Being an impatient soul I was all ready to go at 10am and when my phone buzzed I expected it to be a text from Ste stating "setting off now mate"... and thus was pleasantly surprised when the text actually read "outside mate"... and off we set.
The M6 wouldn't be the M6 without delays and we were held up Leicester-bound... though the opposite direction delays stretched for miles and miles... and miles and miles. Many will have missed the early kick-off match at Old Trafford, I suspect... according to Twitter at least.
Despite the delay, we arrived in good time, parking up in a 'Secure Car Park' for a fiver and walking to the ground. Ste's wife's cousin works at Leicester City and had arranged some complimentary tickets for us... albeit in the West End with the Leicester City supporters.
As we were en-route to collect the tickets, a Sky TV representative stopped us and asked if we were away fans. How he knew that I don't know as we weren't talking particularly loud and weren't dressed in Everton clothing. He then asked us a few questions in front of the Sky Camera regarding our match day routine before taking our contact details... so Ste and I could be coming to a zany Soccer AM-type show sometime soon near you.
After this tomfoolery, we went on to collect the tickets. "Away supporters I assume?" quizzed the gentleman in the ticket van. "Yes" I said in my haste which lead to a bit of confusion and back-tracking though we were eventually given the tickets no problem and even directed on to the pub... or at least the makeshift pub at the Holiday Inn next to the stadium. The place served a mean burger and we were able to watch Manchester United carry on were they left off last season. I'll bet David Moyes had a wry smile on his face as he saw Swansea City score the winner.
We headed on to the match with the wind blowing in our faces. Whilst nothing like the wind last time I was at the stadium, it did bring back harrowing memories of the last time I visited, 10 years ago, when Bernard Murphy was killed having been hit by a scaffold blown off by the extremely gusty wind that day. I didn't see it happen or even know about the tragedy until boarding a coach after the match but I just remember being gutted and shocked sitting there on the coach. How sad.
Into the stadium and we were rather impressed with the interior of the King Power Stadium. Our seats were pretty good, the Everton fans were away to our left. The teams came out. Everton lining up with Romalu Lukaku leading the line and John Stones at right back. Was Tony Hibbert injured as he wasn't on the bench? If he wasn't injured then he must be wondering why he's bothered signing up for another two years if he's going to essentially be third choice right back. McGeady and Pienaar took up position on the flanks with Naismith supporting Lukaku. No space in the starting XI for Leon Osman. Kasper Schmeichel, ex-red Paul Konchesky and Evertonian David Nugent all featured for the Foxes. Everton attacked towards the far end in the first half. Mike Jones officiated.
Both teams began brightly, though with Everton's vast Premier League experience and ability, we got to grips with the game quicker and had chances before we took the lead. Martinez was sensible in sticking with his tried and trusted players like Pienaar, McCarthy, Barry and Naismith in the midfield, though it was one of our newer players (and one I tip for a top Everton career) in Aiden McGeady who, quite exquisitely, gave Everton the advantage with a beautifully clipped effort which found the top corner after his initial corner was cleared. Baines had driven it back in from a long way out, the ball had rebounded out to Distin who was thwarted by Schmeichel... the ball breaking back to McGeady who did the rest. A quite brilliant opening goal of the season for Everton... and McGeady's first for the Blues.
Old habits die hard for Everton and it seems like it's only Everton capable of defending so loosely in the opening day of the season. We seem to do the hard work with scoring good goals and then slack off at the back by gifting soft ones. We did it again this time (twice), just like last season at Norwich City (twice). I wonder how crucial them missing two points may be at the seasons end? On this occasion we conceded from a corner less than two minutes after scoring. The corner was a really poor one and should have been cleared but Barry let it get past him, Distin couldn't clear his lines and Leonardo Ulloa smashed the ball into the net to level the scores.
Really we should have got away with it once Naismith had given us the lead again on the stroke of half time following a quite outstanding move down the left between Baines and Pienaar. Really we should have been out of sight by half time as McGeady missed two good chances and Naismith put one wide but, just like Everton on an opening day, couldn't convert our chances and were punished.
You could argue that Leicester deserved the draw (they probably did) with substitute Jeff Schlupp ballooning over with a great opportunity mid-way through the second half. They pushed enough to grab the equaliser and Lukaku didn't do near enough at the top end of the pitch to create or complete any opportunities. However, the fact remains Everton threw away this one with conceding two sloppy goals. Kevin Mirallas gave the ball away criminally for the second one before Barry just danced off the Leicester player to let him shoot before the ball deflected to Woods to equalise.
Even after this we had chances. Naismith was within inches of converting a Mirallas cross and Lukaku headed over from a Baines centre. The way I see it we should have won this game but given our slack defending didn't deserve to. You can't win games in the Premier League defending like that, and defending will have to improve when we host title challengers in our next two fixtures.
