A gorgeous sunny day and a packed Goodison Park, with a really big game to end the season. Newcastle United looking for a win to retain faint hopes of the Champions League, while Everton need the money that comes from 7th place rather than 8th or 9th... Rodwell and Anichebe are injured but Gibson, Baines and Neville all return; however, Distin was dropped to the bench, perhaps carrying a knock?
From an early Newcastle free-kick superbly taken, Demba Ba almost scored, forcing a goalline save by Howard. Everton then got more into it, some hopeful forward moves, one where Osman overplayed what could have been a brilliant forward pass for Jelavic. Meanwhile, Ba tried to grab glory and skied a half-chance.
It was developing well as a competitive feast, when Heitinga made a bizarre two-footed lunge that won the ball cleanly but was awarded with a yellow card by ref Marriner, who then called Fellaini for a foul when the defender slipped and Fellaini avoided a yellow card. Tiote then came in heavily on Fellaini from behind and he rightly got a yellow card.
Fellaini came close with a difficult header driven in from deep by Neville that the Belgian tried to loop over Krul, but just wide of the angle; a good move as the slow build-up and wing play had not been making much progress against a well-disciplined Magpies defence.
Form a Howard clearance, Fellaini got space off an excellent piece of work by Osman, and ran forward playing across to Pienaar who saw his chance and struck it well but a nice deflection of Williamson's arse gave the ball a sweet trajectory away from Krul and into the top corner for an excellent opening goal in the 16th minute.
A superb free-kick by Baines was played across the goal area by Osman at the far post, and Pienaar running in smacked his shot against the post. Everton's first corner was delivered straight to Krul by Osman. Cabaye then got a talking to for needlessly shoving a ballboy to get the ball for a throw-in.
A hoofball from the back gave Jelavic a fantastic opportunity as he beat Colucini, controlled the bouncing ball on his chest (and slightly with his left arm) then lashed an Exocet at Krul, who saved magnificently, but the parry back to Jelavic was coolly lobbed over the Newcastle keeper and into the net for a superb second goal.
After Gibson had driven wide with a rare shot, Gutierrez at the other end looked to extract revenge but his shot was hopelessly wide in a very rare Newcastle foray forward, such had been Everton's dominance. Osman went on a great run and really should have scored but pulled his shot just wide. Fellaini damaged an ankle but it didn't stop some fantastic play with Pienaar down the left and a beautiful move that ended with a powerful shot from Gibson, but straight at Krul.
Cisse came close with a snapshot that sat up nicely for him but it was driven wide. Newcastle's half was summed when they won a lucky free-kick very softly off Fellaini, that Ben Arfa smacked well wide. Everton had played some scintillating stuff but risked a response from the visitors in the second-half, Pardew hauling off both full backs after the break, and Cisse getting an easy chance that scuffed wide with Howard beaten.
Newcastle won their first corner but it came to nothing; however, they continued to play in Everton's half, Taylor firing in a free-kick that Howard held comfortably, but still Everton laboured to get going properly again, poor defending setting up another Newcastle shot that was blocked.
The Blues did get another long ball forward to Jelavic and he did really well to control and turn but was off-balance and drove his shot wide. But the game was very different until Cabaye fouled Pienaar, setting up an excellent free-kick opportunity that Gibson got over the wall well and tested Krul at the near post.
Howard was struggling in the Everton gaol after over-stretching on an earlier goalkick, but refused to come off despite having Jagielka then take them which he did rather well.
Everton should have had a clear penalty when Williamson dragged Pienaar down in a headlock, while Howard made a great stop off Cisse. Then a free-kick won out wide right of the Newcastle area by Jelavic was swung in well by Gibson and Player of the Season Johnny Heitinga was all on his own when he powered the ball home through Krull with an unstoppable header. 3 - 0!!!
Johnny Heitinga came off to a great round of applause, to be replaced by Sylvain Distin for the final 20 minutes, Cabaye taking a potshot from distance that Howard could only parry for a corner. Hibbert, then scored a great headed goal... but in the wrong net, as Howard came off his line to collect a simple ball. Neville then came off, giving Tim Cahill a chance for a runout.
