On Saturday morning, the Springboks beat the All Blacks in New Zealand to win the Tri-Nations and win three matches in a row against the All Blacks for the first time since who knows when. Yesterday afternoon, my local team Maritzburg United beat Kaizer Chiefs to go second on the South African Premier League. So I was really looking forward to three out of three this afternoon, but the sporting gods conspired to spoil my party.
I won’t provide a move-by-move account of the game (leave that for Ken Buckley!) but rather some observations from my armchair on the opposite side of the world. This was definitely the old cliché, a ‘game of two halves’. Fulham looked poor in the first half and relatively toothless. Everton, on the other hand, were playing decent football other than for the final touch.
Unfortunately Saha was injured (hopefully short-term) and his replacement, Jo, was poor, in my view. His first touch was woeful and, other than one run on the edge of the box where he forced a Murphy foul, he didn’t do much. Cahill, I thought, was also not contributing very much, but then scored a well-placed header from a good Baines cross from what looked suspiciously like an offside position.
Overall, at half-time Everton were deservedly in the lead and Fulham were nowhere. Other than the goal, Rodwell had a strike on goal which took a deflection and rebounded off the keeper’s legs – one metre further right and it was a goal.
It was, however, a different story in the second half, Fulham were far livelier. Despite their improved showing (which seemed to have been facilitated by Everton’s sluggishness), it took some good fortune for them to draw level. Phil Neville gave away one of those needless fouls that he often does just outside the box. He claimed to have got the ball but it was clearly a foul (I don’t think he even touched the ball) and the player he fouled was going nowhere.
Murphy’s poor free kick was deflected off the wall, only as far as Konchesky, who unleashed a low bullet that deflected off Distin’s leg into the opposite corner of the goal to where Howard was moving. One-one and there was nothing anyone could have done about it bar not giving the free kick away in the first place.
After that, it was pretty much a case of both teams cancelling each other out, until Andy Johnson turned a good ball on to Duff, who still had a fair amount to do. Baines was tracking Duff and unfortunately made a complete hash of it — instead of giving him the outside track on his (ie Duff’s) weaker right foot, Baines allowed him to cut in on his favoured left and — bang — did not give Howard any real chance (I think he got the faintest of fingertips on the ball) and Everton were two-one down.
Moyes did make a few late changes (Heitinga had come on earlier for the injured Phil Neville), with Fellaini coming on for Jo and the Yak for Osman. Both Fellaini and Yobo had chances cleared off the line late on in the game from a corner but there was no equalizer and Fulham emerged somewhat fortunate winners, in my view. Rodwell’s shot in the first half could just as easily taken the same kind of deflection that Konchesky’s did and it would have been a different result.
Overall, I think that we were pretty solid at the back, Baines’s aberration notwithstanding, but we did not offer enough up front. The most dangerous we looked, I thought, was in the last few minutes when Fellaini and the Yak were on. I think the reasons for this will emerge from my player ratings below:
- Howard Did not really have much to do, quite frankly. No chance with either of the goals. 6
- Hibbert The usual Hibbert performance. Some solid tackles but caught out of position once or twice and put over some poor crosses where he should have done better. 5
- Yobo Solid. 7
- Distin Also solid. 7
- Baines Was having a decent game until he lost Duff. Put in some good dead ball crosses (one of which led to the goal) and his defensive work was solid enough until the fateful moment mentioned above. 6
- Neville Gave away a stupid free kick that led to their first goal. Although committed (which led to his injury) he was fairly anonymous and mostly passed the ball square or backwards. 5
- Rodwell This guy is class, but he does not have the maturity to be the fulcrum of the midfield. Some good touches and did not really put a foot wrong but he is not going to thread the killer pass. 7
- Pienaar Started off really well, but poor touch let him down later in the game. Probably tired from two games with South Africa – probably ideal to replace him with Bilyaletdinov but that opportunity was not taken up. Was put through on goal by a great Fellaini ball late on but slipped – which kind of summed up his day.
- Osman Got himself into one or two good attacking positions in the box in the first half but otherwise was nowhere to be seen. We really do need some presence (call it width) on the right – our only width today on the right was provided by Hibbert whose good-to-bad cross ratio is really poor. 5
- Cahill Took his goal well and was clearly putting in the effort, but he was not really giving the team anything creative. Offside too many times for someone who should be concentrating on that. 6
- Jo Poor. Poor first touch and not at all threatening. 4
- Heitinga Some neat touches but didn’t really see much of him to form an impression.
- Fellaini Thought he played really well. Got stuck in and played a fantastic, well-weighted ball through for Pienaar which could have been dangerous had Pienaar not landed on his backside.
- Yakubu Looked lively. It will be good to get him back to full fitness.
On the whole, a disappointing loss but nothing to get too despondent about. It’s early days yet and we won’t always be this unlucky.
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1 Posted 14/09/2009 at 08:00:06
Was your view edited, extremely edited. I was at the match and believe me we were fucking shit. Forget the Hibbo / Osman crap that usually crops up when we play shit, the whole lot were crap and totally lacking in attacking ideas.
And as for Howard not having much to do... well thank fuck for that, his response times are similar to Gordon Brown's (fucking slow!!!!!!!!!).
Jo — crap, my question is can he actually play football in the EPL. Seriously, can he?
The Moyes man needs to look at defending when necessary and attacking when necessary NOT defending the whole fucking game. Is there anyone out there who can talk to the Moyes man, is he approachable? Against a shit team like Fulham you are allowed to attack.
And as for the queues to buy the beer, well, fuck me!!!!
2 Posted 14/09/2009 at 08:33:32
That comment made me laugh.
When did Fulham become shit? Last season they finished in a UEFA cup spot and they have a home record of beating Everton in 8 out of 9 games.
Still think they are a shit side? Well they are above Everton now.
I can understand why Moyes was hesitant in this game. It was a tricky fixture given the fragile confidence of the team.
That said it was a poor performance by Everton.
3 Posted 14/09/2009 at 11:16:39
I dont understand your comment, to me where Fulham finished last season and their present record against us is IMO worthless. Basically, It wasn’t away to one of the big 5 or 6 it was away to FULHAM.
They were shit and their front line did very little the whole match. Unfortunately we were shitter.
To win matches you have to attack, and to attack you need a striker, a striker whose name is not Jo. Fuck me Yak with one leg and a walking stick could of offered more options.
Anyways your view is your view and you are obviously happy with it. But FFS Fulham away cannot be regarded as a "let's play defensive and hope to hit them with a wicked corner or free kick".
4 Posted 14/09/2009 at 11:48:16
Fulham are not a shit side. They finished 7th last season and deserve the credit they earned.
Fulham have gotten off to a dodgy start. Doesn’t make them a shit team anymore than it does us.
5 Posted 14/09/2009 at 13:52:25
Stop making excuses. There are none. Poor play from some poor players, all wrapped in very poor management.
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