VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Fulham 1 - 3 Everton
Fortune eventually favoured the brave at Craven Cottage as Everton snatched two late goals to secure a dramatic victory over Fulham, only their second on this ground since the inception of the Premier League.
Bobby Zamora was still wondering how he'd blazed wide of a gaping goal at one end when Louis Saha chested forward Royston Drenthe's knock-on, accelerated past and then held off the challenge of his marker and bounced what proved to be the winning goal off the inside of the post in the 90th minute. Jack Rodwell added a third in stoppage time to put the icing on the cake and arrest the Blues' losing streak at three matches with a vital win.
It provided a measure of vindication for David Moyes who finally bowed to pressure and poor results by mixing up his starting line up, dropping Tim Cahill and Saha to the bench and starting both Drenthe and Apostolos Vellios, the duo that had combined so well for the consolation goal at Chelsea last weekend and who had been pressing for their full debuts with decent cameos in prior appearances off the bench.
Indeed, that vindication arrived after just two minutes and 16 seconds when Drenthe smashed home the opening goal with a stunning strike that Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal couldn't prevent from nestling in the corner of the goal. Starting out on the right flank, the Dutch winger picked up the loose ball after Jack Rodwell had capitalised on an error by Danny Murphy and played a one-two with Vellios and flashed his unstoppable left-footer home from 25 yards.
For the first quarter of an hour, Everton were in almost compete control of proceedings and the home side, with just one victory from their first eight games (their 6-0 drubbing of QPR standing out like a sore thumb among four draws and four defeats), looked nervy and vulnerable to a quick second. That might have come from Marouane Fellaini but Brede Hangeland nudged him enough to force him behind the ball and the Belgian could only direct a free header back across goal where Sylvain Distin's shot was deflected behind.
Four minutes later, Murphy felled the effevescent Drenthe and when Leighton Baines centred it at the second attempt, Rodwell steered an unchallenged header of his own past the far post. Drenthe then had an opportunity for an encore with an almost identical effort to his opening goal but this time a deflection guided the ball towards the goalkeeper and Schwarzer gathered.
Despite ploughing the lonely furrow as the sole striker, Vellios was acquitting himself fairly well with the simple stuff ? neat layoffs and bringing teammates into the game ? but took a while to get to grips with the number of long balls being fired his way from the back. As would be a constant problem for the Blues all game, there was very little support for the Blue jersey in possession in forward areas so the Greek struggled to make his mark, especially when his chance for glory arrived on a gilt-edged platter in the 21st minute.
Patient play down the right side ended with Drenthe flicking the ball to Tony Hibbert on the touchline with the outside of this boot and the fullback whipped in a perfect cross the pick out Vellios completely free ? and probably marginally offside ? in the centre but he connected with the top of his head and the ball flew over the crossbar.
It was a big let-off for Martin Jol's team and they responded accordingly, Murphy rattling Everton nerves and the woodwork with a 24th-minute piledriver that cannoned off Tim Howard's right post, caught the 'keeper on the rebound but thankfully ran away for a corner on the far side.
A minute later, Clint Dempsey was allowed to cut across the 18-yard line and unload a deflected shot that Howard saved low before the American goalkeeper tipped Hangeland's header over the bar from John Arne Riise's long throw. And Howard again had to foil his international teammate, Dempsey, eight minutes before the break when the forward latched onto Zamora's clever ball over the top but the 'keeper was off his line quickly and bravely stood his ground to gather the ball.
Not to be deterred, Dempsey tried an bending shot looking for the top corner but it flew inches wide of the post sending the home side in a goal down at half time.
For the first half hour of the second half, it felt as though the writing was on the wall for Everton and that the lead that Vellios could have doubled midway through the first half would eventually be wiped out if Fulham were allowed to dictate things as they had started to in the latter part of the first period.
