<% Dim oMRTCs, oMRTRs, strSQL set oMRTCs = server.createobject("ADODB.Connection") oMRTCs.Open "Driver={Microsoft Excel Driver (*.xls)}; DBQ=" & Server.MapPath("/season/06-07/data") & "/premtable.xls;" strSQL = "SELECT * FROM [Summary$] ORDER BY Pos, Team ;" Set oMRTRs = oMRTCs.Execute(strSQL) %> ToffeeWeb: Season 2006-07 - Everton vs Manchester United
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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
 Saturday 28 April 2007; 12:45pm
Half Time: 1-0
Fixture 36
Referee: Alan Wiley

Everton push the self-destruct button

Everton's European hopes took a dent as the Champions-elect surged back from two goals down to score four times without reply and take a massive step towards dethroning Chelsea.

Unfortunately, the Red Devils' victory owed as much to critical second half errors by the home side as it did their territorial dominance, the match pivoting on a 61st-minute howler by Iain Turner that allowed the visitors back into the contest.

The Blues were 2-0 up by that point and looking capable of holding off the stern challenge posed by Sir Alex Ferguson's technically superior outfit, but once an own goal had leveled the scores with 23 minutes to go, there looked to be only one winner.

As suggested in our match preview, James Vaughan not only got the nod to start after almost three weeks out recovering from a ruptured artery, but he was handed the task of running the front line alone. Not for the first time this season, James Beattie was demoted to the bench and Moyes was able to deploy Phil Neville and Lee Carsley together in the midfield, with Manuel Fernandes, Leon Osman and Mikel Arteta providing more creative input.

As the fans would have demanded, the Blues got off to a determined start, forcing a corner as early as the second minute that Joleon Lescott headed over the bar from around the edge of the six-yard box.

The real breakthrough, though, came not long afterwards when Vaughan was felled a few yards outside the box. From a central position 25 yards out, Stubbs drilled the ball towards the bottom-left corner, Michael Carrick stuck out a leg and his deflection was enough to help it past Edwin van der Saar. 1-0 with only 12 minutes gone and game on!

Somewhat predictably, United responded to the elevated threat to the Championship that has been theirs to win since October by taking control of the game. Their domination of the remainder of the half, punctuated briefly by a spell of Everton pressure just after the half-hour mark during which they had the visitors hemmed into their own area with back-to-back corners, didn't translate to many clear-cut chances, though.

In the 19th minute, Wayne Rooney (booed relentlessly, as you'd expect) was picked out with a long diagonal ball and he engineered space from Tony Hibbert before forcing Turner into turning it behind with a low drive.

Then, a couple of nice United moves presented two more opportunities. First, Carrick dinked the ball over the top and Rooney headed straight at Turner, then Ryan Giggs and Alan Smith exchanged a one-two, the latter dragging a good chance wide of Turner's right-hand post.

Despite being under the cosh in midfield, the Blues were managing to restrict the visitors from creating too many clear-cut openings. Another sweeping ball over to the left in the 37th minute, though, was met with an excellent first-time ball across the box by Giggs which only just eluded Rooney's lunge.

Gabriel Heinze came within a similar distance of connecting with a Giggs free kick a couple of minutes before the break as United finished the half the stronger of the two sides.

Playing almost like the away side, Everton did well to protect their lead going into the half-time interval and in that context their second goal, when it came just three minutes after the restart, was almost heaven sent. The ball broke to Fernandes as he drove into the right side of the United box and he unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner to put the Blues into a commanding position.

The pattern established after the home side's first goal resumed after their second, with United probing and the Everton defence repulsing what was thrown at them. Hibbert did well to block a shot by Rooney after a poor pass by Fernandes had gifted possession to Giggs, Turner then did likewise when the same player was put in with a slide-rule pass that split the defence, and Smith chested down and volleyed not far high and wide from 20-odd yards.

The game's pivotal moment came after an hour's play, though. Giggs's corner floated straight to Turner but, unchallenged, he dropped a routine catch at the feet of John O'Shea and the defender had the simple task of slotting home the loose ball from close range.

While it was almost two a minute later when Rooney turned Joseph Yobo and flicked it over the advancing 'keeper only for Stubbs to block the goalbound shot with what looked like his elbow, the lead was lost five minutes after that. Another corner, this time from the United left, was met by substitute Cristiano Ronaldo's towering header and although Turner did enough to block it on the line, in the ensuing panic to get it clear, Neville scooped the ball into his own net.

Moyes responded by pulling the increasingly peripheral Vaughan and the ineffective Osman off and introducing James Beattie and James McFadden but they were to have no real impact on proceedings.

Instead, it was back in defence where another crucial error allowed Rooney to score what proved to be the decisive goal. Rather than put his boot through a clearance level with his own area, Hibbert stroked it across the front of the defence where it was easily picked off and knocked back into the box where Rooney had time to set himself and fire it past Turner to make it 3-2.

Disappointingly, the striker wheeled away kissing his Manchester United badge in another show of defiance at the Goodison boo-boys. (Can't imagine Alan Ball, celebrated before kick-off with a minute's applause and who played the game with a similar fire, acting with such a brazen lack of class.)

Moyes removed Carsley and threw on Andy van der Meyde — who has finally taken the wise move of shaving off his thinning mane — but the Dutchman barely touched the ball as the home side were now impotent going forward.