After the match we waited around to meet Simon who had gotten us the tickets. He took us into the ground for a quick tour. As we walked in, Lukaku was strolling onto the coach and Jagielka and Pienaar were chatting to some supporters. We walked through and I saw Steven Naismith being interviewed and walked past Graham Stuart who we said hello to. We walked out onto the pitch. "There's some Buddhist Monks there" said Simon and we spun around to see about half a dozen Buddhist Monks all dressed in orange all sat in the home dug-out. Talk about a double-take moment.
Looking up to the press area we saw Graeme Sharpe probably completing his phone-in for Radio City. It was brilliant to be on the pitch and looking around. Simon is a physio at Leicester City though is in fact an Evertonian. Ste asked him how he felt about the match with being an Evertonian originally. "Mixed emotions really" he said. "Obviously I know the lads here as I work with them so was made up Leicester equalised to be fair".
Of Everton. "That Baines is a quality player. Some of his passes were out of this world. Pienaar looked good but you could tell he was carrying an injury. I couldn't believe McCarthy played on after that injury. He looked finished. Wes Morgan (the Leicester City defender) was excellent. He handled Lukaku really well. Lukaku didn't do a lot, I'm not sure he was fit, but if you spend that much on a striker you've got to play him."
He lead us back out of the ground and on we went back to the M69 and then the M6, getting home about 9pm for dinner with Ste and our better halves.
A good day out at the game and it's great that football is back... I just wish Everton would hit the ground running for once – we could have done with the points with tough games ahead.
Howard: Pretty helpless with either goal really. Not a huge amount to do otherwise. 6
Baines: Very good. Always getting forward and worked well with Pienaar. Combines that balance of attack and defence perfectly. 7
Distin: Made a bit of a hash of his clearance for their first goal though did OK otherwise. Will have sterner tests than this throughout the season however. 6
Jagielka: Did OK. Made one very brave block in the second half and handled their strikers quite well. I still think both our centre backs need a couple more games to get going... I hope they can learn quickly with Arsenal and Chelsea next up. 6
Stones: Did fine. Always quite comfortable on the ball. Perhaps could have gotten forward more. 6
Barry: Not quite at the races I thought. Always busy but just seemed a yard or so off the pace. Slightly lucky to stay on the pitch also as could have been sent off for a second bookable offence. 6
McCarthy: Very busy and covered tons of ground. A bit sloppy with his passing at times. As Simon said, it was a shock that he carried on as he looked finished at one point following an awkward fall. 6
Pienaar: My Man of the Match. Excellent. You'd almost forgotten how useful he can be. Always on the move and worked very well with Baines. If he can maintain that for the season and stay injury free, he could be very useful to us throughout the year. 7
McGeady: Started very well and could have scored more than one. He really faded later in the game though and looked exhausted. Should have been replaced sooner than he was. 6
Naismith: Very good. Took his goal well and always busy supporting Lukaku. Will have another good season I think. 7
Lukaku: Very poor. Will have to improve and of course will do but that was a very awkward performance by our new record signing... two big games ahead though –hopefully he can get amongst the goals. 4
Mirallas (for Pienaar): Well... he gave the ball away from which Leicester eventually scored... and then woefully put a corner kick straight into the side-netting which was really, really poor. He did get better though as with Pienaar substituted there was very little real movement throughout the team and so he had to do a lot of it himself. There were opportunities when he ran into the box and you thought "go on Kevin, hit it" though he wouldn't trust his left foot and the chance went... more than once. So, same old frustrating Mirallas for me. Capable of the outstanding extraordinary though so frustrating you just want to strangle him sometimes. Either should have been given more time to get into the game or none at all. Leon Osman may have made for a better, more reliable substitute. 5
Coleman (for McGeady): Did very well in the short time he had and perhaps should have been introduced sooner as McGeady looked finished for a good 10 minutes before he was substituted. He'll be straight back in the team next Saturday. You can be sure of that. 6
Reader Comments (18)
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1 Posted 17/08/2014 at 16:17:04
This is also true from attacking set pieces, when is the last time Jags or Distin scored from one?
2 Posted 17/08/2014 at 17:05:01
3 Posted 17/08/2014 at 16:52:52
Generally speaking, we played very well Ã‚â€“ I would say we battered them for 70 minutes, but just gave away 2 stupid goals.
Lukaku is clearly playing catch up with his fitness; I'm still baffled why he wasn't given a run out in pre-season as he was obviously rusty. With him being a big lad, I fear he will need 4/5 games before he is fully up to speed.
We could have done with the 3 points looking at our upcoming fixtures...
4 Posted 17/08/2014 at 17:25:03
Firstly, yet again Everton come out mumbling from the blocks Ã‚â€“ they just donÃ‚t look fit; secondly, their 2nd goal we had two right backs and the Leicester player was unmarked with Stones caught out ball-watching. Two points dropped rather than a point gained.
