QPR kicked off and looked to get at Everton early on and it was mostly scrappy hoofball from Everton in the first few minutes as they struggled to settle. QPR worked their first chance far too easily, Smith volleying wide as the Blues defence looked static. But Osman won the ball brilliantly and sent in an excellent cross that Beckford just missed, then Rodwell did good to let Osman cross again but Beckford fluffed a dramatic volley; then Rodwell was blatantly pushed in the back but no penalty.
It took a while for either side to structure anything approaching a decent attacking move with lots of loose aerial balls all over the park but QPR finally got some possession after 16 mins and won a dangerous free-kick off Jagielka that Tarabt thankfully wasted. Everton's passing was questionable at times as it looked very much this was what it was: their first serious game of the season.
Barkley did very well to challenge the QPR backline and win a free-kick in the dee that Baines swung in beautifully off the underside of the bar and down but out! So close!
Barkley then tried an ambitious clip from 25 yards out after Rodwell was closed down. Cahill won a great 50-50 ball and looked forward but somehow failed to play in Beckford and QPR went up the other end to probe a shaky Everton defence that finally crumbled as Smith curled a good shot around Howard and just inside the far post.
Goodison was stunned, and the players struggled to get it together after that, their passing and understanding looking poor at times, Beckford looking for fouls rather than playing football. Hall got booked for cutting down Cahill, giving Baines a chance to cross in brilliantly and Everton screamed for a push but Beckford swung in a brilliant return ball from wide right (what was he doing out there?) that Cahill incredibly headed wide at the far post, missing a glaring open goal!
Neville's overhit cross was rescued by Heitinga on the byeline and headed back perfectly but Beckford, well placed, planted his header straight at the keeper another golden opportunity gone begging. Then a brilliant Baines cross was deflected a little high and Cahill, coming around the back got just a fraction underneath a trademark header and powered it just over the bar.
No changes at the break but a glorious chance minutes later fell for Rodwell in space with plenty of time, but he lifted the ball tamely into Kenny's hands, a dreadful effort really. Cahill almost got booked for another poor challenge that led to more nervy moments as QPR mounted a rare attack.
With precious little by of way of response in the 10 minutes since the breaak, Rodwell, whose interplay was poor at times, was hauled off for Arteta as Ageyman needed a lot of treatment after landing awkwardly.
Osman went on a nice little run and was all set to pull the trigger when Derry blocked him well. Dreadful play from Jagielka totally wasted a play out of the back, hoofing it straight to a QPR defender under no pressure whatsoever: dreadful play for an England International. By this stage, the QPR bus was parked and Everton needed something opportunitsic in attack, but David Moyes bizarrely chose to replace his most opportunistic striker, Beckford with midfielder Fellaini, who still appears to be struggling for fitness or he surly would have started the game, but he immediately silenced the resounding Goodison boos by setting up Cahill with an excellent ball that the Aussie drove hard at Kenny from a wide angle.
Everton, a goal down at home to Premier League new boys, playing without a recognized striker, continued to huff and puff as the minutes ticked relentlessly away and the natives became increasingly restless, if that were possible!
Barkley won a very dangerous free-kick with a sharp turn off a great ball from Osman, and Baines deferred to Arteta who planted it into the wall, sadly indicative that little was working in the final third. Barkley resorted to shooting from distance but drove it just wide as Saha came on for Heitinga.
With a more positive set-up now determined to rescue the game, basic mistakes and failed understandings between players continued to defeat the Blues' endeavours into the last 15 minutes of what should have been a stirring start to the season. Simply nothing was working to get then anywhere in behind the nondescript QPR defence, and frustrations started to set in, typified by Osman's needless booking.
Barkley seemed to be the only player with any intent of getting the ball in the QPR net but he was forced to shoot from too far out. A better move down the left involving Baines and Osman at least forced a rare save from Kenny.
Fellaini's play was strange; he seemed to be missing far too many passes, playing in his old and now unfamiliar forward role. The Blues continued to probe and prod into the 5 minutes of added time. Baines swung in a nice free-kick as the last gasp that Fellaini again headed straight at Kenny, and he was offside again, which syummed everything up only too well...
A dismal, dismal result to start the season after everything that has gone on this week and not gone on this summer in terms of getting new players in. The result will do nothing to deflect the claim that Everton, players, manager, chairman, board, are stale, stagnant and moribund.
The heat may finally be building on Bill Kenwright and the Everton Board as the extent of the credit freeze gripping Everton Football Club, along with their inability to do anything meaningful to resolve it, has been laid bare this past week, but with more or less the same group of players as 12 months ago (albeit a year older) the same squad billed as the best to grace Goodison in two decades any genuine "crisis" (one borne mainly of ageing players and not enough funds to replace them) looked to be a couple of seasons away.