As seems so often to the be the case, United were still going for the jugular and after Ronaldo had raced clear on the back of a questionable offside call — or lack thereof — and been foiled by Turner in a one-on-one duel, young Chris Eagles, only on the pitch a few minutes after coming on as a late sub, curled the ball around the 'keeper's dive to rub salt into the wounds with the fourth in injury time.

With Johnson out, Moyes's gameplan was clearly one of containment with the hope of stealing something in the first half from a set piece. If that was the plan, it worked to perfection and Fernandes' goal out of nothing just after the break provided the perfect platform on which to dig in and resist the predictable onslaught.

Sadly, it was individual errors that were the Blues' undoing and while Arteta did his best in patches to match the league leaders' class, he was effectively on his own as Everton clearly lacked quality in all other departments in midfield.

With Vaughan often chasing shadows, Osman still seemingly stuck in a rut of disappointing form, and Neville and Carsely dropping deep to contain the likes of Giggs, Smith and Rooney, chances for the home side were rare. Indeed, they barely threatened after Fernandes' goal and were punished in cruel fashion for errors at the other end.

Bolton's draw at Stamford Bridge means that Everton lose fifth place and with Portsmouth two goals to the good and Spurs winning at MIddlesbrough at the time of writing, next week's match-up between the Blues and Harry Redknapp's men is shaping up to be absolutely crucial.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

Results elsewhere may have gone Everton's way last weekend when they slumped to a first defeat in seven games at the hands of West Ham but, with five teams jostling for the three Uefa Cup slots and the Blues yet to face the top two, their European hopes are likely to go down to the wire.

Manchester United are the visitors this weekend for the penultimate game at Goodison this season one that is sure to be an emotional one as fans pay their respects for and share stories about Alan Ball who died suddenly this week.

And the home faithful will be hoping for a repeat of the gutsy performance over the same opposition that went so far towards securing a place in the Champions League qualifiers two years ago.

Unfortunately, an already daunting task will be made all the more difficult by injury to Andy Johnson.  The Blues' leading scorer pulled up with a sprained ankle just five minutes into last weekend's match at Upton Park and hasn't really trained all week.  He is almost certain to be ruled out this weekend and only has a 50% chance of being fit in time for next Saturday's crucial match-up with Portsmouth.

The better news, however, is that James Vaughan is fit and is expected to start after recovering from a ruptured vein in his ankle.  His partner will no doubt be James Beattie, despite another ineffective display in his last outing.

James Beattie: Can he do a "Duncan"?

In goal, Tim Howard is ineligible to face the club that is still officially his employer his permanent move to Everton does not come into effect until 1 July 2007.

If he is passed fit, Iain Turner is believed to be pole position to deputise for Howard ahead of Richard Wright.  The young Scottish 'keeper returned from an 11-game loan spell with Sheffield Wednesday with much praise from Owl's boss Brian Laws.

In defence, expect the usual line-up of Hibbert, Yobo, Stubbs and Lescott, while Manuel Fernandes's anticipated return to the starting XI throws up a selection headache for Moyes as he seeks to accommodate his team captain, ex-United star Phil Neville.

Once again, the option to leave out Leon Osman and go with two defensively-minded central midfielders is on the table for the manager.

United's Premiership form may have dipped under the pressure of involvement in Europe and the relentless pursuit in the league by Chelsea but they remain a formidable force with which to be reckoned.

But, as Portsmouth proved recently, Sir Alex Ferguson's men are fallible and it will probably come down to whether Everton can muster the desire that was clearly lacking in London last week but which was so crucial to that famous evening a couple of years ago when a single Duncan Ferguson goal was enough to triumph over the Red Devils.

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Stats

May appear here later

Steve Flanagan

Match Report

May appear here later


* Unfortunately, we cannot control other sites' content policies and therefore cannot guarantee that links to external reports will remain active.

Key Links
  Everton TV
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  Away Teamsheet
  Premiership Scores
  Premiership Table
  Match Preview
  Pre-Match Stats
Match Reports
2006-07 Reports Index
< West Ham (A) Portsmouth (H) >
 Everton websites
 ToffeeWeb Summary
 Evertonfc.com Report
 When Skies Are Grey Report
 Bluekipper Report
 Everton fans' reports
 Lyndon Lloyd Report
 Paul Traill Report
 Other media reports
 BBC Sport Report
 4 the Game Report
 Sky Sports Report
 Sporting Life Report
 SoccerNet Report
 The Observer Report
 The Guardian Report
 Liverpool Echo Report
 Daily Post Report
EVERTON (4-4-2)
  Carsley (Van der Meyde 81')
  Osman (McFadden 71')
  Vaughan (Beattie 71')
  Subs not used
  Player (injured)
  Player (injured)
  Player (injured)

MAN UTD (4-4-2)
  Van der Saar
  Subs not used

Premiership Scores
Saturday 28 April 2007
Blackburn -v- Charlton
Chelsea 2-2 Bolton
Everton 2-4 Man United
Man City -v- Aston Villa
Middlesbro' -v- Tottenham
Portsmouth -v- Liverpool
Sheff Utd -v- Watford
Wigan -v- West Ham
Sunday 29 April 2007

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Premiership Table
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