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Venue: JJB Stadium, Wigan
Premier League
 Sunday 20 January 2008; 1:30pm
Wigan Ath. 
Jagielka (og:52')
Half Time: 0-2
 Johnson (39'), Lescott (41') 
Attendance: 18,820
Fixture 23
Referee: Lee Probert

Match Summary

The returning Manual Fernandes was on the bench as Andy Johnson and Leon Osman came into the side, back from injury.

Everton started slowly and were pinned in their own half for much of the opening 15 mins.  Then a free kick seemed a good opportunity  but the ref spoilt it all by booking Arteta needlessly for talking it before the whistle.

In the best move so far, Johnson scampered off sown the left an pulled a superb ball back for Arteta to smash first time but it was just too close to Kirkland.

Off a corner, Marcus Bent, unmarked on the far post saw his header tipped onto the bar a vital save! Bent then fired one across the Everton area teed up for Valencia.  Hibbert was then booked for catching ___ late as Everton struggled to keep their defensive shape his fifth of the season; he will miss the upcoming Spurs game.

Johnson had a couple of distant chances but his shooting wasn't up to the task. But on 39 mins, a glorious gift for AJ was delivered with aplomb.  Arteta won the ball and immediately fired it forward but Titus Bramble had it well covered... or should have.  His pass back was woeful and Andy Johnson was in one-on-one; through Kirkland's legs, steady and calm, into the net. 1-0. Excellent!

Then on the next attack, a corner was swung in by Arteta, Cahill got it at the near post and it bobbled up for Jagielka to hook across goal to the far post where Joleon Lescott was perfectly positioned to smack the ball into the net.  2-0!!! 

Not a great first half for Everton but a great scoreline.

Jason Koumas came on for Lanzatt, took a free kick that was delivered in well, Howard could not deal with and it bounced in off Jagielka's arm. Own-goal. And after that, Wigan were really inspired, running at Everton at every opportunity. A dreadful free-kick from Jagielka perhaps summed up Everton's lackadaisical attitude in this game at times.

Osman so nearly scored a third, chesting down and volleying superbly a poor clearance from Melchiot.  Johnson was very lively, his running always causing trouble.  Vaughan came on for Neville in a cunning move to distract and confound Wigan's resurgence... and it worked well, the boy causing havoc.

A nice Everton free-kick produced a diving header from Johnson that Lescott almost converted. Everton held on comfortably in the end, getting a vital three points that moves them back into the top four, displacing Liverpool (who have two games in hand).

Michael Kenrick

Match Report

The top four beckoned and Everton answered by grinding out another important victory on a heavy pitch to take sole possession of the fourth Champions League slot. Two goals before half time gave them a significant advantage over an improved Wigan side and although Phil Jagielka inadvertantly gave the Latics hope early in the second half, the Blues proved strong enough to hold on for their third successive Premier League victory.

In the run-up to this fixture, Phil Neville had spoken in the press about how Everton have no qualms about winning ugly and so it proved in difficult conditions at the JJB Stadium. Despite a twinkle-toed display by the returning Leon Osman, this was a far cry from the kind of performances that characterised the best moments of that 13-game unbeaten stretch before Christmas.

David Moyes's side struggled to really get going early on and ceded much of the initiative to their hosts for much of the opening half but punished Titus Bramble for a horrendous error six minutes before the break and then capitalised on more defensive uncertainty to take command four minutes after that.

Under Steve Bruce's stewardship, Wigan had been much improved in recent games and gave the home fans hope of a big scalp with a positive start to the game. Home debutant Wilson Palacios went on a jinking run and curled an effort wide of Tim Howard's left-hand post in the very first minute. A few minutes later, the Honduran beat Tony Hibbert, skipped to the byline and delivered a deflected shot that skipped up towards Emile Heskey and he nodded wide from close range and a tight angle.

Midway through the first half, Wigan's pressure looked like it had paid dividends when Marcus Bent met a corner with a stooping header that cannoned off the underside of the bar thanks to a crucial fingertip by Howard and away from goal before being hacked clear. Three minutes later, the former Blue whipped in a cross from the left that eluded Lee Carsley and came to Valencia who fired low, only to see Tim Cahill's sliding block send his effort behind for a corner.

While on balance Everton looked like a team content to sit back a little, confident in their ability to either soak up everything Wigan could throw at them and then win the game in the second half, they did have a few impressive moments of their own in the first that highlighted the differences in quality between the two sides.

A great run by Mikel Arteta a couple of minutes into proceedings, where he cleverly clipped the ball past the advancing Paul Scharner but ran out of room at the byline, was an example, as was neat control by Carsley when an Arteta free kick fell to him at the back post and he volleyed narrowly over the bar.

