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From My Seat: Sunderland (H)

By Ken Buckley   ::  10/11/2012 On an unbeaten run and playing what some describe as our best football for many a year we meet a lowly side in Sunderland at home and fans expectations are quite reasonably high as we normally beat them at Goodison no matter what their status. Today turned out to be anything but predictable.

Pre-match pint and chat saw fans buoyant and bookies slips being filled in with predictions of scores and goal scorers plus times of goals that ultimately were little more than pie in the sky. The attendance in our pub suggested a crowd of some 35,000 and all awaiting a vintage display and easy win. Football just aint like that. The 96 mins of play stretched emotions to the limit and feelings of relief rather than euphoria.

We started quite brightly and Mirallas put Jelavic in but like a player out of form he did no more than fall over and watched the chance go by. Although looking to be on top we could easily have been 2 down within ten mins. Firstly Howard tipped away for a corner from a Sunderland player who had been afforded space where none should be given then a wayward Neville pass allowed Fletcher a chance that rolled just the wrong side of the post much to the relief of those assembled. That was close.

In these early moments I had a sense all was not rosy within our ranks as Pienaar looked out of sorts, Jelavic struggling for form and Coleman- well – just struggling.
We went into passing mode but we witnessed neat and tidy stuff but with little or no end product. The times a decent move broke down due to a basic mistake was rife among those in Blue. Sunderland deserve some credit though as they had plainly set out their stall to defend well and counter at every opportunity. For this fan their counters were more prevalent than their defending which led to much apprehension being transmitted to the pitch from the faithful.

A surprise around the 20-min mark, we had a shot. Jelavic hit it and the ball was deflected for a corner which when delivered drew much exhaling from the crowd as it merely petered out without any real intent from a Blue-shirted person.

We continued to get bits and pieces of chances but such was our disarray and seemingly just either out of form or out of sorts little went our way. Jelavic came to life and rampaged through 3 tackles before laying the ball back to Neville whose strong shot was fisted away. That was probably his best contribution of the half.

The half went on in this vein, we looked the better side but could nowhere near prove it with a goal and players who have previously been sharp and bright seemed blunt and dull. To make matters worse many a fans new favourite player Mirallas had to limp off with what looked very like a 4 to 6 week hammy. His frustration was there for all to see as he ripped off his gloves and hurled them to the deck before heading straight down the tunnel. Naismith replaced him. I just wondered if it might have been better to move Pienaar who was having a mare in all departments including poor shooting when afforded a chance to the right and having Oviedo in front of Baines on the left. He looked strong and sharp in his last cameo. I am not the manager so Naismith it was.

The board for 1 min injury time went up as more disjointed play led to a Sunderland corner. This was taken in regulation fashion across the box, it appeared to hit a head and go to the right of goal where Johnson completely unmarked hit home. What a stunner as the whistle went and disgruntled fans headed for bar and bog.

Half-time and the chat was downbeat as many wondered if we had peaked to early and draws were now to be turned into defeats. A bit hasty I thought as we still had 45 mins to go and who knows in football.
The Blues came out second half with a flea in their ear and roared forward, well maybe not roared but certainly with more purpose than they showed first half. From a corner Heitinga headed in and his effort was cleared from the line.

We pressed and pressed with Osman instrumental in playing balls wide for both Coleman and Baines but each time the final ball was poor and neither seemed able to distinguish the colour Blue from Red. Baines got blocked in the box but Ref Mason lived up to his diffident mantle by waving away appeals yet the next innocuous tackle by a Sunderland player away from any danger was given. I wondered if the assessor in the stand actually means anything as almost every game I have seen Mason ref he is always the man for an easy life yet is never given a rest.

Everyone was now getting frustrated and the angst was tumbling down the terraces onto the pitch to join that of the players. On the 70min mark the manager acted and Vellios replaced Neville and joining Jelavic up front with Fellaini dropping deeper into mid-field.
Immediately he seemed to have an effect without doing too much but the response around him was visible as he set moves and players into more meaningful action.

