A trip out to the East Midlands to take on the Foxes in the first League game of the season and it was quite a party atmosphere as the Leicester fans had the flags and banners out to welcome their heroes to the Premier League, the Blues fans were just being the Blues fans on an away day, so a cracking atmosphere was nailed on.
The team announcement arrived via cyberspace and was well-received by most. No Barkley but he was wished a speedy recovery.
The first half started with 10 minutes of scrappy play before the Blues seemed to settle and start to produce some of the joined-up stuff when Baines made a good tackle near his own box and fed McGeady who slipped to Stones who returned it to McGeady, but alas he ran into trouble, had the ball taken from him and the chance was gone. Naismith worked hard to get on the ball and slip in Lukaku but the big man’s surge was stopped in the area when he pushed the ball too far in front of him.
On the 15-minute mark, we gave away a free kick near the edge of the box and the spray was use,d which brought loud cheers. The free kick was tipped away by Howard for another corner which produced a melee in the box but, thankfully, the home team hit it wide. Already we were looking vulnerable when defending set plays and balls played down the middle and this was illustrated when Jags and Howard got in a mess from such a ball and gave the Leicester forward a sniff but Howard made a sprawling recovery.
20 minutes and we force a corner which Leicester saw out some 35 yards, only for Baines to blast it goal-ward. The ball hit a defender, rebounded to Distin who hit against the keeper and the ball fell for McGeady just inside the box. He took it on a couple of paces before wrapping his foot around the ball to put on the right amount of right hand side to curl the ball with laser accuracy into the top corner of the net for a most delightful finish which sparked celebrations that always includes clenched fists raised and jiggled in sheer delight whilst making unintelligible noises from the mouth. I am sure if this was observed from the sky it would resemble a piranha feeding frenzy.
About a minute later, joy turned to despair as we gave away a corner which was no more than regulation in delivery yet seemed to spook our defence and culminated in Distin lashing and slipping and hitting a Leicester player with the ball who duly hit it back past him and into the net.
However, we responded in good fashion; playing the good joined-up stuff at a slightly faster pace, we looked more than likely to open up a stubborn rearguard and it was a treat to watch. When Leicester did get the ball, they broke quickly and it has to be said that Stones, Jags and Distin did not look blob on at all which, in turn, affected their positioning which led to attacks becoming far more dangerous than they should have.
30 minutes was reached and it was now a right rip-roaring Premier League match to witness. End-to-end, tackle for tackle, chance for chance, chant for chant, and still goal for goal. McGeady was having a prominent spell and danced down the right and put in a cross looking for Lukaku but he was beaten to it at the expense of a corner. Baines takes, but the defence head it away as far as McCarthy who sends it back into the danger area and out for another corner. It was taken and found Pienaar who exchanged passes and then set up McGeady who’s net bound effort hit a defender.
5 minutes before the break, McGeady had another good opportunity when excellent work from Naismith, Baines and Pienaar linked in fine fashion and set up the Irishman who sadly fired over the bar. Pity because that would have been one fine goal. The Baines-Pienaar combo worked again to set up a chance for Naismith who fired just wide.
We were definitely knocking on the door when, just on the half-time mark, we scored a goal that was a joy to watch. It was all Baines and Pienaar in swift tandem which culminated in a Pienaar backheel to Baines who quickly fed Pienaar in the box and he moved the ball on to Naismith in what I thought was a fortuitous manner. But the Scot hit an unerring drive into the top corner which, after the initial ructions, a rendition of "Allez Oh" was served up at a dangerous level of decibels.
Half-time and I thought, after a nervous start, we had played well with Naismith, Baines and Pienaar the pick but, at the same time, our rearguard left room for improvement. As a fan said to me: "Just imagine Robles behind that lot." I declined to imagine. In the break, one bit of news I did not want to hear at all was when I was told Barkley likely out for 6 months. Hope his source had been on the sauce.
Second half began and no changes, 2-1 up so I thought more of the same and we would be home and dry. I should know better as footy is so unpredictable and it would turn out that the second half would be far removed from the first. Baines and Pienaar would no longer get it right, Lukaku would tire dramatically and our midfield would lose quite a bit of control. Add that to our rearguard getting no better, then to come away with a point could be called a result.
