VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Plus Ça Change... That was the overriding theme running through the head as another demoralising match against Manchester United was petering out into what seemed to be its inevitable conclusion. In full, that old French lament muses that the more things change, the more they stay the same and at 3-1 down in the second half, that just seemed to sum up not just the game and a fledgeling Premier League campaign that looked stillborn, but David Moyes's tenure at Goodison Park as a whole.
Two midfielders deployed as forwards, Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman in the starting XI, unforgiveably sloppy goals conceded and, of course, a heavy home defeat to the Blues' nemesis of the modern era, United... it was all just a horrible case of deja-vu, not helped by two more Gallic facets to the equation ? the absence through injury of Louis Saha and some stunningly awful defending by Sylvain Distin.
But then, that finale... what a finale! As unexpected as it was redeeming and both exhilirating and then sickening in equal measure, it saw Everton do what is almost the unthinkable against Sir Alex Ferguson's men and score twice in stoppage time. But when the unimaginable was unfolding before the eyes of those optimistic souls who had stuck around to the bitter end, referee Martin Atkinson intervened to remind us all that only so much insubordination against England's elite can be permitted.
With Blue shirts streaming forward in the last attack of the game, the official blew his whistle as Everton approached the visitors' area and called time on an attack that might have yielded the shock of winning goal, a refereeing intervention that virtually everyone watching, neutral, Blue and red alike, knows would not have happened had it been Manchester United on the ball at Old Trafford. They don't call it Alex Ferguson Time for nothing...
The take-away from this thrilling 3-3 draw, though, is what it says about Moyes' Everton. Defensively, as they have showed in all four of their League games so far, they can be shambolic, and they shot themselves in foot three times this afternoon to first throw away a hard-earned lead and then gift United a two-goal cushion. Schoolboy marking ? indeed, "marking" would be a generous description of Marouane Fellaini's total dereliction of duty for United's second goal? ceding too much space down the left, and vulnerability to the ball over the top all directly contributed to a 3-1 deficit by the 66th minute.
Going forward, despite having more strikers on the books than at any time in Moyes's time at Everton, Tim Cahill was deployed as a lone striker, presumably on the premise that he would be sufficiently supported by the midfield, but poor shooting by all four midfielders ? in particular three moments that, unfortunately, exposed Osman's lack of composure and ability with the goal at his mercy ? threatened to doom the manager's strategy.
And then there were Moyes's decisions themselves, not least the one to leave both Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford on the bench and play a starting XI with no strikers. Presumably a lack of fitness influenced the decision regarding the Yak and a lack of faith in Beckford is the answer where he is concerned, the fact that the ex-Leeds man has barely had a goalscoring chance to speak of so far was obviously not enough to earn him an opportunity.
But then, despite all of those challenges that may yet prove an insurmountable obstacle to their Champions League aspirations, the Blues still found that strength of character and indefatigable resolve that they often draw on to come back from the dead.
For the first 30 minutes, then, you had the schizophrenic notion that it didn't look as though any of that was going to matter and yet all of that was going to matter. For while the Blues completely dominated the opening half hour, the goal they deserved didn't come and, with a history of conceding the first goal to United, that didn't bode well at all.
From the first minute, Everton were in purposeful mood and Steven Pienaar set the tone for a fine personal performance by getting the first shot off, one that deflected behind from a corner that Mikel Arteta would eventually waste before dinking another effort across the face of Edwin van der Sar's goal.
A minute later, after Gary Neville hasd fouled the South African outside the penalty area, Mikel Arteta clipped the top of the crossbar with a direct free kick. The fact that the Spaniard would go on to score the equaliser at the death atoned in large measure for his regular failings from dead ball situations for the remainder of the game, but in open play he had some really pleasing moments, not least when he jinked smartly past John O'Shea's lunging tackle and fired goalwards, only to see shot deflect off Johnny Evans for a corner. The resulting kick fell to Pienaar and when his effort was blocked, Osman ballooned the inviting rebound into the Park End.
The visitors eventually got some relief from Everton's early siege with their first real attack after a quarter of an hour and O'Shea came within inches of pulling something spectacular from his hitherto unknown box of tricks when he arrowed a long-range shot off the outside of the post.
