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Venue: Britannia Stadium, Stoke
Premier League
 Wednesday 4 March 2015; 7:45pm
STOKE
2 0
 EVERTON
Moses (32'), Diouf (84')
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 26,431
Fixture 28
Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Match Summary

Everton's horrible run of Premier League form continued at the Britannia Stadium with an eighth defeat in nine away games thanks to a goal in each half for Stoke, scored by Victor Moses and Mame Biram Diouf.

Aaron Lennon returned to the team alongside Darron Gibson and Steven Naismith for the trip to the Britannia Stadium.

Leighton Baines missed out so Luke Garbutt continued at left back. Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas were named among the substitutes.

A scrappy opening yielded few chances but a number of infringements for Mark Clattenburg to deal with. Steven Naismith received some cautionary words before Gareth Barry was booked for tugging back Charlie Adam, picking up his 10th booking of the season and a two-match suspension in the process.

Gibson had the Blues' first effort on target for the Blues with a low shot that was comfortably gathered while a couple of corners from Luke Garbutt came to nothing.

Stoke, meanwhile, had their first real spell of pressure with half an hour gone and Moses forced a parrying save from Tim Howard. The home side remained in possession following a spate of "handbags" between Naismith and Phil Bardsley before the Stoke fullback swung the ball into the box from a throw-in. Victor Moses rose unmarked in the box to plant a header into the top corner beyond Tim Howard's reach and make it 1-0.

Everton's best passage of play towards the end of the first half yielded a couple of set-pieces and a shot on target from the angle by Lennon but it was not enough to unduly trouble Asmir Begovic.

The best chance of the game for Martinez's side came early in the second half when Lukaku was handed a rare chance to get behind the defence with the ball played in front of him and his deflected shot squirmed agonisingly past the far post.

The Blues continued to press in the second half but lacked the guile to break down a stubborn and physical opponent. Lennon was withdrawn along with Barry after an hour and the introduction of Leon Osman and Arouna Kone yielded two quick shots on goal but one was blocked and the other beaten away by the 'keeper.

As Everton chased the game increasingly in vain, they were sucker-punched when Diouf got away with a foul on Phil Jagielka in the centre circle and was on hand to convert the rebound after Marko Arnautovic's shot came back off the post.

Luke Garbutt forced a late save from Begovic after McCarthy had been fouled on the edge of the box by Jonathan Walters but it was a rare test for the Potters' keeper.

The result represents the League double for Stoke over Everton following their win at Goodison Park on Boxing Day and ratchets up the pressure on Martinez whose team have now recorded just two victories in 16 matches in the Premier League.

If there was a silver lining for the Blues it was that all three of the clubs occupying the relegation places coming into the evening lost, preserving that six-point buffer. QPR were beaten 2-1 at home by Arsenal, Burnley went down 2-0 to Liverpool and Leicester lost at Manchester City.

Lyndon Loyd

Match Report

The European dream is still alive and it must be a dream; a beautiful, unbelievable escape from our domestic struggles but there are plenty of Evertonians who would be quite happy to call everything quits right now, Europa League and all, if it meant an end to this Premier League nightmare.

A second 2-0 defeat in the space of four days, another blank on Everton's side of the scoresheet, and one more frustratingly inept performance has deepened the gloom among supporters trying to fathom how the magic of last season has vanished so quickly and completely. This fixture last season may not have been anything to write home about from the Blues' perspective but Leighton Baines's injury-time penalty at least salvaged a draw that was part of a sequence in which Roberto Martinez's side won six of nine games.

This term, of course, Everton have managed just six League wins all season and, in truth, they never looked like improving on that record at the Britannia Stadium this evening, as unforgiving a place as anywhere in the top-flight when the home side are up for it.

Stoke were up for it, to a point, but the galling aspect of this contest was just how ordinary Mark Hughes's side were over the 90 minutes. With their most creative player out injured in the form of Bojan, there seemed to be little threat to the Blues if they could contain Peter Crouch's aerial threat and stifle the enthusiastic but limited Jonathan Walters.

As it turned out, it was the spectacularly average Victor Moses who scored what proved to be the decisive goal with an unchallenged, looping header that flew inside Tim Howard's post from fully 14 yards out with a little over half and hour gone.

Up to that point, neither side had offered much apart from a tame 20-yard shot by Darron Gibson and a powerful drive by Moses that Howard beat away, but the goal came as a result of the Potters first real spell of pressure. A throw-in from the Stoke right ended at the feet of Phil Bardsley, fresh from a bout of "handbags" with Steven Naismith and Luke Garbutt, and the fullback took advantage of plenty of space to ping a cross into the box that Moses steered beyond the goalkeeper's despairing reach.

