As much as I tried to keep my chin up following our awful defeat to Wigan Athletic it became increasingly difficult throughout the week. Last Sunday was just sheer hell watching Wigan draw Millwall / Blackburn in the FA Cup and seeing Liverpool squirm a win against Tottenham to levitate above us. The consequential carry-on via Twitter didn’t help either and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when my season ticket renewal forms dropped through the letterbox on Monday.
Fast forward to the end of the week and rather than feel better come the Manchester City game I was so frustrated and ‘up’ for the match. I was quite sure of one thing going into the game – that Everton would put in quite a performance. I didn’t think we could win, but felt we would perform well. I was wrong. We performed magnificently.
We all made the pub quite early, everyone in pretty good spirits despite what happened the weekend prior. We got the team news in the pub and there were no big surprises. Anichebe in for Jelavic and Gibson for Neville were both a given really. Myself, I’d have changed things a little more. So convinced was I that Osman was running on empty I felt it best to have him as substitute and play Naismith further up the pitch alongside Anichebe wit a view to maybe bringing Barkley into the game later on. I’m usually wrong with these sort of calls and so was delighted to be so again as Osman went on to not only score one of the best goals of his career, but also put in probably the best performance of his career. A truly exceptional display by our stand-in skipper. Otherwise, it was as you were.
Man City, to our benefit, had a few injury problems with Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero all unavailable, though Man City are not short of quality and were till able to send out quite a formidable team including Tevez, Dzeko and Silva to name but a few. The referee, interestingly, was Lee Probert. I say interestingly because he officiated in the reverse fixture at the Etihad Stadium back in December and awarded Manchester City the softest of soft penalties. I’ve been known to be quite a believer in conspiracy theories regarding FA / UEFA bias towards the ‘bigger’ teams. The vey mention of the name ‘Pierluigi Collina’ is enough to send me into a rage…ditto Mark Clattenburg and Martin Atkinson so I felt this very odd that Probert would be given the same fixture again given how ridiculously he messed up last time around. What preceded simply added to my paranoia as Probert contrived to offer so many decisions in favour of the champions it was just unreal…though in a way this spurred the crowd…and subsequently the players on to a fabulous victory.
The atmosphere was rather flat in the early stages of the game but the crowd did come to life in the seventh minute when Fellaini chased back quite a distance to make a fantastic strong tackle on James Milner. Of course Probert felt otherwise and saw fit to incredibly book the Belgian. A yellow card when it wasn’t even a foul. Firstly, the tackle itself geed the crowd up somewhat but the booking also got everyone more vocal…this trait was now to continue throughout. We’ve seen these moments happen before which have changed a game dramatically. Suddenly the players are more in the opposition’s faces and the crowd are right behind them. It happened in 2008 when Phil Neville made a great tackle on Ronaldo – same result, a great tackle was deemed worthy of a booking but this got the crowd going and the players improved. This really helped Everton step it up a few gears and it was the same again yesterday.
By the time Leon Osman curled in his wonderful goal we’d already had one disallowed when Mirallas was flagged offside as he drove in a brilliant volley; and had a pretty legitimate penalty appeal denied when Fellaini was obstructed in the box by Garcia from a corner kick. Back to Osman’s goal though, and what an incredible strike. Coleman did well to play the ball back to Osman, and Leon was able to put so much bend on the ball that Hart didn’t even move. It was a great strike and the place erupted. The players continued to chase every ball, put in good tackles and play effectively with possession. As I thought they might have done, they didn’t sit back and continued to take the game to Man City. We did have to weather a bit of a storm though. Tevez was very unlucky not to score when a fabulous effort from distance drifted just wide of the post. Man City then had three efforts on goal in quick succession though all of them were fortunately hit straight at Mucha. Other than that we were pretty comfortable and the players went into the changing rooms to great applause. The first half had been every bit as good as it was bad last week against Wigan Athletic.
