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Season 2011-12

Return of the Pienaar

By Luke O'Farrell   ::  11/02/2012
 14 Comments (»Last)

Everton 2 - 0 Chelsea

Goals from the classy Steven Pienaar, and the industrial Denis Stracqualursi, saw Everton claim back-to-back home wins, for the first time since May. Everton's win was their third consecutive league win, over Chelsea, at Goodison Park. The London side remain without a league win, at Goodison Park, since 17th April 2008. The defeat signalled the end of Chelsea?s seven game unbeaten away run.

The opening was cagey with neither side creating anything. Everton took the lead, thanks to Pienaar, with five minutes on the clock. Frank Lampard, inadvertently, looped the ball towards his own area and Pienaar was on hand to fire the loose ball past Petr Cech. The South African showed great initial determination, winning the ball from a Chelsea throw in, and then continued his run into the area.

Chelsea's first opening came around the 15-minute mark. Phil Neville cleared a Raul Meireles cross at Daniel Sturridge. Fortunately, for the home side, the striker's flick went straight to Tim Howard. Landon Donovan had an effort, from a poor Cech clearance; but it lacked power.

Everton's promising start began to fade, as the visitors dominated possession. Brief respite came via a marauding Leighton Baines run, with the full back winning a corner. Chelsea broke, at pace, from the corner and Neville brought Sturridge?s progress to a halt, around 40 yards out.

Lampard's driven free kick led to a period of sustained chaos in, and around, the Everton box. A poor Baines' clearance and a Howard flap did little to help matters. Mata, Sturridge, Torres and Lampard, all had efforts blocked, as Everton rode their look. Lampard fired Chelsea's clearest opening wide, after neat work by Mata on the Chelsea right. Everton were struggling to keep possession, although Pienaar remained a threat as he constantly troubled the Chelsea defence.

Everton had weathered the Chelsea storm and good play, between Baines and Pienaar, led to a chance for Tim Cahill. Unaware of the assistant referee's offside flag, Cech made a smart save from Cahill's header. A similar opening, earlier on, ended in the same result, as the Australian again strayed offside. Stracqualursi seized on a mistake but his effort lacked the necessary power to trouble Cech. Torres headed a Jose Bosingwa cross straight at Howard with half time approaching.

The start to the second half was low-key with neither side troubling the opposition goalkeeper. The tireless Stracqualursi had one effort blocked by Ivanovic and another forced Cech into a save, as the clock approached the 60-minute mark. Pienaar continued to be at the heart of Everton's best play. One particular piece of footwork, on the left, had Bosingwa in a daze. Another Torres effort was lacking in power, much to the delight of the home crowd.

With twenty minutes left, Stracqualursi put the game beyond doubt. A thunderous Phil Neville tackle, on Ashley Cole, left the full back in a heap, as Donovan advanced towards the Chelsea area. His pass found Stracqualursi and his effort found its way into the Gwladys Street net, with Cech wrong footed. Pienaar made way for Royston Drenthe with the Goodison crowd giving him a standing ovation. André Villas Boas replaced Mata and the Chelsea fans derided their manager with cries of "You don't know what you're doing".

The final ten minutes brought Howard's first meaningful save with a brave stop keeping out Romelu Lukaku. Tony Hibbert and Shane Duffy came on, for Stracqualursi and Darron Gibson, as the Everton mentality became a containing one. Cahill had a shot blocked, as Everton saw the game out in comfortable fashion.

John Heitinga and Sylvain Distin enhanced their claims to be first choice centre backs. Heitinga is enjoying the best form of his Everton career and is emerging as possible captaincy material. Baines, revelling in the return of Pienaar, remained a prominent attacking threat. The hard-working Gibson and Fellaini worked well together, as Fellaini produced another dominant midfield display.

Stracqualursi and Cahill made up for their technical limitations with sheer determination and hard work. Landon Donovan added another assist to his Everton resume and the Goodison faithful will be sad to see him leave. He adds another dimension to the Everton midfield, creating space with his pace and vision.

Everton rose to the occasion, yet again, against a top four side at Goodison. The Toffees have gone back to basics, in recent weeks, and are reaping the rewards. The problem is that for every Manchester City and Chelsea, there is a Stoke and Wigan. David Moyes has to find a way of getting the same commitment, intensity and desire against the Premier League's lesser sides.

Match Ratings:

Howard 7 Neville 7 Heitinga 8 Distin 8 Baines 8 Donovan 7 Gibson 7 Fellaini 8 Pienaar 9* Cahill 7 Stracqualursi 8

Subs: Drenthe 6 Hibbert n/a Duffy n/a

Reader Comments

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Kieran Kinsella
252   Posted 12/02/2012 at 03:37:05

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Good review.
Trevor Stephen
258   Posted 12/02/2012 at 04:37:07

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My mum watched last night's game with me in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia...when Steven scored, she said "Pienaar's back and now everything's gonna be fine"...I hope she's right...yesterday was the first time in a long time I punched the air in pure excitement...COYB!!!!!!
Robbie Muldoon
276   Posted 12/02/2012 at 06:52:13

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Donovan was more than a 7, lad!
John Keating
278   Posted 12/02/2012 at 07:19:21

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Howard instills no confidence !
Steve O'Malley
281   Posted 12/02/2012 at 07:36:46

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I think you are obviously still in the party spirit, Luke, giving Gibson a 7. I am still trying to work out what his strengths are, passing would not appear to be one of them.

