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COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Man! Those Greeks know how to party

By Paul Traill :  18/09/2009 :  Comments (14) :
Always a bit of a stretch for me the midweek game. I work in Manchester, don’t finish ‘til 5:30pm, straight don the motorway and straight to the game. This time I had a bit of detour to pick up my girlfriends father, or ‘vati’ to put it in its German form. He’s visiting from Germany and hardly speaks a word of English, and no, my German isn’t exactly tip-top either…this is going to be interesting.

We parked in my usual little spec and after a quick chippy complete with pigeon-English and a lot of pointing and gesticulating we got to the pub to meet Gary and Si, actually a local Ipswich Town fan whom thought he’d check out a European game. Ste and Ste failed to make the pub in time. After a couple of beers we were onward to the Old Lady.

The changes were more or less as expected. Gosling filled in at right back with Fellaini coming into the midfield to replace Neville. Elsewhere the confidence-damaged Osman dropped out to be replaced by our new Russian Bilyaletdinov. Jo lead the line up front on his own.

Just after the silly ’respect’ handshake thingy the teams came out and began warming up. The Greek team was read out and then that soft arse from Radio City “Rossi” named Baines as captain which patently wasn’t the case. The game then all of a sudden kicked off whilst he was midway through naming the team. It caught me completely off guard as all of a sudden a load of yellow shirt Greek lads were chasing the ball around. It was just bazaar. Elsewhere the screen didn’t work and I just didn’t know what the clue was going on. “Ah well, with all these cock-ups off the pitch surely we can’t cock-up on it” said Gary.

Bilyatedinov saw his point. With a couple of terrific corner kick deliveries by he and some decent finishing by our two centre backs Everton raced into a two-goal lead. Yobo first headed home completely unmarked at the back post to put us one ahead, and then after a slight bit of pinball in the box following a corner Distan finished smartly to put us 2-0 ahead. Get in!

AEK Athens responded with a few powerful long range efforts none of which hit the target. At the other end though from I think another corner someone, I think Jo, headed narrowly over the crossbar. ‘Finally, someone who can put in a corner’ was Ste’s text.

Everton completely sealed the game when Pienaar was given time at the edge of the box and so picked his spot and hammered the ball low into the corner of the net. I thought the keeper was bloody slow getting down to it and should have done better but who am I to complain. Following this AEK Athens tried again but the best they could offer was a fee kick which was comfortably saved by Howard just above his head. Aside from Cahill getting a rather harsh booking that was about it for what was a lively first half.

At the interval Uwe gave me the heebie jeebies by disappearing on me as I’d been given strict orders not to let him out of my site. Thankfully he found his way back to the seat; Gary bemoaned the lack of beer offerings for European games in England and Lucas Neill was unveiled to the Goodison faithful having just penned a one-year contract, further bolstering our defensive options…that’ll give the Hibbert bashers more ammunition.

Osman replaced the carded Cahill for the second half to avoid anything silly and give our Aussie a break in time for the weekend's clash with Blackburn Rovers, and hopefully to life Ossie’s confidence a little bit as he’s taken a bit of a kicking lately.

As if we weren’t advantaged enough being 3-0 to the good, we actually gained a numerical advantage with players also when Carlos Araujo was shown the red card for clattering into Distan with a strange-looking challenge. This pressed Everton into keep-ball mode which made sense I guess. Sure, you’d like to see us take them apart and rack up a cricket score (weren’t the Kopites supposed to do that last night?) but with a big game on Sunday it’s probably better to conserve the energy of the players.

This also gave Yakubu an opportunity to get some playing time under his belt and though he’s light years away from full fitness its good to see him back and it was nice to see him showing some nice link-up play at times. He replaced Bilyaletdinov by the way.

With the game now completely finished for AEK Athens, their supporters began to go completely insane and were jumping around and dancing like crazy people. You had to laugh and wonder why but they certainly seemed to enjoy themselves. Christ I can’t wait to see what 75,000 of them are like in Athens.

After Rodwell and Pienaar had both tried their luck from distance, and Saha had replaced Pienaar, Jo did finally get himself off the mark for the season also by finishing smartly after good work and running by Yakubu.

