WBA 2 - 0 Everton
Everton's flying start to 2012-13, together with and an 11-match unbeaten run in the Premier League that stretched all the way back to March, came to a shuddering halt at the Hawthorns this afternoon as West Bromwich Albion grabbed two simple second-half goals to consolidate their own impressive beginning to the new campaign.
The Blues traveled down the M6 for the second time in a week riding an unusually high crest of optimism after consecutive victories over Manchester United, Aston Villa and Leyton Orient and the climactic conclusion last night of what was about as successful a transfer window as most supporters could have asked for.
Unfortunately, the enterprising and incisive pattern established in those opening matches faltered in this second away game of the campaign with a flat and disjointed performance that never hit the heights the large traveling contingent had hoped for.
In truth, the Blues never seemed to really recover from the disruption to their early rhythm caused by the departure of Darron Gibson after just 17 minutes through injury. The midfielder, a veritable lucky charm in the Premier League having not lost any of the previous 28 games in which he's played, was the conduit for much of Everton's early, easy possession game. And though, the cutting edge was clearly missing in a fairly even first half that was characterised by a general lack of cohesion in moving the ball from defence to attack, Moyes's side were confident enough, no doubt, of their ability to press and score later in the game.
Gibson left the field gingerly with an apparent muscle strain, though, and was replaced by Tony Hibbert. Phil Neville moved up from right back to central midfield but the skipper just didn't bring the same composure or assured link-up play as the Irishman and Everton struggled to create things for the bulk of the afternoon.
The best of Everton's chances all seemed to come from headers in the first half; Nikica Jelavic was off target reaching for two set-piece chances and Marouane Fellaini's looping effort off Hibbert's deep cross was as close as they came before the break as it looped agonisingly onto the roof of the net.
But it was the home side, who had been forced to stay in their shell for the first half hour or so, who might have gone into the interval ahead were not for the intervention of, first, the crossbar and then Tim Howard. Liam Ridgewell picked out Shane Long with a pin-point left-wing cross that the Irish striker powered off the face of the bar in the 29th minute, before, on the stroke of half time, James Morrisson found himself in acres of space behind the visitors' defence but, having turned Sylvain Distin, he was denied by a terriffic one-handed stop by Howard.
As they had done in the first period, Everton started the second half the stronger side, with Leighton Baines' shot at the end of a nice move deflecting behind. On the next attack, Fellaini collected Jelavic's chest forward with his own neat chest control to take him past the tight attentions of Jonas Olsson but he dragged his shot wide and a good chance went begging.
With his side seemingly getting closer to making the breakthrough, Moyes elected to bring on Kevin Mirallas in place of Steven Naismith who had had a mixed afternoon on the Blues' right flank and the Belgian made an almost immediate impact. Charging in from the right near the byline after collecting a return ball from Leon Osman, the no.11 delivered a low cross that found Fellaini completely open at the back post but despite having all the time he needed to set himself and pick his spot, he skied an awful left-footer into the stand. In truth, he never looked like he had the confidence to bury the chance when he should at least have hit the target and it more or less summed up his and Everton's strangely off-key afternoon.
A minute later, Steve Clarke's own second-half change, Peter Odemwingie, romped down the left wing and pinged a low cross in ahead of Phil Jagielka and Long was on hand to easily convert from close range to break the deadlock.
Everton didn't really recover after that and some of the more important players started to lose their cool a little. Neville and Fellaini picked up silly bookings for unnecessary fouls and the captain was removed with 17 minutes to go in favour of Victor Anichebe as Moyes increased his attacking options searching for an equaliser.
With WBA growing in confidence, though, the Blues scuppered their chances of getting something from the game with poor work in their own half. Fellaini sold Baines short with a pass that the latter managed to move on to Osman but he was dispossessed and Youssuf Mulumbu tested Howard again with a powerful drive from 20 yards that the American palmed over the bar.
From the resulting corner, Howard failed to impose himself sufficiently to get past an impeding opponent and his attempted punch arrived too late to prevent McAuley from heading unchallenged and emphatically into the net to make it 2-0.
Everton's chances of mounting a dramatic rescue would be enhanced by five minutes of stoppage time but they ultimately rested and then foundered on a moment in the 89th minute. Jagielka fired a cross-cum-shot across the face of the West Brom goal and the ball squirmed through to Fellaini at the back post. The Belgian effected a somewhat lackadaisical backheel, though, and the opportunity evaporated.
The come-down from the high before this game is obviously a hard one and there will inevitably be fears of a return of some of the frustrations of last season where the team struggled to break down sides that set their stall out to close down the space, press and harry the Blues out of their passing rhythm as West Brom did.
The necessary shift in attitude — the self-belief, the drive, the arrogance — that will transform this Everton side from a top-six to top-eight side looking at the Champions League from the outside to one that will break that glass ceiling just wasn't there today. And Moyes's comments after the game that perhaps he should have held off on introducing Mirallas and held on to parity are a little concerning in that regard [clarification below].
