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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Wednesday, 4 January 2012; 8:00pm
Everton 
1 2
 Bolton
 Howard (63')
Half Time: 0-0
Ngog (67'), Cahill (73')  
Attendance: 29,561
Fixture 19
Referee: Phil Dowd

Match Summary

The Premier League's basement boys, Bolton Wanderers, come to Goodison Park on Wednesday night for a game that saw the much-anticipated return in the No 9 jersey of Landon Donovan. Seamus Coleman and Royston Drenthe, two absentees from Sunday, missed out again.

Some nice touches from the returning American included a nice low cross in the 13th minute that picked out Stracqualursi but his first-time clip was off-target. Then a great ball from Baines fell beautifully for Saha who got his feet all of a tangle... no penalty!

Donovan did a nice diagonal run and pass to Osman whose shot from distance tested the Bolton goalkeeper. Jagielka was hurt in a challenge with Ngog, forcing an early substitution with Rodwell coming on and Heitinga dropping back.

Before the break, Donovan seemed to have a clear run into the area for a shot on goal but he went down far too easily when he felt the breath of Ricketts on his neck; Phil Dowd was unimpressed.

Some horrendous defending from Everton almost gifted the lead to Bolton after the break, Howard jabbing out a leg to deny Petrov who had the Blues defences at two and threes (sixes and sevens would be over-generous).

Osman went off with an injury, to be replaced by Magaye Gueye... Then Rodwell was pulled, to be replaced by Cahill, Rodwell also heading straight down the tunnel for treatment... so three enforced substitutions before the hour mark. But the game turned on a moment of bizarre wind-assisted circumstances, Howard's clearance bouncing once before flying over Bogdan and into the Bolton net!!! Who says hoofball is bad?!?!

Just as Goodison Park revelled in their luck, and screamed for Hibbert to do likewise, Ngog dodged around Heitinga and fired cleanly past Howard to equalize.

With more dismal defending, Howard forced to punch, Gary Cahill sprang onto the ball, spun and fired past the hapless Howard, who should perhaps have been a little more excited about getting his name on the scoreboard.

Gueye won a good free-kick as Cahill hauled him down on the Dee, perfect for Baines too lash brilliantly over the wall and off the face of the bar! The scramble that ensued had Bolton rocking until they were saved by the final whistle and a chorus of boos for the hapless Blue Boys... Shocking result.

Michael Kenrick

 

Match Report

The winds that gusted through Goodison Park swept the ball 80 yards from Tim Howard's boot and into the Bolton Wanderers net as the American scored an incredible and rare goal but they were not enough to carry Everton to victory. Instead, on the back of shambolic defending and their now customary inability to carve open chances at the other end, David Moyes's side let slip a priceless lead and succumbed to a fifth home defeat of the campaign against the Premier League's bottom club.

Conditions in the Old Lady were difficult throughout and it undoubtedly affected the performances of both teams but to blame for this defeat would be to ignore the awful level of quality that the Blues have been serving up all season long... that same sub-standard fare that Moyes acknowledged in the press in the lead-up to the game.

The manager answered the clamour for a two-pronged strikeforce by handing another start to Denis Stracqualursi, bolstered of course by a second dbut for Landon Donovan, but the more attacking formation was undermined by poor service to the forwards and another highly disappointing showing by Louis Saha whose touch deserted him almost entirely in the swirling winds.

In truth, apart from a few nicely-worked openings, the most notable of which prompted a contentious decision by referee Phil Dowd not to award a penalty when Donovan went sprawling in the box under close attendance from Sam Ricketts, Everton barely looked like scoring. So when a routine Howard clearance skipped wickedly off the turf and sailed over Bogdan's head into the Bolton net, it should have been greeted and defended like a precious gift.

But while the Blues' display descended into an incoherent and slipshod mess, with increasing long balls and stray passes, Bolton managed to overcome the conditions sufficiently to keep the ball on the deck and score two well-taken goals to turn this fixture on its head. Had Leighton Baines's injury-time free kick crept an inch lower under the bar and delivered a stunning equaliser, a point wouldn't have flattered the Blues but it would have papered over the obvious cracks.

Everton started with their usual dominance of possession and a couple of early opportunities offered hope that this would become the routine home victory the 29-odd thousand hardy fans who showed up were hoping for. Donovan's lively start included a smart low cross to Stracqualursi after 12 minutes but the Argentine striker couldn't steer his shot close enough to goal to trouble the 'keeper.

A minute later, an error by Zat Knight gifted Saha a chance but he couldn't get the ball out his feet sufficiently to avoid stumbling and poking it wide.

