Everton 1 - 0 Cardiff City
Three points, a clean sheet and sixth place, at least for the time being… job done and move on. That should be the overriding sentiment in the Everton camp after a narrow but important victory over Cardiff City at Goodison Park this afternoon.
The Blues have played — and will play — much better than that this season but where under the three previous regimes (and even earlier this season, perhaps, as was the case against Huddersfield) they might have drawn this one against a Bluebirds side that made things pretty difficult at times, today they were able to grind out the win.
That is becoming a feature of Silva’s reign and it’s a hugely useful trait to have. The Portuguese is banishing fears that he would prove to be the second coming of Roberto Martinez with a focus on defensive solidity and a strong emphasis on not conceding goals. That set the platform for a dominant display over Cardiff, one underpinned by the impressive pairing of Idrissa Gueye and André Gomes in central midfield, that restricted the visitors to just 29% of the possession and only a couple of openings to try and spoil Everton’s day.
There were moments of brilliance. Now starting to flex his attacking muscles after taking a few games to settle into the English game, Gomes had a couple of beautiful periods of play where he sauntered past his man and caused Cardiff problems, belting one shot into the side-netting. Ademola Lookman, meanwhile, stepped off the bench and delivered another example of his mesmerising footwork that almost resulted in the Blues doubling their lead in the final 10 minutes.
But on the whole this was a performance that, perhaps, betrayed some of the disruptive effects of the international break. Silva alluded to the less-than-ideal nature of the build-up that saw players returning to Finch Farm as late as Thursday and Richarlison, in particular, had what was arguably his poorest game so far since joining from Watford. That is fine, by the way; he gets to and rather it be against the likes of Cardiff and in a match where Everton still had enough to earn the victory than in some of the more difficult assignments looming over the next three weeks.
Then there the starting wingers who put on inconsistent displays but still managed to weigh in with telling contributions. Bernard laid on the pass from which Gylfi Sigurdsson looked likely to break the deadlock in the 55th minute before his shot was cleared off the line while it was from a Theo Walcott effort that the Icelander did score what proved to be the winner a few minutes later.
Neither Walcott nor Bernard were particularly effective in a first half in which let themselves down with loose passing in the final third and a general lack of guile that meant they carved out just one clear-cut opportunity before half-time. In addition to firing the afore-mentioned shot just wide, Gomes hooked one shot wide from 25 yards and also exhibited more dribbling skills to get to the byline and fizz a ball across the face of goal that was begging for a Blue shirt to convert.
Particularly in view of his very Duncan Ferguson-esque header for Brazil earlier in the week, it was Richarlison who probably should have scored six minutes before the interval, however, when he was picked out by Sigurdsson’s free kick from the right but headed tamely straight at Neil Etheridge.
Cardiff, meanwhile, had been predictably cagey about going forward and were content to sit deep and frustrate Everton where possible. Nevertheless, when Yerry Mina misjudged a header with a quarter of an hour gone, it allowed Callum Paterson to get in behind the defence and drag a shot across Jordan Pickford’s goal and wide. It was a decent chance and one he probably took too early given the time he had on his hands.
It was Sigurdsson who took centre stage early in the second half, however, as the Blues stepped up a gear after the restart. A great touch to wrong-foot his international team-mate, Aron Gunnarsson, at the end of a lovely attacking move set up a shooting opportunity from outside the area but he got underneath it and it flew well over.
Then, as Yerry Mina romped forward uninhibited and played the ball to Bernard before continuing his charge into the six-yard box, the Brazilian winger put Sigurdsson in on goal with a neat pass but after rounding the keeper, the midfielder was denied by Sol Bamba on the line.
The decisive goal arrived four minutes later, though. Greg Cunningham unwittingly knocked the ball into space ahead of Walcott and the winger took the invitation to drive into the area and line up a shot searching for the far corner of Etheridge’s goal. He didn’t appear to make clean contact, however, and the keeper pushed it to the side but straight to Sigurdsson who gratefully tucked it away into the empty goal.
That was Cardiff’s cue to press forward more and after Mina had been adjudged to have fouled Gunarsson and the resulting free-kick as cleared, Víctor Camarasa forced the only genuine save Pickford would make on the day midway through the second half, the Everton keeper diving to his left to fist the shot away to safety.
The away fans also made vociferous claims for a penalty when Junior Hoilett appeared to be tripped in the box by Seamus Coleman but referee Paul Tierney waved play on.
Lookman was introduced in place of Walcott with in the 72nd minute and he quickly began furthering his case for a starting berth, perhaps at the expense of the man he replaced. His best moment came 10 minutes later with another of his slaloming runs past three opponents before a lucky bounce off a defender set up him perfectly for a placed shot that was pushed behind one-handed by the Cardiff goalkeeper.
Having been very comfortable up to that point, Everton were forced to endure an unnecessarily nervy last few minutes as the visitors sought to cancel out the narrow 1-0 advantage. The otherwise impeccable Gueye needlessly fouled Josh Murphy as he was going away from goal but, thankfully, Paterson headed the consequent set-piece well over the crossbar.
Everton had two chances soon afterwards to kill the contest in stoppage time but Richarlison’s shot in front of goal was saved and substitute Cenk Tosun somewhat fluffed a shot after being teed up by Lookman with a square pass into the box from the right flank.
