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Venue: City of Manchester Stadium, Eastlands
 Monday 1 January 2007; 3:00pm
Samaras (50', pen:72')
Half Time: 0-0
Osman (84') 
Attendance: 39,836
Fixture 22
Referee: Uriah Rennie

Match Summary

David Moyes rang some changes, with Anichebe and Van der Meyde dropping to the bench in favour of Beattie and Davies. Shop window time? Or resting the fringe/youth players that gave Everton energy for the win on Saturday???

Everton started very brightly and really took the game to City, with Johnson running in early but firing at Weaver, then taking a somewhat lame shot from outside the area that drifted well wide. Another predictably clear penalty claim came for Johnson when Dunne clumsily elbowed him in the back, pushing him down. Not given, of course.

Lots of poor possession play and misplaced passes from both sides soon made it a low-quality game, with too many moves petering out and the defenses dominant. Some good crosses and corners were being delivered in by Arteta and Neville but somehow were not finding any Blue shirts among the dominant City defence.

Signs were ominous though, when Beattie was realed in a great position on the right, flops over the ball and it bounces off him.  The Davies does his best to show he is equally shite, despite bags of effort, when he goes on a fantastic break, trips over the ball!  At the otehr end, a free-keick given away by Neville was well defended by Lescott. 

Everton looked good until they got in sight of the penalty area, where things consistently went wrong.  One example was a fantastic through-ball to Beattie from Davies (yes, it really did happen), but Beattie was simply just too slow to get away from Dunne and the chance was gone.

Trabelsi grabbed on to Arteta and earned the first yellow card from ref Rennie, but Arteta's delivery was a again easily headed away by the big City defenders. Going the other way, Osman was too easily bullied off the ball but Richards's shot was well wide.

Some more great work by Davies and Johnson set up Beattie on the edge of the area but he chose incredibly to play the ball back rather than press forward and shoot!  There were some moments of good football from Everton in the middle third when they kept the ball on the ground, but too many moves were breaking down with simple mistakes.  A superb deep delivery form Arteta was a gift for Beattie in a crowded goalmouth but instead of attacking the goal, he glanced it harmlessly wide.

City had a shout for handball when Richards hit Lescott's arm at very close range: ball to hand. Arteta took a pop but he too fired dreadfully wide. Why does his game fall off so much away from Goodison?  At half-time, two changes that were to turn the game: Naysmith for Valente(?) and Samaras for Corradi.

Early in the second half, a frustrated Everton attack degenerated into a break for City, Vassell and Samaras scampering through and pushing the ball wide for Beasley who squared it well, leaving the sub Samaras to stroke it past Howard from close range with the Everton defence unable to intervene. 

Everton tried to respond, but the delivery from Arteta's free kick was poor, while City decided it was open season on Howard's goal, with Richards and Samaras taking potshots form distance.  Osman tried the same but was obviously being fouled, his shirt well tugged right in front of Rennie. No call.

Osman then did well to cross wide for Davies, who was wide open, but totally mis-controlled.  Samaras had enlivened City and went on a mazy run but Howard was there. More brilliant defending by Yobo on Vassell. 

On 66 mins, after a good five-minute lecture to each player, Moyes played his masterstroke: McFadden and Anichebe on for Beattie and Davies.  Both had tried hard but in the end both were totally ineffective, verging on the useless and incompetent if you were going to be brutally honest.  The decision to play them instead of Anichebe and anyone else must go down as one of Moyes's worst ever selections.

Johnson meanwhile was being forced out wide too often. Lescott, got into a good position wide open on another Everton corner, but a poor header went over.  Then there were some poor deliveries from Arteta, doing his usual away performance.

The game was lost, though on a piece of total stupidity by Howard, who gave away an utterly needless penalty, advancing out wide with Lescott already covering Vassell's run.  A yellow for Howard, and Samaras took the spot kick ferociously, well past Howard, who dived the right way. 

Everton were well rattled at this point with little going right, Arteta getting a yellow card for repeated offences. Johnson seemed to come close but the ball bounced well up over the little fella and it was all he could do to brush it with his arm right in front of Weaver.  At the other end, an escape for Everton, as City swarmed forward, Naysmith having to block with his hip as the Mancs screamed for a handball.