The decision to replace Gibson with Neville in midfield very much followed the Moyes "playbook" but, in hindsight, Fellaini should have dropped back and Mirallas should probably have come on earlier to play behind Jelavic up front. Fellaini battled against West Brom's big defenders and a niggly referee in the form of Jon Moss and never really looked comfortable in the striker role whereas Everton looked more dangerous attacking in the floor, particularly through Mirallas' more direct running.
That was underscored by Fellaini's poor execution in front of goal as well but it would be wrong to lay the blame with the big Belgian because it was very much a collective "bad day at the office." Steven Pienaar began brightly but suffered from over-elaboration in the final third and he faded as the game progressed and Mirallas too became far less effective when he was switched to the left flank for the closing stages. If you had to pick a man of the match in Blue, perhaps Osman would swing it with a quietly effective job of linking up play in central midfield.
Ultimately, though the performance and result were poor, it's early enough that mistakes and lessons can be learned and, of course, six points from the first nine is not a bad return. The Baggies are well organised and physical and were a tough prospect coming into this game, even without Romelu Lukaku who missed out through injury, so the defeat is by no means a disgrace.
The two-week international break will give the side time to regroup and use the occasion of the Newcastle game back at Goodison to get their momentum back straight away. Hopefully by then, new signing Vidas Odjidja-Ofoe — the arrival of whom was the first thought that came to mind when Gibson hobbled off — will be clear to play and Moyes can continue moulding this side into something that can take on all comers, home or away.
Player Ratings: Howard 7, Neville 6 (Anichebe 6), Jagielka 6, Distin 7, Baines 7, Gibson 7 (Hibbert 7), Osman 7*, Naismith 6 (Mirallas 7), Pienaar 6, Fellaini 6, Jelavic 6
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128 Posted 02/09/2012 at 06:49:25
The suggestion that Mirallas should have come on earlier is pretty silly... Mirallas went 90 minutes on Wednesday and publicly admitted his exhaustion and lack of fitness, so he could hardly have been expected to put in 70 or even 45 minutes on Saturday. Even 30 proved to be too much for him.. he entered the game at 60 minutes and was clearly done by 85.
And several of your player scores are outrageously generous in my opinion... Pienaar and Baines both had horrendous passing games, and both committed glaring turnovers to present scoring chances to WBA... Pienaar twice in three minutes. Neither rates more than a 5 -- we expect more from our best.
130 Posted 02/09/2012 at 06:58:11
A good general/manager should realise instinctively to react to a situation/obstacle thrown up in his path and use or revert to a different tactic/personnel.
I suppose you could say as well that he hasn't had the luxury of those 'personnel' in latter seasons, so let's hope now that he FINALLY learns 'cause' and 'effect', and puts Anichebe out to pasture and Neville the fuck away from midfield and Osman a fresh legs sub.
134 Posted 02/09/2012 at 07:30:57
In what respect?
"We want to win the games, but maybe when it was nil nil I should have just said look, sit back, take the nil nil. But I want my team to play better, to be more creative in the final third. So some days you make decisions like that and they work for you, some they don't'.
Didn't he give the opposite of your concerns? And that going for the win it cost us our 11 game unbeaten run?
135 Posted 02/09/2012 at 07:46:31
On the scoring, I realised a long time ago that my scale is on the more generous side (one sub-consciously derived from the old Championship Manager ratings!) but have never felt comfortable revising is downwards because of the precedent set by years of my reports.
Suffice to say that 5 for me is poor, 6 adequate, 7 decent. I don't think any of the players were poor individually but failed to gel as a team.
Regarding Mirallas, he didn't look all that tired to me but he disappeared from the game a little when he moved to the left. He's not THAT unfit, I don't think.
137 Posted 02/09/2012 at 07:56:53
Yes, he did have the right impulse on the day. My concern, though, is that Moyes will think that decision did cost us the game and I don't think it did. It was our own failings in the final third and poor defending.
The fact that he says he wanted his team to "be more creative" is music to the ears and hopefully he will continue to put the emphasis on going out to win games rather than draw them away from home going forward.
141 Posted 02/09/2012 at 08:06:39
Moyes still on an everlasting learning curve was gazumped again. This time by a bloke who has barely had time at the Hawthorns to get his feet under the table. His own words condemn him to be the same old dithering Dave. While he was wondering whether to go for the draw, Steve Clark made his move.
142 Posted 02/09/2012 at 08:21:56
West brom look to be a tough team to beat but I reckon if Gibson had not been injured we would have had them. There hasn't been any news on his injury but I really hope he's not out for too long because if I know moyes he won't want to start vadis before he's had a few runouts as sub which means we could be stuck with Neville in midfield.
