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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Wednesday 26 December 2007; 3:00pm
Neville (51'), Cahill (71') 
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 38,918
Fixture 19
Referee: Rob Styles

Normal Service Resumed

Everton got back to winning ways in front of a full house following their narrow defeat at Old Trafford on Sunday with their first Boxing Day victory for three seasons. A rare goal by Phil Neville, a year to the week since his first for the Blues, and an emphatic finish by Tim Cahill were enough to overcome Bolton Wanderers' stubborn resistance and keep David Moyes's side entrenched in the top six.

Mikel Arteta, absent from the Manchester United defeat, returned after a bout of illness, Thomas Gravesen made his first Premier League start since returning to Goodison Park on loan from Celtic at the end of August and Neville moved back to right back after deputising in midfield at the weekend. Yakubu continued up front and Tim Cahill shrugged off a knock with the help of some pre-match treatment to resume his stellar presence in the 4-1-4-1 formation that has been so successful for the Blues in recent weeks.

Bolton, who have renewed vigour and sense of purpose under new manager, Gary Megson, were unchanged from the side that saw off Birmingham City 3-0 in their last outing and the Trotters took the game to Everton in the opening minutes. Their brawn and tenacity lacked any finesse or penetration, though, and, after Lee Carsley and Ricardo Gardner had seen speculative efforts fly wide, it was the home side who engineered the first real chance of the game.

Steven Pienaar led a quick breakaway and fed Joleon Lescott who then found Arteta lurking on the edge of the box. The Spaniard's powerful drive, a rare shooting opportunity, was zipping goalwards before a Bolton head intervened and deflected it behind for a corner.

Four minutes later, Gardner's attempted clearance fell straight to Arteta on the edge of the area but was obstructed by the defender as he tried to jink around to have a crack one-on-one with Jussi Jaaskeleinen, At around 19 yards out, the resulting free kick was probably too close to allow Arteta to get it over the wall and then back under the bar so he opted for a low shot towards the corner but only found the head of a defender.

Phil Jagielka lumped the clearance back into the area and when it dropped to Yakubu, his shot ricocheted off Lescott. The visitors still couldn't escape their own area, though, because El Hadji Diouf fouled Arteta about 30 yards out this time but the Spanish midfielder's floated ball into the box came to nothing.

The game, had, however, come to life a little and the Blues were starting to shrug off their earlier tendency to hoof it forward rather than build more patiently with the ball on the deck. They were still giving the ball away far too cheaply, though — Joseph Yobo being perhaps the biggest culprit with some unusually poor distribution — and Tim Howard almost gifted them an opportunity when he flapped unconvincingly at a high ball but got out of jail. With the threat of Nicolas Anelka virtually snuffed out the entire game, Bolton rarely threatened to make any breakthrough themselves.

Instead, the bulk of the action was taking place at the visitor's end and after half an hour, Yakubu held the ball up nicely before laying it off to Cahill who was barged over in the area but referee Rob Styles waved away his protests. Then, a great move down the right saw Gravesen thread a nicely-weighted pass through to Cahill who touched it off to Arteta and his powerful cross to the near post was met by Yakubu who powered a header well off target.

With half-time looming, Gravesen unleashed a brilliant volley that cannoned off a defender and behind for a corner. The Dane's reaction was proof enough that his goalbound shot could have been a big problem for Jaaskeleinen had it not been blocked. From the resulting corner, Lescott swiveled to fire a left-footed pass-cum-shot back towards goal which Yakubu turned into the net and wheeled away with his now-familiar "Super Eagle" hand gesture but his celebrations were cut short by the linesman's flag. Cahill, who was standing in front of the 'keeper, had been offside at the time Lescott played the ball and was adjudged to be interfering with play.

match photo
Steven Pienaar: shrugged off Sunday's aberration
with another spritely performance

If Everton had looked in the first half like a team that had been somewhat knocked out of its stride by events at Old Trafford at the weekend, they started the second immediately with the swagger that characterised many of those 13 unbeate matches and should really have broken the deadlock earlier than they eventually did in the 51st minute.

Inside 30 seconds of the restart, Neville knocked a ball down the right channel for Yakubu to chase. The Nigerian controlled well, turned his marker smartly and laid it back into the path of Cahill who couldn't make full contact and Jaaskeleinen was able to push it behind. From the resulting corner, Jagielka flicked the ball on but Lescott, in front of goal, somehow pulled his shot wide of the left-hand post.

