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Season 2011-12

Black Cats Declawed Once Again

By Lyndon Lloyd   ::  09/04/2012
 44 Comments (Last)

Everton 4-0 Sunderland

There may be plenty to the old adage that the form book goes out the window for Merseyside derbies but there is something to be said for the confidence gleaned from a rich vein of form and Everton are in the midsts of a pleasing run of results that can only help as they prepare for Saturday's showdown with Liverpool at Wembley.

True to form established in recent years, Everton's form has taken off since the turn of the year and even though David Moyes made a number of expected changes, the Blues still dominated and then summarily put to the sword a Sunderland side that is by now surely sick of the sight of them. Goodison's faithful was treated to the biggest win of the season so far and in-form striker, Nikica Jelavic, wasn't even in the squad; the Croatian watched from the stands alongside attacking partner, Tim Cahill, as their teammates dismantled the Black Cats' with a four-goal blast in the second half.

With his side playing their second game in three days, Moyes chose to make a number of personnel changes, handing starts to James McFadden, Denis Stracqualursi and Magaye Gueye, moving Phil Neville to left back, partnering Phil Jagielka with John Heitinga and resting the aforementioned forwards as well as Leighton Baines, Sylvain Distin and Darron Gibson. Leon Osman returned after missing the draw at Norwich with a knock, partnering Marouane Fellaini in central midfield now liberated by the yellow card amnesty.

Pleasingly, the standard of pass-and-move football that has been a hallmark of the Blues' last five games, was barely diminished by the much-changed starting XI and the home side established a casual dominance in the first half. It yielded few clear-cut chances but with Martin O'Neill's side curiously subdued, it allowed Everton to control the game without overly exerting themselves.

Indeed, Sunderland's insipid display must have infuriated his manager. Whether it was revenge for the cup replay which Everton navigated so masterfully to end the Wearsiders' Wembley dreams or the knowledge that were coming up against a below-strength team with one eye on a semi-final date this coming weekend, the Black Cats had plenty of incentive to be "up" for this Easter Monday match-up but were largely tame throughout. No sign, therefore, of the team that romped to a 3-1 lead at the Etihad Stadium in their last away game and held on for a 3-3 draw against expensively-assembled Manchester City.

Tim Howard had as easy a time of things in the first half as he did against West Bromwich Albion here nine days previously and only a spectacular overhead kick by Stephane Sessegnon gave him cause for alarm before the break, the Benin international's effort flying a couple of yards wide.

By that point, Everton had fashioned a few half chances of their own. Pienaar combined nicely with Gueye but skied a left-foot shot when the Frenchman returned the ball to him with a square pass inside the box and Fellaini made a mess of a first-time effort at the end of a patient passing move orchestrated nicely by Osman who delivered the final ball that the Belgian sliced wide.

Only McFadden managed to test Simon Mignolet in the visitors' goal before the break when he faked to shoot with his right foot, cut the ball back into his left and fired low forcing the 'keeper into a low save.

Having coasted through the first half, Everton had energy in reserve for the second and they started on the front foot, with a succession of corners, two won by the tigerish Tony Hibbert and one of those led to the opening goal. A defender's header dropped to Pienaar on the right side of the area and when his header found Jagielka, he laid it back to Osman to drive an accurate shot goalwards from 18 yards that Mignolet could only parry to his right.

Luckily Gueye came steaming in on the follow-up to smash the ball home from the angle and record his first goal in Everton Blue. The overdue milestone clearly meant a lot to him and it was rich reward for his quiet emergence as a viable first-teamer in the last few weeks.

After a brief injury scare for Heitinga who went down clutching his ankle in a fair amount of distress after 52 minutes, Sunderland were briefly roused from their torpor and the match momentarily threatened to pivot on one moment of disarray in the home defence with a quarter of an hour to go. Heitinga ill-advisedly left a deep cross from the left that was scooped up off the byline by a Sunderland man to the opposite post but Jagielka scrambled the loose ball away from a vulnerable spot in front of his goal before anyone could pounce on it.

