With the euphoria of Tuesday's FA Cup replay triumph subsiding and the semi-final with Liverpool still two weeks away, Everton refocussed on the Premier League and moved above Liverpool with a comfortable win against poor opposition in the form of Roy Hodgson's West Brom side.Everton started brightly, with Baines and Pienaar getting back in the grove early to set up Gibson for a strike that was only a foot or so high. Gibson got a knock but recovered to take the first corner, won by Cahill. Some atrocious passing allowed WBA to come back into the game a little but things were not clicking until some neat work by Osman and an quick one-two enabled him to score with a deflection.
Everton had a huge escape when Scharner was allowed waltz in and shoot, Howard only able to palm it across goal where the follow-up shot appeared to go behind off an excellent block from Jagielka but in fact hit another West Brom player. At the other end, Everton were getting time and space to play some nice football but the final pass was often going astray.
Pienaar took things into his own hands, running in on the WBA defence and firing a shot just wide. Fellaini reacted angrily to an ankle tap but the free-kick, like most crosses in the first half, was too close to Foster.
David Moyes withdrew goalscorer Osman at the break, bringing Magaye Gueye on to play down the left, with Pienaar crossing to the right wing. Baines picked out Jelavic fora nice header but Foster had it covered at the near post. The Croatian then went in the book for raising an arm and cathcing Ridgewell in the head.
The Blues were flagging a little, having been uninspiring since the break, and the crowd was getting nervous that a goal could go the wrong way... Cahill clipped Ridgewell and went into the ref's book for very little, and was later replaced by Anichebe.
Pienaar's excellent one-two with Anichebe was spoilt by Olsson but Jelavic tried to be a little too clever with his standing chip from the free-kick. Everton nemesis, Paul Scharner was surprisingly replaced on 67 mins hopefully reducing the chance of a gaol against... and it was Victor Anichebe who surely wrapped the game up with an excellent ground shot that beat Foster and went in off the far post. .
Better work by Jelavic and a lovely backheel set up Pienaar for an easy third goal but he took an extra touch and Foster was all over him. Pienaar then set up Jelevaic for an easy sidefoot but his shot was feeble at best and far too easy for Foster.
Jelavic was involved in a lot but his touch was too often poor, and his failure to control the ball or put the right weight on it was at best frustrating, and he was withdrawn for the last few minutes for James McFadden, as Odemwinge got an earful from his teammates!
A comfortable win in the end for a tired and lacklustre Everton side who will need to tighten up their game significantly against more determined opposition.
With the euphoria of Tuesday's FA Cup replay triumph subsiding and the semi-final with Liverpool still two weeks away, Everton must focus again on the Premier League where things have tightened up between the clutch of clubs behind the top six clubs.
Just three points separate Liverpool in seventh and Norwich City in 11th and Everton can leapfrog their Merseyside rivals for 24 hours at least with a home victory over West Bromwich Albion who visit Goodison Park for the second time this season. The Blues beat Roy Hogdson's men in the Carling Cup back in September and also took all three points in the League on New Year's Day thanks to Victor Anichebe's late striker.
The Baggies have been a lot better on the road than at the Hawthorns recently, though, where they've won six times to Everton's five, including victories at testing venues like Stoke and Newcastle.
They will come up against an Everton side that is back in good form, though, having recorded two superb 2-0 victories at Swansea and Sunderland in the past week, games that have set a new bar for David Moyes's side as they enter the home straight of the campaign.
Having rested players for the Anfield derby and then doubled down on the decision by admitting this week that he believes he should have rested more to avoid the replay at the Stadium of Light — what, and rob those traveling 7,000 fans those memories? — it would not be surprising if Moyes made changes to the side that won on Wearside on Tuesday evening.
Steven Pienaar is back in contention again and is odds-on to start but with Royston Drenthe apparently still unavailable, Magaye Gueye could be rewarded for his accomplished display in the cup tie by keeping his place in the team, perhaps giving Leon Osman a break.
Phil Neville making way for Tony Hibbert is an option, as is resting John Heitinga to give Phil Jagielka more playing time. It would all depend on how much Moyes is thinking about that cup semi-final in three games' time and whether now is too soon to be thinking about squad rotation. With two games in as many days scheduled for the Easter weekend, it's the home game with Sunderland where the manager is likely to make the most changes.
In particular, Moyes will keep an eye on Marouane Fellaini who needs to make it to the semi final without collecting two more bookings which would take him to 10 for the season and would keep him out of the Liverpool game through suspension.
Though minds may stray to Wembley, there are precious points to be won in the League before then which, with each League place typically worth half a million pounds, could be crucial in the final reckoning. Moyes will no doubt be keeping his charges grounded but complacency must not be allowed to creep in and kill the momentum that the team is building right now.
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2011-12 Reports Index|
|WEST BROM (4-4-2)|
|Tchoyi 73' Fortune|
|Brunt (77' Cox)|
|Scharner (67' Dorrans|
|Subs not used|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||36|
|17||Queens Park Rangers||28|