100th Top Flight Season kicked off in slightly disappointing style
as David Moyes's men squandered a first half lead and had to come
from behind in the second half to earn a share of the spoils against
one of their most frustrating Premiership opponents.
Wayne Rooney, Li Tie and Richard Wright were all handed their debuts
as David Moyes set his stall out for an opening day victory and
employed an adventurous three-man attack. Mark Pembridge joined
Thomas Gravesen in midfield with Juliano Rodrigo on the bench and
Gary Naysmith beat David Unsworth to the left back spot.
The Blues had the better of the opening exchanges, forcing a succession of well executed corners Moyes has obviously been working with the team on corner routines and forced a good save off one of them from Casey Keller.
On 10 mins, great work by Gravesen released Kevin Campbell on goal but, as he took himself away from goal, he elected to shoot rather than find the advancing Naysmith and the opportunity was wasted with a poor finish.
Spurs then had their first real pressure on the Blues' goal and from a corner, Stefan Iversen had an effort blocked by David Weir.
After a lull in the middle of the half, Everton began to assert themselves again after the half-hour mark, with Li Tie full of commitment and Gravesen showing some nice touches going forward but the killer final ball remained elusive.
Then, a quick counter-attack from Radzinski, a lay-off to Rooney and he set up Mark Pembridge perfectly who despatched a cracking shot to give the Blues the lead, an advantage they took into the half-time interval.
Glenn Hoddle's half-time team talk visibly lifted Spurs after the break and
they grew in confidence but were frustrated by a determined Everton
defence and some commanding aerial play by Richard Wright.
However, it was Everton who had the first few chances, the best
of which was a spectacular effort by Rooney who cracked a wicked
shot that Keller could only palm away for a corner. Tarrico then
cleared off the line from Alan Stubbs and the Everton defender headed
a Rooney cross over from the Italian's clearance.
On the hour mark, Spurs capitalised on a quiet period by the home
outfit and pulled level thanks to a Matthew Etherington strike.
Rooney was withdrawn to make way for Niclas Alexandersson three
minutes later and the Swede almost nipped into score straight away
but couldn't quite beat the Tottenham defence to the ball.
With 20 minutes left, a collective shiver went up the Goodison
faithful's spines as Les Ferdinand entered the fray as a substitute
and almost immediately the man who always scores against the Blues
had put Spurs 2-1 up, the ball squirming frustratingly under Wright
from his shot.
However, as was proved at the end of last season, Everton under
Moyes are made of sterner stuff and with 9 minutes left on the clock,
Radzinski burst down the right and unleashed an unstoppable shot
that flew past Keller and restored parity for the home side.
The Canadian was then surprisingly withdrawn as Moyes had a pang
of caution and David Unsworth was thrown on with 7 minutes to go,
with Rodrigo � who had come on 7 minutes earlier for Li
Tie � moving up front alongside Campbell. Apart from one nervous
moment where Wright spilled the ball in front of Dean Richards late
on, there were few chances for more goals and the game finished
Subs not used:
Yellow Cards: Pembridge (85')
Red Cards: �
(Injured:) Chadwick, Ferguson,
Moore, Pistone, Watson, Yobo
(On loan:) Clarke, Nyarko, Southern
Subs not used:
Yellow Cards: Davies (81')
Red Cards: �
season, new hope, new banners, new players, same old injuries!
Our early victories over Austrian no-marks and Scottish and Welsh
fodder have been put into context in our encounters with a higher
standard of opponents in Anderlecht and Athletic Bilbao. But
pre-season however, as many an article will have informed you
recently, rarely gives a true guide to early season form and we have
seen some promising signs. Rooney has continued to show that
he is a threat even as the standard has increased; Rodrigo'l has
revealed undoubted ability if a lack of fitness; and Wright after a
shaky start had his best game for us last weekend.
