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Venue: Brittania Stadium, Stoke
Premier League
 Saturday 15 December 2012; 3:00pm
Stoke City
1 1
Jones (52')
Half Time: 0-1
Shawcross (og: 36')
Attendance: 27,008
Fixture 17
Referee: Mark Halsey

Everton were again left to curse missed chances and another Howard error as Stoke narrowly preserved their unbeaten home record in a predictably fractious affair. The Blues were gifted the opening goal when Pienaar's speculative cross was floated into his own goal by Shawcross but with 2-0 served on a plate, Osman side-footed wide with the whole goal to aim at. Mystifying goalkeeping by Howard allowed Jones to head home the equaliser after the break and with chances at a high premium, Pienaar ended a terrific run by dragging another good chance wide in injury time.

Match Summary

Mirallas, Hibbert, Anichebe and Neville were out so Coleman and Naismith started. Everton got into their usual stride with some fantastic passing moves, one a great series of exchanges that went down the left then over to the right, where Coleman picked out Jelavic, who supposedly is suffering form poor service. Well, no, a perfect opportunity to lash home and he fluffed it.

It got a bit scrappy after that, Everton wasting a corner and then struggling a little to get the ball back off Stoke, who won a corner themselves, Some shocking officiating saw Everton denied a corner after some more wide play by Jelavic, the linesman asking the ref what he should flag for!!!

From a Stoke corner, the ball was hedeed back to N'Zonzi who powered his free header straight at Howard's midriff. At the other end, Everton came very close, Shawcross clearing Naismith's scoop off the line after he beat Begovic to the ball from a dreadful Jelavic miskick following a ball over that looked somewhat offside but was not called, much to the angst of the Stoke players.

Howard was further tested with some stong aerial balls that he was up to punching out. At the other, end, a goift after nice work and an easy cross that skipped off the head of Shawcross, stretching, and floated beautifully over Begovic into the top corner of the Stoke goal. Finally a bit of luck goes Everton's way!

Everton came forward again with great passing, Pienaar pulling back the ball from the byline but behind most of the forward Everton players ... except Osman who had so much time to pick his spot and the 'fabulous little player' produced an absolutely atrociously incomprehensibly awful miss!!! Clever feet my arse. Totally abysmal.

A sleepy Everton let,Stoke came very close after the break, adam not quite getting enough contact at the near post on a clever ball that beat the Everton defence, Howard patting the ball back out to him as the defenders swarmed in to block a series of attempts and shots from Stoke that ended when Huth drove wide.

Then, off a nothing ball hoofed up from Shawcross, the ball bounced off Jones's head and in to the Everton goal after what can olny be described as a dreadful starfish faliling attempt at a save by Howard,

There was a lot of silly argy-bargy at a couple of Everton corners, and Fellaini ended up pushing his head into Shawcross as frustration at the man-handling got the better of him. A stupid thing to do but the referee should have been stronger acting on Stoke's infringements. It will be described as a headbutt, and Fellaini might be in trouble from the slo-mo replays...

The poor ref calls went in Everton's favour next. a Jagielka header being wrongly called as a goal kick and not a Stoke corner, which only enraged the crowd even more...

Jealvic appeared to go in with his forearm on Shawcross and more howls of derision from the crowd followed, but Halsey did not book the Everton forward. Barkley replaced Naismith fro his first appearance of the season, presumably fro his height and physical presence a remarkable decision by Moyes, considering the young star had been sat on the bench unused in the last four games. Distin might have done better from a corner, heading wide. Begovic was apparently booked for time wasting...???

More feistiness as Jelavic knocked down Huth illegally after he himself was floored and drove in to fire wildly, but was called back. Jerome then got two bites of teh cherry and sliced the shot wide, with Peter Crouch the next addition to the home side's aerial arsenal as Everton struggled manfully to play their passing game.

A poor mistake from Barkley... no, it was Gibson of all people, allowed Jerome to fire in but a great save by Howard, and then Distin had to head away fro a cornerr almost on the line... a real chance for Stoke there...

Pienaar was chopped from behind to win a reasonably dangerous free-kick that Gibson swung very deep for a corner, and more physical silliness before it was taken.

Barkley showed some really enterprising touches but a cross on the run could have been directed better. Some clever play by Fellaini fed Coleman but he had trouble digging out the cross and it came to nought as the clock ticked down on the very predictable tied scoreline, Gibson's shot deflected out for a late corner. Fellaini looked to punch Shacross this tiime as he was again impeeded illegally... incredible that he wasn't sent off.