A mazy run from McFadden, who should have crossed but instead laid it on for Carsley, was rapidly closed down.  His hopelessly wide shot epitomized the wrong decisions being made. Arteta finally got Anichebe in and he turned brilliantly but did not connect well and Weaver pushed it away for a corner.  Everton's closest chance.

Then, on 83 mins, a rare piece of classic textbook football from Everton.  A quick Arteta free-kick led to a superbly finished goal by Leon Osman.  Arteta pushed the ball wide to Neville who had his work cut out to get the ball in for the on running Osman and he hammered it into the City net for an excellently constructed and executed goal. 

Towards the end, the second "cast-iron" penalty claim (in truth there was some doubt about both calls...) as Osman chased in for a loose ball down on the byeline, on Distain's blind side, looked like a penalty but Johnson protested too much: Yellow card.

Everton applied more pressure late on, trying to repay City for their late equalizer back in September, but Yobo headed well wide on the corner, when better direction was called for.  A late shot from Osman, and was saved by Weaver and that was it.

Another thoroughly frustrating game from Everton that really takes the gloss off the two wins over Reading and Newcastle over the holiday season.  There'll be plenty of second-guessing Moyes's decisions in the post-mortem this week....

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

The holiday season games are going pretty well for Everton, with 7 points from 9, three clean sheets, and goals for some of the previously goal-shy Everton strikers kicking up that goal difference to +7!  Can this marvelous trend continue into 2007 and the New Year's Day trip to Eastlands?

The consensus is that the team performed well against Newcastle, but closer analysis reveals it was a victory merited by three goals that each had a slice of luck, while Newcastle's failure to score was also rather fortuitous and the reaction would obviously be quite different if the game had gone the other way. 

Did we really play well?  The concern remains that the football is still highly disjointed and the goals are very much of a lottery.  That's not to say it can't be repeated against City, but the warning has to be there that we could play just the same as we did against Newcastle and come away with nothing. 

Will David Moyes heed the cardinal rule of football and avoid tinkering with a winning side?  There is every chance that the same team will be given their starting berths in the hope securing a rare back-to-back win in the Premiership that could reinforce the belief we are back on the upward track.  Alan Stubbs is likely to be missing again with the knee problem that has kept him out of the last three games.

For Man City, Paul Dickov should return after a toe injury but Dietmar Hamann (back), Joey Barton (suspended), Trevor Sinclair (knee) and Claudio Reyna (hamstring) are all out.  And captain Richard Dunne may also miss out through illness.

Michael Kenrick

Everton Fall at Last Christmas Hurdle

Like most I’m sure, I awoke with a stinking hangover on New Years Day. I got up about 10am, forced some toast into my belly, got in the car about 11.15am and drove to Altrincham to park up. My sister lives there so I knew I had safe parking and had fun going in for a cup of tea to see someone in a worse state than me!

After chatting to her for a while I got the tram to Piccadilly Gardens. I lived in Manchester for a short period of time and knew of some small, friendly pub, which is always quiet called The Waldorf, near Piccadilly. I thought I’d go in there for a shandy or two. I walked in and it was chocka. Chocka of Everton fans that is! That was pleasing, unlike watching Liverpool batter Bolton on the telly.

I got chatting to a couple of City fans who were really sound. They even bought me a beer, took me with them to the bus, pointed me in the direction of the away end and finally shook my hand and wished me “All the best” for the New Year. Thanks!

It didn’t take long to get into the ground. Once in I got some chips then found my seat. This is my fourth away this season and I’m starting to think it’s a bit of a conspiracy. In three of the four games I’ve been sat next to a young lad no older than say 10. Obviously I’ve no problem with that but it gets a bit frustrating having to watch my language throughout the game. What I wouldn’t give for some talkative stranger, or better still, some mates who went away once in a while!

Surprisingly Man City didn’t come out to the sound of Blue Moon and instead had some rave music, which was a bit weird. Not quite as weird as one of the Man City supporters banners however which read “We are supporters of the invisible man but you don’t know were here” or something stupid like that. Now what the heck’s all that about?