The squad hopefully still also has more to show. Yobo has
only managed 22 minutes and his pace at the back should certainly
aid us as the season develops. Hibbert is developing
promisingly; after bursting on the scene early on, McLeod has faded
but has surely given Moyes something to think about. And for
me Gravesen and Linderoth, now that they appear to be the pairing
that will start against Spurs, could well develop into a quality
So what of our first opponents for the 2002-03 season � Spurs
fans are not happy at all. A severe lack of investment in new
players has seen them only bring in Acimov and (sicknote) Redknapp
on frees to improve their team.
Sheringham, Ferdinand (injured), Iversen and Rebrov (unloved by
Hoddle) will shoulder the attack. The two new
"frees" will patrol the midfield but will lack the support
of Poyet who is out for a while. They have had a mixed
pre-season which culminated with a 2-2 draw with Lazio on Sunday �
after Spurs were 2-0 up.
Ziege is also out and Anderton doubtful for the Goodison
Spurs should struggle to score against us. From set-pieces,
they will probably have a height advantage but Sheringham has seen
better days and, provided we cope with him dropping between midfield
and attack, we should be able to see them off.
In midfield, Redknapp and Acimov will paint pretty pictures but
Gravesen and Linderoth should be able to disrupt them and ensure
that our wide players will see plenty of the ball. And that is
where it starts to get interesting!
Who will be our wide players? Alexandersson, Rodrigo'l,
Unsworth(!), McLeod even Naysmith?
I hope that Rodrigo'l gets the nod and fear that Unsworth will
appear on the other. Alexandersson has failed to deliver on
far too many occasions.
Whoever it is may well have the luxury to be laying the ball off
to two strikers at opposite ends of the age spectrum but both with
goals in them. Rooney has been getting enough headlines but
for me a key man this year for Everton will be the old warhorse,
Kevin Campbell � particularly with Dunc already ruled out for the
next month (or so!).
Whilst he is certainly not the player that he was, SuperKev has
still got the touch and knowledge that so sheltered and brought
through Jeffers only a couple of years ago.
A nil-nil draw would not be the most auspicious of starts for the
first full Moyes season but is a distinct possibility... Yet,
before all hope and dreams begin to become tarnished, let's continue
to live in the clouds and back Rooney to score the first goal of the
new season � and see Everton walk away with a 2-0 win!
Have a great Blue season,
As is often the case with first games of the season, there
was expected to be a full house; and a liberal drenching of
sunshine was available to welcome everybody back to Goodison
Park. There was an air of expectancy surrounding this
game... whether it was the 100 seasons or the David Moyes
factor or just that general blue tint that clouds the eyes and
impedes the judgement, I'm not sure. All I do know is
that I was looking forward to this season with more confidence
than in many others.
On entering the ground I was presented with a bag of
toffees, to celebrate those 100 seasons, and a song
sheet. The song sheet, too was a centennial celebration
one, with the words to the two new club songs that are on sale
Before that it was the parade of the gladiators as players
of yesteryear were paraded before our eyes. There were
some that I missed as I got there later than anticipated, but
amongst those I did see were Alex Young, Fred Pickering, Tony
Kaye and Denis Stevens. The biggest roar seemed to be
reserved for Young, until Snodin and Sharp were announced, but
other notable receptions were given to Dave Watson, Joe
Parkinson and Derek Mountfield.
The other buzz around the ground at this point was the news
of us playing 4-3-3. Three forwards � we meant to do
it the attacking way, it seemed.
Then came a parade of current teams with the Impaired
Vision side, the Ladies and an academy side, all on to
celebrate the current Goodison family, as the ex-players
strode forward from the sidelines to the centre circle, ready
for the presentation of the new songs. I found them
mildly amusing at first, but found myself singing along
despite myself. In the end I admit, I enjoyed
them. Sad man!
Next up came the small matter of a match. "All
together, now" was a preamble to "Z Cars" and
on came the teams, entering the field of play through the
ex-players, who lined their exit from the tunnel. It was
an excellent piece of presentation, much better delivered than
on other occasions when we've attempted something splendid,
but failed to quite pull it off. The only thing it
lacked was a "Teams" photo. Had both sets of
teams lined up next each other with the officials in the
centre it would have encapsulated an historic moment, but the
moment passed and will not come again.
