Goodison Park has been waiting for an Everton team to throw off the shackles and put a bagful past some hapless visiting Premier League team for a while now. 19 months – give or take – and while this wasn't the rugby score that the Blues threatened to rack up at times in the second half, a handsome 4-0 hammering of Stoke City was a fine way to relieve some of the pent-up energy and frustration from three consecutive draws, including last weekend's aborted climax against Liverpool.
What looked by the 44-minute mark of the first half as though it could be "one of those days" as Roberto Martinez's team dominated the attacking dimension of this contest without breaking the deadlock gave way to a highly satisfying result that lifts the Blues back into the top four, however temporary ahead of the Sunday fixtures.
More than that, though, it was a win underpinned by some wonderful football, four excellent goals, and what might prove to be a "coming-out party" for Gerard Deulofeu. The Barcelona teenager had been forced to bide his time for his first League start in Everton colours as Martinez wisely opted for a gradual introduction to the rigours of the English game but he grabbed the opportunity of his selection ahead of Kevin Mirallas with both hands.
Granted, both manager and 19 year-old alike will feel as though he should have delivered a more emphatic scoreline by scoring at least one more than the goal he delivered to open the scoring on the stroke of half time and perhaps serving up more than the two assists he weighed in with as Everton put Stoke City to the sword. But his evolution from raw Continental talent to battle-hardened Premier League campaigner took a big step forward today, adding another potent weapon to Martinez's arsenal.
Deployed wide on the right as Mirallas dropped back to the bench, Deulofeu was one of three changes made by Martinez in light of injury to Leighton Baines and the midweek trip to Manchester United. Bryan Oviedo got the nod as the deputy at left back and, in his first apparent act of squad rotation in the League, the manager also started Ross Barkley, sitting in four yellow cards, on the bench in favour of Leon Osman.
Pleasingly, the reshuffle caused little disruption to Everton's forward momentum and, led by Deulofeu, they set about creating the best moments of the first half. The Barca winger forced the first save of many from Asmir Begovic as early as the fourth minute when he drive a free kick through the wall that the 'keeper pushed away to safety. Then, after executing a number of his familiar step-overs, Deulofeu prompted another parried stop from Begovic from the angle.
Oviedo, a livewire down the left flank throughout, drifted a left-footed effort wide and James McCarthy just missed with a crisp, placed effort after playing a neat one-two with Romelu Lukaku and Osman was denied superbly by the Stoke goalkeeper as more scintillating, one-touch football served up another opportunity for the home side.
Mark Hughes' Potters, meanwhile, belied their recent three-match unbeaten run, with an inept first-half display that yielded just one shot on goal, that from Jonathan Walters after 42 minutes which he planted straight into Tim Howard's grateful arms.
Had he made more of the chance, it would have been a travesty of justice on Everton, who collected dividends on their greater attacking enterprise just two minutes later with another brilliant move down the left. Deulofeu played a one-two with Steven Pienaar in the Stoke area, received a helping hand from Barry with a touch on as he surged towards goal and then lashed the ball high into the goal from close range to make it 1-0 at the break.
Less than four minutes after half time it was two. Deulofeu was again the architect as he raced onto McCarthy's perfectly-weighted pass into the channel and then held things up long enough for the cavalry to meet his cross from the left side of the area. Barry mis-controlled but Seamus Coleman arrived at the perfect moment to guide the ball inside the far post with his weaker foot.
An outlet of pure pace was an ingredient missing from Everton's makeup under David Moyes ever since the departure of Andy Johnson and with Mirallas and Deulofeu, Martinez now boasts two such weapons on the counter. What the latter now needs is the final, killer touch to go with his impressive speed and precocious self-confidence. As against Liverpool, Deulofeu was put clean through on the goalkeeper with 53 minutes gone but, having stayed on his feet despite being clipped by Whelan (who very well could have walked for a second bookable offence had the forward gone down under his challenge), he could only fire too close to the goalkeeper and Begovic saved his shot. Lukaku was similarly denied on the rebound and the chance evaporated but the kiler third goal would come just five minutes later.
Yet more sumptuous play down the left wing forced a corner that Deulofeu took short to Oviedo 25 yards from goal and the Costa Rican took two touches to move the ball onto his supposedly weaker foot before whipping a superb low shot in off the upright. Though not seriously challeged defensively – arguably the area that will concern Blues fans the most about him deputising for Baines – Oviedo was another player grabbing his chance impressively and he grew into an increasingly dangerous outlet for the Blues down the left as the match wore on.
Everton were firmly in the driving seat now and though Stoke were briefly stirred from their torpor by the third goal and a couple of attacking substitutions, forcing a stunning one-handed save from Tim Howard after 63 minutes, the pattern of the game remained largely unchanged. Barry and McCarthy were retaining a vice grip on central midfield which allowed Osman and Pienaar to pull the strings going forward. Pienaar, in particular, was positively Pirlo-esque in his unflustered mastery of the game in the opposition half – all neat flicks, teasing lay-offs and probing passes that showed a pleasing return to his best form after a questionable start to 2013-14.
The South African was almost rewarded for his performance, first when Lukaku picked him out from the byline but he was closed down as he pulled the trigger and his shot was blocked; and then when he was cynically blocked off from collecting a one-two pass from the Belgian striker that would have given him a clear sight of goal from the edge of the box.