Cahill and Fellaini then swept poor efforts of their own well over the crossbar from the edge of the box before Leighton Baines was presented with as good a chance as he might get all season when Evans glanced Hibbert's cross into his path but he scuffed the shot off his studs and it dribbled behind for a goal kick.
It was at that point that the pendulum started to swing back, United visibly moved out of first gear and were one miracle intervention by Tim Howard away from taking the lead just past the half-hour mark. Hibbert was harshly adjudged to have fouled Nani just outside the box ? even though he got the ball ? and with the Blues' defence completely negligent of the threat, the Portuguese winger simply rolled it sideways into an ocean of space for Paul Scholes to drive hard through the crowd of players. His shot deflected off Baines and looked destined for the net until Howard stuck up a foot and diverted it up over the bar. A stunning save.
Still the Blues looked shaky at the back and when Darren Fletcher got past John Heitinga with embarrassing ease down the right and found Ryan Giggs with a square ball, Howard again sprang into action, this time with a superb one-handed save. Fletcher's side-footed attempt to tuck it inside the near post was deflected behind by Distin and when the resulting corner drifted out to Cahill on the far side, he cleared towards the centre circle where, under normal circumstances, there is never a Blue jersey when defending a corner.
Arteta, though, had anticipated the possibilities and when Patrice Evra missed completely with an attempted overhead kick, the Spaniard raced away to go one-on-one with Van der Sar. With the angle closed down and a defender for company, his low shot was easily blocked, but when Osman kept his head and knocked it forward to Pienaar, the Everton no. 20 calmly slotted it under the 'keeper's body to give the home side the lead six minutes before the break.
Clearly, the one focus now was to keep the lead going into half time, but the Blues were ahead for just four minutes. Standing off him a good 10 yards, Baines allowed Nani far too much time and space to whip in a deep cross ? the same cross that gifted Wolves their goal here three weeks ago and West Ham their equaliser back in April ? that Fletcher turned past Howard from close range. 1-1 and back to square one at the interval, although a sublime volley by Dimitar Berbatov almost sent United in ahead but it flew past the far post.
The second half was barely two minutes old when United were gifted the lead, though. Berbatov took advantage of yet more open space in front of the Everton defence to carry the ball forward and unleash a shot that deflected behind. From the corner, with motionless Blue shirts all around him, not least Fellaini who had taken his eye off proceedings completely, Nemanja Vidic had the simple task of nodding home unmarked.
Clearly Everton have as many defensive problems as they do up front at the moment and when Osman was put in superbly by Pienaar just before the hour mark, he miscontrolled and a gilt-edged chance with just Van der Sar to beat was lost.
2-1 down, not much working going forward and though the likes of Seamus Coleman, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Jermain Beckford had been warming up, Moyes's bench was devoid of activity. Pienaar had a shot saved by Van der Sar and Arteta wasted a free kick when Evans fouled Osman wide on the Everton right but it was United who looked the more likely to score, particularly 20 minutes into the half when Distin committed himself to a challenge with Berbatov and missed, allowing the Bulgarian to once again stride on goal and set up Nani who was foiled by Howard's one-handed save.
Two minutes later, though, it was 3-1 when Distin lost another duel with Berbatov, allowing the striker to race onto a nicely-weighted ball over the defence and beat Howard with aplomb with a low shot off the outside of his boot.
It looked "game over" at that point. Not helped by a near total lack of protection from the referee, Cahill had barely won a thing in the air and it was hard to see where an Everton goal would come from, though Osman did test Van der Sar with a shot from 10 yards that the Dutchman managed to block with his knees and a defender cleared the danger.
Finally, with 21 minutes to go, Moyes made two changes, throwing on Coleman and Yakubu in place of Hibbert and Heitinga and both changes gave United much more to think about than had previously been the case. Indeed, Evra was forced into a strange rugby-style dive to trip Coleman just outside the area, Baines missing from the resulting kick by an inch, before Cahill mistimed his jump and could only send a deep cross by the Irishman looping across goal and wide.
Excellent work by Yakubu shortly afterwards should have brought Everton back into with 12 minutes left, though, but, having impressively held off three defenders and served it on a plate for Osman, the midfielder fluffed his lines from close range and Van der Sar was able to save his lame shot with ease.
