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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Saturday 29 January 2007; 5:15pm
Cahill (19') 
Arteta sent off (85') 
Half Time: 1-0
  Eduardo (46', 59')
  Adebayor (79'), Rosicky (93')
  Bendtner sent off (73')
Attendance: 39,443
Fixture 20
Referee: Martin Atkinson

Defensive lapses scupper Everton

Everton surrendered another unbeaten record — this time a six-game winning streak at home stretching back to the last time a top four side came to Goodison in the form of Liverpool — following a second-half defensive collapse that undid all the good work put in in the first 45 minutes. Defensive chaos almost immediately after the restart allowed Arsenal back into a game they'd hardly looked part of before half time and produced a hugely lop-sided scoreline as both teams finished with 10 men.

Worse than losing their second game in six days after going 13 matches before that without defeat could be the loss of Mikel Arteta to a three-game suspension and the realisation that David Moyes's squad currently lacks the depth of quality required to trouble the big boys this season.

With Leon Osman still sidelined as a recovers from a broken toe and Thomas Gravesen on the treatment table once more, Moyes's options in midfield were limited. Not surprisingly, he moved Phil Neville into central midfield alongside Lee Carsley and re-introduced Tony Hibbert at right back. And despite the Neville-Carsley combination proving woefully inadequate earlier in the campaign, Everton went on to dominate the first half with surprising ease.

After some scrappy opening exchanges in with neither side really getting hold of either the ball or the game as a whole, the home side gradually started to assert some control over proceedings, thanks in large part to their incessant pressing and greater reliance on moving the ball around with speed on the deck. A lovely interchange on the left involving Lescott and Pienaar, the like of which they've been delighting the Goodison faithful in recent weeks, ended with a smart pass to Yakubu in the area but the Nigerian's attempt to complete the one-two was too heavy and the ball rolled behind. It was the third poor final ball by Yakubu who didn't look as sharp as the player who'd grabbed a hat-trick against Fulham and seen off West Ham twice in four days earlier this month.

He was in the right place at the right time after 18 minutes, though, when his industry and cheeky nudge on Kolo Toure forced the defender into conceding a corner as he tried to shepherd the ball out over the byline. Arteta swung in a dangerous ball from the corner after it had bounced once and then off Bendtner's thigh, Tim Cahill threw a boot at it, Yakubu his head and the net bulged. 1-0 to Everton and some uncertainty as to who had got the decisive touch, although TV replays seems to suggest it was Cahill's heel.

It was no more than the Blues deserved and they sensed the opportunity to increase their lead.

Yet more lovely football started with startling skill by Joseph Yobo to turn his marker and cross deep to the far side of the area where Arteta slide the ball to Pienaar, he backheeled it to the Yak but he dragged his shot wide.

Then, a great move down the right saw Yakubu backheel it to Pienaar who quickly touched it on to Hibbert but when he laid a shooting chance on for Neville, he could only sidefoot well over the bar. It was a high-quality move that deserved a better finish.

Still, Everton had the upper hand and the were playing the better football and when Arteta looked up and picked out the run of Yakubu, the striker effected a wonderful touch to flick it past Toure but the defender's pace allowed him to caught up and when the Nigerian tumbled to the turf as the two came together and the Park End erupted in howls of protest, referee Martin Atkinson correctly waved play on.

Arsenal had looked like they hadn't turned up for the bulk of the half but they showed some ominous signs of what was to come after the interval in the final few minutes before half time. Still, it was Everton who had the last shot in anger, Arteta shooting from the edge of the box after cutting back behind Matieu Flamini but seeing his effort saved by Almunia.

If Everton had largely controlled matters in the first half, virtually nothing went their way in the second. Within 90 seconds of the kick off they had lost their lead and things kept going downhill from there.

A hopeful punt downfield by Gael Clichy sailed over Phil Jagielka's head, was controlled by Eduardo and the hitherto little-known Croat-Brazilian striker tucked the ball past the stranded Tim Howard as Joleon Lescott backed off.

Yakubu might have restored the lead for Moyes's side 10 minutes later after lovely footwork by Arteta and a cross by Lescott from the byline but he could only power his header a yard wide of the upright. Not long after that it was 2-1. Again it was a punt downfield that found Eduardo but this time he used his hand to control it past Jagielka before burying the ball past Howard. Seemingly in the few blinks of an eye, the game had been turned on its head.