The half was scrappy from the start and Leicester seemed intent on putting it about and going for our back four by hitting the ball into our box. Instead of using our joined-up mode, we tried to match them and free kicks abounded for both sides. When we did play quick passing forward moves, we looked the part; yet, each time, a tired pass would put paid to promising moves. Where Lukaku was almost stationary, Naismith was always running, always showing... but that elusive final pass seemed hard for anyone to find.
The three-and-a-half thousand travelling faithful were roaring out chants and cheers to try to lift the lads and get the goal that would surely settle it but, from my seat, we seemed more intent in holding what we had which is in contrast to last season's ‘Martinez way’.
We continued to put effort in and that was not in question but it was without much purpose as it did not contain any craft or guile like we had seen produce two goals first half. McGeady led a break out but was floored by Konchesky which brought a raucous chant of ‘Hello, red and white shite’. From the free kick the ball came out to McCarthy who was tackled and had lengthy treatment before limping off then limping on again. Fair play to Leicester players: when McCarthy stayed down, the ref waved play on, but they put the ball out. Nice to see in such a full-blooded game.
Play resumed and a ball forward found Stones wanting and the sub was through on Howard but thankfully skied it toward the heavens, ‘Send Hibbert on’ someone shouted just as Stones lost it again whilst I wondered just how fit Coleman was as he was at least on the bench.
We may have been critical of our lads for the drop in form second half but, for all that, it was still a gripping and exciting match to watch. They poured forward and we tried to soak it up one way or the other and hit them on the break.
75 minutes reached and you could see the tiredness creeping in. McGeady was trying his jinking runs but lost the ball as he ran out of puff; Pienaar was now almost anonymous and Leicester were breaking into our box with greater regularity which led to last-ditch tackles that saw Barry and McCarthy booked... well McCarthy should have been but the ref just gave him a stern warning. From the free\-kick for the McCarthy tackle, the ball came into our box and, after a mis-control by someone, Jags went to head clear but caught the boot of a bicycle kicking player to his head. He resumed after treatment.
The fans were now calling for us to put subs on but had to wait till the 80th min when Mirallas replaced Pienaar who was out on his feet. Then, 5 mins later, McGeady made way for the returning Coleman to huge cheers from the faithful. A move to ensure we wrapped up the points, it seemed... but to my eyes it disrupted further our rearguard as no-one seemed sure of who was playing where and before they could sort out who was doing what, just a minute after Coleman had come, on we conceded a goal of sloppy proportions with poor marking and missed tackles which saw Leicester gifted a simple shot on a gaping goal and it was 2-2. That left the faithful stunned and as limp as wet lettuce for what seemed like an age.
4 minutes of injury time and we went for broke but it was all too frantic and lacking in craft as well as being too late. The final whistle and just the point to bring home.
MotM. Naismith – The one player who was consistent throughout.
Overall, a good day out to see an entertaining game and one that excited from time to time. As an Evertonian, you would wonder how we could perform so differently first half to second, as well as how quickly players tired second half, and why it took so long to get fresh legs on, and then only two used.
Still, early days yet... and, taking into account a World Cup interrupted pre-season, there were signs that the good times are not too far away. That back line is a bit worrying though and needs some work doing on it – but that’s what managers and coaches are paid for – and we have some of the best, we are told.
Tea time in L4 sees the start of our home campaign in a game that is certainly not a ‘gimmie’ but a must-see.
Be good to see if all the regulars are back in the Room of Nonsense and, if so, we will have the whole season boxed off in about three pints; whatever happens during the season, no-one ever admits to getting anything wrong pre first game...
See you there!
UP THE BLUES
Reader Comments (34)
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1 Posted 17/08/2014 at 02:02:15
2 Posted 17/08/2014 at 01:59:24
3 Posted 17/08/2014 at 02:52:55
4 Posted 17/08/2014 at 02:51:16
5 Posted 17/08/2014 at 02:31:49
I, like many, question the pre-season training regimen; why our players were already developing injuries and seem to lack match fitness and sharpness. But I take heart in how well we played in the first half as a sign of things to come.