Howard made a great one-handed save right under the bar to deny Cisse as Everton sat back on their two-goal lead and tried to play out the final 15 mins, continuously giving the ball away until Pienaar saw some space and played in Jelavic for a great forward run but the Croat delayed to shoot or pass to Fellaini in a good position and the chance was lost.
Krul made a double save off a great Gibsoin strike that he pushed straight at Cahill who could only return it to him rather than putting it around him into the gaping goal. Nikica Jelavic then came off to give Denis Stracqualursi a cameo that could be his last in a Blue shirt.
Everton looked at sixes and sevens at times with what passed for defensive football but still Newcastle could not score as the time ticked away on the 2011-12 season. Finally they got forward again, and Gibson struck another drive just wide. Then Baines and Pienaar created more magic down the left that was worthy of a goal but was blocked out for a corner.
Then from a throw-in, Osman almost got the fourth, smacking his shot off the foot of the post after some lovely footwork had created the space. Osman got another chance that he smacked straight at Krul. And it was all over, bar the shouting, as Cahill was sent off!!! He somehow got into a fight with Cabaye just after the final whistle, that left a really strange taste in the mouth, as the biggest crowd of the season stayed behind to acknowledge the Lap of Appreciation from the Players and Manager.
Everton extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to nine games and helped dash Newcastle United's Champion League dreams with another comprehensive home victory that sealed seventh place in the Premier League. Only an own goal by Tony Hibbert and a red card for Tim Cahill at the final whistle spoiled an afternoon of football that underscored the remarkable transformation David Moyes's side has undergone in the second half of the campaign.
If the supporters who crammed Goodison Park for an end-of-season sell-out feared that the players might already have one eye on the beach, they were quickly dispelled as the Blues stunned the visitors with a dominant first-half performance that yielded two goals and had Everton firmly in the driving seat by half time.
Steven Pienaar opened the scoring with 15 minutes gone when he found himself with the time and space to measure a curling shot from outside the area that took a deflection off a defender and sailed spectacularly into the top corner.
And 11 minutes later it was 2-0. John Heitinga, playing again in central defence alongside Phil Jagielka who was preferred to the player's player of the year, Sylvain Distin, picked out Nikica Jelavic with a long pass out of the defence and though the ball appeared to roll off the Croatian's arm, he played on and forced a parrying save from Tim Krul.
Jelavic reacted quicker to the rebound, though, and half-volleyed smartly past the goalkeeper with a sublime change of feet to record his 11th goal in all competitions for Everton.
Darron Gibson then tried his luck from distance for the first of a handful of times but saw his shot saved by Krul as Everton retained the upper hand before the interval, with the Barcodes restricted to free kick attempts by Jonas Gutierrez and Yohan Cabaye and a couple of wayward shots from their strike pairing of Demba Ba and Papisse Cisse.
Knowing that Tottenham only held a slender lead over Fulham and Arsenal were being held by West Bromwich Albion at the halfway mark, Newcastle knew that they needed to somehow turn the game on its head in the second half — and come from behind to win for the first time under newly-crowned Manager of the Year, Alan Pardew — if they were to have any hope of finishing in a Champions League-qualifying slot. And they duly came out of the break with a renewed sense of purpose, dominating the early possession and winning their first corner but Cisse missed with one shot and Hatem Ben Arfa was similarly inaccurate from a similar position outside the box.
And when they did find the target, they found Tim Howard in uncompromising mood, even after the American was forced to undergo treatment on the field for what looked like a groin injury sustained taking a routine goal kick. Not having missed a single League game for four years, Howard was not about to stand down to allow Jan Mucha to make his Premier League debut and he soldiered on.
By that time, Everton could have been 3-0 up but Jelavic squandered a great chance after rolling off the shoulder of his defender and slicing wide with his weaker left foot and referee Andre Marriner — who has done little this season to dispel the belief that he is an awful referee — refused to award a penalty when the striker was clearly dragged down by the neck by Coloccini.
It was 3-0, though, with 65 minutes gone when Gibson swept a free kick to the six yard line from wide on the right and John Heitinga rose unchallenged to power home his first League goal of the season. His reaction demonstrated how much it meant to him in a season when he was named the supporters' Player of the Year and Moyes would give him the chance to milk a standing ovation a few minutes later when he was withdrawn in favour of Distin.
