilst at the other end of the field Howard was finally called into action late on, first making a stunning save from a fierce Zenden volley, and later saving well from a Jones header. Sunderland had a foray of corners in the closing stages though we edgily stood firm.

The result was fair. The performance was reasonable. The points are the most important.

Oh and one more thing…the best chant: “Rafa, sign him up” in response to an awful Kenwyne Jones effort.

Player Ratings:

  • Howard: Without much to do all game he did well to make two excellent stops at the end of the game. 8
  • Baines: Got forward well throughout. 8
  • Distin: My man of the match. Much improved from Saturday. Let’s hope he can sustain it. 8
  • Heitinga: Not quite at his best tonight. 6
  • Neville: A quiet game from Neville. 6
  • Fellaini: Kept things quite simple in the middle and held things together well. 7
  • Osman: A bit hit and miss but certainly put the work in. 6
  • Pienaar: One of his quietest games for a long time. 6
  • Donovan: Took one goal well, was unlucky not to score another and put himself about all night. A good shift. Hope he can stay until the end of the season. 7
  • Cahill: One goal, one assist and was a menace for the opposition throughout. A good performance throughout from our Aussie. 7
  • Saha: Seemed to hesitate with that second half chance but on the whole he put in a good shift and linked up well with the midfield. 6
  • Arteta (for Donavon): Got on the ball as much as possible and seemed to enjoy it. Good to see he’s getting as much game time as possible. 7
  • Vaughan (for Saha): Put himself about. 6
  • Anichebe (for Pienaar): Good to see him back also, though not on long enough to merit a rating.

Reader Comments

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Gary Drain
1   Posted 28/01/2010 at 10:19

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Great to get 3 points and carry on the good run in the league. Also great to see a strong bench for the first time all season!!

When you say Pienaar had a quiet game, do you think the Bayern Munich link may have distracted him?
Ciarán McGlone
2   Posted 28/01/2010 at 10:49

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Another game were we tried to play football. Fellaini again was outstanding... How you’ve given him a 7 I’ll never know...

We were always in control and stepped it up when we needed to. Saha was also excellent, some sublime skill on show from him...

Osman had a reasonable game, but the central pairing at the end of the game was the one that will be our future. Welcome back Mikel — some excellent work when he came on.

Also must mention Heitinga; contrary to my fears, the guy is getting better and better... he has been more consistent in that central role than Jags... not one fluff yet.

As for the brickbats — Neville was awful. I don’t need to say anymore.

Luckily he is being played in a role that’s not crucial to the overall game.
Keith Glazzard
3   Posted 28/01/2010 at 11:51

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Taking the City, Birmingham and Sunderland games together, it's difficult to work out what’s going on, particularly in the first half of the Brum game. I simply cannot imagine that Moyes instructed the players to take-it-or-leave-it in the FA Cup, but that’s what they appeared to do.

There’s no doubt about the importance of league points, and maybe that's how the players see it. With three in the bag at half time last night they were happy to contain the opposition rather than go for the throat. Which is how a ’top’ team would usually play.

It might have something to do with the games coming up, keeping something back for use later (we hope). Or it might be something to do with the squad getting back to full strength with the possibility of an addition or two this week. That should make them run faster you might think, but that’s not always the way things work.

And just imagine this — Arteta restored to us, praise be, and we have to wonder about the best way to use him. Now that’s progress.
Dave Wilson
4   Posted 28/01/2010 at 12:35

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"Osman had a reasonable game"
"Neville was awful"
You really are like a dog with a bone Ciarán, let it go, I told you when these two returned we would surge up the table, they have and we have, even you will eventually have to accept they bring something to the table . . usually three points
David Alexander
5   Posted 28/01/2010 at 12:42

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I couldn't help but feel that most of last night's easy win was down to Sunderland barely breaking sweat for the first 75 mins. When a side shows up, like Birmingham, Stoke or wolves did, and fights for everything, we don't always seem to rise to the challenge... it's like there is some level or desire or determination missing at times.