Everton were clearly rocked back on their heels and as they chased the game their desperation and lack of quality against the aspiring champions started to show. The intricate passing that had lit up the first half was replaced by a more direct approach that brought almost no change from the Arsenal defence.

It was telling about the defender's lack of comfort on the ball that even when Hibbert was in acres of space to his right, Howard elected time and time again to drive the ball downfield in the hope of finding the head of Cahill or Yakubu rather than bowl it out to start a more measured attack. And on the left flank where Steven Pienaar has been such a revelation, the South African was for the most part restricted in his ability to create any magic after the break after being behind many of our best moments in the first period.

All too often, the team's hopes rested on Arteta and although he was his usual box of tricks and erratic set-piece deliveries, almost no chances were being created for either Yakubu or Andy Johnson when he came on with 19 minutes left.

Johnson had only been on the pitch two minutes where Nicholas Bendtner, apparently destined for the bench himself as Arsne Wenger prepared Emmaneul Adebayor for action, raked his studs down AJ's leg and was shown a second yellow card. It could, and in light of later events perhaps should, have been a straight red but Everton had, nevertheless, been handed an opportunity to regain the upper hand.

Instead, they shot themselves in the foot once more with another defensive howler that allowed Adebayor to extend the Gunners' lead to 3-1 with 12 minutes to go. The Togo international chased Yobo's shadow as a long ball forward bounced towards the Everton area but Howard was forced to check his intention to claim it as he raced out to the edge of his area. Yobo, assuming his 'keeper was going to deal with the situation left it, Adebayor bore down as Howard hacked unconvincingly at the ball and it bounced off the striker and on towards the empty goal. Adebayor had all the time he needed to walk it into the back of the net. With Everton largely spent as an attacking threat, it was game pretty much over.

Tempers had already begun flaring between the likes of Cahill and Toure when Arteta and Cesc Fabregas tangled in pursuit of the ball. The former raised his arm to fend off his compatriot's attentions, caught him on the side of his face with his elbow and Fabregas tumbled to the turf in full "dying swan" mode. So typical of referees after they've given a big decision against one of the "big four", took the opportunity to even the sides and flashed Arteta a straight red.

And there was still time for the crowning turd in the waterpipe when Arsenal evoked memories of their 7-0 hammering of Moyes's boys three years ago by picking them apart with consummate ease and substitute Tomas Rosicky had all the time he needed to fire past Howard and score the fourth.

All in all a miserable afternoon that had started to promisingly but ended by underscoring the gulf that exists between the likes of Arsenal and Everton, pretenders to the top four. Wenger's men had four shots on target in the entire 90 minutes and scored with all four; for Everton, meanwhile, the game was there's to lose and they duly did it with some awful defending for which Atkinson's sub-par refereeing and failure to spot Eduardo's crucial handball are little consolation.

Quality was the watchword both here and at Old Trafford six days ago; the top three have it in abundance and in reserve while Moyes is continually having to eke out every ounce of ability, stamina, determination and spirit from his players. Would they have faired better with a full-strength squad boasting the likes of Leon Osman in midfield, Leighton Baines at left back and the first-choice central defensive duo of Lescott and Yobo? Perhaps, yes, but a Premier League season is all about having strength in depth and having the squad to keep churning out the results.

Everton still do not have that and with cash probably still in short supply and Moyes now looking to shop in a more expensive pool of talent, sufficient depth may not come any time soon. Certainly, the last couple of months have shown that we're not far off having the personnel to drive the club to another top-four finish but they're set to lose Arteta at a crucial juncture and you have to wonder where the inspiration is going to come from in his absence.

On days like today you're painfully reminded that players like Hibbert, Neville and even Jagielka — a player whom I singled out for particular praise against United and Bolton — as spirited and committed to the cause as they are, are not top-four material. And when your team is forced to deploy all three in the same team against a team like Arsenal, you're bound to come up short even without self-destructive defensive errors.

So with a relatively successful 2007 behind them, Everton go into the New Year with a few questions marks hanging over their head and a continuing glut of fixtures that will see them play three times in the first eight days of January. An away game at erratic Middlesbrough and the opening of the transfer window certainly offer opportunities to raise spirits and get back on track but much may depend on whether or not the manager gets some of his injured players back in contention for places soon.

Lyndon Lloyd

The Long Ball

With Gaz holidaying in Las Vegas and everybody else unable or unwilling to drive to this one it meant the joys of public transport were called upon to take us to and from today's game. Ste and I congregated in The Spellow at around 3:45pm and were shortly followed by Gary and then Adam for this 5:15pm kick off vs Arsenal.