Pienaar got in a great run on goal but he overhit the last touch before hooking his shot poorly and that summed up a pretty horrible game.

Michael Kenrick

Match Report

If ever a game had 1-1 written all over it before a ball had been kicked, this testy encounter between the Premier League's two draw specialists was it. And so it was that a game drenched in predictability ended all square, with Everton playing out the themes of their season once more — scoring first, spurning chances for more and conceding a soft goal — and Stoke City using their size and uncompromising physical approach to preserve their unbeaten home record.

That the aftermath would be dominated by the controversy of Marouane Fellaini's head-butt on Ryan Shawcross, vigilante retribution for an afternoon of grappling, man-handling and out-right illegal shackling of visiting players throughout the game was not surprising either, though referee Mark Halsey's failure to see the incident or penalize the Stoke defence for bear-hugging their way through a succession of set-pieces probably was.

The Belgian would be retroactively punished with the three-match ban that his ill-advised actions would have triggered had he been sent off on the day and while the cost of his absence until the New Year is yet to be felt by Everton, if it helps bring to attention just how far refereeing standards have slipped when it comes to holding by defenders in the penalty area these days then it won't have been for nought.

Though he can have no defence for losing his temper and professionalism — and let's face it, it's not the first time he has behaved like a thug in Everton colours — it's difficult not to feel a measure of sympathy for Fellaini when you consider, for example, how soft was the penalty awarded to Manchester City against the Blues at the beginning of the month compared with what was allowed to stand by the officials at the Britannia on Saturday. When there is such breathtaking inconsistency from referee to referee and match to match, it's hard not to let frustration get the best of you.

Annoyingly, the Blues could have taken some of the sting out of Fellaini's suspension with more composure in front of goal. Though they were harried out of their usual passing rhythm — again, wholly expected given the reputation of Tony Pulis' side — they were nevertheless able to stamp enough of their authority on the first half to create the better chances.

Nikica Jelavic had an early side-foot shot blocked after Seamus Coleman had delivered a low cross from Darron Gibson's through-ball and when Steven Naismith nipped onto the loose ball from the Croatian's uncharacteristic air-shot, Shawcross had to prod it behind from under his own crossbar to prevent the opening goal after 31 minutes .

That merely delayed the inevitable and while Tim Howard was getting mostly punching practice at one end as the hosts flung the ball into his area from wide areas, it was Everton who went ahead with an aerial ball when Shawcross looped Steven Pienaar's cross over his own goalkeeper to make it 1-0 nine minutes before half-time.

Three minutes later, though. the chance to drive home their Champions League credentials with a killer second goal against low-scoring opposition went begging. A typically enterprising move down the Everton left ended with Leighton Baines cutting the ball back from byline to the unmarked Leon Osman but with the whole goal to aim at, the midfielder improbably fired wide.

As expected, Pulis sent his team out for the beginning of the second half with more vigour and purpose while Everton, not for the first time this season, emerged looking lethargic and disjointed for the first few minutes, a demeanour not altered by an early scare from a free kick that somehow found Charlie Adam completely free on the edge of the six-yard box. Howard pawed his close-range shot off his line and the defence closed the Scot down following the rebound so that he couldn't maintain the attack but the lesson went unheeded.

Five minutes later, an almost identical free kick, awarded for an innocuous-looking challenge by Naismith, was floated in, Jagielka was easily beaten in the air by Kenwyne Jones and Howard made an incomprehensible mess of trying to make what looked like a routine save by his right-hand post, the ball flying past him to level the scores.

Matters threatened to go from bad to worse for Everton, first when Jones flicked the ball over Howard but then contrived to knee it off the outside of the post from the angle, and then when the defence pressed the self-destruct button again with 11 minutes to go but Howard saved well to deny Cameron Jerome and Crouch couldn't hit the target with a chip from the rebound.

In between, Moyes's men struggled to threaten Stoke. Jelavic was forced to continually chase lost causes and took a regular battering from his markers as he challenged for balls punted forward. Fellaini, meanwhile, was at his most ineffective, displaying a worrying disconnect from the wavelength of the rest of the team; his response to the shackles placed on him by the Potters' tactics seemingly being to sulk rather than take the game by the scruff of the neck. And he was lucky, of course, not to see red when he thrust his head into Shawcross' face in the 57th minute.

