For the second time in a week I visited Goodison Park rocking the shorts look, or the "C&A catalogue" look as one of the fellas in the pub teased, for an anticipated tough game against early strugglers Stoke City.
Exasperated with performances under Roberto Martinez, Gaz voted with his feet about midway through last season and stopped coming to the game. Excited with the change in management, Gaz returned to the match for this one, picking up Ste and me on route and we were in the pub in good time and saw the roof come off The Brick when Danny Rose half-volleyed the ball past Simon Mignolet to give Tottenham Hotspur a point against Liverpool.
We strolled on to Goodison Park and were in our seats in good time, Everton fielding what I would say is our best team with what we have available. Though I had initial reservations about Ashley Williams, he and captain Phil Jagielka represent a solid and experienced centre back pairing ahead of a fine goalkeeper in Maarten Stekelenburg with Mason Holgate deputising superbly at right back in the absence of Seamus Coleman. Gareth Barry and Idrissa Gueye represent a robust partnership in the midfield which most teams in the division would struggle to get the better of, whilst Yannick Bolasie and an in-form Kevin Mirallas offer quality on the flanks. If Ross Barkley can find consistency and when Romelu Lukaku rediscovers his goalscoring form, that should will be a match for most in the league I would suggest.
Stoke City on the other hand, for me at least, don't seem to be progressing. At times last season, I thought they looked like perhaps the most likely team to knock on the door of the Champions League. I quite liked their attitude on the pitch as well but they seemed to have reverted to the former Stoke CIty a little bit with niggly fouls in the game and ageing players still in the squad such as Peter Crouch, Shay Given, Jonathan Walters and Phil Bardsley. Though always a tough opponent, they don't seem to be progressing as they perhaps should be, and their poor start to the season reflects that. Anyway, less about them...
Michael Oliver frustrated the crowd throughout with a series of inconsistent decisions as the teams took to battle. It took a little time for either team to carve out anything meaningful, but as we slowly got into the swing of things we did create chances and were a little unfortunate not to be ahead at the break in what was a pretty meek first half. Ryan Shawcross cleared just short of the goalline from a Romelu Lukaku drive, Kevin Mirallas did well to spin onto his left foot and drive at Shay Given, Mirallas also tried his luck from the edge of the penalty area on a further couple of occasions, one which forced the veteran Irish international to palm the ball over the crossbar, and another an audacious overhead volley which drifted wide of the post, and, the closest of all, Peter Crouch did very well to acrobatically clear off the goalline from a Phil Jagielka header. It was fair to say that at the break we were on top, albeit with nothing to show for it.
Whilst we chatted at the break we were completely unaware of the horror that had occurred in the Park End when a 51-year-old fan took ill. How devastating that this gentleman later passed away in hospital at too young an age. A tragedy and you have to feel for the family.
If the first half was a little poor, the second was certainly much improved as, particularly once they went behind, Stoke City came out and played much more in what was a very end-to-end second half, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Everton were extremely fortunate to get a penalty when Ashley Williams tumbled to the turf from a corner kick. As if Stoke City weren't unfortunate enough to concede the penalty, they were doubly unlucky with the goal when Leighton Baines stepped up, hitting the penalty low to Shay Given's left. The goalkeeper managed to flick the ball onto the post with his fingers only for the ball to rebound onto his back and into the Gwladys Street net. It was a relief to score but you had to feel a bit of sympathy for the Stoke City goalkeeper.
As for the penalty decision, whilst we welcome a bit of luck, the glut of penalties already this season for very, very little is alarming and the FA should really examine this new directive. It's all well and good when you're at the right end of these decisions, but can you imagine the uproar when Liverpool get a penalty for something like this against us? The FA have to be careful with this as the game is hanging onto its title of a "contact sport" by a thread as it is. Stoke City in particular will already feel heavily targeted by the directive this season.
Anyhow, the decision, and subsequent goal, did breathe life into the game and it was quite the ding-dong battle thereafter. Leighton Baines, Yannick Bolasie and substitute Arouna Kone all came close to wrapping the game up, whilst Stoke City will be ruing missed opportunities when Maarten Stekelenburg added another great save to his early Everton collection when he clipped the ball onto the crossbar from seemingly egotistical Marko Arnautovic. I don't know if we were genuinely interested in him this summer but I'm glad we didn't bring Arnautovic to the club. He was in the thick of the action for Stoke City's other good opportunity when, following a poor Yannick Bolasie clearance, he brought the ball into the penalty area and squared it to Jonathan Walters who perhaps should have been more alert as the ball was played across him. Kudos also to Stekelenburg who dominated his penalty area superbly in the second half.
On opportunities alone, you would say we deserved the win... though it did come with quite a slice of luck. Nevertheless, we welcome the three points and the excellent start to the season. It's great to sign off with a win heading into the international break and with the run of games coming up in September it's nice to start the season with optimism.
I'm convinced David Moyes will get one over on us in our next game at the Stadium of Light however!
Stekelenburg: Fair to say I'm a big fan, so much so that I'm happy we are not interested in Joe Hart. A great signing at a good price. 8
Baines: Did well. Got up and down the pitch to good effect, and though he isn't credited with the goal, it's nice to see him step up and take penalties again. Actually, I don't understand how Martinez managed to make such a pigs ear of our penalty situation. We had one of the best penalty takers in the league and he took him off them. How? Why? 7
Williams: Has slotted in seamlessly and distributes pretty well. He and Phil Jagielka are already looking pretty solid at the heart of defence. 8
Jagielka: Also solid, dependable and communicative. Good to have some leadership at the back between the two of them. 8
Holgate: I questioned his ability to perform at right back going forward but the young gem has all but banished those concerns after his latest terrific display. His defensive ability is not in question and little got past him today. However his confidence in attack also shone against Stoke City and makes me believe we don't have a requirement to bring in cover at right back in Coleman's absence anyway. A fantastic display and my Man of the Match. 9
Barry: Superb. The evergreen Gareth Barry shows no signs that he's nearing the end yet. So much so that James McCarthy is seemingly surplus to requirements. 8
Gueye: Another excellent display and he is fast becoming a fans favourite. 8
Mirallas: Had a barnstorming first half and wasn't doing badly in the second half until he was substituted for Arouna Kone. 7
Bolasie: Still finding his feet. He did very well at times but was out of the game for chunks also. Will become a great signing, I'm certain. 6
Barkley: At the match it didn't look as though he had his best game, but if you watch the highlights on Match of the Day he seemed very central to most of the good things we did. I think he lacks focus at times and can make wrong decisions but he is always a creative player which we need in the team. Hopefully Ronald Koeman and the management team can instil a bit more focus in our diamond. 6
Lukaku: He worked hard and played pretty selfishly. He was a bit of a menace for 70 minutes and then seemed to tire. No goals now in 12 league games though (make that 14 games in all competitions) does tell it's own story. Though there's little doubt he will get back to form eventually, he really needs to do it sooner rather than later. 6
Kone: Ran the channels, made himself available and created a few chances for himself. Has Arouna Kone played his way into the squad? 7
Funes Mori: He got rid of a few things at the back. Though I'm up on my feet when he scores for us, I'm not a big fan of him really. His rolling around on the floor every time he is fouled is really beginning to grate. 6
Davies: Though he saw little of the ball, he was busy and got about the pitch in the short time he had on the field. 6
Reader Comments (68)
Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer
Add Your Comments
In order to post a comment, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.
Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and Talking Points submissions across the site.