We were all rather hopeful of something from this game as we made our way to the ground. We won the toss and so attacked the Park End in the first half, with the only change from that which dismantled Bolton Wanderers on Boxing Day being Thomas Gravesen replaced by Phil Neville in midfield, with Tony Hibbert coming in at right back. Arsenal started with the untested pairing of Nicklas Bendtner and Eduardo (who was inevitably going to score as he was yet to do so in the Premier League as I pointed out to Adam). Martin Atkinson was the match official.

The match began at a frenetic tempo with both teams getting stuck into in early on. It was Everton who probably settled quicker however and took the lead when Yakubu forced a corner from Toure. Arteta whipped it in to the back post where Bendtner made a right pigs ear of clearing the ball. His attempted control looped up into the air inside the six-yard box where Yakubu and Cahill both attacked the ball and between them managed to smash it into the empty net. The replays suggested that Yakubu had scored it although the match announcer and media networks claim Tim Cahill got his studs to it instead. Either way, Everton were deservedly ahead.

What followed in the remainder of the first half was fantastic from Everton with everybody chipping in and standing firm and it was in fact the Blues who were playing the better football. We had a decent chance to double our money as well when Hibbert was played into the box and played the ball back to Neville who blazed over from the edge of the box. Yakubu, after a fantastic, touch, turn and run, let himself down at the last minute when he perhaps had a chance to shoot but instead went down looking for a penalty under pressure from Kolo Toure. At half time we still led and Tim Howard was still to make a save.

Everton started the second half just as brightly. Arteta was bombing down the wing and appeared to be held back by Clichy although the decision was bizarrely given the other way. From this free kick Arsenal launched the ball long, Jagielka missed it and the ball went through to Eduardo who finished smartly (as I earlier suggested he would do) to make it 1-1. All that hard work undone.

Just prior to the restart Fabregras kicked the ball away slightly from Yakubu who ran and got it, and when he picked it up the young Spaniard punched it out of his hands in what seemed a clear attempt to antagonise the Nigerian.

Arsenal seemed to turn the balance of power their way here with Everton seemingly a bit demoralised, even if we did create a great chance to retake the lead when Yakubu headed wide from Lescott’s cross. Things got worse when another Arsenal long ball was controlled (replays show with his hand) by Eduardo. He then turned inside Jagielka before finishing smartly past Howard making it 1-2. Somehow the game had turned completely on its head. As Everton went to restart Fabregas kicked the ball away in a clear attempt to waste some time.

Thankfully at this point Everton stopped feeling sorry for themselves and dug in to get something out of the game. Yakubu started working twice as hard and we were in and around Arsenals box. Johnson replaced Hibbert as Moyes went 4-4-2 to salvage something from this game. It nearly worked also when Carsley side-footed from the edge of the box but Almunia saved low to his left.

There was a real flashpoint in this one when Bendtner, already on a yellow card, challenged rashly with Johnson with his studs up. The referee had no choice really but to show him a second yellow and Everton now had a good chance here against 10 men. Adebayor, whom I’m convinced, was about to replace Bendtner, replaced Eduardo. Just now, when you felt a real sense of optimism about Everton grabbing a goal here, Everton managed to shoot themselves in the foot when another Arsenal long ball went through towards Howard and Yobo. They somehow managed to get in each other’s way and Adebayor stole in to walk the ball into the empty net to send the Arsenal fans wild. That was 1-3 and you really felt game over.

Everton still continued to fight. We kept at it and tried to force something from this, and but for some last ditch challenges and poor decision making in and around the box they might have done so. Instead the game was effectively over when Arteta was sent off for throwing a high arm at his countryman Cesc Fabregas. Fabregas went down in a heap and the referee didn’t hesitate to send off Arteta. This started something of a melee in which a lot of players involved but in the end Arteta walked. I’ve seen it since and feel it was pretty harsh.

Remarkably, and to their credit, the boys still pressed but couldn’t find a way through, although we were somewhat disrupted by a lot of Arsenal time wasting. Eventually, in injury time, Arsenal finally settled into their passing rhythm for what they are so famous for, and this took its toll on a now demoralised Everton, with Rosicky finishing well at the end of a smart move to make the score an impossible 1-4.

Its nice to see Moyes a bit more gracious in defeat here than Wenger has been in the previous two years we’ve beaten them at Goodison Park. Wenger has bemoaned “the long ball” both times. Well there was only one team playing long ball yesterday…and it certainly weren’t Everton.