The visitors then had a decent spell of their own and after Greta Steinsson had blazed a cross-cum-shot into the side-netting, Howard had to push an aerial ball over his bar following a corner while Osman had a 20-yard effort comfortably saved and Phil Jagielka almost forced home a corner at the other end.

Two really nice moves in the final quarter of an hour of the first half saw the Blues go close again to breaking the deadlock. First, neat passing between Donovan, Osman and Saha saw Osman take advantage as the referee waved play on when the Frenchman was obviously fouled but from the angle his shot flashed across the face of goal.

Then, a minute before the interval, Saha steered a ball forward to Stracqualursi and the big striker back-heeled it smartly into the path of Donovan who was flying past Ricketts at full tilt when he either stumbled or was clipped by the defender TV replays would later fail to provide much clarity but referee Dowd was unmoved and play continued.

And in the final action of the half, an awful Howard clearance went straight to Nigel Reo-Coker in the centre circle and he put David Ngog into the clear between Sylvain Distin and John Heitinga Jagielka had been forced to leave the field a few minutes earlier after denying Ngog with an excellent blocking tackle but Howard parried the French striker's shot away well.

The second half was an altogether less impressive affair where the home side were concerned. An early Baines corner threatened to fly straight in but Bogdan fisted it off his line and Jack Rodwell drove wide from the resulting second corner kick.

But in a foreshadowing of what was to come, a catalog of errors in the Everton defence kept them hemmed into their own box and Mark Davies was eventually allowed to dance past two Blue shirts before forcing a brilliant save with his legs from Howard.

And the American 'keeper had to be at his best six minutes later when clawed Ngog's curling shot to safety at full stretch.

By the hour mark, Moyes had been forced into his second and third changed because of injury. After less than 20 minutes of action, Rodwell had to be withdrawn to be replaced by Tim Cahill after Osman had been taken off in favour of Magaye Gueye.

Of course, none of those new introductions played any part in the goal that arrived a few minutes later that owed everything to the wind. That knowledge, combined almost certainly with empathy for his fellow goalkeeper, probably explained Howard's non-reaction to making the scoresheet for the first time in his Everton career.

Any smiles were wiped off Evertonian faces just four minutes later, though, when Ngog stepped through the home defence and buried an unerring shot into the far corner to level the scores.

11 minutes after that, after Howard had punched another swirling aerial ball to partial safety, Baines was caught on the wrong side of Chris Eagles who fed Gary Cahill inside the area. Phil Neville lost him completely and stepped forward, giving the defender all the space he needed to emulate Ngog with an equally accomplished finish to win the game.

12 minutes plus stoppage time remained but Everton never seemed to recover from the blow of conceding the second goal and lost their way as an attacking force.

Saha zipped a header narrowly over from Baines's free kick and Baines himself crashed that late free kick off the underside of the bar but it was not to be Everton's night.

Instead, the inquest into yet another embarrassing home defeat no doubt kicked off among irate supporters filing away from the ground.

In fairness to Bolton, they stuck to their task well, defended better in the difficult conditions and carved open the Blues' defence on two crucial occasions. Everton, meanwhile, failed to sufficiently use their newly-acquired American asset Donovan became more isolated and less involved as the game wore on and paid the price.

Things are clearly wrong in Moyes's squad and it's hard to deduce what is being done on the training ground to improve the attacking failings that still dog what is not, by most reckoning, a poor side.

A 4-4-2 line-up with a hugely defensive central midfield pair that is unable to consistently find another blue jersey was doomed to failure, and yet there were a few moments of quality involving the more creative players, of course, like Osman, Baines and Donovan where you could see glimpses of the team Everton used to be.

Injuries are, of course, taking a huge toll and it's unthinkable that Moyes would have played Neville and Heitinga together had Fellaini been fit but while the likes of Ross Barkley watch on the from the bench and joint-top scorer Apostolos Vellios doesn't even figure, you have to wonder whether the manager is using the best tools for the job at hand.

Player Ratings: Howard 8*, Hibbert 5, Jagielka 6 (Rodwell 6 (Cahill 5)), Distin 6, Baines 6, Neville 4, Heitinga 5, Osman 6 (Gueye 6), Donovan 7, Saha 5

Author

Match Preview

With three points already in the bag for 2012 following the New Year's Day surprise at The Hawthorns, where Victor Anichebe plundered a victory from a game that deserved no winner, Everton play their first home fixture of the year against struggling Bolton Wanderers.

The two teams met at the Reebok Stadium as recently as the end of November where Everton ran out comfortable winners against the ten-man Trotters and, buoyed by a four-match unbeaten run and the anticipated return of Landon Donovan, the Blues will be confident of doing the double over the Premier's League's bottom club.