Then, with the game just ticking over into injury time, Baines whipped in a cross from the left, Cahill rose with typical timing and height and buried a header into the roof of the United net. It seemed to be merely a consolation but when Baines hoisted in another ball from the same place a couple of minutes later and the ball dropped off either Cahill or O'Shea in front of Arteta, the Spanish midfielder whacked it off Scholes' arm and past the 'keeper to send Goodison into incredulous delirium.
Somehow, Everton had come back from 3-1 down in almost the blink of an eye and Ferguson sat on the visiting bench dumfounded but there was a bit more drama to come in the final minute of added time. Miscommunication between Distin and Howard contrived to gift United a corner but when it was cleared and a clutch of Blue shirts raced out of defence sensing one final opportunity, the referee blew his whistle and ended the contest. Moyes flew off his bench and launched a verbal tirade at Atkinson, but it was obviously to no avail.
Sometimes these last-gasp draws can feel like victories but for some reason, this one feels like a defeat. The fact that we've taken just two points from the first 12 and threw away a lead today probably have a lot to do with that, as do the concerns over the defensive frailties that makes this Everton side look so different to that which looked so impressive in the second half of last season.
Hopefully, just as Phil Neville's thundering tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo in this fixture a couple of seasons ago is attributed to galvanising the squad into transforming their season, the injury-time heroics at Goodison this afternoon can provide the spark that lights the fuse on this campaign.
It might also require some courage from the manager, though. In the pre-match build-up, Moyes expressed how he wants his team to match the likes of United this season but, despite the scoreline, there was plenty here to suggest that there is still a pretty sizeable gap between the two teams, not least in quality, depth of talent and tactics. Moyes will hopefully have seen how much more effective and threatening his team was when Yakubu and Coleman were on the pitch.
Last year's stirring victory over United was not won with conservatism and yet the inclusion of Hibbert and Osman was predictably safe. In fairness, Hibbert had a typically sound game and didn't really put a foot wrong and it was Osman's speed of thought that served up the first goal for Pienaar but Coleman provided an added dimension down the right and Osman passed up three great chances where a better player would probably have done better.
It's criminal how Everton still don't have a reliable goalscorer or any pace or flair on the right flank but Moyes has to deal with the cards that he has and they're almost the same as those which yielded top-four form after December last term so he knows the ingredients are there...he just has to get them working in harmony again and quickly.
Howard 9, Hibbert 7 (Coleman 7), Baines 8, Jagielka 8, Distin 5, Heitinga 6 (Yakubu 7), Fellaini 6, Arteta 8, Osman 6, Pienaar 9*, Cahill 7
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1 Posted 11/09/2010 at 22:55:42
2 Posted 12/09/2010 at 00:16:48
But anyway don't want to be too negative as it was a great comeback, but have a feeling we might have won if we had our best players playing in their best positions!
3 Posted 12/09/2010 at 00:32:05
IMO its Moyse who should be shot for dereliction of duty here..who in their right minds would ever consider that clumsy oaf to get anywhere near their reserve team...let alone the main team. Mark my words until that buffoon is out of the side, he will be the cause of all the calamities in it.
Moyse get him out of defensive immediately along with slow runner Heitinga...man is he slow as a slug at times.
4 Posted 12/09/2010 at 00:37:45
I hope Moyse is not going to see him as a central defender where he is ready for it. Seriously Coleman will be our Box to Box player..and a frightening one for any opposition to deal with lol
5 Posted 12/09/2010 at 00:51:54
6 Posted 12/09/2010 at 01:00:30
Of course in many Blues eyes (but certainly not all) Jagielka seems beyond the carping and moaning that others suffer we know who the usual suspects are. I dont care if he has played for England Jagielka has been shite for us this season. I know some people love his last ditch tackles but his distibution is awful and he is as much to blame as anyone else for some of the comical defending at Villa and today.
7 Posted 12/09/2010 at 02:51:22
actuaaly we had pace and flair on the right side in the second half of last season, but he's topping up his tan again.
That and the lack of a reliable goalscorer is what has kept me cautious since it became evident we were not going to get either.