Everton's response was a slight improvement on the tepid fare that had characterised the first half an hour but Seamus Coleman failed to find a blue shirt with a cut-back from the byline, Aaron Lennon forced a decent save from Asmir Begovic with a shot from the angle and Gareth Barry ended the half with a weak header that the 'keeper easily caught.

The second half was better from the Blues' perspective, especially after Leon Osman and Arouna Kone had come on for Barry and Lennon with an hour gone, but the improvement was marginal and the destiny of the points would remain unchanged.

Romelu Lukaku, cutting the familiarly isolated and wasted figure to which we fans have become so accustomed this season, came within inches from equalising two minutes after the break with the one and only chance he was given to run onto a ball behind the Stoke defence but his shot caught a defender's heel and it just missed the far post.

Osman saw a shot charged down from his first real involvement and Kone followed it up with a rasping effort that Begovic did well to parry to safety but the required intensity and guile just wasn't there from Everton. It certainly didn't help that Martinez started with just one winger in the form of Lennon and then left himself with no natural width when the Tottenham loanee was withdrawn once more, the manager was expecting to break down a resilient Stoke defence by playing straight through its centre rather than trying to stretch the game and put balls in from wide areas.

Kevin Mirallas, again left sitting on the bench as the team's second-top scorer until late in the game, came on for the final eight minutes and blasted a disappointing free kick over the bar but by that stage Everton had largely lost their way and seemed resigned to their fate.

A fate that was sealed six minutes from time when a horribly wayward touch by Lukaku spun up into the centre circle where Stoke substitute Mame Biram Diou appeared to illegally barge Phil Jagielka in an aerial duel before rampaging off towards the Everton area and knocking the ball on to Marko Arnautovic. The Austrian's shot came back off the post and fell straight to Diouf who couldn't miss. 2-0, game over.

Garbutt forced a good save from Begovic with a stoppage-time free kick after McCarthy had been dragged back by the neck by Walters but it was never going to be Everton's day and the team trooped off in dejected fashion behind a manager who is now under serious pressure following an awful run of just one Premier League win in 12 games.

That all three of the bottom three clubs going into the evening QPR, Burnley and Leicester all lost will come as some relief but it should not be regarded as any consolation. Everton will likely survive this season thanks to the number of points they have already earned over the first 28 games because it's hard to see them winning many in the final 10. It's actually hard to see where the next League victory is coming from... and that's with Newcastle United coming to Goodison Park in 11 days' time.

At the root of the problem is Martinez's mystifying abandonment of width and balance over the course of the campaign. Shorn of the creativity and imagination of Steven Pienaar a player he didn't even try to replace in January despite it being painfully obvious that he would be making little to no contribution over the second half of the campaign because of injury the Catalan has persisted with trying to either shoe-horn three central midfielders into his formation, with Naismith playing off Lukaku and just one wide player; or two number 10s, also at the expense of balance and width.

It didn't help that Naismith, despite being a tireless runner and the de facto skipper of the side with his refusal to get bullied by a physical opposition, had a poor game overall, that Lennon was worse, that the team simply doesn't get enough men forward to support Lukaku, and that Garbutt wasn't quite able to justify the reliance on his deliveries from the left flank.

Evertonians demanded a big performance from a team that possesses an abundance of talent but instead got a flaccid display that made a mockery of last season's stunning achievements. Though they dominated the possession again, it wasn't even a case of the usual mind-numbing passing game going nowhere either on Martinez's instruction or the players' own volition, plan A was actually abandoned for a more direct approach for much of the contest but all too often balls were launched forward aimlessly or wasted because, in the absence of a left winger, Lukaku was being pulled wide to the touchline when he should be in and around the penalty box.

All in all, the whole debacle perpetuates the belief that Martinez is either too stubborn to change his rigid approach or simply doesn't have the answers to his team's deepening malaise. Either way, it doesn't bode well for the remainder of the season or the one that lies beyond if he remains in charge.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

Everton are on the road again this evening as they travel to Stoke with the pressure on Roberto Martinez's shoulders growing in the wake of a fourth successive game without a win in the Premier League.

The Blues have won just once in 13 matches on the domestic front, a run that has seen them eliminated from the FA Cup at the Third Round stage and become bogged down in the bottom half of the League table. With any realistic hope of finishing in the European places gone, the target now is to least finish in the top half but, for now it's the threat from below rather than the extra revenue to be gained from the places above that are of most concern.

