No Steven Pienaar today, a big blow for Everton; he was replaced by Osman, playing wide left. Cahill played despite that injured knee, an David Moyes gave another start to Seamus Coleman in that advanced right midfield role. Everton slotted into the possession football on 3 mins, getting the ball out to Baines who crossed well but Cahill's header was straight at Ben Foster.
Everton incorrectly won the first corner that was delivered high, long and deep by Arteta, to avoid the big Brum defenders, producing some limited penalty area action. Birmingham were looking to break but Jerome was getting himself offside as Everton won a second corner looped way long to Fellaini... bizarre tactic, as there is no power on the header and the second header is powder-puff.
Fellaini caught Ridgewell with his elbow on a free-kick, but Arteta this time was way too short and failed to clear the first defender. Osman was linking well with Baines, who got a good run into the area but went down under pressure on the return ball from Yakubu. The Yak did better as left winger, crossing deep for Coleman to head back but to no effect, stealing the ball off Cahill.
Yakubu did well on the hold-up play but then elected to shoot instead of playing in Coleman as Everton dominated possession, but as ever, nothing to show for it after 25 mins. A better cross from Baines but Cahill was backing up and could not do better with his header that went well wide. After showing nothing, Jerome had a glorious chance as Jags and Distin let him through but his half-volley off a bouncing was poor and flew wide.
Osman did great to get the ball in for Yakubu and he benefitted from a defensive error to get a clear shot past Foster but the keeper had slowed it and the ball was somehow incredibly cleared off the line, Yak's shot in truth totally lacking in sufficient power.
Everton were pressing harder, Baines again looking to have been clipped as he dodged into the area. Some lovely football between Osman and Yakubu was spoilt by a poor poor finish from Osman when he really should have done far far better. After another promising forwad move, Carr brushed Osman off the ball too easily and galloped forward to set up a chance for Brum but their crossing, like Everton's was ineffective.
Half-time and Everton had again put in a decent shift but to no meanigful effect; too many looping crosses lacking power and drive; too little invention in the final third... Same old same old?
No changes into the second half Coleman and Osman looking to probe but getting in each other's way. Osman gets a chacne but wanted an extra touch instead of shooting firt time and his shot was blocked away. A far, far better cross by Baines, lower and harder, was sent out for a corner with Fellaini about to pull the trigger. Much better tempo to the game from both sides, Brum winning a corner that was well defended..
Everton looked brighter and at the other end, the got the ball forward with some pace for once, a clever low first-time cross from Osman looked to be going to Foster but Johnson bizarrely nicked it past him and into the net! — For Everton's first away goal of the season. Fully deserved based on the overall balance of play, which was well in Everton's favour, if symbolic in that a Everton player did not actually score it!!! Arteta finally had a shot from the edge of the area that was deflected away for a corner that was then totally wasted by Arteta. The chance to recover with a cross from Neville was equally poor.
Arteta gave away a silly free-kick, clipping Hleb, Fellaini defending it away well for a corner as Everton sustained some pressure with increasingly desperate defending. After weathereing that squall, Everton looked to strengthen their hold on the game but the towering Zigic came on to put more pressure on the Everton defence. Time to blood young Ross Barkley perhaps?
Coleman had been struggling to make much impression down the right, the game largely evading him, and when it didn't, the ball not running for him. Everton were thus not too convincing when looking to secure the second goal and they proceded to play rather nervously, letting Bowyer get close with an overhead kick. Carr than ran determinedly down the touchline to win a corner, from which Dann pushed over Johnson and then called for a penalty!
Heitinga was the first sub, on in place of Yakubu as Moyes implemented a "have, hold" policy that may be considered somewhat negative... McLeish pulled off Jerome but had two attackers now to Everton's none. Coleman went on a mazey run but lost his footing, and the respite was all too brief as Brum came back with another corner. Everton, unable to retain possession, drew Brum back into their area yet again, much to Moyes's annoyance, and Derbyshire should have done far better when he got through to the byeline, lashing the ball across and over the goal.