It was now the box-to-box Fellaini and between 75 and 80 mins the game was turned on its head as that 5 min purple patch both rescued and won the game. First our latest England man Osman danced forward and fed the raiding Fellaini in the box; he turned majestically and poked home with aplomb. The roar that greeted this feat was loud and full of relief. All of a sudden those that sing sang and the Blues ploughed forward. On the 80th min Osman again was the playmaker as he fed in Fellaini once again in the box and this time the Belgian defied his gangly build to deftly turn the ball into the path of Jelavic who hit home with the great relief of at last scoring and wheeled away to celebrate with anyone who came into view.

Could we hold on? Fulham was in the mind of many fans. We sighed in unison as a goalbound shot from a Sunderland player hit his own man. Nerves were now stretched on and off the pitch as bodies were thrown at everything, hoofs and hacks were suddenly permissible.

Hitzlsperger had replaced Jelavic and I bet he will be best remembered today for misplacing a pace and letting the opposition have a final attack. We repelled yet again, we groaned as 5min injury time went up. Hitzlsperger – The Hammer – hit one – wrong foot and wide. The same man then played Naismith in but the Scot was more SPL than EPL and that chance went. We then had a bit of ‘argy-bargy’ over a free kick and time-wasting but no soon had the free kick been taken than the final whistle sounded. No great celebrations and fans left muttering about ‘a win is a win’ and ‘We will take three points'.

MotM — Fellaini (best of an out of sort’s bunch)
Overall I had a good day out as I thought it was one of those matches where yes we were put under the collar and yes at the end we may have been fortunate to get all three points but after years of following the Blues the gaining of a win under the circumstances of today auger well for teams wanting high finishes. Some of our best teams have relied on just 10 mins of magic on their way to a success.

Back to the pub for the inquest and most were happy, butties were on and I celebrated 3 points by returning to the Ball era and having a Brown over Bitter.

Talking of Bally, Ronnie Goodlass has a DVD coming out at the end of November celebrating the great little man’s time at Goodison with contributions by Royle, Harvey and Kendall among others. He says it will be on sale in Everton 1 & 2. Could be nice stocking filler for someone.

I hope Mirallas is not out for to long as he is showing some inspired stuff. To counter that the Echo reveal that both Hibbert and Gibson are now close to a return. With the games coming up we will need them all and may they find some better form by we visit Reading next.

They say if you can get a win whilst out of form and playing poorly then that is the form of Champions then after today we are in with a shout. — What do you mean, you can’t see that... Believe!!

UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Gary Evans
039 Posted 10/11/2012 at 22:39:56
Great write up as usual. Like many, I got to the match looking back at 5 - 0, 7 - 1 scorelines and thinking that in our current vein of form we could walk it. However, with people going on about Moyes never having lost the Mackams, I was a little worried. Anyway, my worry increased somewhat after 10 minutes with Howard saving us with a fine save and they looked dangerous.

As the fist half progressed I thought we played some great stuff but we seemed to want to walk the ball into the net. "Just shoot" I screamed! Mirallas was a loss but he was one of the mot guilty of wanting to take an extra touch.

I was actually not surprised when they scored – I was just hoping we could get to half-time at 0-0. Alas, it was not to be... but I told my other half that one goal and we would win. I was hoping it would be a goal in the first ten minutes but, as I prayed for the minutes to go slowly as possible, they seemed to fly by. What was clear was that Sunderland no longer posed an attacking threat. I just did not see a goal coming.

Then I reckon Moyes earned his wage. I actually think Neville has been a great asset this season but today had been ineffective for too long. As soon as he went off for Vellios (with my daughter screaming and getting far too giddy as a result!) the game seemed to change.

Fellaini did what I had asked them to do since the start of the game - shoot! When that went in, I knew we would win. The nutmeg for the second goal was outrageous but I loved it. As soon as I saw Jelavic running in, I prepared to lift my daughter onto her seat in celebration.

The last ten minutes seemed to take half an hour. I thought Hitzlsperger had a few nice touches and Vellios troubled them a little. Naismith seemed to be wearing slippers as he fell over far too often. I thought the goal against the RS would have given him confidence but he looked out of sorts.

My MotM was Fellaini closely followed by Jagielka who was fantastic in defence. Sunderland defended very well – they did their homework.