A minute later, Everton doubled their lead. Royston Drenthe, who had replaced the eager but ultimately ineffective McFadden 10 minutes earlier, cut in swiftly from the right and rolled a square pass along the 18-yard box to Gueye who tapped it to Pienaar and the South African was able to pick his spot with a sweeping right-footer that curled around the fingertips of Mignolet and inside the far post.

A further minute later, Osman collected Gueye's dinked ball forward and advanced to almost the same spot from where Pienaar had scored and emulated his teammate with aplomb, spinning a perfectly-struck shot in off the same far post to make it 3-0.

And a third goal in five minutes quickly followed. Victor Anichebe had only been on the pitch three minutes after relieving Fellaini before he profited from great work by Pienaar by the byline that saw him keep the ball despite stumbling under a defender's challenge and then skip into the box and cut it back to the danger zone.

Anichebe mis-kicked initially but had the awareness to swivel onto the bouncing loose ball and his half-volleyed shot deflected off Jack Colback's chest and past the wrong-footed goalkeeper to make it four.

Game, set and match Everton and a fourth win in five games with 10 goals scored, four clean sheets and just two goals conceded. You couldn't ask for much better form at this stage of the season and going into an all-important Wembley date in five days' time. With hopefully no longering knocks and his first-choice starting XI refreshed, the Blues will be well prepared for what will be a nailbiting clash with the neighbours in London on Saturday.

Player Ratiings: Howard 6, Hibbert 8, Jagielka 7, Heitinga 7, Neville 7 (Coleman -), Fellaini 8 (Anichebe 7), Osman 8, Gueye 8, Pienaar 8, McFadden 6 (Drenthe 7), Stracqualursi 7 (just; for effort, really). Man of the match was a toss-up between Pienaar and Osman.

Reader Comments

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Ryan Holroyd
652   Posted 09/04/2012 at 19:46:28

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Straq 7... I'd give him 3 at best. He's useless.
Dean Adams
658   Posted 09/04/2012 at 19:48:43

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At last we are playing like a team that believes in themselves. It just could end up being a great season for us and hopefully will result in us starting next season before the Christmas holidays!!

A balanced report as ever Lyndon, but why only a 6 for Howard? What did he do wrong? He was totally efficient all afternoon (sleeping in his hamock)!!
Lyndon Lloyd
659   Posted 09/04/2012 at 20:01:24

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Heheh, nice one, Dean. Yeah, he had nothing to do and that's the way we like it!

It's hard not to gush about the way we're playing right now. The style of football we're exhibiting is superb at the moment. I only hope we carry it through to the semi-final at the weekend because that is the way we'll beat them.

Forget the fire and brimstone derby approach, beat them with fast-moving, passing football. Shit, I'm nervous already...
Mark Riding
662   Posted 09/04/2012 at 20:04:35

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Lyndon.. dont mistake 'nerves' for excitement !

Never had a better chance.
Ian Glassey
667   Posted 09/04/2012 at 19:55:34

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Just got back from the game, first half was like a training game. Second half much better, think the semi final team picks it self apart for left midfield.... Howard Neville Johnny H Distin Baines.... Osman Gibbo Felli ???.... Cahill Jelavic... what do you think..
Chris Matheson
684   Posted 09/04/2012 at 20:40:17

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The big difference for me is that we are not lumping high balls into the box. We are still going out wide but playing the ball on the ground, crossing hard and low, or dare I say, actually trying to play the ball through the middle.

Much better to watch and much harder to defend against. And as today showed, we are even having a few shots from the edge of the box. Someone pinch me!
John Brereton
692   Posted 09/04/2012 at 21:12:01

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Everyone really has it in for McFadden. The guy has come back from some real injury problems and deserves a break - a 6 is a bit harsh...
Keith Glazzard
693   Posted 09/04/2012 at 20:50:17

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Heitinga was immense today, as was Fellaini and its so good to see them come through unscathed.