A rare cameo for Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, who came on for Coleman in the last 5 mins. His first contribution was a foul and his second a big hoof out of defence as Everton clung on to their somewhat fortuitous lead. Jagielka did well to confound Zigic and then Hleb broke through but his cut-back was poor as Everton shakily cleared the ball repeatedly to the half-way line before once again surrendering possession.
Three minutes of added time saw more balls pumped toward the Everton goal, the Blues playing on their nerves. A floated Brum free-kick from the half-way line bounced easily through to Howard and finally Everton took the ball up the other end, Arteta wining a free-kick near the corner. As they looked to time-waste, Baines had no alternative when he ran to the byeline and fired in a superb cross that Cahill stooped to conquer, banging home a fantastic powerful header from close range that almost broke the net to finally set Everton on their way this season.
Everton were much the better side so the victory was fully deserved, ending an unbeaten run for the home side of 18 games at St Andrews going back over a year. So ironic that the best moment of the game came inadvertently when the last thing they wanted to do was attack... it's a funny old game!
It took seven games but Everton finally registered a victory in season 2010-11, the last team in all four English league divisions to do so, and it came at the expense of Birmingham City's much-vaunted 18-game unbeaten home record. An own goal by Roger Johnson, the first goal David Moyes's side have scored away from Goodison Park this season, had set the Blues on their way to victory and as they held firm against a guileless late charge by the Midlanders, Tim Cahill killed the game in the third minute of stoppage time off Leighton Baines' cross.
With Everton having picked up just two points from their six prior fixtures amidst a goalscoring crisis away from home and Birmingham displaying a similar lack of cutting edge, this game looked a decent bet to end goalless, so it was no surprise that the first half ended 0-0. Just as they had done at Fulham last weekend, the Blues dominated the first period throughout but couldn't find the goal their possession deserved.
The absence of Steven Pienaar with a groin injury appeared to handicap them further but Leon Osman, a player who has rightly been singled out as a weak link in the side so far, stepped into the breach in impressive fashion and, at least for the first hour or so, put in a man-of-the-match display on the left side of midfield.
He linked up well with Yakubu in particular going forward, helping to create some promising openings in the first half but, as has so often been the case, there was a general lack of conviction from the Blues in the final third. After Seamus Coleman had had an early header easily saved, a nice touch by Osman released the Yak but Coleman again found Ben Foster's arms from the Nigerian's cross after 20 minutes.
Yakubu then dragged s shot disappointingly wide rather than using Coleman wide on the right but seemed destined to score just a few minutes later when a defensive mix-up left him free in the box to pick his spot in the far corner. Foster got a hand to his shot and Liam Ridgewell threw himself at it as it headed for the goal, deflecting the ball behind for a corner.
In between, Cameron Jerome had wasted the best chance either side would have in the first 45 minutes when Sylvain Distin inexplicably back-headed the ball into the striker's path. With just Tim Howard to beat, Jerome failed to even hit the target, half-volleying wide from just inside the box.
That was a huge let-off for Everton but Sebastian Larsson was equally fortunate at the other not to be pulled up for a penalty when he clearly tripped Baines as the defender turned him just inside the area but, just as he would be in the second half when Steven Carr claimed vociferously that the Baines had clipped him on his way to goal, referee Phil Dowd wasn't interested.
Chances were few in the first half. With Mikel Arteta too often playing just as deep as Marouane Fellaini and Coleman hemmed in by the touchline and unable to make his customary forays to the byline, the onus fell to Osman and Baines down the left to do most of the attacking. And Osman again showed a lovely touch following a neat one-two with Yakubu but having smartly turned his marker, he scooped his shot disappointingly over.
Four minutes after the restart, it was Osman again with a chance but he met Coleman's early square ball with an extra touch rather than belting it first time and his effort was charged down. Nevertheless, the diminutive midfielder made a crucial contribution just four minutes later when he sent a low cross towards the near post, one that Foster had comfortably covered until Johnson diverted the ball into his own net with his toe.
