In his 200th game for Everton, Captain Phil Neville led the Blues out into the Goodison drizzle for a rare 3pm Saturday kick-off, but with two bodies down on last week's squad, Coleman going out on loan to Blackpool after Landon Donovan made his way back to the sunshine of Los Angeles.
Arteta split the Bolton defence wide open in the 5th minute, releasing Anichebe to get inside of his marker and burst toward goal for what must have been another excellent opening goal but he took an extra touch when he really should have smashed in a shot.
From a well executed free-kick, Bolton came close at the far post but Howard had it covered. More positive play should have seen a better cross from Baines, who was choosing floaters rather than more direct flatter crosses with a lower trajectory. Baines did the same with his next cross after taking Everton's first corner short. Baines could have scored himself when set up nicely and running in at pace... but on his wrong foot.
Anichebe sadly landed very heavily on the very hard pitch after a clumsy challenge from Robinson, and the site of him staggering and then collapsing back down again, grasping his side, was not good... especially when the demi-coffin stretcher and four big strong gals were required to heave him off the field and down the tunnel. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was his replacement in the 13th minute.
Everton were unsettled by the loss of Anichebe and increasingly getting sucked into the blustering overly physical encounters the Bolton players were intent on. Cahill became the first name on the back of Mr Wiley's yellow card. Another free-kick in a good position on the right saw another poor delivery, this time from Arteta.
A ridiculous sequence of play followed, a harmless offside decision saw more mistakes from Jagielka, and a needless free-kick surrendered that allowed Kevin Davies to take a pop from distance, but it was straight at Howard. Physical challenges and scrappy play made it mostly ugly to watch as Everton struggled to play proper joined-up football and Bily showed exactly why he'd been languishing on the bench recently, with a number of poor touches, weak passes and wild shots.
Bolton's defender Lee denied a great chance for Baines with a timely interception off a lovely diagonal ball played through by Yakubu, as one of the more pleasing sights was the desire of Distin to get forward with the ball, rather than his usual delicate 75-yard hoof. Heitinga and Elmander ran into each other.
Arteta had a great chance to strike from 20 yards but chose to take another touch, allowing three defenders to rush out and block his strike. Passes were running long on the greasy surface as half-time loomed with nothing on the scoreboard and Bolton's spoiling tactics threatening to stiffle Everton's more adventurous play. And it all looked to be in tatters as Bolton interpassed their way miraculously right through the middle of the Everton midfield and defence but Davies, who would have scored with a power shot or chip, chose instead to sidefoot it straight at Howard.
Lee went in the book for a late lunge at Distin's instep, then needed lengthy treatment for a damaged arm after turning into Cahill's raised leg, as 5 minutes were added on.
Into the second half and the scrappy play continued, Heitinga getting stranded when a pass went astray, allowing Lee to run forward unchallenged and almost lay it on a plate for Davies but Jags put him off well enough. It had the hallmarks of a game where Bolton could cocievably snatch an undeserved goal form a mistake while continuing to effectively thwart any and all Blues creativity.
Chances for Yakubu and Pienaar in a penalty-area pinball session led to a weak shot that Jaskelinen saved. Heitinga at least tried a stronger shot from distance, but it lacked power as Everton visibly upped the tempo. Cahill almost scored a header under pressure but got called for handball instead as he conjoured a brilliant backheel toward the undefended goal.. As the crowd did their best to raise the atmosphere, penetration remained at a premium, but Bily won a good corner with a neat backheel but Pienaar blew the ensuing set-piece.
Conmeth the Hour, cometh the Substitutions... and it was Cahill who was replaced by Saha as the Everton defence constructed a heart-stopping sequence of errors that only served to increase already frayed nerves. Saha's first touch was bizarrely to head the ball backward and set the seed for a rare Bolton attack! Yakubu turned provider with some neat play and a lovely cross to... no-one. Frustration in extremis.