Lukaku will get match fit over time, Mirallas will be more involved in the next few games, Coleman will be back and help balance our attack on both flanks, Pienaar and Baines looked sharp again, and Naismith was indefatigable. The backline is a bit of a worry, but I think problems can and will be ironed out.
The worry is Barkley and how bad his injury is. I just hope Osman, Pienaar, and Gibson can operate as a kind of attacking midfield by committee. I wonder if this will prompt a change in formation and/or tactics?
6 Posted 17/08/2014 at 02:37:24
IÃ‚ve actually posted on the JA606 Everton board and also found your fans to be very down to earth, proper football fans. IÃ‚ve also always had a slight soft spot for you guys since you stole Gary off us so IÃ‚m hoping you can break into the top four.
You looked class going forward in the first half with Baines and Pienaar causing us all sorts of problems but defensively you were very suspect. BainesÃ‚s and PienaarÃ‚s quality lead to a bit of a backlash for de Laet, who I thought in truth, did a pretty good job with little support from Mahrez, against two top quality players. The two finishes were sublime.
Second half went pretty much as I predicted with Everton running out of steam and our superior fitness paying dividends once again. I think this in a interesting fact, Albrighton was second fittest player at Villa but the eleventh at City. I think this speaks volumes for the shape our players are in and IÃ‚m sure this will win us plenty of points throughout the season.
This has been a key factor of our success over the last couple of seasons because we just donÃ‚t give up and possess the quality to punish teams, as we proved once again with a very satisfactory performance against a very good side.
We know we can perform better than that too and have Drinky (our best player), Albrighton and Vardy to come back from injury and Cambiasso coming in so I think we can be feeling pretty pleased with ourselves.
On a side note, the tackle from Konchesky was perfect and it was him that kicked the ball out of play too ÃƒÂ°Ã‚Å¸Ã‚ËœÃ‚â€°
Good luck for the rest of the season.
7 Posted 17/08/2014 at 03:49:32
All-in-all, great to be back following Everton!
Grip it now: Barkley is out for most of this season. That means Gibson and Besic become attackers or we need to get back into the market.
(Also.... their uniforms looked too much like our home kits... it took awhile to get acclimated.)
8 Posted 17/08/2014 at 03:56:52
Pretty much spot-on, as per usual, Ken. In no particular order, a couple of things worry me.
Barkley obviously, but I suppose we must file that under Ã‚shit happens / this is Everton, what do you expect?Ã‚
This whole post World Cup Lukaku thing. I seem to remember there was an officially mandated one-month stand down and, at aged 21, I donÃ‚t see that the time since his last game (5 July 2014) is enough for him to lose all his fitness, given that he was reported before his transfer as Ã‚training in BelgiumÃ‚ ... or was it just another of his Ã‚Ho-HumÃ‚ days? I always fear the worst when I see him, as I did yesterday, drifting deeper and deeper, still with his back to the goal. He is like Baines: use him like he should be used to get full value.
Without going all knee-jerky, last season he did have his fair share of Ã‚Ho-HumÃ‚ days... all IÃ‚ll say is IÃ‚m glad we didnÃ‚t fork out 㿈M all in one go.
Jags and Distin: I remember a few seasons ago (three or four?) when Arteta had not long signed his mega deal, us getting done over at Villa, by balls played down the space between the the two of them. It might be said that OFMÃ‚s all-around more, shall we say, Ã‚carefulÃ‚ methods offered them more protection back then and they still got found out. Add to this time and injuries and the lack of a Cahill, Jelavic or even Fellaini to help clear high balls in the box... short version, they are getting found out more and more.
Subs, Bobby, subs... too little, too late, like buses, none for 80 mins then 2 in a couple of mins. Subs need time to bed in, they can even disrupt the whole team dynamic. Moyes got found out by this more than once; donÃ‚t you start doing it as well!
We, the collective we, both on and off the field, will have to dig deep on a number of fronts, maybe even financially, to get things right against Arsenal, Chelsea and the rest of the games to come.
