I was surprised to see Arouna Kone begin the game given he played for 45 minutes at Leeds, though with Lukaku injured and given the paucity of our squad I don’t suppose we had much choice. Elsewhere it was nice to see Leighton Baines play the full 90 minutes following his injury and also nice to see Tom Cleverley make his Goodison Park bow.
We sat in the Park End for this one and were gutted all the matchday programmes had sold out when we arrived. They looked pretty smart. As we arrived at the Park End at around 2.50pm there were several Evertonians queuing for tickets last minute to make up a bumper 34,718 for Duncan Ferguson. As the match announcer read the teams out both he himself and returning guest Wayne Rooney received quite a tremendous ovation from the crowd.
Everton began the game positively and got at Villarreal from the start with Baines-Cleverley and Coleman-Mirallas combining well on the flanks. We never really got behind them however though, unlike most of last season, did at least look threatening from corner kicks albeit to no avail. It was actually a corner kick which put the visitors ahead when Gerard finished smartly. Everton behind and that’s how it remained until the break. Kevin Mirallas also limped off, as later did John Stones. Although neither injury is apparently serious, the number of injuries we have picked up this pre-season must be a cause for concern. Gerard Deulofeu, Aiden McGeady, Muhammed Besic, Romalu Lukaku, Steven Pienaar and Tony Hibbert (presumably) have all pulled up this summer, not to mention that Darron Gibson is also unavailable. That’s a hefty list before a ball has even been kicked and the lack of cover is apparent for all to see.
It’s also apparent for all to see that not a lot seems to have been learnt from last season. We’re still over-passing the ball. We’re not shooting on opportunity. Though perhaps most worrying of all was the alarming regularity that Villarreal were able to cut through us and create opportunities. Seamus Coleman was a little sloppy for goal number two, and if not for two fine Tim Howard saves we could have been 0-4 before either Ferguson or Rooney had taken to the field. Number of shots on target for us by this point: zero.
The introduction of Wayne Rooney generated a lot of excitement and really emphasised the problems we have in attack - a real lack of quality without Lukaku. He was flagged offside when played through by I think substitute Conor McAleny and drilled an effort from distance which deflected wide. It really highlighted the need to bring in another striker. Lukaku and Kone is neither enough in numbers or sufficient in quality.
It was around this time when Leon Osman came desperately close to scoring with a quite fantastic headed effort from a corner, the ball coming back off the far inside post and away. Meanwhile on the sideline Duncan Ferguson brought back memoires warming up. He then got his tracksuit stripped and took to the field. It made me smile though also made me a little sad as this was to be the last time he would do this for Everton.
He made quite an impact also, winning a great header which began an attack and changed the flow of the play. It wasn’t long before we got one back, Tyias Browning, who has really impressed me these last two games, sneaking in ahead of Duncan Ferguson to pull one back for us from a corner. Had Duncan have scored it instead it would have brought the house down.
There wasn’t long left in the game but we did manager to get another corner. With the script written, Baines’ delivery was about a foot too high, even for Duncan, and that was that. Villarreal were able to play out the rest of the game with Gareth Barry probably doing the most to try and force the play back to us. Mike Dean blew for full time. Alas, the fairytale ending wasn’t to be for Big Dunc.
He was given the microphone and gave quite a speech after the match, thanking the fans, the players, Wayne Rooney and “chairman” for whom he reserved extra special thanks.
Thank YOU for the memories Duncan. Will always be a hero for many. Once a blue always a blue. Where have we heard that before?
Howard: Some extraordinarily bad kicking though he did make some smart saves. 6
Baines: Good to see him back and getting the full 90 minutes. Combined well with Cleverley. 6
Jagielka: Very good. Seems to have carried on where he left off last season. 7
Stones: Did well. Hope his injury isn’t serious. Also hope he isn’t leaving! 7
Coleman: Was at fault for their second goal though to be fair to him he improved immensely after that. A threat going forward also. 7
Barry: Played the full 90 minutes though looked a little off the pace at times to me. Will be interesting to see how much he plays this season. 6
McCarthy: Did OK. Nothing spectacular. 6
Cleverley: Worked on the wing for the first half and came in-field for the second. I like the look of him. I think he’s going to be a good player for us for quite a long time. Seems a good fit. My man of the match. 7
Mirallas: Looked interested and threatening before coming off injured. Hope it’s not serious. Our wingers are dropping like flies. 7
Osman: Had a decent game. Looked one of our more likely players to make something happen, as proven with his fantastic late header which came back off the post. Can still be a key player for us this season. 7
Kone: Nothing sticks when it goes up to him. We desperately need another striker. I can’t emphasise it enough. He’s not the most popular in the stands and I don’t want it to be a witch hunt but I really don’t have faith in him cutting it for us. Did we really sell Anichebe and Jelavic and replace with Kone? Madness. 4
Naismith (for Mirallas): He looks worryingly short of confidence to me. Needs to get it back pronto. 5
Barkley (for Kone): Not bad. Much better than his performance at Leeds United. There was one point when he grabbed the ball and surged forward with it about 40 yards before trying to play it through to Naismith. OK, the ball didn’t work but my point is that I want to see more of him charging forward and forcing games. Was far too reserved last season. Needs to get back to form. 6
McAleny (for McCarthy): Played on the wing and didn’t really offer a lot I don’t think. I thought he was a striker? 5
Browning (for Stones): A good header for the goal. I wasn’t sure about him but at Leeds and against Villarreal he has really stood out. I still think we need another experienced central defender, preferably a left footer, but Tyias has certainly given himself an opportunity to be included and I now believe he could be good enough to do that. 7
Rooney (for Cleverley): Great to see him back in a blue shirt and I was made up he got a good reception. In the pub before the game we discussed the feasibility of him returning to Everton one day. Given the reception he received, perhaps he will in a few years. Only time will tell. 7
Ferguson (for Naismith): There was a loud cheer when he won his header to start the attack and he got involved and didn’t do badly at all. It’s a shame he didn’t get a goal but just seeing him play brought back great memories. Congratulations Duncan. Well deserved. 7