5 Posted 17/08/2014 at 17:29:04
Also the performance of Barry worried me. He was yards off the pace and at times looked as though his legs had gone, especially when hacking opponents down when he just couldn’t get there. Really it’s unbelievable we have offered him a 3-year deal. Chelsea only offer their over 30s 1 year at a time. Bill is so charitable though!!! I think RM will regret that deal.
6 Posted 17/08/2014 at 17:41:44
Stones: Looked confident going forward, perhaps too confident. Always comfortable on the ball, but needs to check his runs when there's no cover. Responsible for leaving an opening for their second goal. Probably best not to play him at right back. 5/10.
7 Posted 17/08/2014 at 18:04:48
McGeady plays as if he spends half-time smoking ten Woodbines and a King Edward Ã‚â€” he looks lungless and blowing for tugs after 60 mins.
8 Posted 17/08/2014 at 18:10:59
9 Posted 17/08/2014 at 19:28:53
This weekend has honestly been one of the most frustrating to watch. No matter who buys or sells what, Liverpool will still miraculously have sides miss sitters against them, they'll still win undeservedly, Arsenal will still get last-minute goals, Spurs will still grind undeserved 1-0s, Everton will still throw away lead after lead despite only giving away a few chances, we'll miss out on 4th by a few points and wonder why it happened... because of weekends like this, they're so depressingly familiar too.
10 Posted 17/08/2014 at 19:53:42
Your logic is more than a little flawed. Last season Arsenal lost their first home game 3-1 to Villa, won the cup and qualified for the Champions League; Man Utd won their first game at Swansea 4-1 away from home and finished 7th. It's the first game for goodness sake and we didn't lose, unlike 1985 when we lost 4-1 at home to Spurs and won the league.
11 Posted 17/08/2014 at 20:43:04
We've got two tough games coming up but we beat these at home last season so I'm confident. Arsenal looked vulnerable yesterday and let's see what Chelsea are like tomorrow. COYB.
12 Posted 17/08/2014 at 21:54:52
Regardless of manager, regardless of players, we seem to possess the same traits: lack of killer instinct away from home, tendency to concede goals early and late in games, tendency to get long injuries to key players every season (three from last season still haven't returned), tendency for teams against us to score from the majority of chances we give them (see the Liverpool game today for the opposite example of that phenomenon), tendency to concede from set pieces, tendency to draw more than most other teams, tendency to draw 2-2.
Do you not feel sometimes like you've watched this game before and know the outcome? Don't tell me you didn't know with every fibre of your being that they would get the equaliser after 80 mins, probably leaving not enough time for us to respond, resulting in exactly the same result as the first game last season: 2-2 at a side that will probably go down despite having the lead twice. Not good enough for a team with serious aspirations of top 4.
We kicked ourselves for those 6 dropped points at the start of last season; will we kick ourselves for these two? Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham aren't Ã‚â€“ despite putting in worse performances than we did.
13 Posted 17/08/2014 at 23:36:03
Clive. We probably had both arms twisted up our back with the Barry contract.
14 Posted 17/08/2014 at 23:58:12
I remember Reid and Bracewell looking a yard ahead of everyone in a derby Charity Shield game and I want our team to be sharper than everyone else in the first game. If they come in a week early, so what? They're paid fortunes and if they want to win rather than just saying the right things, they'd have no issues putting the time in.
Martinez may need to change his methods next season because bad starts usually lead to frustrating, underachieving seasons. Still worried there's too much 'softness', not enough hard-edged winners walking amongst us.
15 Posted 18/08/2014 at 00:25:52
It may seem that way but that stats don't back you up. Everton have for a good number of years scored many more late goals than they concede. For example, last year, we scored 18 goals in the last 15 minutes of league games compared to just 6 that we conceded during this time. In 12 matches least season, we were either level or behind at half time and went on to win 11 games and draw one.
I can understand the frustration of Saturday however this only happened once last season that we were ahead at half time and went on to draw or lose (at West Brom). The other 10 games we were in front at half time we went on to win.
To be fair to David Moyes this pattern of late goals (not the win ratio!) tended to be replicated in the latter years of his tenure as well.
16 Posted 18/08/2014 at 22:19:55
Although Everton only drew, it is a new season and I look forward (as always) to reading your account of how things went.
Very appreciative, thank you
17 Posted 19/08/2014 at 09:39:31
You made it sound a bit more positive than what I could gather from the matchday forum, even with Lukaku's 4.
Buddhist monks eh? The forum seem to have a few ready to set themselves on fire after the game.
18 Posted 22/08/2014 at 00:47:03
If you look at what Chelsea have recently done, they now have 5 big targets in their attacking areas, all of which can pose a threat and defend very well too.
We need to seriously look at either making Distin, Lukaku and Jagielka etc train to be more dominant in the air.... or make his next few signings able to provide us with these particular attributes.
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