An equaliser by Jack Rodwell for Sunderland against Hull prevented Everton from starting the game at the Britannia Stadium in 15th place, but a win for Aston Villa over West Bromwich Albion and the fact that 18th-placed QPR have a game in hand means no one of a Blue persuasion will be resting easy until the team starts picking up points.

Facing Mark Hughes's side on their own patch is no one's idea of a treat when you'rte desperately in need of a victory and while Manchester City recently demolished them 4-1, you have to go back to 22nd December for the last time the Potters were beaten at the Britannia, 2-0 by Chelsea.

Since then, they've either beaten or drawn with all of the teams around Everton in the table home or away and have lost just two of their last 10 League games. They can be vulnerable against teams that really go after them, though, as City, Arsenal and Championship side Blackburn have shown over the past month.

That bodes well for an Everton team that boasts plenty of talent but which has struggled to harness it all season long. Sunday's defeat to Arsenal was the latest disappointment from a team that was so dynamic going forward last season and has been so lethal for much of their Europa League campaign.

As ever, another sold-out away end will be hoping that this is the game where everything clicks in a League game and that the Toffees can start putting more daylight between themselves and the bottom three.

With Christian Atsu ruled out as he recovers from a virus – the Ghanaian is expected back to Finch Farm on Friday – and Leighton Baines doubtful, the manager has the same pool of players from which to draw as he did at the weekend. Baines will undergo a late fitness but would be a surprise inclusion, particularly in view of how well Luke Garbutt has been performing as his deputy this season.

The 21 year-old has started the last two matches, weighing in with an assist in the Europa League second leg against Young Boys and providing some dangerous set-piece deliveries in the defeat to Arsenal at the weekend. With Bryan Oviedo facing two to three weeks out with a hamstring injury, he will likely get another chance to impress against Stoke.

Elsewhere in the side, Kevin Mirallas's disappointing outing at the Emirates will probably see Aaron Lennon given another start, while Steven Naismith could come in for Ross Barkley. While there are growing calls from supporters for Martinez to mix up his rigid 4-3-2-1, formation by trying Arouna Kone alongside Romelu Lukaku, it's more likely that James McCarthy and Gareth Barry will continue as a pair in defensive midfield and Darron Gibson, who only saw 10 minutes of action against the Gunners, will replace Muhamed Besic.

Similar to the trip to Selhurst Park at the end of January, this is one of those games where grinding out a hard-earned victory in any way possible would do wonders for the players' confidence ahead of the first Europa League game against Dynamo Kyiv.

Put simply, just win. It would lift us into 12th place and feeling a lot more secure about things.

Lyndon Lloyd

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Match Preview
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Match Report
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STOKE (4-4-2)
  Begovic booked:89'
  Bardsley
  Wollsheid (17' Cameron)
  Wilson
  Pieters
  Nzonzi
  Whelan
  Adam (74' Arnautovic)
  Moses
  Walters booked:91'
  Crouch (64' Diouf)
  Subs not used
  Butland
  Sidwell
  Texeira
  Shenton

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Howard
  Coleman
  Stones
  Jagielka
  Garbutt
  Barry  booked:14' (60' Osman)
  McCarthy
  Gibson
  Lennon (60' Kone)
  Naismith booked:52' (83' Mirallas)
  Lukaku
  Subs not used
  Robles
  Alcaraz
  Barkley
  Besic
  Unavailable
  Atsu (ill)
  Baines (injured)
  Hibbert (injured)
  McGeady (injured)
  Oviedo (injured)
  Pienaar (injured)
  Long (loan)
  McAleny (loan)
  Pennington (loan)

  • Possession
  • Shots on target
  • Shots off target
  • Corners

Premier League Scores
Tuesday
Aston Villa 2-1 West Brom
Hull City 1-1 Sunderland
So'hampton 1-0 C Palace
Wednesday
Liverpool 2-0 Burnley
Man City 2-0 Leicester
Newcastle 0-1 Man United
QPR 1-2 Arsenal
Stoke City 2-0 Everton
Tottenham 3-2 Swansea
West Ham 0-1 Chelsea

Team Pts
1 Chelsea 63
2 Manchester City 58
3 Arsenal 54
4 Manchester United 53
5 Liverpool 51
6 Southampton 49
7 Tottenham Hotspur 47
8 Stoke City 42
9 Swansea City 40
10 West Ham United 39
11 Newcastle United 35
12 Crystal Palace 30
13 West Bromwich Albion 30
14 Everton 28
15 Hull City 27
16 Sunderland 26
17 Aston Villa 25
18 Queens Park Rangers 22
19 Burnley 22
20 Leicester City 18
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