This form continued into the second half when a Herculean effort saw of Manchester City. Anichebe ran himself into the ground up front, the midfield pressed their opposition and won their individual battles and the defence, goalkeeper included, stood firm and resolute. Our task was made doubly difficult when Pienaar saw red and we were reduced to 10 men. I’m just not sure about the red card but you probably have to just accept it. The first one was a late tackle but that was only after a quite clear free kick wasn’t given in our favour after a foul by Tevez on Leon Osman. The second one, well he does catch Garcia and it was a little dangerous but I don’t think Pienaar was doing anything other than going for the ball. Garcia did the rest. Rolling around as if he was having some sort of spasm and doing plenty to ensure Probert couldn’t miss his theatrics. A second yellow card for Pienaar with plenty of time still on the clock. Everton reshuffled slightly, placing Osman out on the wing and dropping Fellaini back into midfield…more work for Victor to do.
There was then quite a lot of work for the defence and goalkeeper to do also. Heitinga, who baffles me as when he’s focused he’s top drawer but too often his concentration just isn’t there, stood firm at the back alongside Distin whilst the full backs tucked in and defended our lead. Mucha was splendid when called upon also. He made a great double save in one instance but his best work was when Zabaleta was played into space right hand of the penalty area. Mucha just charged at him, making himself big and the goal small and blocking brilliantly. He certainly earned his crust yesterday afternoon.
On 89 minutes Anichebe just had nothing left and was substituted for Jelavic. A little surprisingly, Probert only added three minutes of stoppage time and just as we were prepared for additional nail-biting Jelavic only went and sealed the game…
Gibson was doing some fantastic defensive midfield work, firstly tackling Nasri and then getting another great clearance in. Naismith then made a good tackle, I think on Kolarov, and got the ball to Fellaini. He carried the ball a long way before playing in Jelavic. I thought the moment had gone as Jelavic turned back inside rather than shooting first time, but he got his shot away, the ball deflecting up into the air, over Hart and into the net. It’s exactly the sort of goal Jelavic needed and hopefully he can now kick on. Goodison erupted and the feeling was just unreal…I was hugging strangers and jumping around like a lunatic basically. There’s just no better feeling and the place was buzzing. City beaten. Losing to Wigan now a distant memory.
The full time whistle shortly followed and it was party mood in the ground. ‘Give It Up’ by KC & The Sunshine Band boomed out, everyone in full voice singing and pointing ‘Jelavic-Jela-Jelavic’. It was a great buzz and the party continued into the pub, into the City Centre and throughout the rest of the day. Seeing Liverpool go a goal down, and then another goal down in the pub brought further unexpected glee.
So where to from here? Whilst our run in is particularly tough the good thing is, as Ste pointed out, that it is all in our own hands. Beat the teams around us / ahead of us and we should nail fourth. Either way we can go into the international break in the knowledge that our season is not dead and that European football is still a very real possibility next season.
Mucha: If Howard returns and walks straight back into the team it will be a disgrace and grossly unfair on Mucha. Jan has had to wait nearly three years for his opportunity and hasn’t let Everton down at all. He’s actually improved game on game and I’m delighted for him that he’s making the most of his opportunity. Yesterday was our first clean sheet for almost two months and he made some excellent, and crucial saves. He is also much more positive than Howard and tries to distribute the ball quicker. Two thumbs up from me. 8
Baines: Had to defend perhaps more than attack but was solid and dependable throughout. 6
Distin: Good and solid. Perhaps should have scored in the second half. Was nice when he came to the Gwladys Street end after full time and gave his shirt to a fan. He and Heitinga looked delighted with their days work at the end of the game. 8
Heitinga: Was as good yesterday as he was bad a week ago. I just can’t fathom Jonny. He’s either solid or all over the place. Luckily for us he was solid yesterday. Hopefully he can maintain this form for the remainder of the campaign. 8
Coleman: A spectacular display by Coleman both in attack and defense. Probably his best performance to date. I must admit, I thought he just wasn’t quite up to Premier League football but he’s improved immeasurably this season. 9