Everton lined up with the same team as that which beat Newcastle United 3-0 with the exception of James Beattie in for Victor Anichabe; and Simon Davies in for Andy Van Der Meyde. Here’s a question for ya – when was the last time someone started a game, scored twice and got dropped next game? Stuart Barlow in the cup against Bolton in 1993/94 rings a bell but surely theirs been one since then? Anyway, I digress. The subs bench consisted of Wright, Naysmith, Weir, McFadden and Anichabe. Man City played with Dunne and Distan at the back with Corradi and Vassell up front.

I mightaswell skip the first half ‘cos it was absolute crap. Yobo came close with a great header that had Nicky Weaver scrambling. Unfortunately it just missed the far post, and at the other end Corradi had an effort cleared off the line from close range by Lescott. That was about it and I was seriously bored.

The second half was a much-improved game of football, though sadly not for Everton. Both teams changed it at the break, both with enforced changes. Naysmith replaced Valente and Samaras replaced Corradi. I was made up with this as Corradi had been a handful and won a lot of headers and also ‘cos them City fans I’d met in the pub told me Samaras was, and I quote, “shite”.

In the opening exchanges in the second half it could have been anyone’s really if anyone dared have a go. As it was Samaras was allowed by Everton to go on a long, long run unchallenged. He then played a nice ball through to I think DeMarcus Beasley who looked offside but wasn’t. He played it back to Samaras who tucked it home. Everton were all over the place.

Although there was still well over half an hour to go, Everton allowed City to dictate the game and the only surprise was that they didn’t double their advantage sooner. By then Beattie (who offered absolutely nothing whatsoever) and Davies had been subbed for Anichabe and McFadden, which were the obvious changes to make. Beattie’s attitude when subbed was disgraceful I thought. He saw his number come up and just walked off slowly in a sulk. You expect more professionalism when you’re getting paid £35K a week, especially with us getting spanked by City. He turned round and clapped the Everton fans. Some clapped back, most told him to get a move on and get off. Eventually he broke into a slow trot. Pathetic behaviour.

City doubled their lead when I think Vassell broke forward. Yobo pretty much had it under control in that he wasn’t going anywhere near the goal. Why then did Howard come tearing out like a mad man only to get nowhere near the ball? He picked up a booking for his troubles. Samaras took the penalty. Howard guessed right (well left actually) but the penalty was too good and at 0-2 with 20 minutes to go, it was a lot of people’s que to leave.

We were all quiet pretty much for most of the game really as it was nothing to get excited about. I know Everton fans often get criticised for not singing enough but when were getting spanked I just don’t want to. Funny then that Man City fans decided to take advantage of this and sing “you’re the worst support I’ve ever seen”, clearly overlooking the mass of empty seats in large sections of the home support and the fact that we’d filled the away end (and for that matter, always do).

It was only in the last 15 minutes that Everton got their act together and made something of a fist of it. Arteta played in Anichabe who rolled his man before poking forward. Weaver got a desperate hand to it and flipped it wide. We continued to press. McFadden won a free kick. Arteta was good and lively and played it out early to Neville. He looked up and played an excellent low ball that found Osman. He hit it first time and buried it into the corner. We woke up and it goes to show that if Everton are applying themselves on the pitch, we’ll follow suit in the stands. Osman grabbed the ball from the net, shook his fist at us and legged it back to half way. Come on you blues!

Many of those who’d left re-emerged. City shit themselves. Everton had a real chance here. Neat play by Arteta found himself with space and he tucked a ball into the box towards McFadden. Distan tried to usher it out when Osman came across on his blind side and took a touch. Distan panicked and took him out. How that wasn’t a penalty is simply ridiculous. You can normally tell from player’s reactions on the legitimacy of these claims and Osman, Johnson and McFadden were clearly unhappy with this one, with Rennie booking Johnson for protesting. This situation has gotten well out of hand.

We didn’t give up and from a corner Yobo should have done better and headed wide and even later on Osman shot from distance but straight at Weaver. He bowled it out and that was that.

I trudged off in the rain, walking back into town, got the tram to Altrincham, called in to see my sister for about 10 seconds and drove home.