Another set-piece out wide right, swung in well by Arteta, and Jags connected well but his header flew straight ito Jaskelienan's hands with 64 ft² of goal gapping either side of him. On the next attack, though, Arteta relased Yakubu who did brilianly to run acroos Steinsen, draw some barely illegal contact from the last man, and stumble to the ground. Foul, free-kick, red card... off! So said Mr Wiley. After substitutions from Bolton, Arteta simply stroked the ball over the wall, curling away from Jaskelained on the other side of goal... and finally 1-0 to Everton!!!
Relief indeed... but still plenty of work to do. Bolton, however, could surely no longer simply continue to thwart; the possibility of more open space for the twin threat of Yakubu and Saha beckoned. Instead, they threatened the Park End goal and Moyes decided to swap out Yakubu for Osman. A brilliant Baines cross whipped in forced a nervy moment as tthe defendeer could only hook it out for a corner. Better delivery from Arteta to the far post but Osman's first touch of the game gave possession to Bolton.
As Everton probed to establish the location of their man advantage, Osman started to link better with Baines and Pienaar down the left. Arteta then clipped in a lovely chip over the Bolton defence that Bily headed fractionally over the bar.
With one minute left, Osman played his best football of the season, dribbling to the bye-line, drawing almost the entire Bolton defence and then playing back the perfect ball for Pienaar to drill hom and finally give Everton what they thorughly deserved: 3 more points and a seventh home win.
92 mins and Pienaar fired the ball across to Neville,.. "Shoot" cried the crowd as Neville (!!!) pulled off an audacious double step-over before firing wide.
Everton recorded their seventh successive home League victory for the first time since 1990 and once again leap-frogged Birmingham City into 8th place thanks to two second-half goals against 10-man Bolton. It seems an age ago that the Blues went well over three months without recording a single Premier League win between September and December last year but Goodison is unquestionably a fortress once more.
From the outset, it looked as though the home faithful would leave celebrating another three points as David Moyes's side started brightly, but an early injury to Victor Anichebe seriously disrupted their flow and they became increasingly frustrated by the Ttotters' dogged resistence. A pivotal moment in the 70th minute when Gretar Steinsson flattened Yakubu on his way to goal opened the door for Everton, though, and they ran out comfortable winners thanks to lovely goals by Mikel Arteta and Steven Pienaar.
The Blues appeared to be in the mood to entertain in the early going with some nice passing and movement, exemplified un the fifth minute when Tim Cahill released Anichebe with a beautiful defence-splitting pass, but the young striker took one touch too many and he was closed down by a last-ditch challenge by Paul Robinson.
Having scored a peach of a goal at St Andrews last weekend with his left peg, it was a mystery why he eschewed his weaker foot this time. The delay allowed the defender to block his shot and cost him a second successive goalscoring outing because six minutes later Robinson and Anichebe collided in an innocuous-looking challenge leaving the big striker writhing in pain. Though he tried to run it off, it was clear that his hip was in significant pain and he was eventually stretchered off the field to be replaced by Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.
The break in play knocked Everton out of their stride and Bolton, who'd shown how dangerous they could be with their first set-pieces of the afternoon by causing chaos in the home defence in the third minute and then seeing Zat Knight stab straight at Tim Howard from close range, began to come more into the game.
Phil Jagielka, who had a nightmare first half, had to head over his own bar from a free kick in the 19th minute and then made two mistakes in quick success, the second of which saw him robbed by Johan Elmander who won a free kick that ended with Kevin Davies' effort being saved by Howard.
Bilyaletdinov and Steven Pienaar blazed shots wide and Arteta took too long to unload an effort of his own before the Blues were carved open by the best move of the first half at the other end, Howard thankfully saving Davies' shot from the angle as Goodison breathed a sigh of relief.