Pienaar was simply unplayable at times and its such a pity that he won't be gracing Wembley - twice. I don't think Arry cup-tied him out of spite because he thought he was keeping him anyway. Gawd knows what happened in that last half-hour of the transfer window.

And great to see Drenthe back, totally determined to prove his worth. We were good value for the 1-0 lead and instead of defending it Royston was unleashed. Amazing.
Kevin Davies
695   Posted 09/04/2012 at 21:16:47

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John @692, I thought 6 was a bit generous!!!
James Morgan
698   Posted 09/04/2012 at 21:19:52

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We are playing some great stuff lately. I blame Steve Round.
Dennis Stevens
699   Posted 09/04/2012 at 21:27:35

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Has he been off sick, James?
Dave Roberts
711   Posted 09/04/2012 at 21:57:53

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Ian Glassey, in wondering about the team for the semi, put 2 BIG ?? (question marks) AGAINST FELLI!

FFS what has this lad got to do to convince people that he is a class player and is essential to Everton's future at the moment.

Felli was not only immense today (hence the standing ovation when he went off) but has been immense for the last 6 weeks or more. The lad is a fucking genius who can break up play, get the ball on the deck and set up attacks.

Lyndon Lloyd
712   Posted 09/04/2012 at 21:58:40

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Dave, I totally agree about the Belgian Beast -- he is essential to us -- but the ??? question marks to which you refer appear to me to denote the unknown starter in left midfield (i.e. Gueye or Drenthe) not a questioning of Fellaini. [FYI: Tried emailing you about it but your registered email address bounced back.]
Andy Morden
713   Posted 09/04/2012 at 22:04:31

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Dear god, no to Cahill starting and no to Osman on the wing. He's wasted. Osman in the Cahill role and Drenthe on the right, Gueye on the left. Get at them and play the the fast flowing football Lyndon, rightly, advocates.
Trevor Lynes
715   Posted 09/04/2012 at 22:01:39

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Just dont be over confident guys...Just hope that Dr Jekyl stays in control and we dont bring out any Mr Hyde's...Games against Liverpool are always physical and I dont want any of our boys getting sent off...who is the ref for the semi final ?

Let's keep eleven on the pitch and just keep things tight without getting into any personal vendetta's.

Cahill has to watch himself and so does Felli and Heitinga.
COYB's this is our final.
Lyndon Lloyd
717   Posted 09/04/2012 at 22:15:56

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In fairness to Cahill, Andy, he has been playing really well up front with Jelavic recently, striking up a nice partnership and understanding.

If the game does descend into blood and thunder, we're going to want Tiger Tim in there. Plus, he is still a threat from set-pieces with a knack for scoring important goals against the red horde!

For me, the team that started at Sunderland should be the team that starts Saturday.
Nick Armitage
721   Posted 09/04/2012 at 22:22:45

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Osman, Man of the Match, again.

Cahill has got to start v the shite. He hates them as much as we do, and they hate him as much as we hate Gerrard.

Their midfield cannot contend with him and his runs, never a better wind up merchant either and he is coming into form and linking up well with Jelavic as a foil.

We really do owe them a good twatting.
Graham Mockford
723   Posted 09/04/2012 at 22:22:01

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Andy just to back up Lyndon, next Saturday will be our biggest game in three years. Forget current form because it will be a battle of wills. Tim is not the player he once was but the one thing you will get is that diehard spirit that characterises seven years of exemplary service to this club. Remember the first ten minutes of the Sunderland replay and the way he clattered the Greek which set the tone for the night. It would be madness not to let him at them!
Phil Bellis
724   Posted 09/04/2012 at 22:17:53

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As Ian said, most of the time it was like a practice match - the crowd were in similar vein
For me, we appear, now, to have a squad, not just a best 11, and only cost us £119,137.98
"are you watching..."
Dick Fearon
732   Posted 09/04/2012 at 22:53:02

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Cahill is a must, you know what you get with him. On form or not he works like a horse and never ever shirks a tackle,
With Osman you are never sure if he is on the pitch.
If Ossie guaranteed a performance like tonight then fair enough but past experience tells you that he is a gamble too far.
Mike Gaynes
734   Posted 09/04/2012 at 22:57:45

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Dick, they will both start, I'm certain of it.