1-0 Everton and now, just as was the case in this fixture last season when the Blues let slip a 2-0 lead, surely the onslaught from Birmingham would come... In truth, it never really materialised. The hosts certainly had more of the ball and increased the pressure on Howard with high balls from free kicks and corners, but apart from an overhead kick attempt from Lee Bowyer, a chance to pull it back into a crowded six-yard box spurned by substitute Matt Derbyshire, and a handball on Coleman not awarded by the referee, Alex McLeish's men never really threatened.
Instead, Everton defended resolutely enough — although both Distin and Phil Jagielka had their shakey moments and Phil Neville was guiltly of back off Alexander Hleb too much — and were indulging in a bit of keep-ball to run the clock down when Baines found himself in the left edge of the Birmingham box in the last minute of injury time. Faking to go backwards, then pausing with his foot on the ball, the defender fooled his marker brilliantly by knocking it forward towards the byline and delivering a low cross that Cahill stooped to head past Foster to double Everton's lead and seal the game.
So, off the bottom the division and, after the false dawn in stoppage time against Manchester United, does Everton's season start now, and gather speed with a morale-boosting win over Liverpool? Moyes will certainly be grateful for the victory today and the confidence it will bring, but hopefully he'll also be congizant of the fact that this was another tentative display and that Birmingham didn't really test his side all that much.
There remains a concerning lack of cutting edge up front but Moyes has managed his way out of similar circumstances more than once in his time at Goodison and he'll have to find the spirit, the drive, and the determination among his players to do it again until he has more firepower at his disposal.
Howard 7, Neville 6, Distin 7, Jagielka 7, Baines 8, Fellaini 6, Arteta 7, Coleman 7 (Bilyaletdinov 5), Osman 8*, Cahill 7, Yakubu 7 (Heitinga 6)
Whether the goalless draw at Fulham marks the beginning of David Moyes turning the ship around and the start of a run of form that will take Everton clear of the relegation zone — a place no one connected with the club expected the Blues to be at any point during this season — remains to be seen, but this weekend's trip down the M6 to Birmingham will be the first indication.
A paltry two points from 18 has left Moyes's side on the bottom of the pile but he at least came — belatedly, it should be added — to the realization at Craven Cottage that Seamus Coleman should be given a go in right midfield and that Yakubu has to start, even if he's not 100% fit.
The Yak, of course, couldn't deliver the winning goal when it was served on a golden platter for him last week, but every match will hopefully bring extra sharpness and Blues fans will hope that one goal could spark him back into something resembling his pre-Achilles injury form.
Tim Cahill came off against Fulham with the knee injury that had kept him ouf of the Blues' two previous fixtures but it looks as though he'll be fit to play at St Andrews. Leon Osman is doubtful with bruised ribs, though, and medium-term injury casualties, Victor Anichebe, Louis Saha and Jack Rodwell remained sidelined.
Unfortunately for Everton in their quest to shake off the unwanted distinction of being the only team in the entire football league not to have registered a win so far this season, Birmingham have now equalled a club record 18 home games without defeat.
They're not winning much either, though — this one has draw written all over it — and have only won two of their last 16 since these two sides last met in this fixture towards the end of last season. Everton led that game 2-0 but were pegged back to 2-2.
Having dominated Fulham last Saturday, the Blues need to do the same against Birmingham City but, obviously, they need to find a way to score goals. Moyes's side have not found the net away from Goodison yet this season and have only registered four at home, yet more depressing stats from a start that rivals the worst of any from the last two decades.
Yet again, it'll be up to the big names like Mikel Arteta, Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini to lead the way as there has yet to be match so far where all three have played to the standards we know they're capable of.
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2010-11 Reports Index|
|When Skies Are Grey||Report|
|Everton fans' reports|
|Other media reports|
|4 the Game||Report|
|Fahey (70' Zigic)|
|Jerome (80' Derbyshire)|
|Subs not used|
|Coleman (87' Bilyaletdinov)|
|Yakubu (80' Heitinga)|
|Subs not used|
|Premier League Scores|
|20||West Ham United||5|