This demoralising opening-day defeat, however, the sheer predictability of the way it unfolded, and the resounding chorus of boos that accompanied it could usher in a crisis of confidence and supporter disenchantment much sooner if it marks the beginning of another run of results that plunges the Blues back to the bottom of the Premier League.
Predictable was the watchword of the day the 4-5-1 formation that has been David Moyes's crutch for almost all of his time in charge at Everton; the lack of imagination in the final third; the crucial defensive lapse; the wayward passing; the dearth of sustained attacking threat; Moyes's "we lacked quality" quote after the game; all the way down to Mikel Arteta taking free kick duties off Leighton Baines and driving a direct effort into the defensive wall.
And if Moyes's decision to leave Louis Saha and Marouane Fellaini on the bench and then replace lone striker Jermaine Beckford with the Belgian midfielder after 64 minutes leaving the team without a recognised attacker on the pitch for 10 minutes wasn't all that predictable, it wasn't all that surprising given his propensity for such bizarrely negative moves against supposedly inferior opposition in the past. Nonetheless, the crowd gave the manager their disapproval with both barrels and booed Kenwright for good measure when his pained countenance appeared on the big screen shortly afterwards.
With no fresh faces added to the team this summer, the chances were great that the Everton side that kicked off 2011-12 campaign would be little different in terms of playing style than last season. Any hopes that the coaching staff might have freshened things up in terms of tactics and approach were dashed within the opening quarter of an hour; this team plays exactly the same way as last season, with the same useless punts downfield from Tim Howard to a striker in Beckford who is useless as a target man for such aerial service, the same susceptibility to moves breaking down on the edge of the opposition area, and the same slack passing.
The one difference? The one surprise of the day? The breath of fresh air that was Ross Barkley, a 17 year-old kid making his senior debut who showed up each of his outfield peers with a performance of such composure and self-assuredness that it's a wonder he shares the same Finch Farm training facility as everyone else. Whether it was spraying a pin-point cross-field ball to switch the play to the opposite flank, a quick change in direction to wrong-foot and beat his marker, or being the one player not afraid to put their boot through the ball when a chance opened up in front of him, Barkley's display belied his years and offered enormous hope that the Blues have unearthed another gem from the youth ranks that will save the Club millions. Unfortunately, though he came close with a couple of 20-yard efforts, Barkley wasn't able to rescue this game for Everton.
In the final reckoning, it's fair to say that this game could have turned out very differently had two incidents swung Everton's way. First, when their first spell of pressure ended with the feet of Jack Rodwell 10 yards from goal and he was clearly bundled to the groound as he lined up a clear shot on goal. Referee Kevin Friend, doing nothing to shed the impression formed last season that he is the worst referee in the Premier League, waved away appeals for a foul that would almost certainly have been given had it occurred anywhere else on the pitch.
Second, when Barkley was clipped on the edge of the box after 20 minutes and Baines stepped up to whip a now trademark free kick off the underside of the crossbar. Another inch lower and Everton would have taken the lead.
As it was, it was newly-promoted QPR who were thrashed 4-0 by Bolton on their own turf in their opening fixture last weekend who snatched the advantage 10 minutes later. The home defence eschewed a series of opportunities to clear the danger from a rare spell of Rangers pressure and then allowed Buzsacky too much space to thread the ball inside to Tommy Smith who, having lost Phil Jagielka as the defender was drawn off his marking duties towards another opponent, had all the time he needed to pick a spot past Howard and make it 1-0.
Everton took eight minutes to respond and came within inches of grabbing an equaliser when Beckford whipped a cross behind the visiting defence but Cahill, stooping inside the six yard box, somehow contrived to put his header past the far post.
John Heitinga then headed smartly back from the byline to pick out Beckford but he couldn't get enough power on his own header to trouble Paddy Kenny before Cahill despatched Baines' deep cross over the bar with the last chance of the first half.
Troubled by the familiar attacking failings on display, hope nonetheless remained for the Goodison faithful that things would change in the second half, perhaps with some dressing-room inspiration from Moyes or an attacking substitution during the interval. Neither really materialised, though, and while Rodwell spurned a gilt-edged chance off Heitinga's pass just two minutes after the restart and Arteta made his entrance after another eight minutes, a depressing sense of deja vu was setting in for the increasingly anxious fans.
Heitinga sliced wide from 20-odd yards just before the hour mark, Osman wasted a promising attack by ignoring the opportunity to carve the QPR defence open with a pass through to the well-placed Beckford and was closed down, and Cahill emulated Rodwell's earlier miss by firing straight the at 'keeper.
Having seen Moyes haul the increasingly sloppy Beckford off after 64 minutes and roundly booed the manager for bringing on Fellaini instead of Saha, the fans got their wish right on cue with 20 minutes to go when the Frenchman was told to start warming up. He finally entered the fray in the 74th minute as the last of three subs but, truth be told and Barkley aside, he was as bad as the rest of them.
