VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Everton racked up yet another draw in a season littered with them thanks to a Leighton Baines penalty 13 minutes from time, but they had Tim Howard and Hugo Rodellega to thank for a point that they largely didn't deserve from a performance that could charitably be characterised as benign.
Having taken a pricleless lead in their quest to beat the drop, Wigan twice shot themselves in the foot by conceding soft penalties and were grateful that a very rusty looking Mikel Arteta looked the first gift horse in the mouth with a penalty delivered at the perfect height for Al Habsi to parry it away to safety 10 minutes before half time.
They were not so fortunate the second time as Baines, atoning for an unusually poor performance, rammed his spot kick, awarded for a handball by Rodellega, high into the Wigan net, underscoring the question uppermost in many Evertonian minds as to why he hadn't take the first one.
Arteta took his place in the starting XI after recovering from a hamstring tear, one of three changes made by David Moyes to the team that lost at Manchester United last weekend. The under-performing Jermaine Beckford was replaced to little effect by Victor Anichebe, Tim Cahill came in in place of Seamus Coleman who dropped to the bench, and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov made way for Arteta but the Blues were lethargic and unimaginative in a first half where they managed just one shot on target from open play.
Their hosts, meanwhile, set about their task in a far more enterprising manner, testing the Everton back line in the early exchanges with defence-splitting balls by McCarthy, the second of which Rodellega fired wide.
The Latics successfully caught the Blues cold after 20 minutes, though, when McCarthy clipped the ball over the static defence for Charles N'Zogbia who momentarily looked like he was going to go down under the attentions of Howard but stayed on his feet and turned back towards goal. With Baines backing way off and the goalkeeper in No Man's Land, the French forward swept a superb shot into the far corner to give Wigan the lead.
Osman did his best to restore parity two minutes later with a driven snapshot that Al Habsi pushed over but Everton didn't otherwise look like scoring with a first half display that seemed to lack urgency or any real direction. Arteta made a couple of purposeful forays down the left and Osman's footwork occasionally threatened to create an opening but a lack of movement and tempo kept chances to a minimum.
It wasn't until N'Zogbia's clumsy trip on Osman just inside the area that Moyes's side had a genuine opportunity to make a breakthrough but Arteta's penalty lacked conviction and Al Habsi's save was almost routine once he'd guessed to dive to his left.
After Howard had denied N'Zogbia with the last chance of the first half, blocking a powerful shot from the angle with his chest, the pattern continued into the second half, with the American by far the busier of the two 'keepers. Twice in as many minutes he had to be at his best to foil substitute Moses, first with a smart save at his near post to turn a low shot behind and then with a one-handed first to keep another drive from the angle out of his net.
A brief lapse in concentration by Al Habsi almost let in Cahill at the other end, though, when he spilled Osman's shot but a frustrating afternoon for Australian came to an end after that when he and Arteta were withdrawn in favour of Beckford and Coleman.
Wigan kept probing, though, and had the Everton defence on the rack with 20 minutes left but McCarthy was foiled three times in quick succession by impressive blocks by Phil Jagielka and Phil Neville around the edge of the box before Jagielka almost made a telling contribution at the other end, sliding in to meet Baines' free kick, only to see Al Habsi block it at the far post and divert it behind for a corner.
From that corner, though, came Rodellega's inexplicable handball as he rose to try and clear the ball in the six-yard box. Referee Lee Mason had a clear sight of the incident and had no choice but to award a second penalty, one that Baines despatched unerringly and unstoppably into the top of the goal to cancel out N'Zogbia's opener.
That signalled a brief flurry where it looked like Everton might go on an win the game, especially when the more energetic Magaye Gueye belatedly entered the fray in place of the lumbering Anichebe and won a corner with his first touch of the ball. When the resulting kick came out to Coleman on the edge of the box, Al Habsi had to catch his deflected shot on the dive to keep the scores level.
But the closest the fans got to a grandstand finish came from Wigan who tried in vain to find a way past Howard in the final minutes. Rodellega saw an ambitious 20 yarder fisted away and another shot saved from slightly closer range while Di Santos' superb chest control and shot in the turn was caught in mid air and Ben Watson's speculative 25 yarder was also comfortably gathered.
That left the final chance for Rodellega to redeem himself in the last minute of stoppage time but he lashed the ball high over when hitting the target probably would have resulted in the winner and Everton were allowed to take away a point that they barely deserved.
