Shorn of key midfielders, Arteta and Fellaini, choosing not to play Rodwell
or Cahill, Moyes put out a rather defensive and frankly uninspiring
line-up, but Jagielka partnered Heitinga despite the media hype of overblown
attentions from Arsenal. And Tony Hibbert finally made his first appearance of
the pre-season but no promising youngsters in evidence on the field after the
reserves played at Oxford last night.
After cagey keep-ball from Everton, Chris Burke got behind the defence far
too easily thanks to Osman giving the ball away cheaply and he was able to work
a good shot at Howard that he blocked away.
Birmingham were giving the lads a good game, closing them down when
defending, making them work, and attacking brightly when they had the ball.
Osman got the ball out for Coleman to have a poke. At the other end, Fahey
had a snapshot after Hibbert stood on the ball but it flew wide.
A great ball from Fahey played in Carr far too easily behind Bily, whose
defending was hopeless, but Carr could only drive his shot at Howard. Big
Vic got whacked and Baines whipped in a deep ball from wide left that beat
everyone. Coleman was getting more involved but with no end result as
Everton struggled a little to impose themselves on the game, the Brummies
closing down well and denying space.
Another incisive movement form Fahaey, and Burke was laid across Howard's
goal and should have been wafted in. From the corner, it was chaos as
Howard missed the ball at the far post and Osman had to clear the ball off the
line in a goalmouth melee.
Fahey fouled Osman in a an advanced position and Baines crossed better
but it was defended away and Everton were forced to defend again. Much fired in
good strike from distance that Howard had to scramble round the post and the
defending on the corner was very poor, allowing Burke a free header and he
should have scored.
Again, Brum got forward far too easily and Redmond played Adam Rooney in
behind but his strike was woeful as the ball bobbled.. Beckford somehow got the
ball in front of the keeper but drove straight at him. Everton's play was
tipified by a hopeless deep cross from Heitinga, trying and failing to switch
the play to Coleman.
Everton continued to struggle, building way too slowly, unable to play
adventurous or incisive balls until Bily played Coleman wide, he jinked insdie
and set up Osman whose side-foot went wide. Marginally better play from a
Carr got past Bily again but Bily did a lot better this time, tackling close
in, getting the ball off Carr and clearing well, but to zero effect in terms of
another powder-puff Everton attack. A very poor first half, Everton not
looking sharp, lacking a decent gameplan and any inspiration, they looked
somewhere between poor and very poor at the break.
Right from the whistle, Birmingham were at Everton's throats and won a
dangerous free-kick that was hopelessly executed by Murphy. Redmond then
popped a deep free-kick in that Howard had covered at the angle. Fahey pulled
out an excellent shot from amongst the crowd outside the box that Howard again
had to block away.
In a better move from Hibbert, Coleman ran forward and was fouled right on
the edge of the box. Baines executed a brilliant free-kick, curling it
beautifully over the wall and away form the keeper, inside the post. A
sudden burst of the highest quality amidst a game of increasing dross.
Baines was then yanked off and replaced by Louis Saha.
Immediately, Everton looked brighter in the final third, his first shot
bobbling off his standing foot. Then his next shot evading the keeper and
sneaking inside the post for the second goal. On came Ross Barkley (not
listed amongst the subs!) for Seamus Coleman, Neville dropping back to left-back
and Everton looked far better than they had. They relaxed a little now, and
started playing more relaxed composed football, with Barkley well involved and
looking especially bright in an advanced central midfield role.
Neville took a corner that was defended and Redmond galloped off up the
field. Anichebe was back to defend and managed to collapse in a heap after
colliding with the corner flag. Birmingham applied a little pressure but the
Everton defence held firm. That was until Redmomd ran at Hibbert, who backed off
too much, centered to Burke whose shot was going wide until Rooney's clever
backheel pushed it inside the post past a bemused Tim Howard. No clean sheet for
Burke got another chance and should have at least got his shot on target as
Birmingham tried hard to get the equalizer their earlier play had warranted.
Gueye came on for Anichebe late on and put an excellent strike in off a
free-kick. Barkley came very close with the last kick of teh game after
great work from Gueye. The Everton lads played out the last few minutes of a
much better second half despite (or because of) numerous substitutions.
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