The one chink of light Newcastle were given came with 17 minutes to go, though, when Hibbert intercepted a probing ball over the top looking for Ba but the defender's attempted back-header caughth Howard out of position and he was powerless to prevent the ball from bouncing into the back of the net to make it 3-1.
Another goal for Pardew's men might have markedly changed the complexion of the game but Howard denied them again with a superb, Petr Cech-like one-handed save on the goalline to keep Cisse's header out.
That was more or less it as far as the visitors' challenge went. They needed a miracle to win the game and, with both Spurs and Arsenal winning and sitting on far superior goal differences, their hopes of finishing in the top four had more or less vanished.
So it was Everton who finished the stronger, with Gibson testing Krul with a fierce drive that the 'keeper parried straight to substitute Cahill and the rebound bounced over the bar. Then Osman danced past his marker and slid a shot off the base of ther post and Krul made one last save from the same player in the last minute of injury time.
That should have been it but a bout of handbags betweenb Cahill and Cabaye that saw the Australian booked for grabbing his opponent by the neck ended proceedings on a confusing and somewhat sour note but it couldn't detract from another magnificent home victory, the Blues' eighth in nine games at Goodison.
All in all, a highly satisfying end to a campaign that threatened at one stage to descend into a scrap against relegation. A team that was showing signs of turning things around at the turn of the year was transformed by the January acquisitions of Jelavic, Pienaar and Gibson and the Blues finished the season on a nine-game unbeaten that was bettered only by Manchester City and Wigan Athletic.
Finishing above big-spending Liverpool for the second time in the Premier League era was an added bonus and though they missed out on European competition, there is plenty to suggest that this Everton team can genuinely challenge inside the top six next season if Moyes can keep the squad together and solve their annual early-season malaise.
Everton close out a season that threatened misery but instead gives cause for some optimism with a home game against Champions League-chasing Newcastle United.
The Blues can secure seventh place and finish above bitter rivals Liverpool for only the second time since the inception of the Premier League with a victory but the Barcodes have everything to play for themselves — if they win and Tottenham lose at home to Fulham (a result that could drop the Blues down to ninth) then Alan Pardew's men will secure the last Champions League qualifying slot... at least temporarily.
Should Newcastle pull off that fourth-place finish, their hopes of jumping onto Europe's gravy train will rest on how Chelsea fare against Bayern Munich next week. If the Londoners were to win the Champions League final they would rob the Geordies of the chance to play in next season's competition as only four English teams can qualify for the Champions League each season.
So, with so much at stake — depending on how Fulham and Liverpool do in their respective games, the result could be worth £1.6m to Eveton — this will not be an end-of-season stroll at Goodison Park and the Blues know they will have to earn what would be a fifth successive victory on the last day of the season. As far as omens go, one of those final-day successes was a 3-1 win over Newcastle.
The good news for David Moyes is that he could welcome back three players who have missed out recently through injury. Leighton Baines and Phil Neville have recovered from hamstring strains and Darron Gibson is also in contention but Jack Rodwell and Victor Anichebe remain sidelined and must now look forward to next season.
Should Baines be selected — it's not clear how much Moyes would risk him given the looming European Championships and the player's hopes of participating — it's likely that Sylvain Distin would drop back to the substitute's bench despite picking up the Everton players' player of the year award in midweek.
Neville may start on the bench come what may but Gibson would no doubt start if he is passed fit and partner either Marouane Fellaini or Tim Cahill in central midfield. On the flanks, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman are the likely starters, with Nikica Jelavic up front and looking to add to his impressive 10 goals in all competitions.
More than half of the Croat's shots on goal have been on target this season and he's scored eight League goals from just 18 efforts on goal.
Having failed to get the job done at Wolves in what was, ultimately, a disappointing goalless draw despite the refereeing injustice that denied Jelavic another goal, Goodison will be expectant of a rousing performance to end the season on a good note and salvage some Mersey pride.
More importantly, though, they will garner the maximum prize revenue still available if they can claim seventh place and make the reds' game at Swansea and Fulham's at Spurs redundant.
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2011-12 Reports Index|
|Perch (46' Marveaux)|
|Santon (46' Taylor)|
|Tiote :9' (81' Ameobi)|
|Subs not used|
|10||West Bromwich Albion||47|
|17||Queens Park Rangers||37|