Later on watching Match of the Day I saw the highlights and it was even more clear a penalty than I thought at the time. In the analysis they all agreed with a penalty with Mark Lawrenson quipping: “They’d have got it if it was Johnson wouldn’t they”. I know he was being sympathetic but I’m glad he finds it so funny! I also saw the highlights of Middlesborough vs Sheffield United. Two points: 1, Paul Gerrard played and is still clearly shite; 2) Rob Hulse won the softest penalty ever. It pisses you off when you see this sort of thing.

Overall, we were hard done to with the penalty decision, but in truth we didn’t deserve anything from this one such is the way we capitulated for about 30 minutes in the second half.

Oh and one other thing. I saw two lads at Reading away with their tops off in the freezing cold apeing at the Reading fans. I saw them again at City doing the same thing. On behalf of pretty much everyone: pack it in. Leave that crap to Newcastle United and the likes.

Player Ratings:
Howard: An insane rush of blood to the head effectively cost us the game. 5
Valente: Did OK but obviously got a strain before being subbed at half time. 6
Yobo: Not quite as solid as he’s been lately but did OK. 6
Lescott: Did OK. 6
Neville: Had a decent game defensively and good assists for are goal. 7
Davies: Average. 6
Carsley: My man of the match. Was most committed out of everyone I thought and was the only one really willing to put a foot in. 7
Osman: Well-taken goal but was largely anonymous for much of this game. 6
Arteta: Showed glimpses of brilliance but wasn’t involved enough. Picked up a soft booking also and must be due a suspension soon. 6
Beattie: Terrible. 4
Johnson: Average. 6

Naysmith (for Valente): Did OK. 6
Anichebe (for Beattie): Nearly made an immediate impact and battled well. 7
McFadden (for Davies): Very wasteful with the ball on more than one occasion. 5

Paul Trail

Pearce has all the answers for City

Perhaps because of the number of games involved in the hectic festive period or perhaps because he wanted to put a couple of players in the shop window, David Moyes made a couple of key changes to the side that conquered Newcastle two days earlier. Two-goal hero, Victor Anichebe, was dropped to the bench in favour of James Beattie, while Andy van der Meyde made way for Simon Davies.

The Blues started positively and had the better of what was a largely lethargic first half.  Andy Johnson charged goalwards in the first minute as space opened up in front of him but pulled a disappointing shot wide with his left foot.

Then, Mikel Arteta whipped in a free kick from the left which was headed back across goal from the back post and Yobo's looping header drifted agonisingly wide of the angle of crossbar and post.

The obligatory Johnson penalty controversy arrived in the 15th minute when he picked up Beattie's flick but was flattened by Richard Dunne near the byline. Of course, no penalty was given by Uriah Rennie; you get the feeling that had the incident occurred outside the box, the decision would have gone Johnson's way.

Despite showing signs of a New Year hangover, Everton were still dictating things against a surprisingly anaemic City.  Moyes's side were playing the better football and playing with the most purpose and intent but without much end product.

After Hatam Trabelsi was booked for pulling Arteta back, Davies dragged a left footer well wide under the attentions of a defender while Beattie, fed by a nice layoff by Johnson, betrayed his lack of confidence when elected not to hit it first time from edge of area and the chance was lost.

Lee Carsley, who had been dominant in his part of the pitch, was lucky to escape a booking for leaving a high foot in on Darius Vassell and from resulting free kick, City fashioned their first real chance of the game.  Vassell couldn't make proper contact from the knock-down first time but when the ball fell to Corradi, his shot from point-blank range was blocked by Lescott's hand and bounced behind.

Trabelsi then had the last word of the half when he fired meekly wide with his left-foot shot wide right.

While they didn't set the City of Manchester Stadium alight and the Johnson-Beattie partnership looked as ineffective as ever, Everton could be reasonably content with their first-half display, providing it was used as a springboard from which to go on and win the game.

Unfortunately, while Moyes withdrew Valente for Gary Naysmith — the Portuguese hadn't had the best of first halves but the decision to replace him with a more defensive and inferior player was mystifying — it was Stuart Pearce who had all the answers at half time.  He threw on Georgios Samaras and, together with a marked change in attitude in the City ranks, that proved to be decisive.