And Dave Roberts, you got it absolutely right.
Andy Morden
742   Posted 09/04/2012 at 23:32:51

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Sorry chaps, but I'm sticking to my guns on Cahill in the semi. I agree that IF it descends into a fight hea's handy. But we set out for a fight in the anfield game and got outplayed. And out of Cahill and Osman I think Osman offers more as a footballer in the middle. But I just know Moyes will have to put both Osman and Cahill in. Which means Leon on the wing. Would be happy to be proved wrong by a Cahill hat-trick in a 3-2 roller coaster, mind!
Si Cooper
757   Posted 09/04/2012 at 23:48:14

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Is Wembley a bigger than average pitch, and if so does that influence team choice? Think we need to match the RS physically and maintain a threat of a quick break to hold their midfield. Drenthe probably wouldn't last more than 60 minutes but would still like to see him start and Gueye could help to bring Bainesy into the game. Ossie for trickery and link-up play just behind Jelly, and then bring Tim on to sustain the intensity in the last 30.
Kevin Sparke
760   Posted 10/04/2012 at 00:06:07

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Si - no, the dimensions of Wembley are 115 yd (105 m) long by 75 yd (69 m) wide

Goodison is 112 x 78 yards (According to the club website)

So Wembley is slightly narrower but three yards longer
Roman Sidey
761   Posted 10/04/2012 at 00:00:48

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Scored a good goal, and not having a go, but was Osman that good? I didn't think he'd done too much to be stoked about, but to be honest, I do focus on his negatives a little too much.
Lyndon Lloyd
762   Posted 10/04/2012 at 00:09:45

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Is Wembley a bigger than average pitch...

It's five yards longer and a yard wider than Goodison (115x75 versus 110x74 according to Wikipedia, so not sure who is right; it's been 112x78 for as long as I can remember) so not that much bigger but the size of the stadium always makes it feel a lot bigger.

If it's a hot day, as was the case in the 2009 Final when we just appeared to wilt, that can magnify the impression that it's a vast playing surface. Looks like the forecast calls for scattered showers in London on Saturday so heat is unlikely to be an issue, thankfully.
Stephen Sullivan
766   Posted 10/04/2012 at 00:15:38

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I see Hanson and Lawrenson went overboard about Pienaar's display tonight whilst ignoring many of the other excellent performances from Everton players. "Shame he isn't available for the semi final" they smirked?
I sense fear in the old boys?
A good sign indeed!
Matthew Salem
767   Posted 09/04/2012 at 23:59:05

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I too have questioned Cahill's usefulness this season and think that although I feel he has another 2-3 years in him, he did not contribute enough to warrant the numerous starts he got this season. But he seems to have picked up somewhat alongside Jelavic and if there is one game where he definitely should be involved, it should be against the scum. So yes, Tiger Tim.

Aside from the flanks, the line-up seems obvious. Drenthe/Secret Weapon or Osman/Coleman ?
Rahman Talib
801   Posted 10/04/2012 at 06:04:05

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Guys, have you guys forgotten about Jamie Mac-Hibbert partnership?

I mean, even though Jamie Mac may not mean that much, but he was able to feed good ball to Hibbert which in turn was crossed into dangerous areas.

Rahman Talib
802   Posted 10/04/2012 at 06:05:48

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For once, the enemy's defense had to worry about our activity on the right side of the field because of Jamie Mac-Hibbert partnership.

I admit it's not anything close to world class, but they get the basic things taken care off.

That made us looked balanced.

I'd play Jamie Mac on Saturday along with Hibbert
Rahman Talib
803   Posted 10/04/2012 at 06:07:52

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And lay off Straq. His industry distracts Sunderland's defenses taking out at least one defender out of the equation just because of him.