Gibson: You still have to wonder why on earth he wasn’t in the team last week when he can play like that. His passing, scrapping and work rate was exceptional. 8
Osman: Man of the match. I thought he shouldn’t have played and then he puts in a performance like that. A dream of a goal and he carried the fight to Manchester City throughout, also doing a great job on the left side once Pienaar had departed. Well done Ossie. Absolutely fantastic. 9
Pienaar: Was having a good game until carded. As I type this I’ve just seen McManaman for Wigan commit a challenge about 20 times worse than Pienaar’s on Garcia yesterday and it wasn’t even given as a foul, yet Pienaar was sent off yesterday. It’s the inconsistencies which drive you mad. I hope he’s not missed too drastically in the two games suspension. I’d like to see Oviedo get an opportunity in his absence. 7
Mirallas: Was showing more flair than most before he was substituted. Was unlucky to be flagged offside with his goal. Good performance, always a threat. 7
Fellaini: He played quite well but would have played much better had he not have been booked for nothing in the seventh minute, and he too now misses a couple of games. The booking meant he couldn’t be as competitive and combative as he’d perhaps have liked. 7
Anichebe: You can’t ask for more effort and application than that. Ran himself ragged. Great work by Victor. 9
Naismith (for Mirallas): The substitution was met with astonishment by many but I thought it was a good call. More limited in ability Naismith may be, but he did do a solid job and was probably what was needed at the time…had a hand in the killer second goal also of course. 7
Jelavic: Get in there! Please, please, please kick on from here Jelavic. Hopefully he can now impact on our run in with a few more goals and provide good, healthy competition for Anichebe in attack. 7
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313 Posted 17/03/2013 at 20:04:35
314 Posted 17/03/2013 at 20:28:09
322 Posted 17/03/2013 at 20:35:33
We all saw the improvement outfield, Mucha came off his line like lightening and had to make a claim for continued beth in goal when Tim returns. Gibson should always play before Neville but with Pienaar now suspended I fead Pip will be back in again and the lethargic sideways passing will return, I just hope not.
335 Posted 17/03/2013 at 20:47:45
362 Posted 17/03/2013 at 21:47:48
Second point, just because Osman scored a screamer does not make him man of the match in my eyes. Yes, his bets game for around 3 months but Coleman was better all round, Gibson out worked him and out tackled him, Marallas was a constant threat and big Vic had probably the best game in a blue shirt. All had a far better shout for MoM in my eyes.
Finally, the substitution of Naismith was an absolute joke. I don't know where you sit but the howls of disapproval around me were palpable and it seemed to echo around the ground. He is crap, was crap, got turned so easily that we were cringing every time they attacked down our right. Yes he put a decent tackle in for the goal but lets not kid ourselves that decision could have mis fired big style. It didn't so we can enjoy the moment but those around me were not fooled by a poor tactical decision that fortunately worked out.
366 Posted 17/03/2013 at 22:17:43
377 Posted 17/03/2013 at 23:27:39
Only quibble: Seamus MotM by a golden mile.
378 Posted 17/03/2013 at 23:39:45
A. Baines & Pienaar attacking down our left side.
Q. What is our best combination on the other side?
A. Coleman & Miralles attacking
Conclusion: Anyone who has studied football over the last 20 years should know that attacking full backs make all the difference e.g. Roberto Carlos, Dani Alves, Paolo Maldini, Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines etc. etc.
Lots of doubters on here over Coleman v Hibbert, could never understand it - Hibbo never ever looked to attack never mind score whereas Coleman always thinks he can. As usual though, Moyes' defensive attitude delayed and subdued our attacking capabilities
383 Posted 18/03/2013 at 00:19:15
When we've looked most dangerous this year its been when our threat wasn't limited to one specific channel (i.e. Baines/Pienaar), but when we had a strong right flank (Mirallas/Coleman) and also players bursting through the centre (Felliani/Osman). This multi-pronged attack is obviously harder to defend against and creates space for the other attacking opportunities in a virtuous circle.
When one or more of these players has been taken out of the equation then we've simply not looked as convincing.