Then, Gravesen's low shot was deflected wide for yet another corner before Arteta danced his way to the byline and cut it back for Lescott but his effort was parried by the increasingly busy Jasskeleinen.

Just when it looked as though it wasn't going to be Everton's day, their pressure told in the form of a slice of good fortune. Neville moved inside off the right flank and chipped a left-footed ball over the top which the 'keeper came to punch but, with Cahill rising in front of him, missed it completely and it sailed into to empty net. The Australian midfielder bypassed his usual corner-flag boxing routine indicating that he hadn't got a touch and that the goal was Neville's.

The Blues were back in the groove now. The quick passing was back and possibilties looked on the cards almost every time they attacked. Arteta, who has perhaps been guilty of trying too hard in recent games, began exhibiting some of the silky skills that have made him a Goodison favourite, none better than a truly mesmerising sequence that turned two defenders inside, out and back again before he was obstructed by the hapless Gardner.

Megson made his first change in the 58th minute, throwing Gavin McCann and JLloyd Samuel on in place of Campo and Guthrie and the former Evertonian McCann in particular gave the Trotters an almost immediate shot in the arm. Within a minute or so he had latched onto Jagielka's poor defensive header — perhaps the only foot Jags put wrong all game — and despatched a low drive towards goal but Jagielka did brilliantly to charge it down and make a saving block to atone for the error.

match photo
Phil Jagielka: another towering display in central defence

Seven minutes later, McCann's hooked shot over his shoulder was destined for the back of the net but Lescott's acrobatic overheaded clearance off the line preserved Everton's advantage. Five minutes later, it was 2-0 and the points were secured,

Great work by Gravesen just outside the area ended with the Dane being flattened by his marker but as referee Styles was about to blow his whistle, the ball broke to Lescott is space on the left side of the box so he played the advantage. Lescott had time to pick out the run of Cahill who met the perfectly-timed cutback and buried a first-time, side-footed shot past the 'keeper.

Moyes's side had some half-chances to extend their lead, Gravesen raking a measured shot wide and Arteta seeing another decent effort blocked by Gardner following a lightening counter-attack by the home side, while for Bolton Anelka had his first sight of goal with a tame shot from 20-odd yards with 12 minutes to go.

Even with the Frenchman being canceled out, there was still plenty of stout defending to be done by Yobo and Jagielka at the back, the latter turning in another towering display in what is clearly his best position. Howard denied Diouf by racing off his line and smothering the ball at the winger's feet before Lescott snuffed out substitute Joey 'Brien's chance and McCann drove into the side-netting with another excellent shot with time ticking down.

Moyes threw on Hibbert, Johnson and Vaughan for Neville, Gravesen and Yakubu in the closing stages but the Blues were largely comfortable and saw out time to record their sixth successive home victory and their 12th in 15 games in all competitions. They may not have been at their best and they will have to be on Saturday when Arsenal come to town but their response to what was a real blow against United was a good one and they will take renewed confidence from safely side-stepping a potential banana skin here today.

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Updates

Mikel Arteta returns for Everton, with Tommy Gravesen starting in midfield, and Phil Neville back in his best position at right back.

Bolton had the better of the opening exchanges and took over 15 mins before Everton finally put a decent move together that flowed down the left and ended in a powerful shot from Arteta that flew just wide. A free-kick in a dangerous position came to nothing, and a penalty call was unanswered as Everton upped the pass and pushed Bolton back.

Everton scored just before half-time after good work by Lescott but Cahill was flagged for offside and it remained 0-0 at half-time. 

Two excellent chances in the first minute of the second half, Lescott defeated by a Jaskelinien save, and then from the corner Cahill could not convert from two yards, the ball coming on to his wrong foot.  Lescott fired in agoan as Everton pushed hard, and finally the ball crossed the line, a challenge by Cahill on the goalkeeper but he didn't seem to have touched it and it was credited to Phil Neville, just 7 mins gone in the second half.

Bolton came back with ex-Blue Gavin McCann having a pop but he could not get it past the superb Phil Jagielka on the line.  Lescott had to be alert later on to prevent an almost certain goal, an overhead kick off the line. 

