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COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Match report - Blues on the march

By Paul Traill :  21/02/2010 :  Comments (12) :

Everton vs Manchester United

Well. What a performance which showed that our win against Chelsea was no fluke and the players truly do believe there’s plenty to salvage from this season yet. Its good that the press keep going on about there only being four teams who can finish fourth. It certainly seems to spurring Everton on anyhow.

I arrived at Goodison Park a little after 11am as I anticipated queues at the Box Office for picking up Sporting Lisbon tickets. I needn’t have gotten there so early as there was no queue at all. Fortunately Gary was already in the pub and we were soon joined by quite a few others with Tim, Ian, Simon and then Ste all turning up in good spirits. We’d provisionally made plans to go out for a few beers after the game so I was probably a little foolish having one too many before the game.

In the pub we saw Gary Neville warming up on the TV which was probably an indication that he was playing. This pleased everyone as its pretty clear he’s well past his best days. With Cahill out injured we expected Rodwell to fill in and so were quite surprised to see Bilyaletdinov starting on the flank with Pienaar in the centre. I was also quite surprised to see Distan keep his place in defence. I thought he’d have given Yobo a game given that neither Distan nor Heitinga are available for Thursdays game in Lisbon but maybe that would have been a bit too much for Yobo given that he’s been out injured since the start of December.

As for Man Utd. I felt he’d make a few changes from the side which beat AC Milan on Tuesday and so it proved with Berbatov coming in to partner Rooney in attack and Neville indeed preferred at right back to Rafael da Silva. Howard Webb was the referee. It was quite nice to see the Neville brothers as captains for the toss and then both running back to their right back positions. Neville (Phil) won the toss and we attacked the Park End in the first half.

Both teams started well though Man Utd better as they forced a series of corners early on, all of which were repelled by Everton. Osman got himself into the game early on with a couple of key tackles and some excellent touches and passes as Everton settled…Saha striking from distance right footed though it was comfortably saved by Van der Sar.

Valencia was the danger man in the early stages, really taking on Baines and whipping some excellent balls into the box. I never realized he could whip a ball in like that. Indeed Man Utd seized the initiative in this one when Rooney picked out Valencia with a quality pass as the Ecuadorian hugged the right touchline. Baines was tucked well too far in and couldn’t get out in time. Valencia’s low delivery fell to Berbatov who took a touch and spanked the ball home clinically off the underside of the bar. First blood Man Utd.

It wasn’t long before Everton were back in the game and it was something out of nothing from our Russian. I was busy moaning to Gary about something or other when I looked up to see Bilyaletdinov take the ball down and have a crack at goal. The way he hit it looked to me as if he’d fluffed it completely from where I was sitting so I was as surprised as anyone when I realized it had gone into the back of the net. I was then even more surprised when I saw the replay on the screen. What a quality goal, the Russian smashing the ball first time from distance past a flat footed Van der Sar. 1-1.

This ignited Everton and we pressed strongly for the rest of the half, and when we missed the two more-than-presentable opportunities from Bilyaletdinov and then Donavon you wondered if it wouldn’t be our day. After being so accurate with his goal you wondered how Bily missed his effort so badly, smashing the ball high and wide. At least he connected mind. Donovan’s effort was worse as he took his eye off the ball as it dropped invitingly for him and he failed to really connect.

At the other end Man Utd had an equally great chance mind, with Rooney getting through on goal, rounding Howard and then just as he looked certain to score Neville appeared from nowhere to put in a crucial tackle and put the ball out for a corner. Quite a let off for Everton. At half time we went in all square but with plenty of optimism for the second half.

We carried on where we left off in the second half – putting Man Utd under pressure and showing good discipline in defence, though the winning goals were a long time coming and it took clever substitutions for us to bag the win here. I was wanting Rodwell on into the middle to replace the tiring Bilyaletdinov to give Pienaar a chance to have a run at them but the gaffer plucked for Gosling. I was surprised but soon delighted as Pienaar got free down the left hand side, pulled a ball back across the box for Gosling to stick out a leg and steer it home. The fourteen minutes left on the clock seemed like a lifetime.

The biggest scare we had was when Rooney won a free kick. It looked to have gone in for a second to me but fortunately Distin got his head to it to deflect it wide of the post. Everton made substitution number two, with Rodwell replacing Saha. This proved to be a genius substitution as the young lad just ran, and ran, and ran the heart of the Man Utd defence, taking one last touch to steer away from Evans and planting the ball perfectly into the corner past Van der Sar. 3-1 and game over.

Glorious celebrations all round as Rodwell ripped off his shirt and jumped into the crowd. The way the referee was booking all our players in the second half I half expected him to book Rodwell twice here, once for taking off his shirt and the second time for running into the crowd. Thankfully he refrained. Wonderful celebrations greeted the full time whistle. We went back to The Spellow for a pint where we were joined by a few others, and then we went into town to fulfill the celebrations. Well done Everton.

Just a few observations, or one mainly. Thanks Manchester United for giving us a good game. You always get a fair game from United. You never get all this rolling around, trying to get players sent off like that shower across the park and the likes. Keep up this form and we’ll finish in Europe whether that be the Champions or Europa League. No question. Now let’s finish the job in Lisbon.

Fantastic Everton. Congratulations.