Every game is a must win game when you are in the top 4 and the next two are must win games but are very winnable games too. Then we have three tricky matches in the bounce. If after the next 5 games we are still in the top 6 then I will start dreaming of Europe.

Come on you Blues. Days like today make me love you more. Win when you are not at 100% – now that's the sign of a good team!
James Flynn
044 Posted 10/11/2012 at 23:45:10
Thanks Ken. Saw the same game and agree, 3 points is 3 points. We've had enough dominating teams and coming away with 1 point.

Hitzlsperger moved well and Vellios looked good. Gibson and Hibbert getting well. Are we building a Side for 38 games? Looks so.

Keith Edmunds
046 Posted 10/11/2012 at 23:52:20
Ahhh Brown over Bitter. Thems were the days!
Steve Smith
048 Posted 10/11/2012 at 23:44:44
Good report Ken,

No luck last week, and all of it this week... karma?

What the team needs to realise {and I think they're getting the idea} is that we are now being noticed, clubs are beginning to raise their games against us, Sunderland came with a plan to not concede and hopefully nick one on the break, I don't think they ever imagined we would give them so many breaks!

As it transpired, we managed to turn it around even though we were quite poor (God, I can't believe just how high our expectations have been raised in the last twelve months) by our standards.

Don't be surprised if Reading park the bus; it's down to us to move it. We can do it with grace or we can do it with grind... either way will do me.
Mike Gaynes
059 Posted 11/11/2012 at 01:26:28
Am I the only one who noticed that the game turned as soon as Saha came on?

Couple quick offsides, the air went out of their attack, and we had two goals in the next ten minutes.

Call it coincidence if you want, but.......

Ernie Baywood
064 Posted 11/11/2012 at 01:53:51
Gary Evans, Phil being subbed off has a similar affect on me.
Paul Johnson
074 Posted 11/11/2012 at 03:55:50
Are you a Manns or a Forest man Ken. Great write up, your enthusiasm is magnetic. For the record, Osman was my Man of the Match today. I wish the guy was 10 kg heavier and 10 cm taller, he would be a serious player then.

I predict Jelavic will now go on a ten-game scoring streak.
Anto Byrne
077 Posted 11/11/2012 at 04:33:03
Ronnie Goodlass was a very good player in that era of Mike Lyons and Bob Latchford. I remember one game he ran Stoke ragged and scored a screamer when he cut in from the right and launched one from just outside the box into the top corner.
Andy Amey
087 Posted 11/11/2012 at 08:28:28
Try a Manns mild........

Whilst we're on about memories I'll never forget Goodlass, holding on to his cuffs, rampaging down the wing

Good report as ever. Thanks very much.

Chris Matheson
090 Posted 11/11/2012 at 09:02:39
Well done Ken. Lines like "feelings of relief rather than euphoria" and "Fulham was in the mind of many fans" echo the words and the thoughts of my group watching.

Now here's the thing. For months I have come on here moaning about our caveman-like 'hit and hope' style of play. Play it out wide, take it up the wing level with the edge of the box then lump a high hopeful ball into the box for someone to head in or knock down.

But this season we have been playing well, passing on the ground, to feet and better still to space, decent movement off the ball, and quick too. Yet I had a feeling that yesterday we were over-elaborating too much, there was nobody willing to have a shot and we were trying to walk the ball in. Sunderland's massed and well drilled ranks didn't help but I just felt we needed to mix the attack a bit. Maybe – dare I say this – put a few crosses in as well? At least try and get behind them a bit at the line.

I guess some people are never satisfied!

Phil Walling
098 Posted 11/11/2012 at 09:39:32
Never thought I`d say it but the sooner Hibbo is back for Coleman the better. The Irishman`s a trier but that`s about all.If he has to be in the side it should be as stand in for Miralis as Naismith is proving as hopeless as we expected him to be.
Brent Stephens
104 Posted 11/11/2012 at 10:00:17
"Whatever happened to" #1 - KITAP1. That's what opponents bring to Goodision. Ah, I remember KITAP1!

