Robust Blues grind out important win over Stoke

27 August  0 Comments  [Jump to last]
Everton 1 - 0 Stoke City

Leighton Baines's first-half penalty that went in off Shay Given proved to be the difference for Everton

Everton's strong start to the new season under Ronald Koeman continued with a narrow, hard-fought victory over Stoke at Goodison Park.

A Leighton Baines penalty that took a decisive ricochet off Shay Given into the net proved to be the decisive moment, although another crucial intervention at the other end by Maarten Stekelenburg to deny Marco Arnautovic ensured that the Blues wouldn't rue missed opportunities.

After a briefly bright start, Everton had taken time to grow in strength in the first period but the chances started arriving as the half progressed, Romelu Lukaku seeing a right foot shot kicked away from near the Stoke goal and Peter Crouch hooking Ashley Williams's header off the goal line.

Ross Barkley's header back across goal was nodded dangerously back into Given's arms by Ryan Shawcross from close range and Kevin Mirallas stung the Irishman's palms with a rocket of a shot as the home side pressed for the opening goal.

They had to be content with a goalless scoreline at half-time but were handed the chance to take the lead four minutes after the interval in somewhat fortuitous circumstances.

A lovely interchange between the impressive Mason Holgate and Lukaku had put the Belgian with a great chance to score but his shot was blocked at the near post. Williams was tripped in the box by Phil Bardsley as the two ran to meet the ensuing corner, referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot and though Given turned Baines's low shot onto the post, it bounced back into the goal off his head.

Stoke's response was a robust one and they looked to have equalised nine minutes later when Arnautovic broke free in the box for the first time in the game. Forced back inside to avoid Stekelenburg who had made himself big to cut off the shot, his eventual effort would surely have gone in had the Dutch ‘keeper not got enough on the ball to divert it onto the crossbar.

Then, in between Yannick Bolasie's inside pass that ended with Given parrying away a placed Barkley effort and the DR Congo's curling shot that drifted just wide, Everton escaped again at the other end. Arnautovic popped up again in the Blues' 18-yard box and just had to square it for Jonathan Walters to convert in front of goal but his pass evaded the Stoke substitute.

Having introduced Arouna Kone for Mirallas with 20 minutes to go, Koeman then brought on Ramiro Funes Mori for Barkley and Tom Davies for Bolasie to see out a game that had become physical and contentious in the closing stages.

Everton, with Williams and Phil Jagielka marshalling well at the back, kept their focus and were able to resist the Potters' late push for an equaliser to register their second win of the season, one which takes them into the international break with 7 points from Koeman's first three fixtures.

 

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