9 Posted 17/08/2014 at 05:54:14
Whilst disappointed to drop two points to a late scrappy goal I think I would've taken a point before the game given that we were playing a decent, newly promoted side away from home on the opening day. Not to mention our fitness issues!
I just want to say I've been trying to fight it and I get hammered by LFC and United 'fans' when I say this but I think that Naismith is such a good little player for us... But I just can't put my finger on what he's actually good at (in the nicest possible way).
Also did anyone notice the almost mirror image of the opening day from last season against Norwich? 2-2 after a ball breaks loose to an un-intended target... Everton that! Ah well, 4 points from our next two home games and I'll be happy... COYB!
10 Posted 17/08/2014 at 06:01:35
I think I remember that Villa game only too well. Wasn't that the one where Joleon Lescott equalised in the last minute only for Ashley Young to score an injury time winner from the kick after Jags got caught out massively by a ball over the top?
Either way I remember my laundry basket getting stomped like Billy Batts in Goodfellas! Haha.
11 Posted 17/08/2014 at 06:36:41
Welcome back, Ken.
12 Posted 17/08/2014 at 06:43:14
It’s a concern re our second half.... one of our strong points last season was indeed our fitness, and our ability to dig deep and score late on in the last 15 of games. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe we scored more than any other PL side last season in the final third of the second half?
13 Posted 17/08/2014 at 11:01:15
Having read the rest of the views, IÃ‚m finding myself completely agreeing, which is rare for two sets of fans to have the same opinion on a game.
Your lack of fitness cost you today, I donÃ‚t think thereÃ‚s any doubt about that but that was understandable and of course that will improve.
I could say youÃ‚re very lucky that Vardy wasnÃ‚t available didnÃ‚t because he is rapid (as you found out in Thailand) and can finish, unlike the boy Schlupp bless him.
Vardy would have terrorised your tired defence and would have made a huge difference to our attack but thatÃ‚s football and you got away with being unfit this time ÃƒÂ°Ã‚Å¸Ã‚ËœÃ‚â€°
I have a slight confession however, on paper I didnÃ‚t think you were all that much of a threat and I completely underestimated the quality of Pienaar, McGeady, Naismith and Baines in particular.
I thought we handled the rest of the team very well but those four were outstanding and I really didnÃ‚t expect them to be but I was definitely wrong.
All the best in Europe this season and best of luck trying to break into the top four. Martinez is a quality manager and IÃ‚ve watched a few of his interviews before and after the game and I like him a lot.
14 Posted 17/08/2014 at 11:32:06
15 Posted 17/08/2014 at 12:06:41
16 Posted 17/08/2014 at 12:40:42
17 Posted 17/08/2014 at 11:52:13
Also Steve 6, good to hear/see your comments on the game, again like Ken spot on I'd say. I think you'll do okay this season, and stay up... it's a big ask though, because there's not a lot of difference in quality when the usual top 7 or 8 are excluded. I like your manager, he comes across as a steady no nonsense sort of a person.
As far as Everton's concerned I too am puzzled why in defence we are poor when the balls in the air, I'm not blaming Martinez, Jags and Distin are the two most experienced in the league by far surely they know what there doing at corners and other crosses.
No doubt the matches are reviewed and weaknesses are highlighted. Last years record in defence points to us being strong, but I get the jitters every time a cross comes over.
18 Posted 17/08/2014 at 13:19:09
Craig (12) you are correct about the last 15 minutes stat from last year. Hopefully from here on out we so more play like the first half not the second.
Last but not least, good luck to you Barkley you poor snake-bitten footballer. Please come back healthy, do not rush Ã‚â€“ your health is more important than the team results.
19 Posted 17/08/2014 at 12:30:34
In fairness, I think we can both be disappointed with the way we retained the ball at times because IÃ‚m sure youÃ‚ll be disappointed with the second half and we can definitely play better than we did. You made it very hard for us but weÃ‚re better than that and IÃ‚m sure weÃ‚ll settle in.
20 Posted 17/08/2014 at 13:40:11
CouldnÃ‚t believe some the ultra negative comments on the live forum yesterday. Please think before acting so quickly, it was the first game of the season.
