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Everton 0 - 1 Aston Villa

Half-time: 0 - 0

Aston Villa Logo
FA Carling Premiership 2000-01 – Game #12
4 pm Sunday 5 November 2000
Goodison Park, Merseyside
Att: 27,670
« Liverpool (a) Ref: Steven Lodge Bradford City (a) »
[ Matchday Calendar ] League Position: 16th [ Results &  Table ]
A poor, frustrating, boring morass of a game played in a relentless downpour produced only rare glimpses of anything that could pass as 'football' ... that was until a critical moment in the 90th minute, when Paul Merson, at the heart of Villa's midfield and with a crowd of defenders ahead of him, suddenly spooned the ball up over all of them... 

It floated up in a perfect arc to deceive the transfixed Paul Gerrard who was not really all that far off his line.  Dipping under the bar, the end of that arc was of course the back of the Everton net.  Game over, but for 5 equally frustrating and meaningless minutes of added time we could just as well have done without.

Everton's distinct lack of teeth up front it's over six weeks since Everton managed more than one measly goal in a game looked set to continue, when Joe-Max Moore was again overlooked as a partner for the lonely and only 75% fit Kevin Campbell up front.  With Nyarko laid low with the flu and Ball still struggling with his derby injury, it was Gary Naysmith's full debut, with Idan Tal surprisingly left on the bench. 

Pembridge missed another one-on-one but young Naysmith had the best chance when he shot wide from 6 yds out.  Naysmith had a good game, though, and was unlucky not to score with a great header on the far post.  

And just to add to the injury woes, first Steve Watson went off with an injury; the Paul Gascoigne pulled a thigh muscle taking a free kick, and he was subbed as well.

In the end, we were made to pay for our lack of effectiveness up front and some great keeping by James.  Xavier and Weir performed well in the back but our midfield looked disoriented as soon as Gazza left the pitch.  Gravesen seemed to lose the plot in the second half and was quite poor with his distribution.

So, just when we thought it couldn't possibly get much worse... IT JUST DID!



EVERTON: Naysmith
Aston Villa: Merson (90')
   LINEUPS  Subs Not Used 
EVERTON: Gerrard; S Watson (62' Gemmill), Weir, Xavier, Unsworth (74' Tal); Gravesen, Gascoigne (37' Cadamarteri), Hughes, Pembridge, Naysmith; Campbell.
Unavailable: Alexandersson, Ball, Cleland, Ferguson, Gough, Jeffers, Pistone (injured)
; Nyarko (flu).
Simonsen, Moore.
Aston Villa: James, Alpay, Southgate, Barry, Stone (59' Delaney), Boateng, Taylor, Wright, Merson, De Bilde (75' Vassell), Joachim.  Ginola, Hendrie, Enckelman.
   Playing Strips  Formations
EVERTON: Royal Blue shirts; white shorts; blue socks. 4-5-1
Aston Villa: Claret shirts; light blue shorts; claret & blue socks. 4-4-2
   Yellow Cards  Red Cards
EVERTON: Xavier (24'), Naysmith (40'), Unsworth (64').
Aston Villa: Boateng (60'), Vassell (90').
 Sports.Com Detailed Match Stats and Full Match Commentary  


Mickey Blue Eyes Get busy livin or get busy dyin
Steve Bickerton Too Much to Swallow
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Gascoigne misses Villa's late finish
by Matt Lawton
THE TIMES Ace Merson looks for England recall
by Oliver Kay
THE INDEPENDENT Link to Match Reports
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 Get busy livin or get busy dyin
Mickey Blue Eyes
A great movie, The Shawshank Redemption the origin of the title to this report.  Get busy livin or get busy dyin.  Might have been made for our situation. 

Oh yes, the Yanks can still make them when they really try.  Stallone, Van Damme and Schwarznegger are only aberrations, not real cultural icons, whatever the phony media hype tells you.  Genuine Americana is still alive, still worth cherishing.  Thats why I wish Joe-Max had played against Villa.  Might have helped SuperKev up front and that might have made the difference.  Maybe...

