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A Maturing Everton

By Sean Lloyd :  19/01/2009 :  Comments (0) :
Everton did themselves justice today. Who would have believed this was near enough the same team to face Liverpool so early in the season at Goodison Park? The change in attitude and commitment was there for all to see tonight. I must admit I was a little dubious about the selection Moyes had come up with for this one. (To be fair I suppose he couldn't jostle much quite clearly!) Anichebe wasn't the first name on my lips when I thought of the teamsheet, I thought he'd make the bench at best. With the game so important to both teams, I understood why we took to the field the way we did; however, Anichebe on the wing was something I wasn't looking forward to! More about that later!

So, the game kicks off and we hold our own for pretty much the entire first period against a Liverpool side boasting the 'cutting edge' of Kuyt, Keane, Torres and Captain Underpants... a clear statement by the Spanish Waiter that he was looking for a straight and quick kill in this one. Things didn't look to be panning out much how he planned as we came to half-time (barring a Torres miss) and the game held out to be pretty stagnant and a stop/start affair. This suited Everton down to the ground, we had a mentality about us that said, win or draw, it'll be a win for at least one objective — Keeping the Mancs in the driving seat!

The first half seemed to be a very pedestrian affair, most players seemed to be one or two seconds off the pace and it was pleasing to see just how often Liverpool were getting sloppy at the back and losing focus with fairly little pressure applied to them. We did in spells try and keep the ball on the deck with things looking promising, and the first half in my opinion was a pretty even affair. No-one shone out on either side so the result was evident.

The second period started with much more pace and fire than that of the first; Benitez must have had a few words to pass out to them... maybe even throwing some of those stones he'd passed earlier this week at a side clearly off the pace. Perhaps Fergie's mindgames had started to toy with Liverpool?

Benitez fielded a side with a wealth of attacking potential but with very little end product; this must be a serious concern for a team who still believe and hope they will be in and around there come the end of the season. Again Captain Underpants came to the rescue with one of his text book angled shots, the defence had virtually fallen asleep and came scurrying across to meet him. Too late. Perhaps all this wouldn't have happened if Anichiebe had stayed on his feet rather than blatantly and lazily seeking a penalty for his efforts down the other end?

Anichebe tormented me for most of the night, barring his 30sec shot on goal. He let others do his work in and around the wing, was clumsy and erroneous in possession and often found wanting rather than doing or making anything for himself. I know he played out of position, but that didn't stop Cahill who never gave up the cause throughout the game.

Benitez in my opinion made a slight mistake bringing Torres off when he did, maybe he realised it now. Immediately after leaving the field, it was as if a burst of life had been placed into Arteta. The man was seeking the ball out, venturing over in the dying minutes and why? Because we were no longer fearing Torres's pace on the backline. It only took him 3 minutes to make something of himself; it's a shame we didn't allow him to get more involved earlier on — God knows what he may have conjured up. A draw was a fair result I think, neither side possessed a commanding edge about them, which would see them through. Everton have to be pleased that they are beginning to build a solid buffer in that 6th place position. Liverpool on the otherhand will be kicking themselves, which makes it all the more sweeter.

Did anyone see Keane's reaction to his substitution. It went along the lines of "You've got to be fucking kidding me..." I feel sorry for the lad, at £20 mil and being played directly opposite to what his clear talent allows — is it any wonder Liverpool may crumble in the next few weeks? Take nothing away from Everton, though, the great thing was, their heads never dropped. The game never descended into a scrappy affair after going a goal down late on. Everton are clearly turning a corner and it couldn't have come at a better time.

On a side note, well done to Mr Webb, he was not intimidated by the game today like so many others before him. The game was handled well and in the spirit of things, much more reasoning came from him. Mr Webb knew the context of the game afterall and had this in mind rather than brandishing card after card like some of his colleagues. The great thing about the game was Mr Webb always remained on top of it, saw things very well and kept it to a respectable level that saw the game end on a positive note rather than being soured or ended by the 60 minute marks by the mentioning of no-name(s)...

Well played today, boys; we were clearly a patched-up version of what may have taken to the field in different circumstances but we handled ourselves well! More of the same spirit please! COYB!

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