21 Posted 17/08/2014 at 18:41:26
Not the easiest start to the season Ã‚â€“ maybe Roberto should complain about a conspiracy!
22 Posted 17/08/2014 at 18:40:43
Steve (#6), good post, welcome to the best footy fans' website in the world! Hope you guys stuff our loveable neighbours when you meet them...:-)
23 Posted 18/08/2014 at 00:04:26
24 Posted 18/08/2014 at 01:45:02
The defence has been caught napping umpteen times, they need to learn to concentrate for the full game. I think Jags is a bit over-rated and a lot of the miraculous last-gasp interventions he occasionally makes shouldn't have happened in the first place.
25 Posted 18/08/2014 at 05:41:38
Steve #6, thanks for dropping in and sharing your perspective. Welcome to the PL and best wishes to stay.
And Brian #11, all I can do is laugh. The "scorer's body language"??? Really? Not sure what's in your cookies, but they ain't chocolate chips, son.
26 Posted 18/08/2014 at 06:25:20
I don't think we will play as badly again. I don't remember that many sluggish or tired performances last season.
27 Posted 18/08/2014 at 07:31:04
When Leicester scored its second, I concede that Stones was mainly to blame for not covering his zone at the back post but where was Mirallas and more importantly where was Coleman? At that stage of the game with three points almost in the bag, our tiring defence urgently required bolstering with fresh legs. The last thing we needed was another goal.
Had we hung on to the lead for those last few minutes Roberto would have been hailed as brilliant; as it was, if his orders were to play an open game, it was a mistake on his part.
28 Posted 18/08/2014 at 08:52:01
We were obviously delighted to get a point in the end but if we had been level for the last twenty, I’m pretty sure we would have been disappointed with a draw. We would have been in a great position to go on and win it and as you’ve seen, we do have the quality to punish teams. It’s funny how the timing of goals can change our perceptions of the same result.
Thanks for your comments regarding Mahrez and Pearson. Mahrez is very exciting and has so many tricks that he ghosts past players at times. He’s still young and finding his feet but he definitely needs to help out more defensively now we’ve stepped up a league, that was very evident on Saturday. Pearson gets us playing honest football, our discipline is excellent, we don’t appeal and get in the refs faces, we just get on with it when fouled hence why Mahrez just got up. This was another huge factor towards our success last season and it’s refreshing to see in this day and age.
It was reported that Liam Moore was arrested after the game for stealing 㿈m but was later released when the police realised it was Lukaku in his pockets. Sorry couldn’t resist ÃƒÂ°Ã‚Å¸Ã‚ËœÃ‚â€°
29 Posted 18/08/2014 at 10:31:56
Thanks for your balanced view of the game. I hope Leicester stay up as youÃ‚re the Red ShiteÃ‚s bogey team!
30 Posted 18/08/2014 at 11:29:44
Coleman came on and didnÃ‚t have a scooby where to play, Besic was the go-to man to tighten up the midfield area and Atsu should have been the sub for McGeady.
Also, If I where a Leicester fan, IÃ‚d have been disappointed not to see Barry get a second yellow, but the tackle on McCarthy wasnÃ‚t very nice too.
Stonesy just doesnÃ‚t look much cop at right back, not his fault, but he was miles out of position for the second goal (much like the centre half he is).
I loved seeing Baines and Pienaar back to their creative best, but Stevey should be given 70 minutes max from now on.
31 Posted 19/08/2014 at 11:34:30
I've knocked young Stones many times in the past but he had no chance with their 2nd goal. Jags looked beaten and the lad had to make an effort to block the striker. Coleman should have been covering him but was ball watching. As was McCarthy, who had let himself be drawn away from his normal position. Believe me, Mirallas, Baines and Barry were also not too clever before the ball got anywhere near Stones.
32 Posted 19/08/2014 at 12:24:40
The subs were also the wrong choices and too late. Atsu and Besic would have had more energy and kept us on top.
33 Posted 19/08/2014 at 21:41:10
34 Posted 20/08/2014 at 05:13:17
Jags looked beaten and the lad had to make an effort to block the striker
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