Everton kept mpushing and a nice move with advantage played, saw a superb finish from Tim Cahill, off an excellent cross following some gret buildup play, Yakubu back to Gravesen who could see Cahill's intent and played in a perfect ball that the Ossie converted for a vital second goal that should be enough to give Everton the points.

As Everton finally got into their rhythm, Tommy Gravesen fired a great one just wide.  Howard had to save from Anelka bu Everton were comfortably in command.

Michael Kenrick

Comfortable Win for the Blue Boys

Boxing Day. There’s not really much else to do except go to the game but bizarrely it’s a day when there’s no public transport at all, pretty much screwing things up for a lot of people, not least ourselves on this occasion. Normally Gaz drives and picks us all up but with there being a few more people coming to the game this time – my brother, back from the States for the festive period and Ritchie both joining the usual rabble, it left more people than car seats so we had a bit of a dilemma. This wasn’t helped by Gaz’s decision to bring a 4-seater convertible along. Of course I could’ve just driven myself but if truth be told I really wanted to tuck into a beers. Thankfully Ritchie stepped into the void and drove us over there, although could only take us there and not back so we thought we’d take the lift and just figure it out when we were getting back.

So, after all this we finally arrived at the pub in plenty of time for the match with the other lads joining us a bit later on. We were all quite hopeful of three points for this one as we looked to get back to winning ways after our recent unfortunate slip against Manchester United.

We set off to the ground just in time for kick off and made our seats nicely in time as the teams came out. There was a nice minutes applause for former Everton keeper Jimmy O’Neill whom represented Everton and Ireland in the 1950s. The teams then switched ends as we’d lost the toss and so we kicked off towards the Lower Gwladys in the first half. Despite injury and illness doubts, both Cahill and Arteta made it and so both started. Gravesen made his first league start since his return in the middle with Yakubu up top on his own. Neville slotted in at right back alongside Lescott, Yobo and Jagielka. Bolton featured ex-reds Anelka and Diouff in their artillery, as well as current Red Danny Guthrie and redshite Kevin Nolan. The referee was Rob Styles.

The game took quite a while to get going in what was a very pedestrian first half. This rubbed off on the supporters as well and it was very flat inside Goodison in the first half. Everton responded by raising the tempo a bit and for about 10 minutes of the half we really had Bolton on the back foot as we put a lot of balls into the box, but to no avail. It looked for a second that Arteta had scored with a brilliant long-range shot but this flew inches wide. Yakubu did have the ball in the net, nodding home from close range but did look quite clearly offside and the flag was up quite early. There was one incident of note when Arteta was felled at the edge of the box but the ball ran through to Gravesen who had a great chance, however the referee pulled play back for a free kick, which was wasted by Arteta and comfortably cleared. Arteta did actually put in a lot of great balls into the box but Bolton defended it all pretty well and were generally comfortable enough at half time.

At half time Dave Hickson made a very welcome return onto the pitch to thank everybody for the cards he’d received whilst he recovered from his recent heart attack, which was good to see. An 11-year-old lad also had a few noble attempts at hitting the bar with the half time competition.

Everton certainly started the second half at a much faster tempo as they looked to put Bolton to the sword. We nearly scored straight away when Cahill was set up, but was denied by an excellent instinctive save from Jaaskelainen. Shortly afterwards Lescott nearly scored after a smart move but was also denied. Just as you started to think the goal wasn’t going to come a Phil Neville was missed by Jasskelainen as he collided with Cahill and the ball looped into the net. I couldn’t tell if Cahill had gotten a flick to it or if it was just missed by everybody but the match announcer gave it to Neville so that’s good enough for me. He scored a spawny goal against Newcastle United this time last year also so maybe this is a good time of year for Neville.

Everton were generally comfortable here with Lescott and Jagielka in particular in inspired form at the back. I think it was still 1-0 when Lescott had to clear well just short of his own goal line as Bolton pressed to try and find a way back into the game. Everton sealed it however when, unlike in the first half, Rob Stiles allowed an advantage to be played when Gravesen was fouled at the edge of the box. Lescott picked up the loose ball and crossed low for Cahill who finished first time high into the corner, before heading straight for the corner flag for his boxing routine. Get in there! That was 2-0 and effectively game over.