Look at the next fixtures and get real.  Were living match to match again.  The attendance against Villa showed what the fans think of it.  And nobody can blame them.  More to the point, lets hear no more mealy-mouthed garbage about fans loyalty or knowledge of the game.  These are the very same fans who have filled our stadium and stayed loyal despite whats happened on and off the pitch for the last five years or so.  

Theyve been marvellous.  Theyre entitled to vote with their mouths or with their feet whatever and however.  They have earned it the hard way, including putting up with disingenuous half-arsed muck from dickhead untalented journos who produce cheap second-rate crap about fans so-called masochism.  Fuck the media.  We dont need them.  Jeer leaders are two a penny.

The rain was as pitiless as the result, as relentless as the unceasing mediocrity from both sides out on the pitch.  Of course, the conditions were the same for both teams.  So why was our first touch invariably inferior even to a no-mark team like Aston Villa?  Why, once Gazza went off for our glumly umpteenth injury this season, was Mark Pembridge the only one who didnt really stop running and trying in midfield? 

Why does Stephen Hughes look like he cant really be arsed?  Why do we appear to perform for only half a game?  Why does Paul Gerrard look paralysed on the goal line so often?  Why is Kevin Campbell left to plough the loneliest furrow in the Prem?  Why do we get more injuries than any other team in the Prem?  Search me...

We can glean some comfort again from the performance of Weir-Xavier at the centre of our defence.  They both had superb games.  And in the second half, we came forward with relative determination, if little organised or real conviction.  We should have won it long before it looked like fate was going to deliver the kind of late blow we have almost come to expect as routine.  Ex-redneck James made three good saves when he really should have been left with no chance at all.  But all the time Villa were winning the fifty-fifties in midfield and our passing was truly awful.  It all had a terribly familiar ring to it.  The last two games of promise faded faster than the sun in Shropshire.

Gary Naysmith made his debut and didnt do too much wrong.  Didnt do too much right either.  He was just part of the scene.  Idan Tal came on and made a small mark on the game because he looked like he really wanted to win it and wasnt afraid to take on their defenders wide left.  Good on the lad put some of the others to shame.  Danny came on too, including a carrot-patch haircut, and did his usual promise-a-lot-and-achieve-fuck-all routine.  Joe-Max is twice the player he is.

There was no pattern of play worthy of note.  Almost from the off, it settled down into a familiar midfield scrappiness the usual routine against the Brummies.  Occasionally Villa played down our right flank and (for what it was worth) made some progress there.  Our counter-ploy was a long ball up to SuperKev, period... until Idan came on.  Kev had a poor game and only won a few headers.

Then in the closing minutes we won a couple of tackles dead centre midfield.  The ball bounced around and went straight to Merson about thirty metres out and he hit a hopeful ball high into the air toward goal.  Paul looked like he thought it was going over and didnt move until it was too late, very like the goal he let in against Heskey the previous week.  All he had to do was take one step back and jump up and catch it.  Instead it cleared him and went in, left side and a metre below the bar with Paul only a metre from the goal line.  It was an appalling goal to let through.  If Tommy Myhre was available he would be in the team tomorrow.  It was the only action Paul had to perform all afternoon and he fucked up: simple as that.

Our next matches are Bradford (away) and Arsenal and Chelsea (home) and Sunderland (away).  The relative merits of these teams dont matter, not while we play like this.  Come mid-December and you know what to expect.

Get busy livin or get busy dyin.

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 Too Much to Swallow
Steve Bickerton
Aston Villa the team is nothing fancy, but they do tend to stand resolutely before the Goodison fans and deny them the opportunity of seeing a goal, year after year.  'Venimus, vidimus, victimus.' (apologies if I've mis-rembered my schoolboy Latin!) the chant of the Villa fans as they return home to the midlands "We came, we saw, we conquered".  Was today to be a repeat performance?