That left Cardiff to have the final chance when Coleman allowed Hoilett to get a cross in far too easily, Murphy brought the ball down and got his shot off but it was charged down and deflected behind for a corner that would come to nothing before the full-time whistle was blown.
Much will be made of the fact that Everton weren’t their best today but, again, the three points and a clean sheet were the most important outcome on the day and there was much to admire from the likes of Gomes, Gueye, Digne, Keane and Mina, while Sigurdsson weighed in with another vital goal that took his tally for the season to seven in all competitions. The result moves the Blues into the top six pending the result from Bournemouth’s clash with Arsenal tomorrow and extends the home winning streak to four games.
No match is easy in England’s top flight anymore but once again Everton got the job done without really getting into anything like top gear. Things will have to be different next weekend at Anfield where the opponents will be second-placed Liverpool but the massively encouraging form of Gomes and Gueye in the middle of the park, combined with a tight defence means that the forward players only have to show their undoubted quality to make Silva’s Blues a formidable outfit and genuinely capable of getting a result across the Park.
Reader Comments (18)
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1 Posted 25/11/2018 at 03:27:09
2 Posted 25/11/2018 at 07:53:55
We are unlikely to get a fair crack of the whip next week but even so, like you, I think we can upset the sky darlings apple cart at Mordor.
They have very good forward line but we are looking very sound at the back and we are miles better than them in midfield.
3 Posted 25/11/2018 at 08:32:14
The other person who has never failed to disappoint me when coming on as sub is Lookman hope he starts.
All in all, even when not playing well, it really is enjoyable watching us play. I dont go into the Derby fearful neither, what will be will be but this team has so much potential and I really looking forward to December now.
4 Posted 25/11/2018 at 08:43:07
Usually we hobble into the Derby with two big injuries and a suspension but not this time. Henderson is a huge miss for them too, as he wont be chasing the referee around for 90 minutes with his little ratish scowl.
5 Posted 25/11/2018 at 09:06:08
One more piece of the jigsaw needed I reckon.
Once that final, at the moment frustrating, pass comes off we're going to score a hat full against somebody.
I thought it might be yesterday but it wasn't to be.
I doubt it will be next week either but when things finally "click" some team's going to get a hammering.
6 Posted 25/11/2018 at 09:14:46
A major plus point is its another clean sheet, if you're keeping clean sheets and have the threat we have we can cause Liverpool plenty of problems. I know they have started well and are 2nd but I am not 100% convinced by them this season . I think we will get opportunities to win the game next week. As the games at Man U and Arsenal showed though we will need to be lethal in front of goal or we will pay for it.
As Laurie says we need to a fair hearing from the ref and linesmen against Liverpool . The game will be tight and a bad decision will be enough to tip the balance. Make no mistake Liverpool will be playing to their crowd to influence the ref and be hamming it up early in the game to get Gana or another booked or sent off.
7 Posted 25/11/2018 at 10:26:15
Also, I watched the shite game vs Watford, I don't think they are anything special. Maybe I am biased, maybe I watched through "blue-tinted" glasses, but I think we can take them. I know we can.
8 Posted 25/11/2018 at 12:09:01
9 Posted 25/11/2018 at 12:30:49
If it's to be two centre-halves, I would go for Mina and Zouma for this game.
10 Posted 25/11/2018 at 15:02:22
My only quibble is set pieces; it's a mystery that we've got one if the best dead-ball experts, and Mina & Charlie to deliver them to and we should be a bit more productive I that area.
Put it right next Sunday; Gylfi with a 25-yard free kick and Richarlison or Mina with a bullet header from a corner. 2-0 at half-time
12 Posted 25/11/2018 at 15:31:24
13 Posted 25/11/2018 at 15:58:39
14 Posted 25/11/2018 at 16:10:19
U23s lost to RS U23s. Lulling that lot into a false sense of security for next week.
15 Posted 25/11/2018 at 16:22:43
16 Posted 25/11/2018 at 17:12:43
While I am at it, a few Everton players are guilty of it too, Richarlison being the most noticeable. Does my phookin' head in.
17 Posted 25/11/2018 at 20:00:36
The difference from last year's horrific season is that last year we played badly almost every game, whether we won or lost. Watching Everton was painful. We were devoid of attacking skills with both Koeman and Allardyce. We also had to face the prospect of listening to Allardyce spout total rubbish to eager reporters, always willing to give him an ear.
Thank God for Silva, who can make more sense in one sentence than senile Sam could in an entire paragraph. We should also be grateful for Moshiri who has enabled us to purchase really good players. I don't think we would have had any of our summer purchases without Silva and, of course, Brands. However, it is not only money. Silva has brought in a brand of football that Evertonians appreciate.
We are still a long way from the finished product but, as long suffering Blues, we at least have some hope that things will get better. As a dedicated fan for 70+ years, I have seen the very good and the very bad, including a relegation. However, I don't think I have ever wanted to win a game as much as I want us to beat them next weekend. If we do, Silva can then change his name to Silver. He will be a Knight in shining Blue armour. COYB — I could really do with a boost.
18 Posted 25/11/2018 at 23:19:00
It would be some day. Evokes good memories but sadly all 19 and 20 years plus of us winning there, but this is our good chance.
We have a midfield who can pass and we can cut and slice their defence and midfield if we are up for it, get the last passes on and have the bottle and guts to shoot, work the keeper and score.
19 Posted 26/11/2018 at 15:32:03
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