Player Ratings:

Howard: Strangely against Man Utd was rather underworked. Distributed reasonably I guess. 6

Baines: Perhaps at fault for the goal but he more than made up for it with some enterprising attacking play. 7

Heitinga: Solid as a rock. 8

Distin: Solid as a rock though without the distribution of the Dutchman. 8

Neville: Made one hugely important tackle on Rooney to save a certain goal and was useful defensively otherwise. Seems to thrive in the big games. 7

Arteta: Looking sharper. Can’t wait until he’s back in full throttle and great to see him get 90 minutes under his belt. 7

Pienaar: I don’t think he’s quite as effective in the middle but got better and better as the game went deeper and set up the second goal of course. 7

Osman: Here’s one for the Ossie-bashers: My Man of the Match. I thought he was superb, especially in the first half. He did tire a bit in the second period but more than did his job. 8

Donovan: Put the work in and took them on well. There was a few occasions when I’d have liked to see him shoot rather than pass but all in all you can’t grumble at his performance…missed a sitter mind. 7

Bilyaletdinov: Other than his stunning goal he didn’t do too much as he adapts to the pace of English football. Cracking goal though. 7

Saha: Kept at it and caused them problems throughout. 7

Gosling (for Bilyaletdinov): Made an immediate, lively impact and scored a decisive goal of course. What next for Super Danny Gosling? 7

Rodwell (for Saha): What a goal that was. What next for Jack the lad. 9 (I know that’s a bigger rating than Osman’s but couldn’t give Jack man of the match for three minutes work.)

Reader Comments

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John Andrews
1   Posted 21/02/2010 at 19:31:33

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I don’t think Arteta played the full 90 minutes but I may be wrong?
Ryan Scails
2   Posted 21/02/2010 at 19:36:24

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To be fair that ball came at Don faster than he could react. You could see he he swung late and it hit his standing leg.
Dick Anderson
3   Posted 21/02/2010 at 19:41:52

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I thought Neville was great against Utd. His dedication was evident to see from the kick off. He may be ex Man Utd but he was 100% Everton in this game. His tackle on Rooney typified his game, full of hard work, commitment and leadership.

Baines was a constant problem for Utd. He did enough to suggest he can handle games at the highest level and hopefully impressed Cappelo.

Osman finally proved he can play against the Big 4 sides. At times Osman has disappeared in Big 4 games but in this one he was superb and totally proved his craft-and-graft worth. Man Of The Match.

Distin and Rodwell both made up for their mistake against Sporting Lisbon.

Arteta is slowly getting back to fitness and looking more like his old self with every game.

Pienaar looked at home in his new role. He’s got an creative ability on and off the ball that Cahill lacks.

Gosling proved once again that he’s always good for a goal especially in the big games.
Trevor Lynes
4   Posted 21/02/2010 at 19:40:37

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Good report and nicely unbiased. I thought EFC played the best football they have ever played against UTD in the Premier League. I hope they continue to keep the ball and entertain everyone...It reminded me of the 60s side with the midfield all passing accurately and running into space.

Osman was my MOM and his control, dribbling and passing was standout for me... Pienaar although sometimes wayward is a real box-to-box workhorse and closes opposition players down continually. Arteta is improving and getting himself back to full fitness. All-in-all, a truly great TEAM effort with no weak links on view.

Dave Lynch
5   Posted 22/02/2010 at 10:01:03

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Was going to put this on a posting, but here goes. The way we have played against Chelsea and Utd have proven that we can play proper football against the big boys. Without a number of key players.

So to my mind, there are no more excuses for negative tactics from Moyes. No more hoofball displays against inferior opposition and no more going out to defend the point we have started with. We have to kick on and build from this, anything else will not be acceptable.

Ciarán McGlone
6   Posted 22/02/2010 at 10:42:47

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"I thought Neville was great against Utd".

I thought he was the worst player on the pitch by a hell of a long way...his crossing was absymal and he panicked every time he got the ball.

However he did stroke Rooney...
Charlie Dixon
7   Posted 22/02/2010 at 11:10:01

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Cheer up Ciaran lad.

We just trounced all over the vomits. Phil Neville’s performance needs no mention.
Ciarán McGlone
8   Posted 22/02/2010 at 11:29:32

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Who’s says I need cheering up?

Neil Waring
9   Posted 22/02/2010 at 12:44:04

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I ’believe’ Rooney's poor touch was more to blame than a wonder tackle by Neville.
Peter McHugh
10   Posted 22/02/2010 at 13:50:05

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I thought Neville had a solid game. His crossing was poor but I thought his distribution was competent if not great. He’’s not my favourite footballer but he does undoubtedly add leadership and help the team and he did stop what looked like a certain goal.
Liam Reilly
11   Posted 22/02/2010 at 16:27:59

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Regarding the Rooney tackle, sure Rooney overhit it, but if Pip wasn’t tracking back, he would still have found the net.

It’s easy to be critical because Neville’s is not the greatest footballer, but he is extremely important to the side in terms of organisation at the back. Every team needs its leaders and the side was badly lacking in this area during his injury.

Andy Peers
12   Posted 22/02/2010 at 22:17:26

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I have hated the hoofball tactics of Everton for years, but now we seem to have acquired a Premier League top 4 quality passing game. This actually means that opposing defenders are now having to deal with various tactical attacks from us. Which leads me to my next point that a hoofball can help if used in moderation.

Look at Saha's second goal against Chelsea, a hoof ball from Distin missed by Terry (because he wasn't being dealt 20 a game to judge the flight of the ball correctly).

Also look at Bilyaletdinov's goal against Man U. Same kind of long hoofball from Heitinga with Saha causing problems for the defense and then a great strike from Bily. With the new tactics, our good deliveries on a high percentage of set pieces and the return from injury of so many hungry players I think we are going to witness excellent football for the rest of the season.

By the way, did anyone notice how we started passing the ball more and better after Bilyaletdinov made a public appeal for the Everton team to pass the ball more often?

One more thing... I live in California and I don't want to get our hopes up... but the mood of any Soccer fans over here is not only should Donavon continue to play for EFC, for his own improvement, but he would be a fool not to stay in the Premier League, which is considered to be the best league in the world by everyone in the USA .

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