Then, in a portent of the danger to come, Neville released Andy Johnson into the channel and having driven into the box, he managed to cut the ball back via Mario Melcott's leg where Arteta's side-foot shot was parried well by Kirlkland.

In general, the Blues weren't able to move the ball about all that effectively and seemed happy to rely on Johnson's pace on the counter-attack. Cahill, so often the crucial element in the five-man midfield formation, seemed out of sorts and flitted in and out of the game, Arteta was getting no change out of inexperienced referee Lee Probert — the Spaniard was incredulous at picking up a 15th-minute booking for taking a free kick too early and then seeing no disciplinary action taken against Danny Landzaat for pole-axing him in almost the same spot just a few seconds later — and Neville occasionally succumbed to his all-too frequent malaise of giving the ball away cheaply.

The conditions, which worsened once light rain began to fall, clearly weren't the right setting for Manuel Fernandes to make his return — the Portuguese remained on the bench throughout — and only Osman seemed unphased by the uneven and heavy pitch, revelling in his return to action after a month out with a broken toe, skipping past opponents with consumate ease and always looking to make things happen.

The opening goal when it came in the 39th minute owed as much to the pitch as it did to Johnson's industry. Neville attempted to send AJ away down the touchline but Bramble got there first and had the formality of a back-pass to Kirkland to complete in order to ward off the danger. He barely made contact, though, and Johnson ran free with the ball, drew the 'keeper and calmly slotted through his legs to make it 1-0.

Four minutes later, an Arteta corner sparked panic in the Wigan area, Cahill nudged the loose ball with his chest towards Jagielka and when he fired across the face of goal, Joleon Lescott was on hand to prod home from close range. 2-0 and a mountain to climb for the Latics.

The second half was only seven minutes old when Bruce made his changes, pulling off Heskey and Ladzaat in favour of Antoine Sibierski and Jason Koumas, and the latter in particular brought quick reward. With his first touch, Koumas drove a free kick into the heart of the Everton defence which Howard came to punch but missed and the ball struck Jagielka's chest and bounced into the goal.

2-1 and the momentum was back with the home team. It made for a more nervy conclusion to the game from Everton's perspective than the massed ranks of traveling fans would have liked, particularly as neither Lescott nor Jagielka looked as solid as they normally do, again probably owing to the heavy pitch. But despite carrying the greater intent, Wigan didn't really threaten all that often and after both sides had penalty claims waved away — Lescott was perhaps fortunate as he leaned into Valenca and Cahill should really have been booked for a blatant dive at the other end —it was Osman who could have made it 3-1 with a wonderful piece of composed skill. After controlling well with his chest, he volleyed inches wide when, with a bit more match sharpness, he might have hit the target.

Despite Bruce's reticence to use Koumas — the Welshman has been the subject of speculation linking him with a move elsewhere this month — he did add a different dimension to Wigan's attacking play but he was guilty of wasting a good opportunity with 15 minutes left after Everton had been caught unsually short at the back. And Kevin Kilbane, deployed at left back, might have done better in the 83rd minute when Koumas picked him out with a free kick but he stabbed wide.

The Latics's spirit was not to be rewarded further, however, and, just as against City last week, that probably owed as much to the introduction of James Vaughan as anything else. Once again, his tireless running and attacking threat gave the opposition plenty to worry about.

Everton closed out the game without much more incident, completing their third "double" of the campaign, having beaten Wigan by the same score in the reverse fixture on the opening day. The result moves the Blues into fourth place, three points above Liverpool and Aston Villa who meet at Anfield tomorrow evening and two ahead of Manchester City who were held at home by West Ham.

The performance wasn't the greatest but it was still a great result for a team that must have had their minds on the titanic League Cup semi-final match-up that awaits them at Goodison on Wednesday night against Chelsea. Life without the Africa Cup of Nations trio always promised to be a little tricky but the Blues keep on winning and that is all that matters.

