Mason Holgate starts on the bench again
Middlesbrough 0 - 0 Everton
Idrissa Gueye returns to the side for Everton's trip to relegation-threatened Middlesbrough. Barry makes way with no Mirallas or McCarthy on the bench.
Ademola Lookman gets his second start in the Premier League, with Tom Davies returning in midfield. Lennon, Koné and Valencia provide the reserve firepower from the bench.
Tom Davies kicked off but Williams resisted the punt upfield, Everton circulating possession within their own half for the first two minutes, Schneiderlin failing to find Lookman wide left. Schneiderlin won the ball back, fed Barkley wide right, who jinked inside getting Davies in close but with his back to goal he could do little with the creative ball.
Everton, in their all-black strip, were playing very confidently, and moving the ball around well, Gana releasing a great ball for Davies to chase. With heavy freezing rain and sleet coming down, the pace of the game was lively and relatively open, Traore giving the home fans a lift whenever he got on the ball.
Everton were dominating possession with slow build-up from the back, letting Boro form up their defensive wall with no element of real pace, and struggled to force through despite the energy of Davies and Lookman. When Boro did get the ball, there was an element of danger with Everton looking a little shaky at the back.
Adam Forshaw, previously of the Everton Academy, was playing his part for the home side, getting in a number of foul tackles. But the Blues' passing was just a fraction off on key forward balls, with the Boro players closing down well. Gana found Lukaku on the right with a nice ball and the big man did well to run in but slipped comically and spooned the ball behind as he set up to cross.
Lookman was a livewire and seemed to have bamboozled two defenders before the ball was stolen off him by Traore as he went down in the Boro area, but no foul. Some brilliant Everton passing saw Fabio concede Everton's first corner, taken from the right by Barkley, with a brilliant outswinger that fooled everyone, but Baines returned a brilliant ball to the back post; Funes Mori, however, was not the man to make the most of it.
More very scary attacks by Boro made the Everton defense look Sunday League as the ball pinged about but each time, Traore it would not fall quite right. Davies released Lukaku who had a trademark run in on Valdes to score... only he fired too close to the oncoming keeper who saved well with his outstretched leg.
More brilliant work by Davies looked to release Lukaku again but he had strayed offside. He started coming deep — too deep, as he twice was forced backwards into Everton's half under close attention from Boro defenders.
Some brilliant passing saw the ball out to Baines and a promising cross but Lukaku was called for a foul by Mr Dean. Another fabulous move saw Coleman cross in well to Lookman, whose shot was saved at close range, then Barkley dancing into the area and Lookman coming so close but denied by more tight last-ditch defending to block his shot after a brilliant drag-back.
Baines and Lookman then combined on the left, Lookman making great space and lashing in a low shot, just wide of Valdes's goal. More panic at the back for the visitors, though, as the ball seemed to bounce off Funes Mori and needed a hoof from, of all people, Idrissa Gueye to clear the lines. Some brilliant football from Everton in the first half, but not too many clear-cut chances to score.
Boro won an early corner off Traore after the restart and it needed a header from Coleman to clear. Traore then powered forward and lashed a shot that may have been deflected wide. Danger signals, as Boro seemed brighter and quicker to the ball.
Traore again ran in, forcing Coleman and Williams to bring him down on the edge of the area. Forshaw's free-kick was fortunately headed straight at Robles. In comparison, Everton seemed to have been given bromide in their half-time cuppas as they lacked the energy and desire that was so evident before the break. Forshaw was replaced bu Guedioura before the hour mark. Koeman's response to Everton's poor showing was to swap out Gueye for Valencia.
Barkley finally got forward but has shot was always going wide. Valencia showed pace and intent, running the right side channel. Poor defending from Funes Mori led to a Boro corner that Baines had to clear off the line to repel Gibson's header.
Sub Ramierez fouled Lookman with his first touch, Barkley wasting the chance into the two-man wall. Barkley brilliantly put Lookman through but again, Valdes saved a certain goal with that left leg. At the other end, Guedioura lashed a fearsome shot over Robles and the bar. The next change was Lennon for Lookman, with a quarter of the game remaining.
Ramirez shrugged off Schneiderlin and drove forward past impotent Everton defenders but clipped his cross too far wide. Davies, who had been quiet for much of the second half, started to get more involved but looked to be tiring. Nothing seemed to really be working with Boro winning the second half on points, Karana making his final change with 10 minutes left: Negredo off for Gestede.
Funes Mori was again beaten too easily but Guedioura thankfully spooned it well over as the game became disjointed entering the final 5 minutes. Ramirez was booked for treading on Baines but Barkley's cross was too close to Valdes. A strange last sub by Koeman, Barry for Barkley preceded the chance of the game for Boro and the Save of the Century by Robles, a fantastic one-armed reach to push over a bullet header from Ramirez that was goalbound all day long.
Everton built an attack in the last minute but it was just too slow, Baines's cross evading Lukaku. Baines tried a Barkley backheel that Valencia did not anticipate, Barry picked out Valencia but his pullback to Lukaku led to Everton's second and final corner that came to nothing in 3 mins of time added on.
The match ended in torrential freezing rain, a disappointing scoreline for the very vocal travelling troupe from Merseyside, and two points dropped in pursuit of the top six.
Middlesbrough: Valdes, Chambers, Bernardo, Gibson, Da Silva, De Roon, Clayton [Y:31'], Forshaw (58'Guedioura), Traore, Negredo (82' Gestede), Stuani (66' Ramirez).
Subs not Used: Ayala, Leadbitter, Guzan, Downing.
Everton: Robles, Baines, Williams, Funes Mori, Coleman, Schneiderlin, Gueye (62' Valencia), Davies, Barkley (87' Barry), Lookman (73' Lennon), Lukaku.
Subs: Stekelenburg, Jagielka, Holgate, Koné.
Referee: Mike Dean
Reader Comments (239)
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.