The match was dominated by the display of referee Stephen Lodge as, time and again, he blew up when the game should have been kept flowing.  Time and again, we were on the receiving end of poor decisions, but I think that I need to put that comment into context.  Unerringly he found in favour of the defending side, no matter what the situation.  As we had the majority of the possession and had the majority of the game in our opponent's half, we were fated to be on the receiving end of more poor decisions than were Villa.  

The Ref also found it difficult to stay on his feet on the slippery surface.  One amusing (at least I thought so) moment in the second half found him yet again getting up off his generous backside as the crowd jeered him roundly.  Pembridge (I'm sure he was gesturing for a foul at the time) made a pushing gesture at him, aping the antics of one Mr Di Canio, indicating that no such push was needed today, for Mr Lodge to find the floor.

But I digress... or do I?  To my mind, the whole game was turned into a farce by the referee.  Neither side can have been happy with his performance at all.  He should be struck off the list at once, in my opinion not that it counts for much!

The rest of the game was an untidy affair as a result of the interruptions and the inability of either side to do anything meaningful when in possession.  In the first half, we had a number of chances which went a-begging as Gravesen partnered Campbell up front.  We dominated the middle of the park without really imposing ourselves and it was that lack of imposition that was to cost us the game. 

Once Gascoigne limped off, we struggled to maintain the shape or composure that would carve out a result.  Villa were hardly in the game at all at times, as the whole of the outfield Everton defence had comfortable games.  

Naysmith on his debut was terrific, showing commitment, pace and skill.  I'm sure that Walter Smith will point to that performance and ask Michael Ball to prove that he deserves to stay at Everton, because it was certainly a better performance than any Ball has turned in of late, even the latest improved Michael.

Gravesen was the disappointment today.  Too often, he made the long, defence-splitting ball when a short one was the better ball.  Too often, the ball was given away under no pressure.  Hughes tried hard but was generally ineffective, but Pembridge ran and harried, passed and ran.  After Gascoigne's injury, we were a one-man midfield.  Yet, we were still too good for Villa.

The second period saw us camped in the Villa half for long spells.  We could and should have scored three the clearest opportunity being spurned by Naysmith as he lashed a ball (which had bounced off Campbell) wide of James' right hand post.  James was still to deny Pembridge at this point, running out to dive at the midfielder's feet, to deny a goal, deflecting the ball away. 

But far and away James' best moment was a stunning save from the flying Naysmith, on the end of a cross he had no right to meet, pushing the ball onto the post and gathering the rebound, before the Scot could swing a foot at it.  Following that save, the usual suspects chanted the usual song, "Dodgy Keeper, dodgy keeper."  That would come back to haunt us...

Cadamarteri, playing on the right of the attack, was lively throughout, following his introduction for Gascoigne his pace always a thorn in Villa's side.  But he ended up as a one-man attack at times as Campbell was neutralised by Southgate.  

The introduction of Tal late-on saw similar pep being shown on the left hand side, but it was too little too late as a speculative punt from Paul Merson, who had been Villa's only threat all game, found Gerrard wanting and then the back of the net.  As I said, the cries of "dodgy keeper" returned to haunt us as he conceded a 30-yarder for the second successive game an opening for Thomas Myhre perhaps?

A home defeat, 0-1, and against the run of play...  In reality, we didn't produce enough to deserve any more than a point, but a loss was a bit too much to swallow.

Man of the Match: The whole defence was solid, but I'll give it to Gary Naysmith for a terrific home debut.

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 Gascoigne misses Villa's late finish
Matt Lawton, Electronic Telegraph

FIREWORKS before kick-off followed by 89 minutes looking for a fuse to ignite this encounter.  What a shame, we thought, that the thick clouds of smoke that had enveloped Goodison Park just prior to four o'clock had lifted, thus forcing us to witness such an unmemorable contest.

But then up stepped Paul Merson, who seeing Paul Gerrard off his line with just half a minute of normal time remaining, chipped the Everton goalkeeper with a wonderful 30-yard strike.

Until that extraordinary moment the one talking point had been the premature departure of Paul Gascoigne, the Everton midfielder lasting only 37 minutes before a thigh injury suffered in the most innocuous of circumstances.  Gascoigne slipped as he took a free-kick, and could not continue.