Real shame to burst the confidence bubble but we still have a strong first XI and if they play against Newcastle like they did last season we will hopefully have 9 points from 12 which will more than do for me.
147 Posted 02/09/2012 at 08:27:11
We had good chances and they didn't go in, Jelly got on the end of three superb crosses from Baines and Felli headed over and then missed a complete sitter. It sort of summed the afternoon up as they countered and scored.
Overall the team played well against an in-form WBA. Let's take stock and see where we are in ten games. I much prefer our eleven to theirs and we have the added bonus of some new faces. We should be well gelled and the new boys will know the drill, track back and defend when you lose the ball, all back for corners.
I reckon we will be top 8 and Albion well below us come December.
150 Posted 02/09/2012 at 08:38:22
This time yesterday my glass was pretty much full to the brim, today I’d say it’s half full. The Hawthorns was never going to be an easy game, I think the major disappointment as usual was the manner of the defeat rather than the defeat itself. I could throw a load of “what if’s” in (Gibson staying on / Fellaini scoring etc) but at the end of the day WBA beat us and from what I can see thoroughly deserved to.
Looking on the bright side – we’re still in a good position in the league and who knows what todays results throw up? Improbable as they are what will our perspective be if Southampton beat Man Utd? If Villa beat Newcastle? If Arsenal put 5 past Liverpool……?
I’m sure many will say they don’t care, all they care about is how we do, which is fair enough, but we are in a league competition and all results have got to be taken into context over the course of a season. And I think this one is going to be a blip – and there isn’t a team in entire league who hasn’t had one yet I don’t think bar Chelsea.
If we lost rather than drew because Moyes genuinely “went for it” then to be honest I’m pleased. If we continue to go for it we’ll win more than we lose and I’d rather win two thirds of my games and lose a third rather than win a third, draw a third, lose third.
Yesterday was a bit of a reality check for us all but I’m glad we had the ride up to it, and I’m also glad we’ve now got two weeks to pull ourselves together, hopefully Gibson will be OK to return and we can start again. And as much as the doom and gloom merchants raced to their keyboards last night to bang out “I told you so…!” I’m still confident we’ll end up 4th to 6th, in Europe for next year and who knows maybe even a Cup.
Onwards and upwards.
159 Posted 02/09/2012 at 09:51:45
As it stands there is no counter attack threat with keeping everyone back. The fact that we conceded with all players back and do so more often than we should just adds insult to injury.
172 Posted 02/09/2012 at 11:19:26
182 Posted 02/09/2012 at 12:08:37
190 Posted 02/09/2012 at 12:41:58
Watching the extended highlights what struck me was that it was West Brom set up as the away side rather than us and Moyes alluded to it in the post match interview.
OK we didn't play well, but Fellani's miss just before they scored is an early contender for miss of the season and that would have changed the game. All in all a bad even unlucky day at the office, and before people question the 'unlucky' statement, I've seen even the so-called big teams play even worse than that and fluke the points.
214 Posted 02/09/2012 at 14:50:47
As for Mirallas, he actually started out on the left, combining with Pienaar, which I found a surprising and inventive tactic from Moyes. His setup for Fellaini came off a lovely move on the right. I think he's a wonderful addition. But the fact is that after 25 minutes, he was walking.
David Hallwood, I watched the full game, replaying many parts thanks to my DVR, and I stand by my criticism. Pienaar at one point had four straight turnovers, and Baines' pass completion percentage in the offensive end was considerably less than 50 percent. Anto, only one of Jelli's three headers came from Baines crosses... the other two were from Naismith and Hibbo.
I can't be harsh with Fellaini for missing the sitter, because I've never seen him hit a decent first-time ball with his left foot... he just doesn't have that particular ability. But his losing McAuley on the corner was fatal.
Definitely no panic, however. We lost to a good side playing well, and Naismith and Mirallas are truly exciting additions to a newly varied offensive look.
And hey, the RS are losing again, so it's not such a bad weekend!
219 Posted 02/09/2012 at 15:13:37
I for one think Moyes did the right thing going for the win. We will bounce back from this defeat.
COYB IMWT NSNO
252 Posted 02/09/2012 at 17:59:17
271 Posted 02/09/2012 at 19:53:07
It has to be Howard's fault for the 2nd the guy was 3 yards out when he headed the ball. He has to command his area its pointless saving the shot and then being rooted to the line from the subsequent corner. Any high ball into the 6 yard box from a set piece should be the keeper's ball.
328 Posted 02/09/2012 at 23:13:03
330 Posted 02/09/2012 at 23:23:40
332 Posted 02/09/2012 at 23:25:55
333 Posted 02/09/2012 at 23:37:28
I'd have rated both 5 as I thought they were below par yesterday.
Perhaps my expectations had been raised by their recent performances recently but they didn't do much yesterday.