Certainly the Blues had lost some of their cohesion and forward momentum. Presumably to protect Hibbert, who found himself worryingly out of position on a few occasions, Drenthe had switched flanks after about halfway through the first half and he almost immediately became less influential in the match. Though he started the second half back on the right side, Jol had by then identified him as Moyes's chief threat going forward and for long periods after the interval they managed to choke him off and had, by the midway point of the second period, restricted the Blues to just one daisy-cutter from Rodwell than slid a yard wide.
To be fair, though they'd had the upper hand, Fulham weren't exactly causing Howard many problems and it took a moment of unexpected magic from substitute Bryan Ruiz to shatter the Blues' clean sheet. The substitute had come on with 24 minutes left on the clock and, after a surging run by ex-Blue Andy Johnson and a pass on by Demspey, he needed a little over two minutes on the field and some space left by Hibbert who was tucked too far inside to despatch an audacious chip over the 'keeper and into the net behind him.
That could have given Fulham all the impetus they needed to take full control and go on to win the game but, following a double substitution of the ineffectual Leon Osman and lacklustre Phil Neville for Seamus Coleman and Tim Cahill ? Saha had replaced Vellios earlier ? Everton gradually started to gain a foothold back in proceedings.
Baines drove a direct free kick a yard over after Drenthe had again been tripped near the Fulham area before Hangeland was somehow allowed to wrestle Cahill to the floor by his face without incurring any penalty a few minutes later.
Still, though Everton were trying to up the tempo, the story of their afternoon was a disappointing lack of numbers and options in support of the man on the ball. All four of Drenthe, Fellaini, Coleman and Rodwell found themselves at times with no man available and ended up conceding possession but in the 79th minute things came together nicely with a ball to Saha's feet in the box where quick reactions saw the Frenchman nip ahead of his marker to a loose ball that had bounced off a Fulham defender's head but Schwarzer got just enough on his left-footed shot to push it to the side where it was hacked away by a defender.
The Blues escaped a scare in the 81st minute when Ruiz was denied by Howard at point-blank range and looked to be dead buried with a minute to go of the regulation 90 when Johnson dispossessed the fatigued Fellaini near the halfway line, burst forward down the right channel and slipped the ball into the space behind Distin to Zamora. The striker did all the hard work by committing Howard and jinking inside him, leaving just Hibbert's despairing lunge and Phil Jagielka on the line to beat. Opting for power over placement, Zamora clipped the wrong side of the woodwork before putting his head in his hands in complete disbelief.
From the resulting goalkick, it was another route-one move that eventually led to Saha punishing Zamora for his profligacy at the other end. Hangeland beat Cahill in the aerial challenge but could only head backwards where Drenthe beat Baird to the ball and nodded it into the path of Saha who did the rest to send the traveling support into rapture behind the goal.
To rub salt into the wound, Baird was booked for scything Saha down on the left touchline and when Hangleland could only head Drenthe's free kick straight to Rodwell, the midfielder returned it with interest with a sweetly-struck shot from 18 yards that bounced through the partially unsighted Schwarzer's hands to round off a priceless win.
Increasingly demoralised following consecutive defeats to Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, with many supporters starting to question Moyes's conservative tactics, and the Blues starting this match in 17th place in the table, this was a huge result and reward for a more positive team selection.
Vellios will feel like he wasn't able to stake his claim for a regular starting berth just yet as he battled as the lone striker and there was, unfortunately, no role for Ross Barkley while in a position the youngster could easily fill, Osman labored through another unproductive display. But Drenthe, despite not being consistent for the full 90 minutes, added everything those fans clamouring for hi m to start throught he would: pace, unpredictability and self-belief, all of which contributed to his magnificent third-minute strike.
As tonics go ahead of another meeting with Chelsea, this time in the League Cup in midweek, and then the visit of Manchester United next weekend, this will hopefully prove to be the elixir of new life for Everton. Granted, there were parts of this game where the Blues lost their way and they'll need to offer more support in attack if they are to profit against the better teams, but this is a terrific first step to getting back on an even keel and maintaining confidence levels among the players.
