Everton 2- 0 Sunderland
After what seemed a lengthy break we gather again in our room of nonsense to plot the downfall of our former manager and his team. The teams came through, we were unchanged from the Boro game and they had two of our former players on parade in Oviedo and Gibson. Most were confident of a win but we reasoned patience would be needed as our Davy always knew how to set up a defensive shield and look to strike on the break.
Our resident statto informed us of the facts that Lukaku needed one goal to equal Duncan’s record for the club and one more would see him have that record all to himself. Also if we won it would take our unbeaten run to nine games as well as stretching our home run to one loss in the past 15 matches. I am sure you will remember who that solitary loss was against! Plus it was also Leighton Baines’s 300th game for the club.
It was soon time for the walk up and the ferocity of storm Doris was now a mere gusty breeze and temperatures had risen enough for us to enjoy the walk. After a good break that walk up is like going on a date with a girl for the first time. The excitement tinged with “what if this goes a bit wrong?”, the thought of “should I take a little present?” Well it’s retro day so that’s covered and should I avail myself of any of the goodies on offer in Goodison Road. Well I don’t want to miss her company, so the length of the queues sorts that one and it’s in the lady’s house in time for Z-Cars. The vibrant tones of our theme tune is soon replaced by the obligatory dirge of the sporting handshake but it’s soon over and we are ready to go.
It was quite a start too as we had four corners in the first five minutes. They all ended in scrambles to the oohs and ahhs of the faithful.
The game now settled and it was a bit one-sided in our favour but no matter how we tried we could just not find a path through a determined if not skilful defence. Lookman had a couple of efforts but they lacked the confidence that we have been hoping for down the left. He seems to have the knack of getting in but his final effort is more often than not a shot right at the keeper or a wayward pass. I will be interested to see how many games he starts beyond today. There is no doubt he has things to offer but how long will he be given as a starter in games? Maybe impact sub is the best path for him.
Lookman did have one excellent interchange with Gana setting up the Senegal man at the near post but he fired right at the keeper instead of pulling it back across the area where we had a couple of well-placed bodies. Time ticked on and no one could deny we were the only team in it we lacked in that final third. It always seemed to break down by an outstretched leg a body thrown in here and there and some final passes just not accurate enough. It wasn’t boring but it sure as hell wasn’t thrilling.
The faithful were quiet and seemed to be waiting for the players to lift us by scoring. Their fans gave us the now famous ‘Library’ chant but we ignored the invitation. It really was that sort of game that in reality you knew we would win because they had so little to offer. The number of times I heard the phrase ‘If we get one it’s all over’ it was just getting that goal that seemed always just out of reach.
Forty mins came up and it was to be a great time for Gana, who I must say was showing far better than our last outing. He owed a lot to both Davies and Coleman. The former played a beaut of a looped pass to pick out the latter who crossed for the incoming Gana to hit first time into the roof of the net passed a startled keeper. I thought he was about to go on a lap of honour as he raced away with his first goal for the club to celebrate. He raced straight to the dugout and embraced Koeman as the faithful celebrated, well sort of, in a thank god for that way.
The five minutes to half time were played out in a low key fashion apart from one explosive moment when the tireless Tom Davies took aim from some twenty yards out hit a screamer beat the keeper and smashed against the post and back into play with the keeper well beaten
During the break another name became an ‘Everton Giant’ as Tommy Wright walked out. Tommy won a FA Cup winners’ medal in 1966 and a League Champion’s medal in 1970. Although walking with a stick he looked in pretty good nick. Also the young Sunderland fan who our club and fans have been helping in a bid to get the treatment he needs was carried around the ground and received a great reception from both sets of fans. A touching moment.
Second half and no changes for us but we started slow and in a manner that led you to believe that the players believed we had won it and started playing the ball about the back and taking an eternity to look forward. This after a while started to irk the assembled full house of 39,585. Yes some confident stuff was played and the three in midfield Davies, Schneiderlin and Gana were prominent but whatever we were doing was only inviting Sunderland on. Crowd getting restless.
The players seemed confident to see out the game at 1-0 and if a second goal comes along well then that’s fine. As fans we have seen these seemingly solid leads being shot down too many times to fully believe it won’t again especially as Sunderland had all but camped in our final third and our clearances kept coming back. They were having more attacks than us.
Williams and Mori were blocking shots with all parts of the body and hacking them away. If the ball did find its way up field we were not able to hang onto it long enough to make headway in threatening fashion. The 60min mark arrived and our manager swopped Lookman for Mirallas the young man is on a learning curve so it was good to hear his good reception from fans as he made his way off.
Schneiderlin was an impressive performer in a defensive role in front of the back four and he looked assured and did his best to get and keep order in the ranks as apart from a few forays forward there was always that chance that Sunderland could nick one. It was strange as you could see we were a miles better team yet unable to prove it in the goal tally stakes which was a pity as I was sure one more goal from us and that would be it for them. It was just the getting of that goal that was proving a touch elusive.
70 minutes came and the manager changed the workaholic Davies for Valencia. Davies got a tremendous send off. I heard many a comment saying ‘Why as he taken him off’ It seemed to me the manager wanted us to play the ball forward more often and was trying to give them an extra player to find further forward. Sunderland were a dogged lot as you would expect from a team in their position. When we did get Rom or Valencia in they seemed to hit the keeper rather than the net.
Coleman got down the right and crossed well toward the inrushing Lukaku with Barkley just beyond him. Lukaku tried the gymnastics and fell on his back with the ball travelling on to Barkley who also tried some gymnastics and he fell on his back with the ball over and wide. Looked comical from my seat.
Then it happened… well, almost happened. Sunderland on a quick break came forward at pace with Everton a bit short on cover. The ball fell to the ever dangerous Defoe for his first chance of the game and his powerful shot hit the underside of bar with the ball coming down just the right side of the goal line and spin away to another Sunderland man who hooked it back in and a good header from Baines sent it out again for a corner which we cleared.
That was a right wake-up call and I have no doubt our manager may well mention it at their next meeting at USM Finch farm. There was only twelve mins to go when that happened and it reinvigorated Sunderland and their fans. They were in our box and we were clearing but it was coming straight back until from a corner that they won Mirallas moved quickly forward and released Lukaku whose power and pace saw him home in on goal. But as he reached into the six yard box he seemed to stumble as he was converged on by the keeper and our old boy Oviedo. There seemed a mixture of bodies and legs and the ball squirted over the keeper and home. PHEW! All celebrated and now we all knew that was game over.
The manager swapped Berkley for McCarthy to see out the last 10 plus added but we still had time to get Valencia in one on one but he shot at the keepers legs and that chance went. Mirallas shot wide and that was it.
Overall a workman like regulation game that we did what we had to take the points. The first half I thought was quite good but second half we slipped back to that fannying about at the back plus the majority of our passes were backward ones. Schneiderlin looked very good in that role in front of the back four and dropping in when a centre back pushes on.
We are getting good results at the moment and picking up good points but we need to remember we won’t be playing such a poor injury ridden side again for some long time. You can get the idea of the way the match went when at the end they always put ‘Grand old team’ on the speakers but today when they cut the sound it sounded like about 50 fans had bothered to sing.
Still I am sure we are on the right track and will look forward to WHL where we can expect a much tougher game but although we don’t often get much there I sure would like three points.
UP THE BLUES
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