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Venue: The Hawthorns, Birmingham
Premier League
 Saturday 23 August 2008; 3:00pm
West Brom.
Bednar (pen:89')
Half Time: 0-0
 Osman (65') Yakubu (78')
Attendance: 26,190
Fixture 2
Referee: Rob Styles

Match Summary

More history for Everton as Jose Baxter makes his first Premier League start 16 years and 198 days.  Everton in their changed yellow strip.

Everton were under the cosh almost from the off and it needed a series of solid defensive headers from Yobo in front of a full house of rabid Brummies and at least 3,000 Evertonians.  After a poor start, Everton started to push back a little and it was Osman who had the first chance but he fired wide after 14 mins.

Howard had to be alert after a good move from the West Brom to tip the ball away from.  More pressure form the corner, with Neville getting caught out, but Everton survived.  Baxter then had a nice run in and shot after good work from Yakubu.

West Brom piled on more pressure and a dangerous cross from Kim nearly put Milller in at the far post.. Brunt then fired a missile in from 30 yards out and it fizzed just over the crossbar.  Osman was booked for a foul on Koren.

A Zuiverloon cross to Miller should have resulted in a goal for the home side but his header was not quite up to it.  Osman was fouled on rare Everton attack with Zuiverloon and then Greening going in the book.  Form the free-kick just behind the dee, Arteta fired it straight into the wall.

Everton suffered form a lack of confidence, inadequate movement and poor passing, resorting to the dreaded hoofball on far too many occasions that inevitably squandered possession.  Same old story... while West Brom will feel cheated after playing the far better football and created a number of very threatening chances.

After a lot more pressure form WBA, Moyes hauled Baxter off on the hour to replace him with Vaughan.  And what a difference, Leon Osman running in and getting a corner, from which Rodwell scored but his goal was disallowed for pushing.  Immediately on the restart, Arteta picked up a clearance, found Osman, a quick look up from the little fella and he fired home, much to the delight of the desperate Everton contingent in the crowd, who went wild. 

It wasn't long before Everton punished the home side yet again, Yakubu getting in on Carson and firing past him in fine style for his 100th career goal in the Premier League.  Yakubu later went off to be replaced by Valente as Moyes locked the game up.

But Phil Neville hand-balled in the Everton area and Bednar fired it home with five minutes to go and a nervy finish for the Blues.

Michael Kenrick

Beleaguered Blues Secure Morale-Boosting Victory

There has been an air of crisis around Goodison for weeks now and if the opening day defeat to Blackburn served to ratchet up the panic in many supporters, David Moyes's doom-laden comments on the eve of this potentially dicey trip to The Hawthorns threatened to tip a good many more over the edge.

The best response to crisis in football, however, is to find a way to grind out results. It's fair to say that with a bit more fortune or a lot more focus, the Blues would have secured at least a point last weekend but a week on they gave West Bromwich Albion a harsh reminder of life in the Premier League by punishing them for their failure to press home their possessional dominance.

With the "Players In" column remaining empty for another week, Moyes faced a similar selection conundrum as last week. James Vaughan was seven days closer to fitness than he was for the Rovers game but not ready to start so he took his place on the bench. He was joined by Nuno Valente who was dropped from the starting XI but Jose Baxter was rewarded for a sparkling substitute's appearance last week with his first start and in doing so became the youngest Everton player to do so.

In truth, while he showed a pleasing willingness to make the intelligent short pass and move into space he was hampered by a general inertia in the Everton ranks during a dire first half performance. Albion enjoyed the lion's share of possession for the first hour after bursting out of the gates with purpose and vigour for what was their first home game since returning to the top flight.

Joseph Yobo was called upon to make three important headed clearances inside the first two minutes as Tony Mowbray's side tried to capitalise on the uncertainty plaguing their hosts these days and Abdoule Meite fired well wide with the first shot of the game not long afterwards.

The home side spent much of the half stroking the ball around quite nicely and often looked to the energetic Korean international Kim Do-Heon for inspiration in the final third. He curled a free kick well over and Koren forced the only save of the half by either 'keeper in the 19th minute when Howard bundled his low drive behind for a corner.

In between, Leon Osman had seen a decent run snuffed out by a crowd of striped shirts with no day-glo yellow tops — Everton's third kit is horrible this season — anywhere near in support and 10 minutes later he screwed one wide after determined work by Yakubu.

Baxter was then at the centre of a decent move that he finished with a blocked shot following a one-two with the Yak but these were merely fleeting moments from Moyes's men. On the whole, they were one-paced, unimaginative and as poor in keeping possession as they were in the first half against Blackburn. Worse, Arteta's inability to clear the first man seemed to have made an unwelcome return as two corners and a perfectly-located direct free kick all ricocheted off WBA heads.