"Whatever happened to" #2 - brown mixed (with Manns or Forest Brown). I love the stuff but feel embarrassed asking for it now in a pub. I get that blank look (is that something they drink on your planet?) or a look of sympathy for the old bugger (and they start to talk to me more slooowly and LOUUUDLY so I can understand!).

Kieran Fitzgerald
119 Posted 11/11/2012 at 11:34:15
I think we really needed that performance yesterday. Steve is right when he says that teams are now aware of our new flowing style of football and are adapting to counter it. We needed a game where we won ugly just to remind ourselves that it is still okay to play that way when we have to. I'm all for winning with champagne football but four draws from our previous four games meant just four points from a possible twelve. A draw or a defeat yesterday would have sucked all the life out of us, regardless of how well we might have played.

Positives from yesterday's game include the fact that Velios and Hitzleberger got game time and seemed to do okay. In terms of the the league now being a squad thing instead of just playing the same eleven week in week out, we are now a game closer to Hibbert and Gibson coming back. We will need them for the Arsenal and Man City games. While I have been happy to see Coleman get a properm run out, Hibbert is more suited to our defensive needs against the stronger teams.

Peter Hall
120 Posted 11/11/2012 at 11:49:47
A little mention for Vellios on Fellaini's goal - did you notice how he gets himself cleverly in the way of the defender who is trying to close Fella down? And that couple of yards was all the big Fella needed.
Graeme Jenkinson
137 Posted 11/11/2012 at 14:50:20
Encouraging that we managed to pull 3 points out of the hat despite what was a pretty flat performance in my view. Goes to show we have stepped up in class and I know its a cliche but I do believe maintaining results when form is not the best is a sign of success. I thought we were woeful for the majority of the game, but 2 moments of class won us the match. Saying that I did think Sunderland defended well so well done to the lads for breaking them down for the two goals.
Alan McGuffog
148 Posted 11/11/2012 at 15:50:28
Finding a brown mixed would be like finding tits on a bull...as Pope JP once said. Not seen mild since the days of Michael Branch. Whatever happened to him?
Keith Glazzard
164 Posted 11/11/2012 at 18:00:45
Let us imagine how that nice Mr O'Neill prepared fro yesterday's game all week -

The first rule against Everton is you stop Fellaini. The second rule against Everton is you stop Fellaini. The third rule .... etc.

And he had three men around him when he received the ball. When he was moved back into mf they were like spare parts, they didn't quite know what to do next. And when he did pop up they were taken by surprise. Twice.

Glad to see Vellios is still in the reckoning and he was definitely a presence, someone they had to take account of, making room for others.

And Seamus? Going forward he was excellent at times. Taking on three at a time, and getting through a couple of times. We can do with that too as an option. But after 95 minutes, a good day.

Mr McGuffog should consider that Michael Branch might have been better off sticking to the mild. Didn't do Johnny Morrissey any harm.

Brian Garside
205 Posted 11/11/2012 at 20:46:55
I agree with the shout for Oviado. I wanted him on earlier during the derby. He would have skinned Hendersson so often that his skin would have matched his shirt coulour.
I just hope that either Naismith proves us all wrong and becomes a good one or DM sees him as the rest of us do and not be too stubben in persevering with him to the detrement of the team.
Colin Malone
206 Posted 11/11/2012 at 20:55:22
I wish Moyes would not play players out of position, I said years ago that Osman is not a winger and neither is Naismith, the lad had a poor game as Osman did when he was out of position. Oviedo should have replaced Mirallas.

I'd like to see Hitzlsperger get more games; I've watched him when he played here for Villa and looked impressive when he came on, even if only for 10 minutes. In my opinion, he is better than Neville at that position.

Kevin Gillen
255 Posted 12/11/2012 at 09:37:24
Thanks Ken, another smashing unbiased read. I thought Sunderland played well, with a lot of discipline, and can count themselves unlucky not to have come away with a point. I wondered if all the Moyes critics on Toffeeweb who would have preferred Martin O'Neill down the years would have enjoyed their performance mind. They clearly had a plan to defend and defend and play on the break and they carried this out perfectly in the first half restricting us to poor efforts on goal and having three good chances themselves. I'm not sure who from their team I would have mind, perhaps Sessegnon and Mignolet. Three very necessary points. A special mention for Osman whose passing in the final third was again exceptional.
Keith Glazzard
260 Posted 12/11/2012 at 10:29:10
I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Leon Osman is the closest thing there is as an English player to Lionel Messi. He may be a fair way behind him, but is there another Englishman with those sorts of skills around the box?
Jim Harrison
261 Posted 12/11/2012 at 10:40:09
What have you done Keith? Man the barricade!