I'd like to either see Coleman on the right (even as RM), or Pienaar switched there and Gueye on the left. Otherwise, we're not the fullset, and ain't gonna be. CBs are a concern, too, as Moyes seemed to admit himself recently.
8 Posted 12/09/2010 at 06:55:22
My biggest beef with Jags is his awful distribution but even there he was OK yesterday. The England experience certainly seems to have helped him on this evidence but it's still early days.
9 Posted 12/09/2010 at 08:28:53
Moyes should have made his substitutions when we were only 2-1 down. Vidic was all over Cahill and the Yak would have given the Serb something to think about. Coleman immediately threatened after coming on and Moyes must give him more game time.
A pulsating game and the fighting spirit of the boys should be applauded. We are however, still in the relegation zone and a win in our next game is a must.
10 Posted 12/09/2010 at 08:35:34
11 Posted 12/09/2010 at 08:38:42
Maybe clutching at straws but one thing is certain, this CB partnership is not working. 5 games, no clean sheets and alot of mistakes.
I'd say Jags and Heits but Johnny looks strangely off the pace to me.
3 points next saturday is a must.
12 Posted 12/09/2010 at 09:15:56
Makes me wonder if he is going to be our next captain then his ego will cost us points !!
13 Posted 12/09/2010 at 09:22:25
14 Posted 12/09/2010 at 09:57:26
I agree with Lee Dixon on MotD when he said that Distin, who is normally a decent (but not brilliant - my words) defender, just one spectacularly bad day at the office. He is a bit short at this level though. Johnny should start at CB for the forseeable future.
Watching the game, after about 5 to 10 minutes of the second half it was obvious to everyone that we needed a striker on the pitch. Why oh why did it take until the inevitable 70 minute mark for DM to send the Yak on?
Finally a minor point - when marking players for their performance why is it out of 10 and not 5? What is the difference between 1 and 4 for a bad performance (Distin) or 7 and 9 for a good one (Cahill)?
15 Posted 12/09/2010 at 10:10:07
Overall, defensively we were too deep when they had prolonged possesson and we were exposed to the quick accurate pass that should be expected from the likesof Scholes.
Great result but it could so easily have been a disaster. Loved it though!
16 Posted 12/09/2010 at 12:36:58
Our shooting is frankly pathetic, we very rarely score from outside the box (Bily an exception), just what are we doing in training ?
Apart from Baines and when given the chance, Coleman, our crossing is equally as poor, just look at the 2 crosses Nani put in for two of the Utd goals, hit hard with spin.
The change that let Utd back into the game was when Arteta and Fellaini swapped over and no one picked up Scholes and for 20 min he played like a Dan Marino, spraying passes all over the pitch totally unopposed.
I see Moyes as a very lucky manager tactically, we could easily have lost all 4 games, despite almost constant possession.
Baines was criticised for not closing down Nani, but Utd dont give you time to close them down, they whip crosses into dangerous areas immediately (Beckham never ever gave the fullback time to close him down, Giggs the same>
17 Posted 12/09/2010 at 15:18:00
Speaking of Bily...Is that out there yesterday so fucking awesome that he can't get a place on it for at least 30 minutes? Are we done with him now?
18 Posted 12/09/2010 at 17:18:43
19 Posted 13/09/2010 at 00:34:14
1. Yakubu: reassimilate into the team.
2. Arteta: encourage attacking freedom.
As a knock on effect- Fellaini: deeper. Heitinga: deeper; that is, central defence.
3. Distin: on the bench.
All of this, of course, can be found above in various posts. These are the three changes that I think are imperative. It's likely that only one of these changes will be implemented. Probably not no. 3 because Andy Carroll is up next.
20 Posted 13/09/2010 at 02:16:01
He's just carried on from "that" performance against Spurs last season, which surprisingly earnt him a trip to Blackpool rather than more game time for the Blues.
How long do we have to wait before we can see this "added dimension" for more than a brief cameo appearance? God knows we need it!
21 Posted 13/09/2010 at 10:41:13
22 Posted 13/09/2010 at 13:33:28
Otherwise agree with the other changes everyone is suggesting
23 Posted 13/09/2010 at 13:44:17
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