Everton were also playing incredibly narrow, confirmed when Arteta moved into central midfield midway through the first period and Jack Rodwell moved to the right. Neither Phil Neville nor Leighton Baines made it much beyond the halfway line for the entire game — indeed, the former's foray to the byline two minutes into second-half injury time may well have been his only time either fullback attempted to advance on the overlap down the flank — as the Blues ceded the initiative to Albion for long periods.

Thankfully, despite their industry, Mowbray's team proved singularly unable to make their superiority tell. It was encapsulated at the end of the first half when Zuiverloon swung in a peach of a cross from the right and Miller, unmarked, misjudged its flight and barely made contact with his head as the ball zipped across the face of goal.

The first quarter of an hour of the second half appeared to herald the breakthrough for Albion and within 10 minutes of the restart they had Everton rocking. Howard saved comfortably from Miller but as the pressure mounted, Baines sliced horribly in front of goal but thankfully skied it into the stands and Barnett glanced a header wide from a free kick when he might have done better with just Howard to beat.

Finally, though, three minutes past the hour mark Everton were sparked into a response. First Osman tried to walk the ball through the home defence but was inevitably shut down by a forest of legs but when the ball pinged back in to Rodwell on the edge of the box, he poked it through to Arteta. The Spaniard shaped to shoot before cutting it back to Vaughan, a 57th minute replacement for Baxter, but Meite was on hand to knock it behind.

For the resulting corner, Rodwell rose, powered the ball into the net and wheeled away in delight at his first senior goal. His celebration and those of the massed ranks of jubilant Blues behind the goal were cut short, however, when, incredibly, Rob Stiles disallowed the goal, claiming that the 17 year old had had his arms over the shoulders of his marker. In reality, he'd made the jump first and if his hands were on the back of his opponent, it's the kind of challenge that goes unpunished week in, week out in the Premier League and has done for years.

Moyes was apopleptic with rage and he was still glaring at the referee with his trademark ice-blue eyes even after his side took the lead for real a minute later. Having been so ineffective at moving the ball around for so long in the game, it was a piece of quality from the Blues that carved West Brom open. Arteta sauntered towards the box, picked out Osman's run with a slide-rule pass and, with one jink to his right to open up the space for the shot, the diminutive attacking midfielder despatched a tidy finish past Scott Carson to break the deadlock.

Albion became a little more ragged in their attempts to force a breakthrough at the other end but Everton defended stoutly, no more so than when Baines effected a saving block on a goalbound shot from the angle in the 70th minute, and almost doubled their advantage with 15 minutes left of normal time. Arteta fooled the home defence by pinging a corner straight to Osman and he half-volled inches over the bar with an impressive strike.

If the first goal had been artful, the second, when it arrived a minute later, was all route-one and opportunism, though. Lescott hoofed a hopeful ball forward, Yakubu gave chase and as Meite dithered in front of the on-rushing 'keeper, the burly Nigerian capitalised on the indecision by nodding it through Carson's flapping arms and into the open net.

A scoreline that had seemed impossible for so long had the traveling fans in rapture and if the sheen was taken off it a little in the final minute when Neville was adjudged to have handled in the box and Bednar rammed home the penalty, no one really seemed to mind.

In his post-game Moyes attributed the difference to Vaughan's introduction. Taking nothing away from James, in truth it was probably more that he kept the Albion defence preoccupied with another striking threat than anything he really did himself that opened up the space for Arteta and Osman to get the opening goal.

As huge a relief as the result was, though, it shouldn't disguise the facts that the opposition were poor in the final third, the performance from Everton was pretty awful for the bulk of this encounter, and the overall tactics seem horribly one-dimensional at the moment when they don't really need to be. The need for quality additions before the deadline remains critical if this team is to have any hope of challenging for another place in Europe this season. Everyone knows it, it's just a question of whether the deals required can be done in so little time.

Player Ratings

Howard 6 — In truth, he had very little to do but did what was asked of him when called upon

Neville 6 — Offered almost nothing going forward but did his bit at the back until giving away an unfortunate if clumsy penalty at the end

Baines 6 — Ran a bit hot and cold, much as he did last week. He's at his best when the play is moving quickly down the left flank but that side of the pitch was noticeably under-utilised by Everton throughout

Lescott 8 — He and Yobo were responsible for repelling much of what WBA threw at the defence for the first hour and in the hectic closing stages as they chased the game

Yobo 8 — A solid performance alongside Lescott

Jagielka 5 — Just awful in the first half, he did improve in the second but the number of shockingly misplaced passes he played was frustrating to watch