Within four minutes of the restart, the home side galloped downfield on the break and with Howard caught in two minds whether or not to come out and close down Beasley, the American squared it to Samaras who had lost both the players who had tracked him back and he tucked home the opening goal.

City had their tails up and with Everton showing no signs of adapting to the new status quo, Trabelsi and Samaras both tested Howard from outside the box but the 'keeper just about dealt with both efforts. At the other end, Osman held off Jordan despite having his shirt pulled right in front of the referee before drifting a left-footer a yard or so over the bar.

Moyes finally made the obvious change in the 65th minute when he introduced James McFadden and Anichebe for Davies and Beattie.  Instead of drawing level, though, the Blues found themselves 2-0 down.  Nicky Weaver's quick throw out sent Vassell on his way and as he touched it on Howard barrelled right through him leaving Rennie no choice but to point to the spot.  Samaras stepped up and scored with aplomb.  The way Everton were playing, it was pretty much game over.

While McFadden seemed to make almost no impact at all, Anichebe did eventually make some inroads into the home defence and following a terrific turn in the box with eight minutes left, he forced Weaver into a superb one-handed save. Although denied on that occasion, Everton did give themselves a lifeline with six minutes left of regulation time with a nicely worked goal.

Arteta rolled a quick free kick to Neville and he had time to measure a perfect cross to Osman who rammed the ball into the roof of the net to make it 2-1.

And the diminutive midfielder should, technically, have won the Blues a chance to equalise four minutes after that.  Rounding Silvain Distin at the byline to chase a seemingly lost cause with Johnson, he was clearly felled with both feet by the defender but, presumably because he was going away from goal, the referee waved away furious claims and booked Johnson for dissent.

With time ticking down, an injury time corner found Yobo but although he rose to meet it well, he could only steer his header wide while Osman tried his luck with a left-footer from 20 yards that Weaver saved and the Blues's hopes of stealing a point were gone.

David Moyes has on previous occasions this season made much of his ability to rotate players in his squad where he has the personnel to do it.  That is all well and good if you have the depth of quality but he doesn't.  Whether his decision to drop Anichebe and Van der Meyde were based on fitness concerns or a desire to put Beattie and Davies in the shop window is unknown but by not fielding his best side to take advantage of their dominance in the first half and then failing to adapt to the situation in the way Pearce did in the second, he effectively gave the points away.

After such a terrific display and result against Newcastle, this was a poor Everton performance and a highly disappointing way in which to start the New Year. Additionally, it highlighted both the reasons why the likes of Beattie and Davies have no future at Goodison and the desperate need for a central midfielder who can take games like these by the scruff the neck and dictate them.  Let's hope that this "new face" of which Moyes speaks as a possibility this transfer window is a good one.

Lyndon Lloyd

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MAN CITY (4-4-2)
  Trabelsi 29' (85' Miller 90')
  Corradi (46' Samaras)
  Subs not used
  Matthew Mills

EVERTON (4-4-2)
  Howard 72'
  Valente (46' Naysmith)
  Davies (65' McFadden)
  Arteta 74'
  Johnson 88'
  Beattie (65' Anichebe)
  Subs not used
  Stubbs (injured)
  Cahill (injured)
  Hibbert (injured)

Premiership Scores
Monday 1 January 2007
Liverpool 3-0 Bolton
Fulham 0-0 Watford
Man City 2-1 Everton
Middlesbro 3-1 Sheff Utd
Portsmouth 1-1 Tottenham
Reading 6-0 West Ham
Wigan 0-3 Blackburn
Newcastle 2-2 Man Utd
Tuesday 2 January 2007
Arsenal 4-0 Charlton
Aston Villa 0-0 Chelsea

Premiership Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Man Utd 54
2 Chelsea 48
3 Liverpool 40
4 Arsenal 39
5 Bolton 39
6 Portsmouth 36
7 Tottenham 32
8 Everton 31
9 Reading 30
10 Man City 29
11 Blackburn 28
12 Fulham 27
13 Aston Villa 26
14 Newcastle 26
15 Middlesbro 24
16 Sheff Utd 23
17 Wigan 22
18 West Ham 18
19 Charlton 16
20 Watford 12
After 2 Jan 2007