Bolton did press late on to try and earn something from this game, but Everton were resolute and stood firm, repelling everything that was thrown at us. This was aided by some dreadful set-piece deliveries from Diouff. We also had the luxury of making a few changes also with Johnson replacing Gravesen, Hibbert replacing Neville and, finally, Vaughan replacing Yakubu.

At full time Ritchie kindly gave us a lift back to town, where my brother and I got a lift home in the end from the Old Lady.

Bring on Arsenal. Let's turn them over at home!

Player Ratings:
Howard: Was all over the place for much of the game before finally settling down in the last half hour. 5

Lescott: Got forward very well and defended resolutely at the back. Made an assist for the important second goals also. 8

Jagielka: Was outstanding at the back contending with Anelka and now, thankfully, seems to be settling in OK. My man of the match. 9

Yobo: Was quite comfortable at the back really. 6

Neville: I felt he was quite poor in the first half but improved in the second and got the scoring underway of course. 6

Carsley: Was probably the pick of the midfielders in the first half and kept things together throughout. 7

Pineaar: Worked hard and showed flashes of skill. 7

Gravesen: Looked very comfortable on the ball and showed some lovely touches also. 7

Arteta: Had a wonderful game, terrorising the woeful Ricardo Gardner throughout. 8

Cahill: Was very positive with his attack-minded runs, and scored yet another important goal. 8

Yakubu: Worked hard although didn’t really have any chances all game. 6

Johnson (for Gravesen): Not on long, can’t judge.
Hibbert (for Neville): Not on long, can’t judge.
Vaughan (for Yakubu): Not on long, can’t judge.

Paul Traill

Match Preview

Everton look to pick up the pieces following Sunday's deflating defeat at Manchester United as Bolton Wanderers come to Goodison for a Boxing Day clash that marks the mid-way point of the Premier League fixture calendar.

The Blues' task could be hampered somewhat by yet more disruption to the core midfield that was the foundation of that 13-match unbeaten run that came to an end at Old Trafford four days ago.

Tim Cahill appeared to pick up a back strain during that game and was substituted in the latter stages and it's that injury that could rule him out of the game against Gary Megson's improved Wanderers side. Leon Osman (broken toe), Leighton Baines (hamstring tear) and Alan Stubbs (calf strain) are, of course, definitely ruled out until the New Year.

match photo
Mikel Arteta: will hopefully be well enough to return

David Moyes hopes, however, to be able to name the Australian among his starters and have Mikel Arteta, the surprise absentee on Sunday due to illness, back in action as well.

Megson, meanwhile, is expected to name an unchanged line-up from the team that saw off Birmingham in convincing fashion — by a scoreline of 3-0 — on Sunday.

That, of course, means that the Trotters' chief danger man, Nicolas Anelka, will be on the pitch but if the Blues can keep him quiet then things should go according to plan as Moyes looks to re-establish momentum as his side ploughs through a frenetic period in the season that will see them in action five times in the next 13 days.

Lyndon Lloyd

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EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Neville {c}(85' Hibbert)
  Gravesen (80' Johnson)
  Yakubu (89' Vaughan)
  Subs not used
  Stubbs (injured)
  Baines (injured)
  Osman (injured)
  Van der Meyde (injured)

BOLTON (4-4-2)
  O'Brien :44'
  Nolan (c) :64' (74' J O'Brien)
  Campo (50' Samuel)
  Guthrie (57' McCann)
  Diouf :54'
  Subs not used
  Al Habsi

Premier League Scores
Wednesday 26 December 2007
Chelsea 4-4 Aston Villa
Tottenham 5-1 Fulham
West Ham 1-1 Reading
Birmingham 2-0 Middlesbro
Derby 1-1 Liverpool
Everton 0-0 Bolton
Sunderland 0-3 Man Utd
Wigan 1-0 Newcastle
Portsmouth 0-0 Arsenal
Thursday 27 December 2007
Man City 2-2 Blackburn

Premier League Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Man Utd 45
2 Arsenal 44
3 Chelsea 38
4 Liverpool 36
5 Man City 35
6 Everton 33
7 Aston Villa 30
8 Portsmouth 31
9 Blackburn 27
10 West Ham 26
11 Newcastle 26
12 Reading 22
13 Tottenham 21
14 Birmingham 18
15 Middlesbro 17
16 Bolton 17
17 Wigan 16
18 Sunderland 14
19 Fulham 14
20 Derby 7
After 27 Dec 2007


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