New-look Blues hold on for a vital win

By Michael Kenrick 27/08/2016  175 Comments  [Jump to last]

Romelu Lukaku makes his first Premier League start of the season
Everton 1 - 0 Stoke City

Ashley Williams and Yannick Bolasie make their full home Premier League debuts and Romelu Lukaku makes his first league start of 2016-17.

Koeman reverts to a back four with Funes Mori and Deulofeu are on the bench but James McCarthy is out injured, along with Seamus Coleman. Stoke started with plenty of kick and rush, head tennis, and some physicality but Barkley got the ball down and immediately attacked down the right.

Blues were trying to build attacks but perhaps with too much patience and intricacy, Stoke effectively snuffing out the early moves until Mirallas cut inside and fired in low, forcing an early save from Given.

Holgate did well to prevent an acrobatic strike form Crouch. Mirallas did well to dispossess Barkley but he wong the ball back with an arm in the face and Barkley stupidly pulled back his man in frustration, drawing a needless yellow card inside 10 mins. Stoke had a pop at goal through Arnautovic but it flew over.

Stoke settled into the game a little better than the home side, Bardlsey taking another long-range pop, wide of Stekelenburg's goal, while Everton's efforts to get Bolasie on the ball were being well thwarted. Williams was called for a pullback, but Gueye did well to win the ball and play in Mirallas who had strayed well offside.

Another Blues foul -- Everton were giving away far too many silly free-kicks, invoking unnecessary pressure -- until Lukaku somehow bamboozled Shawcross and his shot beat Given but was not clever enough to beat the defender who cleared off the line. Stoke responded through Imbula who seemed to be in with a sight of goal, but hesitated and Barry was in sharply to dispossess him. < /p>

Everton almost scored from a corner taken short that Mirallas then crossed in for Williams to head beyond Given but it was hooked away inches in front of the goalline by the gangly leg of Peter Crouch.

Gueye saw space and immediately swung in a great cross to Barkley at the far post, Shawcross heading the cutback strongly at his keeper. The Blues were applying a lot more pressure now, but the intricate passing to create a set-up was difficult under the tight Stoke marking.

Lukaku turned his man well and advanced but overplayed his dribbling, losing the ball, as the Blues sought an opening. Barkley set Lukaku away and he did so well to get to the Stoke goal area but his cutback was intercepted. It was end-to-end, Barkley then setting up Mirallas who dug out a fantastic shot that was unfortunately straight at Shay Given.

Some great Everton pressure won a corner but first man Whelan headed it away too easily. Bolasie and Mirallas swapped sides to change things a little but Stoke were putting up stern resistance.

Bolasie and then Barkley seem to have had glimpses for a shot but both chose to pass. Barkley tried to dig out shots from a corner but there seemed to be 15 defenders blocking them away. The Blues continued to drive forward, Barry to Holgate and a tremendous Deulofeu-type cross from young Mason that evaded the incoming Barkley.

Everton were pressing hard, trying everything, but Stoke broke away and Bolasie may have caught Arnautovic on the ankle -- he eventually hobbled off, and then came back on after treatment. Bolasie went on a run down the left and won a rather soft free kick off a Bardsley challenge. Barkley's free-kick was headed out perhaps too easily by Bardsley.

Lukaku appeared to have space in the Stoke area and could have played in Barkley but spurned the chance. Mirallas then tried an audacious overhead kick that ran well wide as a fine half of really competitive football, full of vim and vigour, came to an ed goalless.

It took a few minutes to get things moving in the second half, Barkley eventually dancing into the area, holdng the ball well, spinning and firing across the face of goal, despite two we;ll-placed attackers.

Lukaku soun away and selfishly shot (blocked) with Mirallas wide open on his left. Holgate then heaed forward for a perfect chance for Lukaku but somehwo he was thwarted and could not pull the trgger. From the cprner, Bardsley was called for a trip on Willimas running in... Penalty! It was taken well by Baines, brilliantly saved by Given, onto the post, and then in off the back of his head! Very lucky in the end, but just reward for some fine Everton intent.

Stekelenburg was out sharply to punch a free-kick away as Stoke looked to respond, a little too aggressively as Pieters ws booked for a late tackle on Holgate. Arnautovic somehow got free and danced away from Stekelnburg only to have his shot deflected up onto the bar, and then away by Baines... a very close shave.

A strange call from the linesman saw a non-contact intervention by Bardley on Bolasie rewarded bizarrely with a Stoke free-kick. A better attack on the hour, won another corner that Mirallas curled in well enough but Crouch was dominant.

Lukaku was released by Gueye but his mazey run was tracked by Cameroon who won the ball off him. Bolasie then picked out Barkley who this time took the shot quickly but Given was well placed to save at the stretch.

Boyhood Evertonian John Walters replaced former Liverpudlian Peter Crouch as Stoke pressed the Blues hard to get back into the game. Koeman responded by switching in Kone for Mirallas, who had been flagging. But Before that, another Stoke corner was repelled by a firm Barkley header.

Great touches from Bolasie in attack and Williams in defence underlined the impact of changes made by Koeman since his arrival to rescue Everton from the Madness of Martinez. Kone saw a chance for a shot, firing in low for Given to save.

The Blues were giving Stoke a little too much space and failing to press forward effectively when in possession, giving cause for some concern from the crowd on top of their slender one-goal lead. Stekelenburg did very well to cut out an excellent cross from Pieters. At the other end, Barkley go for once got ahead of Shawcross but could not beat Given one on one, a superb save by the keeper.

At the other end, a tremendous chance for Walters that he totally fluffed after being picked out perfectly by Arnautovic. Two more changes by Mark Hughes (Bojan on for Imbula and Ramadan on for Diouf) were the final throw of the dice by Sparky who did not want to lose this close and compelling contest. Barry set up Bolasie who curled the ball a yard wide when he really should have scored.

Into the last 10 minutes and with Barkley tiring, Ramior Funes Mori replaced him... Koeman looking to see the game out after trying everything to get that much-needed second goal. Stoke smelt blood, piling into the Everton area, and it needed smart work form Williams to clear the ball away.

Stekelenburg was alert again to waft away another dangerous Pieters cross, while Tom Davies was readied to replace Bolasie. Kone did superbly to keep the ball in play then drive inside but his shot was high over the bar.

Into 4 minutes of added time and the pressure from Stoke City was unrelenting. Stekelenburg was commanding in claiming the ball, while Funes Mori did well to win a free kick and relive some pressure. Holgate tried to slalom through into the Stoke are and was tackled poorly by Joe Allen, Baines lining up the kick and curling it over the wall but well within range for Given to punch away.

It was pretty much the final action, with the Everton fans finally bursting into voice, celebrating a superbly managed exhibition of top-flight football, a vital, vital win that would have been unthinkable last season.

Everton: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Williams, Jagielka, Baines, Gueye, Barry [Y:88'], Barkley (82' Funes Mori) [Y:8'], Bolasie (88' Davies), Mirallas (70' Kone), Lukaku.
Subs not Used: Robles, Oviedo, Lennon, Deulofeu.

Stoke City: Given, Bardsley, Pieters [Y:57'], Shawcross, Wollscheid, Whelan, Allen, Imbula (72' Bojan), Arnautovic, Diouf (72' Ramadan), Crouch (65' Walters).
Subs not Used: Haugaard, Muniesa, Adam, Ngoy.

Referee: Michael Oliver

Attendance: 39,581

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