The less said about Everton's pathetic attempts to rescue anything from this game the better. Save for two fine efforts by Barkley and a header at Kenny by Fellaini, the final quarter of an hour plus five minutes of stoppage time were a demoralising mess before referee Friend put them out of the misery and allowed them to escape the fans' verdict by disappearing down the tunnel.
With all due credit to QPR for a job well done, the painful truth for Everton is that they were rarely troubled by the West London side, Tim Howard really only called upon once to pick the ball out of the net following Smith's goal. The game was there to be won by a Blues team that should be so much better than they are but they just didn't look like they knew how to do it.
Quite why Moyes chose not to put his best foot forward with his best possible starting line-up preferably 4-4-2 with Beckford and Saha up front but at least with Fellaini and Saha on the pitch from the first whistle is anyone's frustrated guess. Arteta's lack of match fitness was known beforehand but unless the manager was shielding Saha and Fellaini from rushing back to competitive football after long injury layoffs, his decision not to include them smacked of disrespect for QPR.
Of course, all that matters now is the response from the players and manager, starting with the Carling Cup banana skin posed by Sheffield United in midweek. Moyes has been moved by supporter angst to shuffle his pack and formation in the past but there's no guarantee that he'll do anything different, and therein lies the concern.
Will his stubborn adherence to his rigid tactics preclude any attempt at a two-man attack? Will his unwillingness to mend fences with certain players keep a natural goalscorer like Yakubu in the shadows even if Beckford starts to struggle for form and confidence? Can he or Steve Round get the team playing the kind of football they've shown countless times over the last few seasons that they know how to play? Can he keep morale sufficiently high among the players as they take the next steps along what looks like a very long road to May 2012 as Board-level problems continue to bubble away in the background? And will the faithful be able to sustain their dogged support as the realisation of the death of the Champions League dream really sinks in?
Player Ratings: Howard 6, Neville 5, Jagielka 6, Distin 7, Baines 7, Rodwell 6 (Arteta 6), Barkley 8*, Heitinga 6 (Saha 5), Osman 5, Cahill 6, Beckford 5 (Fellaini 6)
Everton kick off the 2011-12 season a week late after their scheduled opener against Tottenham was postponed in the wake of the London riots as newly-promoted Queens Park Rangers come to Goodison Park.
The West Londoners last visited Liverpool L4 for a League game 16 years ago but the football landscape has changed irrevocably in the interim, of course, and the two clubs come into this as signs of uncertain and fluid times.
While Everton Chairman Bill Kenwright admitted this week that the club is out of borrowing capacity and that his apparent search for a buyer has come up empty, QPR have been buouyed by another takeover at Loftus Road. Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes took a controlling 66% interest in the Hoops this week, handing manager Neil Warnock a transfer fund to bolster the squad after his side was humbled by Bolton last weekend.
David Moyes has no so such luxury, of course. His summer has been an exercise in frustration as he watched the proposed permanent transfer of Joseph Yobo to Fenerbahce stall and no buyers come in for wantaway Yakubu, all the while knowing that he'd be lucky to see any of the proceeds of either sale even if they came to fruition.
His pre-season preparations were then distracted by speculation linking Arsenal with a move for Phil Jagielka, something that both chairman and manager have been at pains to insist will not happen.
The good news, of course, is that Moyes will begin the campaign with a squad that while small is close to full fitness. While there are small question marks over the extent of Mikel Arteta's fitness after a pre-season foot injury, he is expected to start, leaving the flanks as the biggest cause for concern.
Seamus Coleman is ruled out through injury, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov is suspended and while there has been no mention of Magaye Gueye in the lead-up to this game, the Frenchman was seen with a cast on his leg a few days ago so one would assume he won't be fit. That would leave the manager few options in terms of wide players. Leon Osman will no doubt fill one slot and Moyes has deployed both Jack Rodwell and Victor Anichebe on the wing in the past.
In goal, defence and up front, though, Moyes has a full complement and the luxury of selection options in attack in particular now that Louis Saha is fit again and Yakubu is back from his loan spell at Leicester.
QPR's frailties as one of the top flight's newcomers were ruthlessly exposed by Bolton on their own turf last week so there will be plenty of self-doubt for the Blues to exploit if they can carry the form that took them to a seventh-place finish last season into the new campaign.
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2011-12 Reports Index|
|Heitinga (74' Saha)|
|Rodwell (54' Arteta)|
|Beckford (63' Fellaini)|
|Subs not used|
|Coleman (suspended & injured)|
|Agyemang (55' Bothroyd)|
|Smith (66' Ephraim)|
|Subs not used|
|Premier League Scores|
|9||Queens Park Rangers||3|
|18||West Bromwich Albion||0|
|Previous Scores (Day 1)|
|West Brom||1-2||Man Utd|