Short of options with Mirallas unavailable, the manager tried to change things up and introduced Ross Barkley for Naismith with 20 minutes left and the youngster's introduction and willingness to take the ball did offer a bit more cohesion in midfield.

Sylvain Distin headed wide from a 71st-minute corner and was visibly annoyed that he didn't make better contact but it wasn't until the final minute of injury time that a gilt-edged chance to grab the points arrived when it fell to Pienaar. The South African went on a terrific run through the heart of the home defence but with Barkley free to his right he went for glory himself and dragged a poor shot wide of goal when it was paramount that he at least hit the target.

So, as difficult an encounter as predicted but, arguably, another two points lost as Everton had the chances to win it. Certainly, a genuine top-four team would probably have ground out the three points with more clinical finishing and that will weigh on Moyes as he tries to keep the belief in his team as they strive for that prized place. Another point is a consolation, though, and avoiding defeat once more will serve morale for a side that continues to be very hard to beat.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

The Premier League's draw specialists face off at the Britannia Stadium this weekend as bouyant Everton try to build on Sunday's dramatic finish against Spurs and shatter Stoke City's unbeaten home record.

With eight ties apiece, the Blues and the Potters have drawn more games than anyone else in the Premier League and they're also the last two clubs not to have lost at home this season.

Still not known for their flair or craft, Tony Pulis' side have made themselves incredibly difficult to beat recently and while they've only scored seven at home so far, they've let in just two — easily the best defensive home record in the top flight.

As if to further emphasise their decent form, after 16 games they lie in ninth, just three points behind an Everton team once again being talked about in terms of Champions League qualification. So this will be a difficuilt assignment for the Blues who have struggled at times to break down stubborn opposition defences and haven't beaten Stoke in four years.

So David Moyes will be under no illusions about the difficulty of this one and he'll have to do it without Kevin Mirallas whom he will surely have removed from his thinking until the New Year at least after he suffered a recurrence of what is becoming a troublesome hamstring problem.

Once more his replacement against Tottenham was Steven Naismith who put in a decent performance and played an instrumental role in Steven Pienaar's equaliser. And the man who provided the assist for the South African, Seamus Coleman, is guaranteed to start at right back again with Tony Hibbert also ruled out with impending calf surgey.

Coleman's attacking pace and unpredictability will be a useful weapon against Pulis' well-drilled back line and it will be incumbent on the likes of him, Pienaar and Leighton Baines to create the chances for Nikica Jelavic and Marouane Fellaini up front.

The Croatian will hopefully still be riding the high of scoring that amazing last-gasp winner on Sunday but he has been starved of consistent service and it's unlikely he will get many against Stoke. He only needed one clear-cut chance against Spurs and the Blues would be more than happy with a 1-0 win this time around, a result that would represent their first clean sheet in 12 games.

Lyndon Lloyd

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Match Summary
Match Report
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TEAM (4-4-2)
  Begovic booked:
  Etherington (85' Kightly)
  Adam (73' Jerome)
  Jones (77' Crouch)
  Subs not used

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Naismith (70' Barkley)
  Subs not used
  Anichebe (injured)
  Garbutt (injured)
  Hibbert (injured)
  Mirallas (injured)
  Neville (injured)
  Bidwell (loan)

Premier League Scores
Sunderland 3 - 0 Reading
Liverpool 1 - 3 Aston Villa
Man United 3 - 0 Sunderland
Newcastle 1 - 3 Man City
Norwich 2 - 1 Wgan
QPR 2 - 1 Fulham
Stoke City 1 - 1 Everton
Tottenham 1 - 0 Swansea
West Brom 0 - 0 West Ham
Reading 2 - 5 Arsenal

Team Pts
1 Manchester United 42
2 Manchester City 36
3 Chelsea 29
4 Tottenham Hotspur 29
5 Arsenal 27
6 Everton 27
7 West Bromwich Albion 27
8 Norwich City 25
9 Stoke City 24
10 Swansea City 23
11 West Ham United 23
12 Liverpool 22
13 Fulham 20
14 Aston Villa 18
15 Newcastle United 17
16 Sunderland 16
17 Southampton 15
18 Wigan Athletic 15
19 Queens Park Rangers 10
20 Reading 9

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