Everton 2 - 1 Arsenal
As with any funeral, I'd had a pretty difficult day. I was never particularly close to my cousin John who had recently passed away, aged only 49, but a funeral does make you reminisce about the past, and certainly makes you think about the future.
As with many funerals, things get a little better after the ceremony when you get to the reception and relax a little over a few drinks. It was great to catch up with a few of my Irish cousins who had made the trip over for the funeral, and other family I rarely see from various parts of England.
A friend also offered me an opportunity to join him in the corporate facilities of the Dixie Dean suite for the evening game and though with a bit of rearranging I could perhaps have made it, I decided against it. As amazing as it is in the lounge, getting together with family whom I seldom see was something I wasn't going to pass up. Instead Gaz picked me up from the Town Crier pub just near Chester station and took me onward to Goodison Park. I'd just spent a sombre though uplifting day with my family, now it was time to spend time with my Blue family. "Lets win it for John" I said to my Dad on the way out. Yes, like me and you, John was a Blue.
Once parked up and fed we congregated in The Brick for a couple of pre-match jars with nobody in particularly optimistic mood. Though our moods were lifted by the sight on our phones that Enner Valencia was to begin the game, and hence we might be looking to attack a bit more than of late, you got the feeling that the team put out was done so by a man who really isn't sure of his best team. Perhaps unlike everyone, I was made up to see Phil Jagielka restored to the heart of our defence after our defensive horror show at Vicarage Road last weekend. Arsenal, until now imperious, arrived with an incredible array of attacking talent, though a defence you had to feel we could get at, something we would really need to do well to get something from the game. The referee, alas, was Mark Clattenburg. Everton won the toss and attacked towards the Park End in the first half.
At the beginning of the game the Goodison crowd was surprisingly flat, though as we are now aware became very vociferous throughout the game. We began OK. For the first 10 minutes or so we were at least matching Arsenal though our North London guests were soon in control and didn't take long to force us into mistakes, not least from Ashley Williams who was all at sea. In fact they were all, all at sea on 20 minutes when Arsenal got ahead. Had it been another team I'd have been sniggering at the defensive incompetence but I'm afraid it was us. I think it was first Enner Valencia who instead of booting the ball clear inexplicably decided to try and run it out from pretty much the dead ball line and through our own penalty area. I can't quite recall exactly how it broke to Williams though he too failed to clear his lines and it took Phil Jagielka to take down I think Alexis Sanchez just outside the penalty area to halt the nonsense though we still wren't done. Sanchez took the free kick, it deflected off WIlliams and wrong-footed Maarten Stekelenburg to trickle into the goal. I'd have to see it again but though he was wrong-footed, I thought Stekelenburg may have kept it out. Regardless, we were a goal down with hands on head all round, and once again staring down the barrel.
It is with immense credit that Everton for the first time since I can't remember when, battled themselves back into the game. I forget the exact moment, but a couple of bruising tackles by James McCarthy and some generally good pressing intensity from Aaron Lennon in particular really got the crowd onside and the volume went up a couple of notches. Goodison became the bear pit I remember and boy did the players respond, and on the 44th minute the crowd were rewarded with another headed goal from Seamus Coleman - a wonderful glancing header it was too. I'm not sure how many headers Coleman has scored for us, though then again, I'm not sure how many goals Leighton Baines has assisted with his right foot either! It certainly made Goodison Park a happier place going into the break and we felt good value for our leveller at half time.
Our vigour continued to impress after the break and we continued to fight Arsenal. We seemed determined not to give them an easy ride and when I say we, I mean all of us. The players and the crowd. You felt like we were in this together. We got a let off - we were going to need at least one at some point, when Mesut Ozil cleared the crossbar when set up by Alexis Sanchez but otherwise you would say we had the better chances in the game. A magnificent surging run by Romalu Lukaku almost resulted in a goal and we were in and around their penalty area on plenty of occassions but the ball just wouldn't quite bounce for us. On other days we might have accepted it wasn't to be our day before we equalised but you felt we weren't going to be denied. From a corner kick Phil Jagielka managed to get an effort at goal but Petr Cech did well to keep it out. Another corner. The crowd were buzzing, Arsenal were quaking, you could feel it coming. As Howard Kendall once said - "the Gwladys Street will suck one in for you" and you felt that this sort of happened. A good deep corner from Ross Barkley and Ashley Williams headed in unmarked before wheeling off in ecstatic celebration. Goodison erupted. We've all missed that feeling.