I'd also say I think it's incorrect to say Hibbert never looked to attack, he has got forward and put in crosses (he actually got 4 assists last season, more than Baines and Osman last season), but he obviously doesn't have Coleman's pace and is a defender first and foremost (and still better at that than Seamus).
384 Posted 18/03/2013 at 01:02:24
I for one am not sure what Naismith does apart from run around a lot (slowly). Fellaini was staring daggers at him when a good attack was wasted by Naismith playing the ball behind Fellaini instead of infront of him.
He can't tackle or pass. I think he just blocks the progression of youngsters who (presumably) can do one of the above! Should be moved on in the summer. He's not improved one iota over the season. The Premier League is just not for him, no matter how good his attitude is.
391 Posted 18/03/2013 at 06:09:50
I was in Oslo for the weekend and had to find a pub to see the game. Had made an effort as to where the "norwegian blues" met for the game but when I got there, there was only two others so, think they must have moved. But maybe even better there were several City fans there, quite vocal before the game, but got quieter as the game developed. Lovely!
396 Posted 18/03/2013 at 06:18:26
397 Posted 18/03/2013 at 09:05:38
Baines was anonymous
398 Posted 18/03/2013 at 09:09:25
Plus, he should've given a penalty when city defenders held Fellani back.
402 Posted 18/03/2013 at 09:34:49
Not really sure what your point is but you seem to want to make it twice. You called Baines 'anonymous'. Completely disagree as I thought he defended pretty well. His attacking game was obviously affected by us going down to 10 men unless of course you think he should have been bombing on the overlap when we are defending a 1-0 lead against the PL champions whilst a man short.
The reason I rile a little against your criticism is that he has been consistently excellent all season and I would go as far to say the best season's contribution by an Everton player since Kanchelskis in 95/96.
408 Posted 18/03/2013 at 09:50:33
I missed the game through work but saw highlights on Sky. I am interested in what people make of the challenge on Distin at the Street end, by Gareth Barry I think it was. Distin was jumping for the ball, and whilst in mid air was taken out by Barry backing into him, causing Distin to fall awkwardly. I thought that was particularly dangerous but the ref didn't give even a yellow card.
Isn't it the case in Rugby Union that a player is sin binned for tackling an opposing player whilst in the air, jumping for the ball?
411 Posted 18/03/2013 at 10:21:47
432 Posted 18/03/2013 at 12:33:36
So a million times better than last week but nothing to get too carried away with.
455 Posted 18/03/2013 at 15:02:31
457 Posted 18/03/2013 at 15:12:35
Nine more games to go and unbelievably we are still in with a chance. Which Everton and Moyes will turn up for the remaining 'BIG' games?
479 Posted 18/03/2013 at 17:40:32
481 Posted 18/03/2013 at 17:47:36
494 Posted 18/03/2013 at 19:26:38
520 Posted 18/03/2013 at 20:46:40
Having prasied Osman's goal, and having delighted in Coleman's performance (I have always liked his attitude, it's that of a proper footballer), I have to conclude that the man who won the match for Everton was Mucha.
He did everything that I have wanted Everton keepers to do for many years. He rushed at attackers, he fearlessly threw himself in front of the ball, and above all he seemed to let everyone know that any ball in the penalty area belonged to him, even if City had it!
His punching was sloppy, his distribution so-so, but what I want to see is a heroic (read stupid!) goalkeeper who will just go for it and dominate. I even thought that Distin and Heitinger looked as though they felt the man behind them was in control, and I am afraid sometimes they have looked as though they just don't know where Tim Howard will be.
I like Howard, but I have never been without worry about the odd slip, cock-up or just putting pressure on the defenders by not letting them know that he controls the penalty area.
And if we had had clean sheets in 8 matches we'd have been 16 points better off, and we'd be well clear in second place. That's the benefit of a goalkeeper who keeps everything out.
524 Posted 18/03/2013 at 21:26:57
European football will restore my belief, but 'gallant failures' is not a tag to be proud of.
Just watched Moneyball if you're bored sports nut.
553 Posted 19/03/2013 at 01:58:43
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