Player Ratings: Howard 7, Hibbert 7, Jagielka 6, Distin 7, Baines 7, Neville 6 (Cahill 7), Osman 6 (Coleman 6), Rodwell 7, Fellaini 7, Drenthe 8*, Vellios 6 (Saha 7) Â
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1 Posted 24/10/2011 at 08:57:23
2 Posted 24/10/2011 at 11:07:23
By all accounts there are good young players begging for a chance of first team experience. For as long as Osman wears the shirt their chance goes begging.
How long are they prepared to wait?
In January a horde of cashed up clubs will swoop on our prime youngsters. What chance do we have of keeping them if all we offer those kids are games in the reserves with a rare outing in the first team.
3 Posted 24/10/2011 at 12:30:08
4 Posted 24/10/2011 at 12:35:36
5 Posted 24/10/2011 at 12:34:25
After that, it was let them come at us to save at least a point. If Zamora hadn't tried to break the net instead of tapping in, I don't think we'd have recovered like we did. But finally we got lucky and in the end deserved the win. With two more hard ones to come on Wednesday and Saturday, fingers crossed...
6 Posted 24/10/2011 at 14:10:42
For me, Drenthe was obviously MOTM... his goal was a cracker and he was aggressive to win the ball that set up Saha?s gamewinner... put it right on Saha's chest. I really like Drenthe?s attack-attack-attack mentality and the way he interplays with Fellaini. He?ll make more mistakes, but we can live with them, and I think he'll be a permanent starter. Full marks to Moyes for starting Drenthe on the right side and giving him the freedom to roam. And Moyes chose the right subs at the right times... Saha was great and Cahill clearly deserved that penalty -- obvious call blown.
High marks also to Rodwell, who laid on the first goal and scored the third... and did you see that stunning backheel to Saha on the offside play? He put him through clean without even looking over his shoulder. Rodwell?s growing up.
I don't think Osman, Coleman or Neville rated more than a 5... Coleman in particular was unusually passive, and Neville wasn't closing people down at all.
And a round of applause if you please for John Ruddy... how sweet that a former Blue stuffs it to the Shite. His final stop on Suarez to save the point for Norwich was the save of the season.
7 Posted 24/10/2011 at 15:17:37
Direct involvement in the 2nd & 3rd goals.
Please tell me why this man hasn't been more involved in the past month.
8 Posted 24/10/2011 at 14:34:08
Osman was once again the player who had to sacrifice his own performance for the good of the team. Fulham were queing up to get down our right side in the opening stages. Riise was playing like an old-fashioned winger, but Drenthe stood on the half-way line letting him go time and again. Moyes had to change it.
In truth, Ossie wasn't much better defending but at least he tracked back to provide Hibbert with some protection. That said, Drenthe deserved his "8" ? it was so refreshing to see a players in a blue shirt doing the unpredictable.
I also thought Rodwell desevered his goal, he showed glimpses of the aggression and drive that saw him go straight for Man Utd's throat a couple of seasons ago. The guy has all the attributes to take these games by the scruff of the neck... just wish he believed in himself a bit more.
The one thing I would disagree with Lyndon about was his choice of MotM. Tony Hibbert has become a sort cult figure amongst travelling blues and it was all there on Saturday, everything we have come to expect of him: lapses of concentration, clumsy control, wayward passes... but he was bravery personified; he never stopped trying to get forward and I lost count of the number of times he pulled our gormless centerbacks out of the shit by making some magnificent trademark last-ditch tackles. Without Tony, we'd have lost this.
Not one for the purist but, after enjoying a few pints on the river side in glorious sunshine, the travelling hordes were in great voice and the game swung back and forward.
A great afternoon's entertainment enhanced by Moyes (acting out of character some will say) being prepared to risk defeat by going for the victory.
9 Posted 24/10/2011 at 15:55:46
10 Posted 24/10/2011 at 15:59:14
Have been wanting Velios and Drenthe to score .