With four minutes plus injury time still to play you knew it wouldn't be straightforward and that it certainly wasn't. Captain Phil Jagielka was sent off for a second bookable offence. You could argue that he perhaps should have been sent off earlier in the game for his first yellow card offence, but though I'd have to see it again, I really didn't feel this was worthy of a second yellow card. I don't think anyone would have complained had Clattenburg kept his cards in his pockets this time.
The drama was far from over. With Petr Cech up from his goal there were a few scary moments at the back and you expected to see the net bulge and the Arsenal players run away celebrating but we denied them with goal line clearances from substitute Ramiro Funes Mori and Leighton Baines. As we broke away the Arsenal players were remonstrating with the referee. We continued and with Petr Cech still stranded up-field Romalu Lukaku worked the ball to Ross Barkley in the penalty area who might have shot but instead squared it to Kevin Mirallas but the two of them both kind of got it wrong and Arsenal could break forward one final time. It was breathtaking stuff and it all finished when I think Xhaka fizzed the ball out of play when trying to cross the ball. Mark Clattenburg's final whistle was greeted by a proud roar from the Goodison faithful. What a game and what a night.
Now that's the rot stopped. Let's do it again next Monday and turn this season around.
R.I.P cousin John. Everton did you proud tonight.
Stekelenburg: I'd have to see it again but I thought he could have done better with the goal and some of his distribution in the first half was wayward. When the going got tough at the end however he was excellent and contributed towards keeping Arsenal out at the end, particularly after taking a nasty blow when he collided with I think Sanchez. 6
Baines: Had a good consistent game. His block at the end just as important as his rare right footed cross which lead to to the goal. 7
Williams: Was all over the place first half but improved after the break and scored a great headed winning goal. Without Phil Jagielka alongside him next week he'll have to be prepared to roll his sleeves up and fight. 6
Jagielka: After a pretty horrendous spell all round when Arsenal scored he galvanised the troops well and had a positive impact on the game. May be a huge miss next week but at least Everton have a bit of time to work on it I suppose. 7
Coleman: Not the best distribution but his effort and work rate could not be faulted. Got on the scoresheet too. 7
Gueye: A typically combative display from Idrissa Gueye. What we've come to expect really. 7
McCarthy: He really got amongst them and his first half tackling really set the tone for both the players and the fans. A great effort. My man of the match. 8
Lennon: Particularly in the first half he was very good, perhaps our best players at one point. He stretched them before fading in the second half. A good effort. 7
Valencia: A brainless moment in the first half aside which contributed towards the goal we conceded, he was good. His pace, energy and movement can hurt teams. We really need to be utilising this more. 7
Barkley: I thought Ross had an excellent game. I don't know if Ronald Koeman is challenging him to do it but he seems to have the confidence to spray the ball around a bit more. He is the only one we have who can really pass the ball and he has potential to hurt teams. his confidence in possession exemplified that today and he also claimed an assist. Another effort like that next week and I, for one, will be satisfied. 8
Lukaku: Though not everything went for him he showed good fighting spirit and battled hard, especially in the second half. Hopefully he's saving his goals for next Monday. 7
Mirallas (for Lennon): Was busy, even if without seeing a lot of the ball. 6
Calvert-Lewin (for Valencia): Didn't see much of the ball but great to see a youngster get a chance. 6
Funes Mori (for McCarthy): Put on to fill a few holes at the back and made a goal line clearance to keep them out at the end so you would have to say that was a job well done. He'll have to work overtime next Monday however and he'll be getting a lot of stick from them lot after his red card and heinous crime of badge showing at Anfield last season. I hope he's ready for it. 7
Reader Comments (22)
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1 Posted 14/12/2016 at 06:21:04
Jagielka has run his cause now, he is a yard slower and is not getting through a match without fucking up in one way or another. Love the guy for what he's done for us, but alas it's time for young blood. Hopefully he will stay at Goodison and help a young central defender slot in with Williams.
2 Posted 14/12/2016 at 08:47:54
Ste and Sue?
I thought Stek's decision making to come out and get a hand to deny the two Gooner players a free header near the end was an immense decision, certain they'd of scored if he hadn't. So I'll give him a 7, not sure if he could of done more for the deflection though,
Williams should of tried to kick it with the leg it hit instead of doing an impression of Michael Flatley, unfortunate but if we didn't have bad luck we'd have no luck at all. Comes with being a blue, I suppose.