We started facing the Park End, into the sun. It was
warm and the toffees, presented at the gate, had now shed
their enticing, chocolate coating. It was, perhaps an
allegory for our later performance.
There was a period of give and take as the two sides
settled down, Spurs seeming to settle quickest, with Everton's
midfield, unfamiliar to a 3-man grouping, struggled to
cope. Li Tie in particular looked off the pace. As
the game progressed, however, the men in blue, began to read
the game better and all three of them � Pembridge, Li Tie
and Gravesen � made some excellent contributions. We
won a flurry of early corners, but were unable to gain any
advantage from our superiority
Up-front our triumvirate of Rooney, Campbell and Radzinski
seemed to be finding its feet okay, with all three looking
sharp, if not dangerous. All three had early chances
which were saved by Keller in the Spurs goal, but again, as in
previous seasons, we were wasteful in front of goal.
Spurs came forward a few times but presented no real threat in
front of goal. It looked as though we could be in for a
comfortable time, if we could just find the net.
The first goal, when it came, wasn't a result of any
pressure at all; it was a classic counter attack, sweeping the
length of the field. Defending our goal, we regained
control of the ball just outside our penalty area, through
Gravesen. The Dane looked up to see Radzinski haring
away down the right. Gravesen delivered a beautiful ball
between the touchline and Radzinski, which the little Canadian
latched on to and ran with. He cut inside, passed the ball
across the penalty area to Rooney, who was facing him.
The youngster turned and played a ball into the path of the
on-rushing Pembridge, who smashed the ball between Keller's
near post and outstretched hand. 1-0 � it was football
of the finest quality and more to the point we were full value
The half-time whistle came after less than a minute of
The half-time entertainment was far less embarrassing than
usual. We were treated to a 5-minute game (using the
full pitch and the standard goals) between the Under 11's of
Everton and Accrington. This was to celebrate our first
game in the Football League, back in 1888, when we played
across the park, against the same opposition. I
expect that we'll have to erect one of those "Blue"
Everton Memorial Plaques over there to celebrate this fact, as
we will also have to put one up to celebrate our first League
Championship, but I digress.
The difference now to then can be measured in many
ways. The comparative splendour of our current stadium,
the comparative current standing of the two teams and the fact
that Accrington played two young girls in defence. It
was an enjoyable game, which showed players on both sides who
were able to play to a shape, pass the ball and control
it. The referee wore a flat cap and tweeds and was a
comical sight. The game ended 0-0, but Everton shaded it
The players returned to the field to the sound of Z
Cars. They came on slightly off the pace, a few bars
after the intro. This was a portent of the half to come.
We started brightly, forcing the pace and could have gone
further ahead, had a Stubbs header from a corner not hit the
bar with Keller stranded. Rooney had followed the
rebound out towards the touchline (though it didn't leave the
box) and turned the ball back across goal. This time a
solid header from Stubbs flew harmlessly over the bar.
At about this time, we seemed to lose our way in midfield
as the temperature seemed to sap the energy from our midfield
three and the Spurs midfield four began to take control.
Etherington began to find plenty of space on the left
(Everton's right) with Hibbert hopelessly exposed at
times. Like the chocolate on the toffees, our control
melted away; like the entrance after half-time, we were a few
bars off the pace and Spurs took control. Moyes had
obviously spotted that he needed to do something, but his
action didn't come soon enough. Spurs broke forward and
Etherington was again able to find space and this time found
1-1 and apprehension raised its ugly head.
Alexandersson replaced Rooney and Spurs too made a change,
with that nemesis of Everton Football Club, Les Ferdinand
coming on as substitute. With almost his first touch, he
swept a shot past Wright and astonishingly Spurs were
ahead. From my viewpoint, it looked as though Wright
might have done better, but I might be wrong. 1-2.
This appeared to be a signal for a capitulation, but in
fairness heads didn't go down. Rodrigo replaced the
tiring Li Tie and within a few minutes Radzinski was through
from a pass from Campbell. He was wide right but managed
to cut inside and fire a shot past Keller, again at his near
post. 2-2 and Radzinski was delighted. It was a
At this point, Moyes had obviously decided to hold onto
what he had. With around 4 minutes left, he replaced
Radzinski with Unsworth and moved Rodrigo slightly forward to
support Campbell. We might have been rewarded with
another goal, but it wasn't to be and the game ran to its
conclusion without any further excitement.
