There are fans for and against protest and probably many others who aren't
sure. The one inescapable fact is that all fans are well and truly behind the
team. The atmosphere at Goodison today was tremendous with the fans uniting to
back the team to the hilt.
Both new signings were on the bench; a lack of match fitness the reason. Alongside them were Gueye, Barkley, Mucha, Vellios and rather surprisingly, Phil Neville. Tony Hibbert took the captain's place at right back with Seamus Coleman fit enough to replace Barkley. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov got his first start of the season down the left with Tim Cahill the lone front man and Leon Osman providing support.
Everton started well by looking to create chances and exploit the extra man in midfield. The left hand side was a constant threat last season and that was no different today. Baines and Bilyaletdinov played a neat one-two with the Russian's cross headed behind for a corner. The resulting corner came back to Baines who whipped a ball in from the right-wing. Osman was first to react, firing a snapshot at goal but Given was alert and made a good reaction save.
The home side continued to press forward with Hibbert getting in behind near the right corner flag. His cross was well directed and Dunne was on hand to avert the danger. Baines fired over the corner and Jagielka climbed highest but his header lacked direction from 4 yards and drifted wide. With around 20 minutes gone, the deadlock was broken courtesy of the spritely Osman. A clever one-two with Cahill resulted in a reverse pass that Osman steered into the far corner, first time.
There was over 30 minutes gone before Aston Villa registered a shot. Substitute Barry Bannan, on for the injured Heskey, fired in a speculative long-range effort that Howard did well to hold.
Everton were soon on the front foot again and came close to extending their lead near the end of the first half. Osman curled one too close to Given, Fellaini showed his class; a sharp turn saw off Bannan and his dipping drive just cleared the crossbar. Rodwell then came within inches of making it 2-0. In space, 25 yards out, he had a fearsome effort that took a massive deflection off Delph. This sent the ball spinning towards the opposite corner but it dropped just wide.
Warnock was lucky to get away with a rash challenge on Cahill and N'Zogbia fired a rather wild effort into the Gwladys Street. That signalled half time. It had been a good performance from Everton during the first period; although Jagielka still looked out of sorts. The centre back nearly gifted Villa a goal, with a under hit back pass. Fellaini had stood out and helped Everton dominate the midfield during the first half. Cahill was doing a good job as a makeshift striker with Baines and Osman also looking sharp.
A minute into the second half came Villa's first real chance. N'Zogbia did well down the left and his cross found Bent who missed his kick in the 6 yard box; chance gone. Everton will feel they should have had a penalty shortly afterwards, Bannan appeared to bring Baines' marauding run to a halt with a trip. The referee waved away the appeals. Fellaini won the ball back and played in Baines whose cross resulted in a corner; that Jagielka headed over.
With around 30 minutes left, Villa seemed to come into the game more. Agbonlahor found space as the Everton back 4 retreated but Distin, impressive throughout, showed good pace to get a block in and clear the danger. This warning wasn't heeded by Everton and around 5 minutes later, the visitors were level.
Petrov was given too much space outside the area and curled a quality finish past a despairing Howard. It was poor defending from Everton and a very soft goal to concede as Villa had hardly been in the game. Everton seemed rocked by the goal with Jagielka picking up a yellow for hauling down Agbonlahor.
With around 25 minutes to go, Fellaini won a corner with a blocked shot. Baines whipped in the set piece and Given made a very good save from a Cahill header. The ball went back into the area and Delph fouled Jagielka. Penalty to Everton; Leighton Baines stepped up and calmly sent Given the wrong way to restore the home side's advantage.
Royston Drenthe made his dÃ©but with 20 minutes remaining. The diminutive winger showed his potential; tackling Hutton, accelerating away from him and pulling a great ball back to Osman. A great block from James Collins prevented Osman scoring.
Everton were in total control and brought on Barkley for Coleman. The Irishman had a good game on his return from injury, only fading near the end. Aston Villa then equalised out of nothing thanks to Agbonlahor. Albrighton, who looked a threat after replacing N'Zogbia, was given too much time to cross and Agbonlahor got ahead of Distin to head Villa level.
David Moyes brought on Vellios for Cahill. The Greek Under-21 international almost made an immediate impact due to a mix up in the visitor's defence. Vellios was first to a loose ball, taking it around the onrushing Given, but his effort rolled just wide. A minute later, Vellios brought a top save from Given with a well struck shot from outside the area. These two attempts signalled the last real chances in the game and the match finished level at 2-2.
Everton were unlucky not to win the game with some lax defending the only negative point. Fellaini was very impressive in midfield with Distin imperious at the back. Hibbert had a good game and the team looks more balanced with him at right back. Drenthe showed his pace and looks like he will have a part to play. Vellios had a useful cameo after coming on for Tim Cahill who led the line well today. Osman and Bilyaletdinov both faded slightly after promising starts.
On this evidence, the team look able to cope with the loss of the best little Spaniard they used to know.
Howard 7, Hibbert 8, Jagielka 6, Distin 8, Baines 8, Coleman 7, Rodwell 6, Fellaini 9, Bilyaletdinov 7, Osman 7, Cahill 7
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1 Posted 10/09/2011 at 23:26:12
2 Posted 10/09/2011 at 23:50:45
3 Posted 11/09/2011 at 11:17:44
4 Posted 11/09/2011 at 16:00:01
5 Posted 12/09/2011 at 00:32:40
Hibbert had a solid game and should in theory keep his place but I would not be surprised to see Captain gobshite back in next match unjustly.
Quite why Barkley was on the bench is beyond me too.
Bily would get a 5/6.
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