3 Posted 14/12/2016 at 09:42:59
As for Valencia, he did more tonight than either Mirallas or Deulofeu have done all season, both of those players are impact subs are far as I'm concerned now.
So much nicer going into a derby on the back of a massive win.
4 Posted 14/12/2016 at 10:23:17
I think I would have gave Ashley Williams, a better mark, simply because he went from being the most rattled player on the pitch, to the defender we were all happy to sign, once Everton began to play on the front foot.
Agree with your assessment of McCarthy, and feel he can become a key player for us, once he has been given a specific role, but I would have to give MotM, to Gana Gueye, or Ross Barkley, because they were the ones who kept trying to get us to play, along with the Goodison Crowd last night!
5 Posted 14/12/2016 at 10:30:10
I have to hold my hands up from the outset here and tell you that I am not convinced that Koeman is the man for me. Red Christmas tree, Lukaku move on nonsense, Ego and the "I fancy Liverpool for the title" attitude does nothing for me.
Also, if you can't motivate a room full of international footballers there must be something very very wrong at with you considering you think you are a top manager. So, with that in mind, I was ready for the massacre of Goodison Park.
Arsenal started well and I have to admit, watching them move off the ball, find space and pass it whilst Everton ran in circles chasing shadows and try to challenge for the ball is very impressive.
I suppose the coaches have worked very hard at Arsenal over the years training their players to make it look this easy, that's why they finish in the top 4 every year.
So watching Everton look like a second-tier side playing in a cup match is the way the game looked to me. Full of spirit and passion but not as good as their counterparts.
As the game wore on, I could feel immense pride welling up as the fans screamed, the players dug in, and we started to look like a proper team -- not a team full of lazy players anymore, but a team that really wanted to win. I was amazed when at corners Jags was twice held by more than one player to stop him jumping for a header. He even told the linesman to open his eyes as it was so blatantly a penalty. Even when Williams scored, Jags was again held down and luckily the ref and linno didn't call a penalty that time.
So... Happy, yes... still think Koeman is a pleb? Let's see how he gets the team together and motivates them next week when, once again, I expect a massacre at Goodison ...but for who?
6 Posted 14/12/2016 at 10:41:31
Finally, is there a better atmosphere in English football when the crowd is bouncing at a Goodison night match? More of the same Monday please.
7 Posted 14/12/2016 at 11:14:45
Wish your family all the best.
And thanks for the great read. Saw it the same as you.
8 Posted 14/12/2016 at 16:27:23
9 Posted 14/12/2016 at 17:09:47
10 Posted 14/12/2016 at 17:25:52
Mr Arse Wenger thinks the same, though Koeman has a different opinion
Also, what did Howard say and who is he? I have never heard that expression before (apologies)...
11 Posted 14/12/2016 at 20:11:35
12 Posted 14/12/2016 at 20:35:07
13 Posted 14/12/2016 at 21:07:01
Delighted with the result overjoyed at the performance, I agree with much of what Danny (#12) said, all the players he mentioned were the key to a great win.
14 Posted 14/12/2016 at 21:49:13
15 Posted 14/12/2016 at 21:56:38
16 Posted 14/12/2016 at 22:03:08
Repeat after me,
I am a Sky Sports Brainwashed Robot. But have no fear... In about 30 years, it will have shriveled up to leave the real Rob to think for himself.
Rob, my mate, I can't believe you wrote that after last night.
17 Posted 14/12/2016 at 23:56:02
All I wish for our beloved team is...
Consistency. We get that, then
job sorted. Play like we just did and it will be a case of it's 2018, where did 2017 go?
Hope I'm not going over the top here but when we play the shite I just want us to eat their heads (only aggressively of course) I wouldn't want to be misconstrued.
18 Posted 15/12/2016 at 11:05:45
When we win, I'm still looking at the bad points, its in my nature and we are who we are at the end of the day.
I'm not saying I'm happy being this way as I sometimes even argue with myself, but that's me. I take on board what you all say and I will try and lighten up a bit...
19 Posted 15/12/2016 at 19:21:46
20 Posted 15/12/2016 at 19:49:06
But he will be badly missed in January.
21 Posted 15/12/2016 at 20:03:09
22 Posted 16/12/2016 at 19:09:00
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