Last night was frustrating: they were there for the taking and we just did what was needed to stroll to an easy win (maybe with one eye on the Wigan game) but I can't imagine Utd, Chelsea etc would have let them off so easy. All-in-all, I think we were only a little better than the first half against Birmingham.

I just wish I could see a consistent level of desire from the players they should give everything every match; I’m not convinced that they are all doing that at the moment.

Dave Wilson
6   Posted 28/01/2010 at 12:43

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Oh and it wouldn't have escaped your notice that, when Osssie was left out last Saturday, we slipped straight back to our early season dross, and didn't improve until he was recalled for the second half.

Given how bad he is, dont you think that's kinda spooky?
Paul Gladwell
7   Posted 28/01/2010 at 13:12

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Totally agree, Dave, Osman can play football and when he has people around him on the same wavelength, such as most of our midfield now, he is a tidy player.

Also, these people getting on Neville's back over having two bad games need to get a grip. He will sort himself out and we need him there too, our good run is partly down to him being back, organising and letting his colleagues know they cannot hide when things go against us.

Bring Coleman in for him and just see what would happen: our defence would go to bits.

Stefan Tosev
8   Posted 28/01/2010 at 13:30

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Heitinga at centre-half... Based on what?

Heitinga — completely perplexing one that... no pace, no positioning, defensively suspect...

If you think Yobo’s a liability... wait till you see Heitinga in that position..

Right back is the only position I’d trust him in... and only then because I think our centre halves can cover for the mistakes he will inevitably make.
Ciarán McGlone
9   Posted 28/01/2010 at 13:59

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" I told you when these two returned we would surge up the table"

---------------------

Yes Dave, clear logic. Considering we surged up the table during the first third of the season with them playing..

Do you agree with my synopsis of their perfromances or not?

I can’t tell.
Neil Waring
10   Posted 28/01/2010 at 14:00

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I think it's pretty obvious the improvement of Fellaini, Saha's fitness, and Heitinga's assurance has seen us rise up the table.

Just because two players (Neville and Osman) are in the team when we have done well does not directly corollate with that being the reason — that's using statistics in a over-simplified and completely wrong way.

Dave Wilson
11   Posted 28/01/2010 at 14:27

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Ciarán

Ok we hardly exploded from the traps, but if you take the Arsenal hammering out of the equation the opening third wasnt that bad, we won some, we lost some, but after the BATE game we went through October, November and right up until Chrimbo winning only one game (W/Ham) in seventeen ! We took some fearful beatings in that period too, and all without Neville and Ossie, then they came back and worra ya know ? the transformation was instant

These stats are so Overwhelming it simply cannot be put down to coincidence. Give these guys credit FFS.

Neil the three players you mentioned played right through our seventeen game nightmare so could it be you whos being over simplistic ? Have the old pros brought the best out of them ?

On a serious note Ciaran, I do agree with your synopsis, wholeheartedly, I cant explain the stats either, but I cant resist reminding you of your "They should never be near the first team again" comment, especially as they are BOTH rapidly approaching statistical greatness.

Lol, If this was a court of law, the "evidence" would have seen your perfectly reasonable case thrown out weeks ago
Neil Waring
12   Posted 28/01/2010 at 15:08

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Correct, those three players did play during that period; however... Fellaini was not near his best, Heitinga was being played in midfield and Saha was getting little service. I would suggest if those players had been injured instead of Osman and Neville, we could be in an even worse position, but then we will never know... (Hopefully!)
Ciarán McGlone
13   Posted 28/01/2010 at 15:22

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Stefan,

Perhaps you should have read my post before delivering your poorly timed hubris... I’ve admitted I was wrong over Heitinga (and this is not the first time either). What do you want? Blood?

Dave,

Glad you agree with my analysis of their performance... Because that’s all it is — it is not an attempt to qualify a previous opinion..

Simply an analysis of how they did last night, nothing more, nothing less... I think we’ve now got far better options and our bench is stronger for it as well.

I’ll repeat, Ossie played well last night; Neville didn’t.

Oh and Distin looked ropey as hell at times... Forgot about him, the rest were solid.
Paul Gladwell
14   Posted 28/01/2010 at 15:34

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I thought Distin was one of our better players last night compared to how he played Saturday.