Of course, things are rarely so cut and dried and David Moyes's men have struggled under the weight of expectation at Goodison against the League's supposedly weaker sides — a home draw against Norwich and defeats to Stoke and QPR have limited the Blues to just three wins on their own turf this season.

The common threads: momentary lapses of concentration at the back and a chronic lack of cutting edge up front. In terms of the former, a run of five games with just three conceded suggests that Moyes is getting his house in order in defence, particularly now that Sylvain Distin has returned.

And though Anichebe has plenty to do to prove his strike at West Brom wasn't another isolated incident in a long barren spell, he and Donovan will provide competition for places in the forward areas that will hopefully spur on the visibly ageing duo of Loius Saha and Tim Cahill.

Of course, the competition for places only exists if Moyes is willing to create it. His first-choice striking partnership has one League goal between them this season, with precious little to suggest that return will improve any time soon, and yet his joint-top scorer, Apostolos Vellios, watched the proceedings at The Hawthorns from the stands.

Denis Stracqualursi has been favoured over the Greek in recent weeks, essentially since he replaced him as a substitute against Stoke a month ago, but though the Argentine has put himself about well coming off the bench, he has no goals to show for his efforts.

Against the backdrop of Moyes's recent selection history and the possibility that Anichebe won't be deemed sufficiently match-fit to start, it could well be Saha and Cahill who kick off against Owen Coyle's beleaguered outfit.

Given the niggling injuries that have disrupted the Festive period, you can understand the manager's prudence. Marouane Fellaini and Seamus Coleman remain serious doubts with abductor and thigh strains respectively, Royston Drenthe may not have recovered from the illness that ruled him out at West Brom and it's not clear whether Jack Rodwell's substitution against the Baggies was precautionary or because his hamstring had again flared up.

That leaves the man of the hour, Mr Donovan. Given that his arrival has been so hotly anticipated and that his time at Everton will again be so short, it's highly likely that Moyes will hand him an automatic start. Certainly his pace, directness and invention will be a welcome addition to a fairly moribund side that sorely lacked some of the same qualities from Coleman and Drenthe on Sunday.

Bolton, meanwhile, are in some fairly dire straits, with confidence at a dangerously low ebb amid a run of poor results that has, not surprisingly, left them rooted to the foot of the Premier League. Since their inexplicable 5-0 demolition of Stoke in early November, they've played eight, won one, drawn one and lost six.

Curiously, though, they've won three times on the road — presumably enjoying the escape from the pressure cooker at home — and that should serve as a warning sign to Everton that they will be no pushover.

* Unfortunately, we cannot control other sites' content policies and therefore cannot guarantee that links to external reports will remain active.

Match Preview
Match Summary
Match Report
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Match Reports
2011-12 Reports Index
< West Brom (A) Tamworth (H) >
EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Howard
  Hibbert
  Jagielka (42' Rodwell (61' Cahill))
  Distin :77'
  Baines
  Heitinga
  Neville
  Donovan
  Osman (53' Gueye)
  Saha
  Stracqualursi
  Subs not used
  Mucha
  Bilyaletdinov
  McFadden
  Anichebe
  Unavailable
  Coleman (injured)
  Drenthe (injured)
  Fellaini (injured)
  Duffy (loan)
  Silva (loan)
  Baxter (loan)
  Garbutt (loan)
  Wallace (loan)
  Yobo (loan)
BOLTON (4-4-2)
  Bogdan
  Steinsson
  Cahill :90+2''
  Knight
  Ricketts
  Muamba
  Eagles (81' Pratley)
  Petrov
  M Davies
  Reo-Coker :21'
  Ngog :12' (87' K Davies)
  Subs not used
  Lynch
  Robinson
  Wheater
  Tuncay
  Klasnic

Premier League Scores
Monday
Aston Villa 0-2 Swansea
Blackburn 1-2 Stoke City
Fulham 2-1 Arsenal
QPR 1-2 Norwich City
Wolves 1-2 Chelsea
Tuesday
Man City 3-0 Liverpool
Tottenham 1-0 West Brom
Wigan 1-4 Sunderland
Wednesday
Everton 1-2 Bolton
Newcastle 3-0 Man United


Team Pts
1 Manchester City 48
2 Manchester United 45
3 Tottenham Hotspur 42
4 Chelsea 37
5 Arsenal 36
6 Liverpool 34
7 Newcastle United 33
8 Stoke City 29
9 Norwich City 25
10 Sunderland 24
11 Everton 24
12 Swansea City 23
13 Aston Villa 23
14 Fulham 23
15 West Bromwich Albion 22
16 Wolverhampton Wanderers 17
17 Queens Park Rangers 17
18 Bolton Wanderers 16
19 Wigan Athletic 15
20 Blackburn Rovers 14


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