Was disappointed that we did'nt support Velios enough- he worked tirelessly up front. His free header miss from Hibberts cross was a shocker - until you saw Zamora's.
Great strike from Drenthe but we then surrendered the midfield to Fulham for a lot of the game.
The manager played his subs at the right time - we actually kept hold of the ball and looked much better with Neville off the pitch.The obvious turning point was the howler from Zamora .
Nice to see the lads get the three points - could be very valuable.Hope the positivity can continue in our next two games .
The only negatives for me was how annonymous Osman was and how shocking Neville was - dont know how either are making the first team.
11 Posted 24/10/2011 at 16:12:21
Drenthe didn't offer him much protection, admittedly, but that's not his job and I'm sure it's his attacking bias that has prevented Moyes from playing him more over the last three games.
Personally, I'd rather Moyes make adjustments in midfield to accommodate him so that we have some pace and power in the side rather than leave him sitting on the bench but there you go...
Regarding Osman, it's true that he doesn't play well out wide but he's not consistently good enough in the middle either. He's been played behind the striker this season and not past muster and it's plain to these eyes that Ross Barkley offers a lot more. Unfortunately, it seems that the old favorites are allowed to make mistakes but the kid doesn't get a chance to prove he's learned from his.
Don't know whether to hope that's the case rather than believe that Moyes is protecting a sale-able asset...
12 Posted 24/10/2011 at 16:27:54
Fellaini has been as culpable as Osman in these last few games but everyone just glosses over his mistakes to put the boot into Osman or the odd mistake that the otherwise excellent Hibbert has made. Fellaini got robbed multiple times, the last of which led to Zamora's chance.
We were also suspect to long-range shots such as Murphy's all day long because neither him, Rodwell or Neville could close anyone down and block a shot. At times, we were just getting ran through right up the middle. Fellaini offered nothing up front and very little in defence, plus his distribution is so mind-numbingly slow.
13 Posted 24/10/2011 at 16:35:29
14 Posted 24/10/2011 at 16:45:07
We all know managers like their players to do the ugly stuff too; Moyes insists upon it... But I think he'll make an exception in Drenthe's case.
I cringed when somebody recently described us on these pages as the Audley Harrison of the Prem ? it was so painfully accurate. Royston doesn't seem to do tracking back... but, for the first time in ages, we looked like we carried a real menace, an ability to really hurt the opposition.
Moyes may be a creature of habbit, but Drenthe has had a month to regain full match fitness and I'll be amazed if his name isn't the first on the team sheet against Chelsea.
15 Posted 24/10/2011 at 16:49:43
As for Barkley's saleable asset role, I feel a "tearing my season ticket up" emotion coming on over any scenario where we sell off a potential world class player.
But, leaving that aside for now, could Moyes please please just for one measley game (after all this time), please give Bily a shot behind the striker role...? I mean is it sooo much to ask that we watch a NON-winger worth 9-10 mill,sit on the bench BECAUSE he's not a winger???? Will it hurt that inept floundering `tactician` to try him just ONCE this year?
I could add playing a 4-4-2 but miracles, as they say, do take longer.
As a thought... If Spurs set higher sights in next January's transfer window, some form of buying him back plan??
16 Posted 24/10/2011 at 18:11:39
17 Posted 24/10/2011 at 18:47:43
Moyes has always been reluctant to have a luxury player but Drenthe must start. Mike Gaynes I'm not sure about Moyes's disdain of the chatboards. If you are right then Moyes is just slow on the uptake. Baines should have been at left back long before he was. Coleman, and my God, many called for him to be right side midfield, was ignored for too long.
These were just incomprehensible decisions. He needs to listen to the "chatboards" once more and get Duffy back from loan and develop him as the future Everton captain he is.