That was a pity, not least because over these past few months Gascoigne has worked so hard to get himself back into shape.  Indeed, in one particular newspaper yesterday there was a most amusing headline.

"The three words you never thought you'd read," it said, before hitting us with the punchline. "Gazza's too thin".  Belly laughs all round.  Five bellies even.

The fact was Gazza was looking terrific.  The chubby cheeks had wasted away, the double chin was now single and the only spare tyre in his possession appeared to be in the boot of his car.

Despite finishing on the losing side, he was the outstanding individual in the Merseyside derby eight days ago and the question now was whether his return to form would persuade Peter Taylor to name him in the England squad for the friendly international with Italy in Turin this month.

Having already announced he would give youth a chance, it seemed unlikely England's caretaker coach would be turning to a 33-year-old who had seen better days, but with Gascoigne there has always been hope and for the first time in more than two years that hope carried foundation.  This injury could prove costly, indeed.

"We will have to wait and see just how serious it is," said Walter Smith, though it was clear the Everton manager was more upset by his team having won just one match in the last nine.

Had David James, the Villa goalkeeper, not been quite so quick to react to any threat of danger, Everton might have gained at least a point here.  Shortly before the interval he enhanced his chances of an England recall by tipping a David Weir header over his crossbar, and in the second half he somehow pushed a Gary Naysmith header against a post before gathering the ball in his arms.

Merson should have been offered the opportunity to open the scoring long before he did succeed in beating Gerrard, but referee Stephen Lodge did not consider Weir's foul on the 32-year-old worthy of a penalty.  Merson was furious, but he did at least enjoy the last word with what was Villa's first effort on target.

John Gregory, the Villa manager, said: "One shot, one goal. That was worth waiting for."  Indeed it was.

Report © The Electronic Telegraph

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 Ace Merson looks for England recall
by Oliver Kay, The Times (Abridged)

Merson, otherwise anonymous, was at the heart of the two moments that set the pulses racing yesterday.  He was denied a penalty in first-half injury time after what seemed to be an illegal tackle by David Weir, then decided the match in a moment of magic with 21 seconds left.

There seemed little danger when the ball dropped at his feet 35 yards from goal, but what followed, as he half-volleyed the ball over the embarrassed Paul Gerrard and just under the bar, was worthy of winning any match.  Gregory looked uncharacteristically sheepish as he declared that the spectacular nature of the goal made it worth waiting for.

It was one of the best goals Ive ever scored, Merson, angered by the injustice of the earlier penalty decision, said. I dont dive and I dont cheat.  I said to the referee that if he thought Id dived, he should have booked me.  He said I didnt dive, so I dont know why I wasnt given a penalty.

Another goal would have flattered Villa, for whom Mersons late goal was their only shot on target.  Everton dominated proceedings, territorially at least, but lacked incision and, on the rare occasions that they did find a cutting edge, found David James in inspired form.

For Everton, things are looking desperate.  Once Paul Gascoigne succumbed to a thigh injury, sustained in innocuous circumstances as he took a free kick, they were sorely lacking inspiration.

There was plenty of endeavour, much of it from Mark Pembridge and Thomas Gravesen, but an alarming lack of cohesion in a largely new-look team that Walter Smith, the manager, acknowledges will take time to settle.

The instability at the club means that Smith must be afforded time to see through this increasingly criticial period, but there is a real danger that they will be in the midst of another relegation battle by the time the numerous new signings have settled in.

This defeat leaves them two points off the relegation zone, with a single victory in their past nine matches and apparently no idea where their next goal is coming from.  Attendances at Goodison Park have gone down steadily over the past four matches and those who braved the cold yesterday must be wondering why they put themselves through it.

Having finished in the top half once in the past nine seasons, Everton have acquired the unenviable look of a club that is resigned to mediocrity.  Villa were certainly no better, but they possess in Merson a man who is capable of transforming matches.  Is that not exactly what England are crying out for?

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd
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