Though there has been talk of closing the five-point gap between themselves and Liverpool and claiming sixth place, the Blues betrayed a bit of the end-of-season mentality with this display, one that lacked any visible energy or drive. The attack looked as toothless and ineffective as usual ? how could it not with a half-fit Cahill and an unsuitable Anichebe leading the line? ? and perhaps that was why the team as a whole looked incapable of creating much in the final third.
Manchester City up next and a chance to not only play an important part in who claims those Champions League places but also put one over the upstarts from down the road. Maybe that will light some kind of fire in the hearts of the players as opposed to this slow drift into the close season.
Player Ratings: Howard 8*, Hibbert 6, Jagielka 7, Distin 7, Baines 6, Osman 7, Neville 6, Rodwell 6, Arteta 5 (Coleman 6), Cahill 6 (Beckford 5), Anichebe 6 (Gueye 6)
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1 Posted 30/04/2011 at 20:33:25
I ask the question, if Cahill and Arteta were half-fit, and could only last a half, why start them, and disrupt a team that has been playing fairly well prior to today?
It was a disappointing performance. We only started to play some decent football in the last 15 minutes. We never really got going.
On a positive note, Baines scored me 11 points in my fantasy team.
2 Posted 30/04/2011 at 20:51:05
A quick glance at the TW live forum showed I was not alone, the next 20-odd postings all saying the same thing....and sure enough he misses, just as he muffs it when h takes free kicks or corners.
I am a Moyes supporter (for me he is keeping us up there despite Kenwright's best efforts) but his biggest drawback is his stubborn inability to learn from his mistakes. Allowing Mikel to take any dead ball is a mistake because he is not good enough and Baines is better.
All that said, we were awful today: boring, uninspired and once again unable to break the opposition down. Meanwhile Wigan were much quicker and direct on the break:none of this "holding up the ball" rubbish - their bad shooting and Howard's good keeping kept us in it.
3 Posted 30/04/2011 at 20:57:05
If we had a decent pair of strikers (Saha is the best we have) we would have turned many of these tepid draws into wins......
4 Posted 30/04/2011 at 21:08:59
5 Posted 30/04/2011 at 21:20:24
6 Posted 30/04/2011 at 21:17:35
7 Posted 30/04/2011 at 21:37:26
Chris saying Arteta isn't good enough to take dead balls is a bit short sighted.
Until today; he had scored 9 out the last 9 penalties he has taken.
8 Posted 30/04/2011 at 21:41:41
9 Posted 30/04/2011 at 21:48:22
He's just back from injury; we should let him get on with getting fit and in form. Leave the pens to Baines, for now at least.
10 Posted 30/04/2011 at 21:58:33
With the way things currently are and where we're supposedly going during the close season I can't say i'm looking forward to next season either! Choppy waters still lie ahead on several fronts.
11 Posted 30/04/2011 at 22:19:29
12 Posted 30/04/2011 at 22:20:55
Neville & Rodwell just cant spot the 20-30 yd forward pass, as someone else stated above, only 3 players can Baines, Arteta and Osman . Beckford has no chance in this team, he only thrives on quick forward movement with good through balls - he never gets one with our midfield.
13 Posted 30/04/2011 at 22:21:50
14 Posted 30/04/2011 at 23:14:01
15 Posted 30/04/2011 at 23:34:36
16 Posted 01/05/2011 at 01:03:54
Arteta I would sell at his age he will get no better and actually looks like he will get worse, Cahill keep him as an impact sub or for top 5 games, he can be useful in them games, but the difference in the last 3.5 months of goalscoring since Cahill left on Jan 1st is marked.
17 Posted 01/05/2011 at 03:04:18
I thought it backfired as they both stank big time, but that's my guess as to why they were fielded.
18 Posted 01/05/2011 at 16:38:13
Not for the first time, he has shown us were his loyalties really lie this season and he has absolutely stunk since his return
We were doing fine without him... and I don't want to hear any whining about injuries, he was fit as a fiddle before he disappeared to play for Australia.
He knew we were struggling and still fucked off. If he thinks that more important, then that's fine by me, but he's been neither use nor ornament to us since he came back and as usual, we foot the bill for his massive wages?
Sorry Lyndon, I agreed with most of your article, but Cahill didn't do a thing yesterday and I think you are being mighty generous awarding him a 6/10
I don't want Everton supplying players for international football. unless its the world cup ? that goes for England and Ireland too, Leave that to the clubs who have pots of money to employ ready made replacements when their players come back fucked.
19 Posted 01/05/2011 at 20:10:21
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