I will give him a few more games, however, until he has really had time to feel his feet and get used to playing week-in & week-out. It may just be that he is a bit ring rusty; for our sake I hope that's what it is.

And you're right, John (#278): Howard blows hot and cold and I have never been a fan of his. All-in-all, though, it's one of those increasingly rare occasions when you watch the boys and go to bed with a smile on your face. Long may it continue!!
Bob Parrington
311   Posted 12/02/2012 at 11:03:59

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I agree with Robbie! Donovan 7++!

And, that's 3 of the 24 pts I predicted from the last 14 games (only allowed 1 pt for this one though!!!)
David Hallwood
334   Posted 12/02/2012 at 12:42:10

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Great report Luke: I wish posters would give players time to bed in; new club, new playing style etc. Most people are slaggin off Gibson and he's only been here 2 minutes. Felli is playing really well, and is it because he has zer water carrier next to him? ? just a thought.
Luke O'Farrell
344   Posted 12/02/2012 at 13:36:12

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As a few have said, since his arrival, I think we are getting much more out of Fellaini. That is largely down to the work Gibson is putting in, the lad doesn't stop running.

He is becoming quite the lucky charm, as well, and I wouldn't drop him for one reason alone - it is now 21 Premier League games since Gibson was on the losing side. Call me superstitious but I don't fancy dropping someone with that record.

For those who question his impact; personally, I think he's becoming quite the unsung hero, here are some stats about the lad:

Yesterday: Team passing (69%) Gibson 18/23 (78%); only Fellaini bettered that (38/45 - 84%). Only our centre backs made more clearances than Gibson's 4. Gibson made the most tackles (4) and and won 100% of his battles for possession.

Overall, this season, Everton's pass completion rate has been 76%; since his arrival, Gibson's has been 83%. The team's tackles success rate is 78%, as is Gibson's.

Team averages (Gibson's averages in brackets): Passing in own half: 86% (90%), passing in opposition half: 66% (77%), passing in final third: 65% (73%)
Jem Traynor
396   Posted 12/02/2012 at 16:09:38

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Yeah, I agree with Gibson Question ? he's a good player; with the stats shown by Luke O'Farell, he really does make a difference to the team! Just because you don't see a killer pass every 5 mins doesn't make him a bad player! 'Unsung hero' is a good analogy of the lad!

It is good to see the team playing well again and goes to show what a good manager DM is!! Now it is down to the Board to DO SOMETHING TO BACK THE GUY UP!!!

The Blue Union are only about the Board under-performing!! So back the manager or you'll be the ones to blame and the fans will really not be happy and they'll have nothing to believe in about the club, thus rendering the Board Redundant... Not that they seem arsed anyway! But it is obvious to see the greed they are emanating and the effect it has!!
Jamie Zeqiri
409   Posted 12/02/2012 at 16:37:05

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Well written piece, aside from, the, totally superfluous, commas,,,!

Fellaini was immense again, agree with above comment on Gibson wondering whether what he does simply lets the big Fella do what he does best. Also a nagging feeling that Marouane only looks so good when he is compared to Darron though!

Pienaar was different dollars though, so glad he wasn't given a chance at Spurs.
Ryan Holroyd
412   Posted 12/02/2012 at 16:46:31

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Jamie Zeqiri

"Also a nagging feeling that Marouane only looks so good when he is compared to Darron though."

What rubbish. Fellaini has owned Essien, Lampard, Barry, Meireles, Milner etc is recent games.

Fellaini generally looks quality. His close control with feet and chest are first class.
Keith Glazzard
430   Posted 12/02/2012 at 17:01:22

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Fellaini and Heitinga are top class players, for any club, any country, and we are fortunate to have them.

Gibson is a reasonably cheap purchase as a decent midfield support for the Big Fella. And it seems to be working well so far. It might well get better.

My bet, though, is that Gibson is the down-payment for Rodwell going the other way.
Paul Ratcliffe
452   Posted 12/02/2012 at 18:22:43

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After a good couple of weeks for the blues with wins over City an Chelsea, plus the additions of some new and some old faces to Goodison, I have noticed the attitude of supporters chainging every week from "Moyes Out" to "Who would you get in?" then he got his tactics spot on for the last two games.

All season, I've heard people blaming Moyes for Everton's decline... yet, after being given a very modest amount of money to spend, he has single handedly changed the views of most fans I've spoke to. Let's face it, the guys watched a team he built be stripped of its best players when it should've been invested in.

The decline in attendance this season is very disappointing. I've sat through some very poor football this season but have never considered turning my back on my beloved blues. But, despite 10 thousand less fans, the atmosphere in Goodison was fantastic for both City and Chelsea, which made me ask the question: Do the missing fans make any noise when they are there? Or do they just only sing when we're winning and ditch us when our players need us to back them most?

Andrew Rimmer
754   Posted 13/02/2012 at 19:25:43

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Yeh this revival is scintilating isn't it
11 shots on target in the last 3 games, cor blimey get the moggadon to calm me down!
Get real the lot of you. This is just a thin gloss over the shit that is served up week in week out. The only reason we weren't last on MOTD again was that it was a piss poor Chelsea we beat.
Don't get me wrong, i like the battling attitude, but that's all it is!
I await the screams of "how dare he".

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