Rodwell 6 — A largely peripheral figure, much more so than last week but he was criminally denied an excellent headed goal by the pedentry of a referee who did nothing about blatant encroachment in the area by an Albion player for their penalty

Arteta 7 — Quiet by his standards but, again, his quality was the difference

Baxter 6 — Struggled to make an impact. Like Baines, he seemed to get bogged down in a crowded midfield but, to his credit, he did the simple things well

Osman 7 — Took his goal superbly and was unlucky not to get another but he too drifted in and out of the game

Yakubu 7 — Ran the line well when he was the lone striker and got the consummate predator's opportunistic strike which marks his 100th league goal

Vaughan 7 — His energy alone adds a spark to the team and he's a handful for defenders for that reason alone
Valente —Not on long enough to judge

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

It's almost ludicrous to feel like Everton's Premier League season is effectively over before it's even begun but that is the feeling that is growing in the knotted stomachs of many an Evertonian as the severely depleted team gears up for a potentially testing trip to West Bromwich Albion.

Another week of the current transfer window has passed but no new signings have looked even remotely close to arriving.  Instead, it's been yet more embarrassment and frustration in the transfer market, with Tiago snubbing a move to Merseyside and Rennes following Sporting Lisbon's lead by digging their heels in over Stephane M'Bia.

It would be funny by this point if the ramifications of this calamitous summer weren't so damned serious for the club's short- to medium-term outlook.

Meanwhile, as if things weren't bad enough, the hand of fate continues to amuse itself with the few players David Moyes does have it his disposal.  Phil Neville, ordinarily not a great loss but now almost as crucial an absence as anyone else, is rated as "doubtful" after picking up an ankle knock.  Tony Hibbert, the only other senior right back is, of course, injured and Dan Gosling, yet to make his first-team bow, has a thigh strain.

If neither make it, that would leave Moyes with no option but to move either Joseph Yobo or Phil Jagielka to right back.  Assuming James Vaughan is fit, that would also entail a switch to 4-4-2 and an otherwise unchanged look to the rest of the team.

Their hosts this weekend, West Bromwich Albion, will be keyed up for their first home game since returning to the top flight and will take heart from avoiding an opening-day drubbing at Arsenal, coming away instead with a narrow 1-0 defeat.

They will also remember the last time they faced Everton on their own turf in the Premier League, a 4-0 humiliation of Moyes's side in November 2005 that was the nadir of an awful start to the 2005-06 campaign.

Phil Neville: struggling with an anlke injury

Mikel Arteta, whose talents deserve better than to be compromised by his manager's inability to field 11 senior players or his club's abject failure to add quality to a team poised to challenge the top four, has led the clarion call this week to get "back to basics" and forget about the selection headaches. He must be frustrated by the situation but he is right that the team needs to focus on doing the simple things, something that didn't do for long periods against Blackburn last weekend.

Normally, this would be regarded as a "should win" fixture and three points would come as an enormous shot in the arm, but avoiding defeat would also be seen as a victory of sorts for morale.

How it ever came to this and, more worryingly, where it will end up is enough to keep you awake at night. For now, though, all you can do is focus on the 90 minutes at hand with the players who take the field and hope for the best.

But, by God, someone needs to take some responsibility for this mess.

Lyndon Lloyd

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WEST BROM (4-5-1)
  Zuiverloon  :45'
  Koren (70' MacDonald)
  Greening (c) :45'
  Brunt :66'
  Miller (80' Beattie)
  Subs not used

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Baxter (60' Vaughan)
  Osman :38'
  Yakubu (80' Valente)
  Subs not used
  Anichebe (Olympics)
  Cahill (injured)
  Pienaar (injured)
  Gosling (injured)
  Hibbert (injured)
  Van der Meyde (injured)

Premier League Scores
Saturday 23 August 2008
Blackburn 1-1 Hull
Fulham 1-0 Arsenal
Liverpool 2-1 Middlesbro
Newcastle 1-0 Bolton
Stoke 3-2 Aston Villa
Tottenham 1-2 Sunderland
West Brom 1-2 Everton
Sunday 24 August 2008
Wigan 0-1 Chelsea
Man City 3-0 West Ham
Monday 25 August 2008
Portsmouth 0-1 Man Utd

Premier League Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Chelsea 6
2 Liverpool 6
3 Blackburn 4
4 Hull 4
5 Man Utd 4
6 Newcastle 4
7 Man City 3
8 Aston Villa 3
9 Arsenal 3
10 Bolton 3
11 Everton 3
12 Middlesbro 3
13 West Ham 3
14 Fulham 3
15 Sunderland 3
16 Stoke 3
17 Tottenham 0
18 Wigan 0
19 West Brom 0
20 Portsmouth 0
After 25 Aug 2008


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