I also thought Baines was shite in the second half, his distribution, hoofball and pissing around in dangerous areas was annoying, yet Paul has given him a score of 8, so that's football and different opinions for you.

John Nelson
15   Posted 28/01/2010 at 15:43

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I agree with Keith Glazzard’s point that our second half performace was that of a "top" team. Look at the way Man Utd play when they are way on top in a game (for example against us at Old Trafford this year) — pretty similar to the way we played last night.

I know some people will be moaning because if we would have played full throttle it would have been a hammering; however, I think in retrospect of the above, David Moyes was spot on in his tactics.

Easy win against a side some people predicted to finish above us this year — well done, Blues.

COYB
Fran Mitchell
16   Posted 28/01/2010 at 15:57

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I agree that Neville had a poor game, however he is our Captain and that is an important factor.

When Neville plays the other defenders seem more organised. Also, Fellaini seems to benafit greatly from Nev being in the team, his positional play has improved greatly with Nev there giving orders. Coleman is only 21, has obvious talent but as Moyes has stated is a young 21 as he has been in Ireland all his career. Nev will be our Number 1 until someone else can take that captain's role effectively, I see Jagielka, Heitinga or Fellaini as potential future captains.

I was not convinced by Distin. He nearly let Sunderland back in the game just before half-time only for Jones to fluff it. I initially thought he was a good signing but he looks low on confidence. Maybe he will improve with time but I wouldn’t like to see Torres, Anelka or Rooney charging at him. Can’t wait for a Jags-Heitinga partnership.

Baines was good, really opened them up down the left, but his crossing is still letting him down.

Pienaar showed good vision, but some of his passes were not coming off, but the vision is certainly there.

Fellaini was my Man of the Match again. His composure in the middle is something I have never witnessed in an Everton player (I’m 23 years old). His pass for Cahill was wonderous and he totally dominated the middle. I remember a few fans praying we got Cana and got rid of Fellaini in the summer. Well we know who's boss now.

Cahill, a good performance from a man who needed one. Some neat passing and link-up play, always seemed a threat in the air. Come on, Timmy, and prove me wrong. Ran the big Fella close for MotM.

Donovan, his pace is improving our game, giving us more options. He needs to get wide more, often Nev's long balls were a result of Donovan being static and not moving wide. But he came inside and scored. Room for improvement but he’s in the starting 11 every game while he is here, no doubt.

Saha has great first touch, great skill, can beat a man. But lacking in pace; had one real chance but gave Mensah a chance. If he had half a yard more pace it’d be 3-0. Is tiring quicker as the games go on. We need the Yak back and firing on all cylinders. Saha's still got another 10 goals in him this season tho...

Heitinga was solid, bar one stumble in the first half. Looks like a real Premier League central defender.

Osman showed good touches, neat passing, and is a goalscoring threat from midfield, but he is lightweight. He is a central midfielder, and will be Arteta’s reserve in the long term.

Howard, distribution is woeful at times. But did what he’s paid to do, Sunderland hadn't had a shot on target of any worth all game them bam, two potential goals, two great saves. USA! USA!

Arteta, got the ball, played 15-20 minutes. passed about a bit, what we needed from him: Minutes on the pitch. He will be back.
Stefan Tosev
17   Posted 28/01/2010 at 16:25

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I am not convinced at all by Distin, the guy just keeps making mistakes and has a lapses of concentration. After being at fault for Brum’s opener, he nearly gifted Sunderland a lifeline in the dieing seconds of the first half and only the sitter missed by Jones let us of the hook.