He's the best after Jelavic and we need to sign him permanently.
Martin Cartwright
822   Posted 10/04/2012 at 08:14:32

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This is the first time that I have posted on this site and hope that what I say is not too obvious.

Simply put.....awesome. As Toffeemen and women we have suffered more than our fair share of disappointments. However, I cannot remember the last time that we rotated our team in such an effective manner or for that matter were actually able to do so with one of the smallest squads in he league.

The most pleasing part for me in all this is having my father, who supports the Dark Side having had trials for them in his youth, turning to me and saying "How is it that your lot are above us in the league with all the money that we have spent?" My glib and somewhat smug reply was, "We deserve to be there as opposed to thinking that we should." This resulted in a tirade about King Kenny blah blah blah... needless to say, I won't bore you with it.

However, I like the rest of us, hope that all this hard work and endeavour is not undone on Saturday. My thoughts in respect of the team selection are:

Baines, Distin, Heitinga, Neville at the back.
Guyeye, Felli, Osman, Drenthe in midfield
Jelly and Cahill up top.

My final thought is that, with Moyesy having 10 predominately successful years in charge, let's bag some silverware and put the icing on top of the cake for once.
Peter Bradshaw
824   Posted 10/04/2012 at 08:43:18

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Last three comments, oh good god was the reply
Mark Murphy
827   Posted 10/04/2012 at 08:58:51

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Rahman - behave!
Utter nonsense!

Neville should play right back as at Sunnerlan.
Mcfadden is bench fodder no more no less.
Jamie Barlow
841   Posted 10/04/2012 at 09:29:21

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Stephen@766, i thought that was pretty ridiculous. I don't think they mentioned any other player. Just making sure they picked out the only player who can't play against them.

Horrible bastards, all 3 of them.
Colin Malone
845   Posted 10/04/2012 at 10:16:04

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The game on Saturday is going to be much, much faster and we are not the greatest when teams are running at us. Sunderland did it once and it had the likes of Howard flapping.

We have to keep the ball, no hoofballs from the likes of Howard, Neville, Hibbert, we have to keep the ball on the ground... ESSENTIAL!!!
Nick Entwistle
860   Posted 10/04/2012 at 11:19:37

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I missed the game. How was Drenthe's attitude? Anything awry?
Paul David
861   Posted 10/04/2012 at 11:15:28

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How can people say Cahill is back on form? He still doesn't look like scoring... all he shows now is defensive qualities.

I have no doubt he will start on Saturday but does he deserve to?
Stephen Kenny
881   Posted 10/04/2012 at 13:03:23

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Lyndon 717

I only skirted through but it appears you don't think Jelavic should play on Saturday?

Or were you referring to the team that put Sunderland out the cup?
Paul McGinty
887   Posted 10/04/2012 at 13:51:35

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Though Sunderland didn't get many corners I enjoyed the moment when Vaughn got a standing ovation from the street end as a reward for his clinical finish in the cup tie!?
Franny Porter
890   Posted 10/04/2012 at 13:59:54

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Howard Webb is the ref. Seems to be the most highly rated ref around, I however, think he's a tool.
Dave Lynch
891   Posted 10/04/2012 at 14:14:43

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What in gods name have you been smoking mate ?

Playing JMc would be suicidal, he's shite.
Erik Dols
892   Posted 10/04/2012 at 14:20:06

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@Franny Porter:

I can tell you that most people in Holland think Webb is an absolute disgrace since the WC final ;-)
Sam Hoare
894   Posted 10/04/2012 at 14:28:53

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Rahman...thats amusing. Made me laugh.

I would imagine that the only possible position for debate would the flanks where personally i would go with Gueye and Osman. The same team as vs Sunderland basically...

I'm not sure i trust Drenthe not to do something stupid and would rather have him on the bench to bring on later in the match hopefully as a counter attacking threat when we are winning but if not then to make something happen....

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