The final chance of the half fell to Leighton Baines who, of all people, found himself in the clear when he sprung the offside trap but the ball over the top fell to his right foot and by the time he'd brought it across to the left
Everton remained in the ascendency after the interval but became increasingly frustrated in their attempts to get past the Bolton rearguard. Yakubu belted disappointingly wide from 18 yards, Pienaar's fierce volley was blocked at close range by a defender, the impressive John Heitinga saw his low effort saved after he'd shimmied neatly past his marker, and Jagielka's powerful header was claimed at the second attempt by Jussi Jasskeleinen.
Yakubu has, to these eyes has, come in for some undue criticism since his return from that long layoff but today he was exhibiting all too frequently the annoying traits that annoy some fans. His crossing was poor, he was often slow to react to developing situations or passes and he generally looked overweight.
But he looked odds-on to score with 20 minutes left when he raced into the clear with Steinsson in close attendance. Naturally, he tried to take the ball across the path of the defender who duly sent him sprawling to the turf and, as the last man, was brandished the inevitable red card.
Arteta, who had hitherto looked back to his best in all departments except his dead-ball delivery, stepped up and swept an artfully-placed direct free kick into the empty side of Jaaskeleinen's net with the 'keeper rooted to the spot.
The breakthrough finally made, the Blues then took full control of proceedings, setting aside the increasingly apt maxim that it's often harder to play against 10 men. They had to survive what should have been a scarier moment in defence when Knight headed over the bar at the back post and wait until the 89th minute for the game-killing goal.
Bilyaletinov himself headed Arteta's delightful chip over and both substitute Louis Saha and Heitinga tested the 'keeper with low drives before another sub, Leon Osman, showed some delightful trademark footwok by the byline to round his marker and pull the ball back to Pienaar who had all the time and space he needed to bury the ball in the back of the net.
Not a vintage performance by any means but there was plenty to enjoy nonetheless, not least the return of the Pienaar-Baines inerplay down the left in full and frequent effect. It didn't provide either of the goals but as facet of Everton's play that has been lacking a little in recent weeks it was pleasing to see them rebuilding that nice understanding they have.Player Ratings: Howard 7, Neville 7, Jagielka 5, Distin 8*, Baines 8, Heitinga 8, Arteta 8, Pienaar 8, Cahill 6 (Saha 6), Anichebe 7 (Bilyaletdinov 7), Yakubu 6 (Osman 8)
David Moyes has now been as manager of Everton eight years, and it's games like this that should be meat and potatoes for the team he has constructed painstakingly over that period. Injuries and other setbacks have meant it's been a roller coaster of two steps forward and one step back but the overall direct is upward... except that this season Everton are (barring some miracle) probably doomed to produce their lowest league finish for five years, and of course, still no trophy.
Everton may have been the form team in the Premier League until they blew that two-goal lead at Birmingham last week. Consistency is the key to future progress and they have been playing particularly well at home... but there can be no illusions of how difficult the task of beating Bolton Wanderers today could be. It would, however, extend that current winning home streak to an excellent seve4n consecutive games.
Moyes would happily settle for a repeat of the 2-1 home win that marked his first game as Everton manager, against Fulham on 16 March 2002. Osman is likely missing but he usually doesn't fair too well in physical games like this, where he can be brushed off the ball too easily and never seems to get the protection he should form referees.
Apart from the other longer-term injuries (principally Fellaini), Cahill could be a doubt with an arm injury... while Moyes has himself voluntarily depleted his already limited squad by two, allowing both James Vaughan and Seamus Coleman to go out on loan. Let's hope injuries in the chase for a Europa Cup place in the final run-in don't cause him to regret that decision.
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2009-10 Reports Index|
|When Skies Are Grey||Report|
|Everton fans' reports|
|Other media reports|
|4 the Game||Report|
|Anichebe (13' Bilyaletdinov)|
|Cahill :17' (61' Saha)|
|Yakubu (72' Osman)|
|Subs not used|
|Cohen (84' Davies)|
|Wilshere (81' Taylor)|
|Elmander (72' Ricketts)|
|Subs not used|
|Premier League Scores|
|17||West Ham United||27|