Player Ratings

  • Howard: Chelsea's winner in the semi-final first leg arguably may not have been his fault but today's goal definitely was, raising fears that he isn't as dominant as he needs to be around his six-yard box. His kicking is also getting worse, even on his favoured right foot. Still, he had little to do apart from pick the ball out of the net once and catch some aimless punts from the opposition defence. 6
  • Hibbert: Had a couple of scares against Palacios and was booked for a late sliding tackle on the Honduran but acquitted himself well at the back otherwise. 7
  • Valente: Rarely ventured forward, if at all, but dealt with things at the back fairly comfortably. 7
  • Jagielka: Had a couple of uncertain moments but, again, was solid for the most part. 7
  • Lescott: Ditto for Joleon at the back but a well-taken goal took his tally to seven for the season. 7
  • Carsley: Once again, quietly effective in defensive midfield. 7
  • Neville: Has been performing pretty well in central midfield and this was another solid if unspectacular display. 7
  • Osman: Until he tired towards the end, he barely put a foot wrong. Every time he got the ball he did something useful with it and was unlucky not to score a third goal for the Blues which would really have made things comfortable. 8
  • Arteta: Not one of his most effective days — away games rarely are — but a deadball delivery was key to the Blues winning this one. 7
  • Cahill: Subdued and peripheral for the most part but did make one telling block at the back. 6
  • Johnson: A typical, hard-working performance that didn't look like it was going to provide much end product until Bramble put his sixth goal of the season on a plate. 7
  • Vaughan (on for Neville): Lots of running helped unnerve Wigan and enabled the Blues to close out the game. 7

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

Everton make the short trip east this Sunday for a lunchtime kick-off against improving Wigan Athletic as they seek to leap into the top four at Liverpool's expense.  Rafa Benitez's faltering side meet Aston Villa, level on points with both Merseyside clubs in 6th place, 32 hours later in the Monday night kick off and a draw in that game coupled with victory for the Blues at the JJB would, of course, leave Everton in the Champions League places until next weekend at least.

David Moyes has gained an eligible player and lost another since his charges disposed of Manchester City last Saturday, with Manuel Fernandes ready for action after re-joining on loan and James McFadden ending a four-plus year stint at Goodison by moving on to Birmingham City.

And depending on the fitness of Andy Johnson, it could be a case of swapping those two players in the starting line-up this weekend, with Fernandes coming in on the left side of four midfielders, with Lee Carsley sitting behind them and in front of the back four as usual. Yakubu, Steven Pienaar and Joseph Yobo are, of course, away on duty at the Africa Cup Nations which also kicks off this Sunday.

match photo
Andy Johnson: Likely to be recalled to the starting line-up

Victor Anichebe started as the lone striker against City but Moyes may opt for the more experienced Johnson against the Latics if he has recovered from the knock he took in training that ruled him out last weekend. This one will probably come too soon for Leon Osman who only resumed full training this past week after recovering from a broken toe and the rest of the side will more than likely remain unchanged.

Wigan have been enjoying better fortunes since Steve Bruce took over from Chris Hutchings, winning four of their last seven in all competitions, including an impressive 5-3 win over Blackburn in the Premier League and a 3-0 triumph at Sunderland in the FA Cup a fortnight ago. They also held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Anfield.

As well as former Evertonian and top scorer Marcus Bent, Wigan will have new signings Erik Edman, Antoine Sibierski and Wilson Palacios at their disposal but Honduran international Maynor Figueroa is awaiting international clearance.

Despite sitting one place above the bottom three, they won't be a pushover by any means. As Villa proved on 29th December, though, this is the kind of fixture that a club with top-four aspirations should win and that is what Moyes will surely be telling his players as they look to secure another morale-boosting win ahead of Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea.

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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WIGAN (4-4-2)
  Brown (82' Aghahowa)
  Landzatt (52' Koumas)
  Palacios :49'
  Heskey (52' Sibierski)
  Subs not used

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Hibbert 38'
  Carsley {74':c}
  Neville {c}(74' Vaughan)
  Arteta 16'
  Subs not used
  Yakubu (AFCON)
  Yobo (AFCON)
  Pienaar (AFCON)
  Johnson (injured)
  Turner (injured)
  Van der Meyde (injured)

Premier League Scores
Saturday 19 January 2008
Birmingham 0-1 Chelsea
Blackburn 1-1 Middlesbro'
Fulham 0-3 Arsenal
Newcastle 0-0 Bolton
Portsmouth 3-1 Derby
Reading 0-2 Man United
Tottenham 2-0 Sunderland
Sunday 20 January 2008
Man City 1-1 West Ham
Wigan 1-2 Everton
Monday 21 January 2008
Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa

Premier League Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Man Utd 54
2 Arsenal 54
3 Chelsea 50
4 Everton 42
5 Liverpool 40
6 Aston Villa 40
7 Man City 40
8 Portsmouth 37
9 Blackburn 37
10 West Ham 33
11 Tottenham 27
12 Newcastle 27
13 Middlesbro 22
14 Reading 22
15 Bolton 21
16 Birmingham 20
17 Wigan 20
18 Sunderland 20
19 Fulham 15
20 Derby 7
After 21 Jan 2008


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