Player Ratings:
Howard: Pretty helpless with three of the goals, but certainly fallible for Arsenals third. Had very little to do otherwise. 4
Lescott: After a fantastic first half, he looked a little lost at times in the second period. 6
Yobo: Not exactly inspired and played his part in that horrible third goal for Arsenal. 5
Jagielka: Had a solid first half but was caught badly exposed for Arsenals first and second goals. 4
Hibbert: The pick of the back line. Was solid and constructive until subbed. 7
Carsley: Kept Everton’s shape well. 7
Neville: Got stuck in but missed a good chance in the first half. 6
Arteta: Matched Arsenal brilliantly throughout and was very unlucky to see red. My man of the match. 9
Pienaar: Worked tirelessly throughout and showed some great flashes of skill at times. Kept on going. 8
Cahill: Apparently that’s another goal to add to his collection and battled hard. 8
Yakubu: Worked hard and may have scored the goal. 7

Sub: Johnson (for Hibbert): Worked hard but couldn’t quite get behind Arsenal today. 6

Paul Traill

Match Preview

Everton get another crack at recording their first win of the season over the top four with the visit of Arsenal for the final game of 2007. The Gunners come to Goodison Park having surrendered the Premier League leadership with their goalless draw at Portsmouth on Boxing Day while the Blues got back to winning ways and established a foothold in the top six with a convincing victory over Bolton.

With Leon Osman recovering from a broken toe, David Moyes has limited options in midfield if he hopes to deploy his favoured 4-1-4-1 formation and that could be complicated by the fitness of Thomas Gravesen.

The Dane only started his first league game three days ago and was withdrawn from the action in the second half apparently because of a knee injury. His fitness has been a concern ever since he rejoined the club on loan from Celtic in August but there hasn't been any official news of his current condition.

match photo
Thomas Gravesen: will he be ruled out with a fresh injury?

Phil Neville played and scored against Bolton despite being up the night before through illness but both he and Mikel Arteta — who missed the Manchester United defeat with the same illness — should start. If Gravesen isn't fit enough, Neville may be asked to fill in in midfield again or, less likely given the speculation regarding his future, James McFadden could be handed some sort of role across the middle.

The Blues may not have beaten any of the Premier League's four leading clubs yet this season but victory against Arsne Wenger's side would be their third successive home win over Arsenal. Andy Johnson scored the only goal in the dying minutes last season and although he is likely to again watch from the bench as top scorer Yakubu starts up front, a repeat performance would be most welcome.

With this being the late afternoon kick off, the eyes of the nation will be on the Blues once more through Setanta Sports cameras and Steven Pienaar in particular will be looking to make amends for his howler against United by turning on some magic.

Moyes's confident charges, of course, possess everything it takes to put a serious dent in Arsenal's title hopes and the Gunners can't be looking to playing a team that has only lost once in fifteen games. And if the Blues can get the ball down and play in the very Wenger-like manner in which they have done in recent weeks, it should make for a great game.

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Stats

May appear here later

Steve Flanagan

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

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EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Hibbert (71' Johnson)
  Arteta sent off:84'
  Subs not used
  Baines (injured)
  Stubbs (injured)
  Osman (injured)
  Gravesen (injured)

ARSENAL (4-4-2)
  Clichy booked:68'
  Fabregas booked:86' (88' Rosicky)
  Flamini booked:87'
  Hleb (82' Diarra)
  Bendtner booked:23' sent off:73'
  Eduardo booked:64' (74' Adebayor)
  Subs not used

Premier League Scores
Saturday 29 December 2007
Birmingham 1-1 Fulham
Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle
Everton 1-4 Arsenal
Portsmouth 0-1 Middlesbro
Sunderland 3-1 Bolton
Tottenham 6-4 Reading
West Ham 2-1 Man United
Wigan 1-2 Aston Villa
Sunday 30 December 2007
Derby 1-2 Blackburn
Man City 0-0 Liverpool
Premier League Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Arsenal 47
2 Man Utd 45
3 Chelsea 41
4 Liverpool 37
5 Man City 36
6 Everton 33
7 Aston Villa 33
8 Portsmouth 31
9 Blackburn 30
10 West Ham 29
11 Newcastle 26
12 Tottenham 24
13 Reading 22
14 Middlesbro 20
15 Birmingham 19
16 Bolton 17
17 Sunderland 17
18 Wigan 16
19 Fulham 15
20 Derby 7
After 30 Dec 2007


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