Just in case anyone is interested, we had 60% possession on Saturday and again had more than twice the shots on target as the opposition.

Ciarán McGlone
263 Posted 12/11/2012 at 10:39:25
Keith,

First it was Iniesta, now it's Messi (despite the caveat).

Anyway, without wanting to get into a debate about Osman... Have a look at Josh McEachran's mazy and brilliant run in the box from last Friday against Sheffield.

There's a proper football brain at work.

Andrew Ellams
264 Posted 12/11/2012 at 10:56:00
But take away Messi's goals and what have you got left?
Brent Stephens
267 Posted 12/11/2012 at 11:03:35
Andrew #264 ".But take away Messi's goals and what have you got left?"

Well somebody who can take a pass, has vision and looks around him, can execute a pass, simple or gain-line splitting, chases and jockeys when the opponent has the ball. And does that consistently well. Do you realistically want anything else? ok somebody who can shoot and tackle - but come on, which other English player has all that, consistently? Willing to accept there are others but don't denigrate what Leon (and Everton) has.

Andrew Ellams
268 Posted 12/11/2012 at 11:14:26
Brent my comment was very much tongue in cheek
Brent Stephens
271 Posted 12/11/2012 at 11:24:14
Sorry, Andrew! Slow on the uptake today! A belated LOL! (and that's not a Cameron LOL).
Andrew Ellams
274 Posted 12/11/2012 at 11:35:16
Although I don't think Messi would flourish quite as much in our league as the Spanish.

Somebody needs to invent a font especially for tongue in cheek/ironic/sarcastic comments in internet forums

Keith Glazzard
316 Posted 12/11/2012 at 16:48:14
Ciarán – first, it wasn't me comparing Leon to Ineiesta.

And second, Josh was playing against who did you say?

No doubt when we see him in the Prem we'll be able to make comparisons.

Ciarán McGlone
338 Posted 12/11/2012 at 19:32:05
It's a bit of advice to go watch it and decide for yourself Keith. Nothing more.
Keith Glazzard
356 Posted 12/11/2012 at 23:11:42
Do Ryanair do Girona - Middlesborough Ciarán?

But there is one interesting point about the lad unrelated to football. In the same boat as my grandchildren, he may have to decide whether he's English or Scottish at some point in the not too distant future.

But in footballing terms, that decision could come very soon if he is as good as you say he is. I, of course, would have no idea.

Ciarán McGlone
358 Posted 12/11/2012 at 23:35:06
They don't do time machines either..

It was last Friday.

Try you tube.

Keith Glazzard
372 Posted 13/11/2012 at 02:18:19
It's an interesting point that it doesn't matter when time machines are invented.

But English, for the moment, obviously – until that awkward question is asked. For myself I reply 'un poco Catalan', unfortunately in what many regard as a foreign language. But I do get marks for trying. Bon nit.

Ciarán McGlone
385 Posted 13/11/2012 at 08:55:56
Haha...

And therein lies the great paradox of time machines... I feel a Sheldon moment coming on.

Keith Glazzard
437 Posted 13/11/2012 at 18:13:49
Ciarán McGlone - I do believe you laughed. Now I really will believe anything. Except when it involves Luis Suarez of course.

ps - as one of my old Phil lecturers was fond of saying, the future is open. Who knows, your Josh (on loan from Chelsk?) might be looking for a home one day and come to us. That'll slow him down a bit.

Anthony Garvey
934 Posted 17/11/2012 at 12:37:56
I agree with Collin; Moyes has a habit of playing people out of position. Also, I think he made the subs far too late and I would have liked to see Bryan Oviedo get a run out. Anichebe would be better off as a weightlifter.

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