So, an opening point, a seeming blunder from our keeper
that denied us all three, and a side that tired in the steamy
heat. Sounds familiar... But there was more to it
There was promise of better from Rooney and Li Tie.
There was a slimmer and fitter Kevin Campbell, once more
chasing the ball. There was a midfield three outplaying
a midfield four and there was a 4-3-3 formation that might
blossom into something sensational.
All in all, I'd say on today's performance I'm cautiously
optimistic this year. Mid-table mediocrity will do
me. There were those around me who spoke of "more
of the same", others who thought we lacked a passion, but
I could, I believe, see the green shoots of an Everton
revival. But hush! I've heard that too many times
before and I don't want to be disappointed again.
Man of the Match: Mark Pembridge
Attendance: 40,120 � this must reflect tickets
sold rather than attendance as there were a small number of
empty seats, especially at the front of the Lower Bullens,
close to the corner flag.
Blue Horizons � back online
An injection of
It is difficult to remember when my optimism pre-season was
last so genuine. I arrived at Goodison yesterday with tangible
excitement. For the first time in a few days I had something
other drink and pills to help me forget about the two cracked
ribs I'm sporting. I, like most others, walked into the ground
with a Cheshire cat grin.
I got there a few minutes before kick off, in time to catch
the tail end of the legends parade. The new '100 seasons'
folksy 'No other team' was being blurted out with gusto by
some bloke over the PA and was well received. My impression
from the few minutes I saw was that the 'show' was not nearly
as cringe-worthy as most of these efforts that the club does.
The old players formed two lines to extend the tunnel, the
first bars of Z-cars started, Goodison rose, the drums kicked,
the teams appeared, a full Goodison roared. New season. Let's
get it on.
Moyes had clearly decided to 'go for it' in his starting
line-up. We went 4-3-3 with Radzinski, Campbell and the
anticipated full debut for Rooney. Hibbert, Stubbs, captain
Weir and Naysmith at the back. Li Tie, Graveson and Pembridge
in the middle.
We started off fine while Spurs struggled to get into gear.
The extra width on the pitch was put to use, the ball seemed
to frequently be carried down one or other wing. The final
ball was let down by none of the three forwards being clear
between themselves who was supposed to be waiting in the box
(logically it should surely be Kevin), but no worries the
majority of pressure was ours.
During this period we got our first glimpses of both Li Tie
and Rooney doing the real thing. The initial impression of Li
Tie was that he was far too casual, he seemed to only half
heartedly track back, reluctant to challenge and not to keen
to receive the ball. This changed big style at about the half
hour mark; he got the ball unexpected under pressure, and
brilliantly, instinctively turned his man, he looked up,
advanced and the spread a perfect pass to Rooney. That move
seemed to relax the international. Suddenly, his confidence
was there, you could see him keen to be involved, and we were
then treated to inch perfect pass after inch perfect pass from
Rooney, showed us some superb touches. His game is about
far more than goalscoring - in fact I think he only had one
shot while he was on (a rasper). The instinctive passing to
the free man in space seems so obvious a tactic that it
shouldn't take a school boy to give a demonstration to
seasoned pros - but that is what he did.
It was one of these instinctive passes that led to the
first goal. Radzinski skirted on the edge of the box, saw
Rooney and put him on. Rooney detected Pembridge charging to
his left like a steam-train and slid the ball to his path.
Pembo hammered it home. An eruption of joy. The brummie blue
next to me gave me the customary, spontaneous, wrap around
hug. I suddenly remembered about those cracked ribs again.
We took the lead to half time, at which we got an excellent
display from under-11s blues and guests from Accrington
Stanley. I think the whole crowd was taken aback by the
excellent text-book technique, and lovely touches these
youngsters all showed. Full quedos to both sets of coaches.
We came out from the break unchanged, but Tottenham had
clearly switched something about as they seemed to
progressively get themselves far more involved as time passed.