18 Posted 24/10/2011 at 19:05:02
By definition, as a manager in the Prem, David Moyes is in top one percent of football managers in the world. How many of us can claim to be in the top one percent of what we do? And you really think he's going to read our comments, let alone pay any attention to them? Sorry, but I think the idea that he "needs to listen to the chatboards" is pretty silly.
Tom Dodds, I can't figure you out... you think Barkley is a potential world-beater but you want Moyes to give that spot behind the striker to Bily because he cost more? If someone is going to replace Osman there, I say give it to Barkley.
19 Posted 24/10/2011 at 19:26:58
By your logic George Dubbya Bush was a genius.
I don't think so.
20 Posted 24/10/2011 at 19:41:44
21 Posted 24/10/2011 at 20:58:26
"Ladies & Gentlemen: Royston Drenthe. One cracking goal. Direct involvement in the 2nd & 3rd goals.
Please tell me why this man hasn't been more involved in the past month."
...perhaps because he was being brought up to full match fitness and sharpness so that when he did start he could, I dunno, score one cracking goal and have direct involvement in the 2nd & 3rd goals.
He himself said something similar in the interview that TW is linking to today, when he says he wouldn't have liked to have started when out of shape and unable to make an impact.
Obviously that's not necessarily the absolute truth, but just because he played really well against Fulham doesn't automatically make it a wrong decision not to have been starting him over the past month.
22 Posted 24/10/2011 at 21:00:55
23 Posted 24/10/2011 at 21:04:45
Dennis, we all wrote much the same about Osman for most of last season... then he stepped in for the injured Arteta and was our best player over the last dozen games or so. Don't write him off.
24 Posted 24/10/2011 at 21:33:56
All together now:
"When the ball hits your head,
When your sat in Row Z,
25 Posted 24/10/2011 at 21:37:47
Barkley for Osman?? at the moment it has to be worth a punt. Thing is Ossie can really influence games. Its a question of how long you're prepared to wait for him to hit form.
26 Posted 24/10/2011 at 21:44:21
27 Posted 24/10/2011 at 21:40:21
Eh? I never realised Drenthe was a white, Leon Osman looking motherfucker. The likeness is uncanny. I could've sworn that was actually Osman himself trundling around aimlessly in front of Baines. My mistake, I guess.
Now I just need to figure out who that little black lad was bombing down the right.
28 Posted 24/10/2011 at 22:12:01
29 Posted 24/10/2011 at 22:33:26
On another topic, the simple no nonsense Drenthe style is very much like that of a certain Landon.
30 Posted 24/10/2011 at 23:30:39
On most matches that I have watched watched this season, Baines has been left with the task of providing crosses into the box.
31 Posted 25/10/2011 at 00:10:46
Just because you're positioned as a side midfield player doesn't always mean you'll be doing those things. And the fact that one of the best crossers in the league is bombing down the wing to support him is actually more justification for Osman being in the position. Everyone bangs on about the Baines/Pienaar combo (with justification) but how often did you see Pienaar whip a cross in with anywhere near the ferocity and accuracy that Baines does? Not very. The point is that players can complement each other if played in the correct positions. Osman's is central midfield, but he can also be useful as a side midfielder if playing with a good enough full back.
@Nick Entwhistle: Someone else may've already answered your 4-2-3-1 comment, but my reaction is this: 4-2-3-1 has been Moyes' favoured formation for a long time, when going forward. It just looks more like the 4-4-1-1 that people describe it as when we're defending. That's the nature of formations, though.
32 Posted 25/10/2011 at 01:09:26
"No, Trevor... being a Premiership manager requires a license, experience and a record of previous success. Unfortunately, as exemplified by Bush and the current crop of candidates, being President of the United States requires none of the above!!!"
Didn't expect that shot to the groin in here. Too true.
33 Posted 25/10/2011 at 09:52:48
David Moyes is a stubborn man who is slow to change. Being stubborn is rarely a virtue. It worked for Alf Ramsey, David Moyes has many qualities but he's no Ramsey.
34 Posted 25/10/2011 at 22:26:07
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