Apart from Krøldrup, Moyes's record picking his defenders is tremendous but I think he got it wrong with Distin: he definitely isn’t a £5m player, not at that age for sure.
Neil Waring
18   Posted 28/01/2010 at 16:46

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Anyone notice the cracking 50-yard odd cross field ball from Heitinga to Baines 1st half?? Class... (Mind you, he tried it again in the second half and it went straight out... oops!)
David Hallwood
19   Posted 28/01/2010 at 19:17

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Agree with Keith Glazzard, that when a team doesn’t get out of 2nd gear and still wins, they’re onto something, I thought the performance last night was perfect, they didn’t need to bust a gut so why should they? And that’s what top teams do; play within themselves. Ok so they had a couple of chances late on, but the defence didn’t break sweat, and that was against Darren Bent who’s up there with Rooney & Drogba this season.
Brian Lawlor
20   Posted 28/01/2010 at 19:39

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It’s also no conincidence that this upturn in performances and results are not only down to Neville returning but returning at right back in the absence of Hibbert. If everyone is fit, Hibbert will remain on the sidelines as a squad player.
Brian Lawlor
21   Posted 28/01/2010 at 19:42

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Its funny how the person on this website who is the most vocal supporter of hibbert and is a master of taking certain ’stats’ to suit their argument hasn’t even commented on the blatant fact that Everton are better with Neville at right back and hibbert not in the team. The same person reminds me of Benetiz the magician
James Stewart
22   Posted 28/01/2010 at 20:38

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Distin MOTM! What the fuck?! Very strange... can only assume that was meant to provoke?

Fellaini was MOTM by a long way. Heitinga very impressive as well.

Neville was utter shite. Looks totally out of his depth when we play a passing game. Only time he can pass to a blue is from a throw in. Distin is second only to Yobo when it comes to hoofing. Apart from those two everyone played well.
Dave Wilson
23   Posted 28/01/2010 at 20:27

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Don’t think anybody feels the need to mention stats where Tony Hibbert is concerned anymore Brian. That no other Everton player in history has qualified for Europe more times than him is already known by all Evertonians.

Talking of stats, did you notice the two clean sheets we’ve kept in the two Prem games since Lucas Neil slinked off to Turkey? And after all those attempts to keep a clean sheet with him in the team... funny old game innit?
Mike Allison
24   Posted 28/01/2010 at 21:04

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Yeah, Neill wasn’t great, I think we’re better off without him, I saw the Burnley game and thought he was pretty dodgy.

And Neil Waring, yes I absolutely did notice that ball from Heitinga, a thing of beauty. Took me back to the days of Materazzi, all Heitinga has to do now is get sent off, cry on his way off and he’ll be my new favourite player.

In defence of Neville and Distin, I think they both did okay, they did what they needed to, and they both need that old cliche ’a run in the side’ to be at their best. Neville especially is capable of playing football but seems to have forgotten it on last night’s evidence.

Ciaranm, you’ve wound up enough people on here in the past that maybe some blood wouldn’t go amiss, but fair play for holding your hands up to that one, Heitinga’s looking good at the moment. I think your opinion was based on a bit of a nightmare season at Atletico, where stuff always goes wrong somehow (and they’ve been worse than ever at the back this season), and hopefully we’ll see the best of him, the way we are with Pienaar.

It’d be nice if all the best players Ajax can produce end up peaking at Everton eventually. Huntelaar anyone?
Brian Lawlor
25   Posted 29/01/2010 at 09:12:19

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The fantasist strikes again. He can’t keep to the point because the stats don’t suit him now. We are a better side without Hibbert.
Dave Wilson
26   Posted 29/01/2010 at 15:21:48

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Brian

Fantasist? You can't challenge anything I say because I’m sticking to fact, I was also sticking to the point but once again, you dragged Hibbo into it. You really are obsessed lad, you don't have to drag him into every debate you post on, you know!

You're entitled to your opinion, but if you dont mind I’ll stick to the facts.

Here’s a question for you: who in Everton's entire history has played in the most number of victories for our club?
Gerry Western
27   Posted 29/01/2010 at 18:08:40

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All sorts of assumptions being made as to the reasons for our turn in fortunes of late. I find the suggestion that Neville and Osman were critical factors absurd as their performances have been average at best. People speak of coincidences.

For me, the return of Pienaar has been pivotal not only has he been playing well, he has contributed to the rejuvenation of Fellaini. The restoration of Cahill to his customary position just behind the striker has also been a huge factor. Not to mention the addition of Donovan he too has had a major impact.

We had a difficult period defensively but due to the growing influence of Heitinga we’ve gradually improved. Let’s give credit to those truly deserving of it.

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