The mass of travelling fans picked up on this and made the
majority of the noise - their rendition of 'Grand Old Team',
as always, putting confused looks on the faces of Evertonians
who have never made the trip to White Heart Lane. The annoying
thing is that when they do it, they all finish it. None of the
unexplained tailing off around about 'And we only know that
there is going to be a show�'
They probed at both wings, and eventually Hibbert was left
stranded, their man charged down on Wright and delivered a
superb finish shaking the bar. Bugger.
Everton were unsettled by the goal. Suddenly the confidence
in team-mates seemed to move down a notch and our players
could be seen having a go at each other.
When Ferdinand came on you just knew. Some things are
pre-destined and you can't fight fate. And so it came to pass.
He was outside the box, unmarked, swung his leg in a hit and
hope. It was a nothing shot really, but did force the dive
from Wright. There is no point mincing words, he fluffed it.
The Spurs fans delighted in the 'Dodgy Keeper' chants. He
needs an injection of confidence. He needs it quickly.
Talk about a full mood change. The magnificent optimism
that I'd brought to the game with me like a heroin glow was
now replaced with the same old miserable frustration. So thank
god for Tomasz Radzinski.
Rooney had given way to Alexandersson and Rodrigo for Li
Tie, and we did put ourselves back amongst it. It was Tomasz
however who found the magic. He jinked one way, then the
other, and brilliantly placed the ball on the keepers near
side. Oh, yes.
I reckon we could have had them in the last moments, but
Moyes nerves must have been shot and he decided a draw was
good enough. So we got a Smithesque substitution of Unsworth
being brought on for the goal-scorer.
So there we go. There were actually loads of positives on
display, and we shouldn't be too depressed with the point. One
of the positives must be player fitness, this was the muggiest
day of the year but just about everyone put in 90 minutes
working graft. That said, the result does serve as a reality
check though and help get things in perspective.
Wright 5 - Has yet to bring anything to the table not shown
by Gerrard. First meaningful game though so plenty of time to
put that right yet. Needs to settle, the sooner the better.
Naysmith 7 - Actually thought he had a good game. Always
involved, defended fine and supported the attack well, showing
willingness to carry the ball forward. One obvious fault on
the day was that when crossing from the wing the final ball
was consistently poor.
Stubbs & Weir 6 - Started confidently and contained
Spurs completely through the first 45. Was noticeable that
they seemed to loose their trust in each other after the
second goal. And their conversations got more and more
Hibbert 6 - Funny player, does little if anything wrong,
but still somehow fails to catch the eye particularly, or
impose himself. Did some important saving tackles, but in my
opinion was exploited for the first goal.
Graveson 7 - Good display from Tommy, the world cup has
done him good. His confidence is there, and he was AWOL far
less than he was at the end of last season. His distribution
was good. If he can just get rid of that little bit of
drifting out the game that still haunts him he's got it
Pembridge 7 - Good display from Pembo. Confident, fit,
industrious. Very well taken goal. Strong case made for
holding his place.
Li Tie 8 - After a casual start he brought a touch of class
to our game. Excellent distribution.
Rooney 7 - Showed some wonder touches. The lad has the
essential confidence. Mr Moyes, your man management skills are
at the test with this one. Branch. Cadamaterri. Jeffers. Let's
get this one right.
Campbell 5 - Kevin needs to rediscover himself. He got to
too few headers, he was too often not involved in our moves,
he never looked sharp. I pray he gets a goal early on in the
season to fire him up, otherwise you could already feel the
less patient in the crowd ready to pounce.
Radinzski 8 - Great stuff. Worked hard, willing to hold the
ball, run at players, and pulled off that great equaliser.
Showed an understanding with Rooney which surprised me. Maybe
that will become the partnership of choice. Time will tell.
Rodrigo & Alexandersson 7 - Both came on to immediate
positive effect and created chances for us. We have the luxury
at the moment of a midfield selection headache.
Unsworth 7 - Cameo.
Nod to the referee who kept the game flowing well and who I
hardly noticed (the ultimate compliment to a ref).