I'm quite pleased about the international break this time. It'll give Gibson time to recover but also re-focus the team.
Hopefully just a short blip.
(I have to say that the weekend was resurrected by the RS result today, not to mention their calamitous transfer window "dealings" and Rogers' after-match details regarding the gap between plans and reality.)
355 Posted 03/09/2012 at 06:36:49
I was disappointed to see Hibbert come on for Gibson, we were on top at that time, and introducing Mirallas or Coleman instead would have kept the momentum up. A personnel shuffle up front is easier on the team than a shuffle at the back. All in all a disappointing result and performance, especially considering the positivity going into the game.
361 Posted 03/09/2012 at 08:28:53
I think if Fellaini had buried that chance, all the fight would have gone from them (team and crowd) and we'd have taken all the points.
Plus, as disappointing as the result was, you have to give them credit.
They were very good on the day and their 'gaffer' appears to be no mug.
368 Posted 03/09/2012 at 09:43:59
370 Posted 03/09/2012 at 09:58:06
374 Posted 03/09/2012 at 10:19:27
To be fair we did create chances but failed to take them, and their first goal was a very good goal, and unfortunately slack marking cost us a second goal.
I thought that we may have brought on Mirallas and played him behind Jelavic and put Fellaini back in midfield. Fellaini has started the season in great form my only concern is I don't think he is a natural finisher.
Moyes did say after the Villa game that Fellaini could play both in midfield and up front, I think it would be no bad idea to switch him into midfield for some games especially if Gibson is missing.
375 Posted 03/09/2012 at 10:32:39
376 Posted 03/09/2012 at 10:29:46
Fellani would have kept the momentum going, he wins the ball and passes it forwards whereas Phil Neville passes it sideways, or more often than not, backwards. Thats why Fellani is the best, he wins it and plays it early starting the attacks whilst the opposition midfielders and defenders are flatfooted.
377 Posted 03/09/2012 at 10:46:27
Neville is never the obvious choice for midfield,Neville is never the right choice for anything. Fellaini, who has been our holding player for the last 3 years and was outstanding there last season was the obvious choice,especially as in the 20 mins upto Gibson's injury he never won a thing against the West Brom defence.
383 Posted 03/09/2012 at 11:25:54
385 Posted 03/09/2012 at 11:12:13
Interesting that WBA looked like the visiting team for most of the first half and relied on the counter attack. A lot of teams will do this to us now, making it just as hard to win on the road and importantly acknowlegding Moyes has put together a half-decent side that can play the nice joined-up stuff and score goals.
When everyman and his dog are defending and we have a twat of a ref to contend with then its going to be one of those days. Hopefully Moyes will realise this and set up the team to play accordingly, keeping it very tight at the back with Jonny restored to his rightful place and Distin as a valuable reserve.
With Mirellas and Vadis up and running in the next few weeks, it promises to be a very interesting time for all concerned. In the words of Buzz Lightyear, it's onwards and upwards to infinity – or something along those lines. To infinity and beyond maybe?
392 Posted 03/09/2012 at 11:51:33
Moyes has obvioulsy seen this or why wouldn't he do it? If he had and the same that happened at Villa happened again then everyone would have been saying that he never learns. instead he went with the formula that beat United and Villa but got undone by personal error. Its too easy to always just blame Neville, Hibbert and Moyes. All the attacking players we could have wanted were out. Our defensive mid went off so Moyes replaced him like for like rather than disrupting a settled attacking unit. He then went for broke and brought on more attacking firepower. It would have worked except Fellaini missed an open net and then we made defensive errors. The real finger of blame should be pointed at our supposed top players such as Baines Jag/Distin Fellaini and even Pienaar who after playing so well for so long suddenly decided once Gibson went off (for the second week running) that they'd lose all knowledge of how to play effectively together with any cohesion in attack or defense. Without Heitinga and Gibson in this team we are severely short of leadership and direction. Jagielka and Disitin are too happy to play passive recovery defending whilst the midfield are too happy to only play ith the ball on the offense. Heitinga and Gibson are the only two who actively move to prevent an opposition attack rather than merely reacting to it. Far too many supposedly world class players quite happy to hide once things start going badly.
396 Posted 03/09/2012 at 12:24:02
I don't agree with your comment about Fellaini not playing well as a holding player,in the first half of last season he was one of the few players that could hold his head up high. I also don't think he is at his best when pushed further up, I think he is wasted in both postions. Why does it have to be so rigid and be one or the other? He should be used as a box to box player.
427 Posted 03/09/2012 at 16:43:51
I also see nothing resembling leadership from Heitinga... he's a fine player, but I see no signs that he is looked to by the others.
All your other comments are absolutely spot on.
431 Posted 03/09/2012 at 17:17:57
497 Posted 03/09/2012 at 21:58:34
We're the real thing and the season will prove it out.
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