The Blues kept pressing, though, barely skipping a beat when Martinez withdrew McCarthy, also one yellow card away from a one-game ban, in favour of John Stones and a back three formation, and they scored a fourth through Lukaku with 11 minutes left of the 90. Oviedo was picked out nicely Osman near the byline and he had the time he needed to deliver a perfect ball into the six-yard area where the prolific Belgian had the simple task of prodding the ball past Begovic to make it 4-0.
His afternoon's work complete, Lukaku was then substituted and Nikica Jelavic introduced into an almost ideal situation from which to end his goal drought and the chance for a first goal of the season arrived in the dying minutes, not long after Deulofue had scampered through the heart of Stoke's defence again, riding two fouls before being denied by a last-ditch tackle by Muniesa.
Jelavic's opportunity was altogether more routine, the Croatian finding himself in a gilt-edged one-on-one situation just inside the penalty area but a typical first-time effort was placed too close to the 'keeper who had come off his line to close down the options and Begovic saved.
A fifth and a goal for Jelavic would have been the icing on the cake but the home faithful no doubt left the Grand Old Lady in high spirits having seen their team comprehensively dismantle a team who had run Wednesday's opponents, Manchester United, very close in a recent game at Old Trafford that Moyes's team only just won, 3-2.
There is no doubt that if Martinez can carry this kind of unbridled attacking fervour into Wednesday's encounter, then Everton have a very good chance to breaking what is among their most painful hoodoos of the Premier League era. Certainly, the new man's positivity offers every hope that the team will travel along the M62 in midweek with a more optimistic and positive mentality than, by his predecessor's own admission, has been the case in recent seasons. Once again, the opportunity to send a statement of intent to our rivals is there and today showed that the attacking weaponry is there if it can be channeled effectively on the night.
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382 Posted 01/12/2013 at 07:29:58
1. We went with 3 at the back once Stones came on. It looked quite an attacking formation with Oviedo and Coleman effectively becoming wingers. Oviedo seems made for that particular role.
2. Stoke tried to press us as we passed it around the back - but all it seemed to do was create more space for our midfielders - as a result we were able to move the ball much more quickly than in previous matches. Not sure it that was down to errors by Stoke in their execution of the pressing game or increased comfort on the ball by the boys in blue. But rarely if ever did we get bogged down passing around the back.
3. Osman had a cracker as did Dela. Great to be able to rest Mirallas and Barkley and have confidence in them being replaced by match winners.
400 Posted 01/12/2013 at 10:07:35
434 Posted 01/12/2013 at 12:27:07
Sometimes there are crucial moments that swing games and usually scoring the first goal but scoring right on half-time really choked Stoke who arguably missed the best chance of the half thanks to Howard.
The team can now go to Old Trafford on a high knowing they have a real chance of a good result providing the defence comes up big especially on the set-pieces.
435 Posted 01/12/2013 at 12:42:41
438 Posted 01/12/2013 at 13:01:25
To keep him for next season is priority number one
440 Posted 01/12/2013 at 13:06:28
443 Posted 01/12/2013 at 13:10:05
Ossie came on strong in the last half-hour when Stoke were all over the place and that was about it. He was carried by Pienaar up until then and Pienaar had the "cracker".
446 Posted 01/12/2013 at 13:44:25
576 Posted 01/12/2013 at 16:57:28
The confusion may be down to the fact that Joe Royle mixed them up in the first half commentary and kept on praising Osman for stuff Pienaar did. Not bashing Osman here, just think Pienaar should get the recognition he deserves for having a great game and bossing the midfield.
595 Posted 01/12/2013 at 17:40:09
603 Posted 01/12/2013 at 18:27:13
612 Posted 01/12/2013 at 18:51:37
From afar they are both farly similar as they're roughly the same size. Only when the camera zooms in can you clearly see the difference.
Tbh, at times I had to wait to see the shirt number myself to be sure which was which, so can understand how big Joe could mix them up - some of the camera angles at Goodison are from pretty high up.
620 Posted 01/12/2013 at 19:08:27
630 Posted 01/12/2013 at 19:12:23
As far as the next 2 matches go, I've been as bullish about Martinez as anyone, but I think we have our work cut out in the next 2 games. I'm not going all 'Moyes' on us, but I don't think we should get too disappointed if the results are not altogether favourable.
I watched the full game that Utd played today and was impressed, they're still a very good side, Rooney's on fire, he was everywhere. Arsenal are in a purple patch also, and while I'm hopeful, the two games are probably our two most difficult we've yet to play this season.
One thing I am confident about is that Roberto will have a good strategy for each game & the players will be as prepared as it's possible to be. Here's hoping.
636 Posted 01/12/2013 at 20:43:56
While I would be very pissed off to lose both games, I think seeing the above happen would bode well for the rest of the season.
644 Posted 01/12/2013 at 21:18:07
This next game is the one I want us to win more than any other this season. COYB.
645 Posted 01/12/2013 at 21:09:34
Don't see us winning both, but neither 2 draws somehow, maybe 1 win & 1 loss?
I know RM will send us out to win both games which is the best approach, but I've not a clue how the games will pan out!
688 Posted 02/12/2013 at 06:26:57
749 Posted 02/12/2013 at 12:08:43
Having said that, what a great selection problem RM has for this particular game. Deulofeu/Mirallas; Barkley (I presume he comes in?).
Can't wait, I will be on TW for certain.
830 Posted 02/12/2013 at 17:15:11
001 Posted 03/12/2013 at 05:45:50
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