That was about it for the game, or at least it should have been. Gosling won us a free kick which Osman whipped into the box for a defender to clear out for a throw in. Next thing I look back at the box and see a player sprawling on the floor (not an unusual site from tonight’s game given the amount of theatrics from AEK Athens) and the referee produce a red card to the completely bemused Louis Saha. I still don’t know what happened. Someone on the way out said that Saha had thrown a punch, back in the car I overheard Graeme Sharpe say “he’s let us down a bit there” but I, and more or less everybody around me seemed completely none the wiser as to what the hell happened.

Anyone care to enlighten me?

Player Ratings:
Howard: Little to do. 6
Baines: Fine. Not as good as he can be in attacking areas but did OK. 6
Yobo: My man of the match. I’d like to say he was ‘colossus’ at the back though that wouldn’t be fair on AEK Athens as they simply weren’t that good. Still, he made several important clearances and interceptions and of course got the ball rolling with a decent header at the far post. 8
Distan: Not as solid as Yobo but did OK and got on the scoresheet also. 6
Gosling: Coped admirably in what isn’t his best position. 7
Cahill: Semed to be a lot deeper than I expected but had a decent half and was the heartbeat of the midfield in the first half. 7
Rodwell: Kept us ticking throughout. 7
Fellaini: Put in some excellent tackles and used the ball well. 7
Pienaar: The usual workrate from Steve and a goal to boot . 7
Bilyaletdinov: Can whip a ball in alright. Felt he was chasing shadows at times but keep an eye on this kid. I think he’s gonna be decent. Hope he’s fit for Sunday as he seemed to hobble off. 7
Jo: Worked hard and got his rewards with his late goal. 7
Subs: Osman (for Cahill): If ever a player needed a goal or a nice assist its Ossie. Corners not beating the first man; picking the wrong pass when in good positions; missing a reasonable chance late on - all the signs of a man low on confidence. Hope it changes soon for the better. On the plus side was lively and always wanted the ball. 6
Yakubu (for Bilyaletdinov): Nice to see him back. Well short of fitness but it’s the only way he’ll get there. 6
Saha (for Pienaar): Somehow got himself sent off and may well be missed in later games. Also somehow missed an open goal from about a yard. Other than that he was good and very menacing. I need to see the red card again as I’ve no idea what happened. 6

Reader Comments

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Ciarán McGlone
1   Posted 18/09/2009 at 14:35:58

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Strange differences:

Howard: 7
Gosling: 7.5
Distin: 7.5
Yobo: 8
Baines: 7.5
Rodwell: 8
Cahill: 6.5
Fellaini: 7
Pienaar: 7.5
Billy: 8
Jo: 5

Nick Entwistle
2   Posted 18/09/2009 at 14:44:09

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Jo’s the kind of player where if he doesn’t score then you wonder why he was ever allowed on the pitch. Fortunately, his goals ratio is quite good.
James Thomas
3   Posted 18/09/2009 at 15:08:26

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Howard - 6
Gosling - 7
Distin - 8
Yobo - 8
Baines - 9
Pienaar - 8
Rodwell - 8
Fellaini - 7
Billy - 9
Cahill - 7
Jo - 6
Peter Griffin
4   Posted 18/09/2009 at 15:19:39

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I sit in the park end and spent more time watching their fans in the second half than the match itself. They were class, and a credit to their club. Shame (for them) their team were absolutely awful.

Positives: Clean sheet, four goals, Bily’s delivery, Yak getting more match fitness, Neill signing and AEK fans.
Rupert Sullivan
5   Posted 18/09/2009 at 15:51:58

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My ratings:

Howard - 6
Gosling - 7
Distin - 8
Yobo - 7
Baines - 7
Rodwell - 9
Fellaini - 9
Pienaar - 8
Bilyaletdinov - 8
Cahill - 6.5
Jo - 6.5

Osman - 6 (looked forlorn and a bit hapless)
Yakubu - 7
Saha - 7.5 (but a bloody idiot)
Steve Ferns
6   Posted 18/09/2009 at 16:15:38

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Howard 6.5
Gosling 6.5
Yobo 8
Distin 7
Baines 7
Rodwell 9
Pienaar 8
Cahill 6.5
Bilyadinov 8
Fellaini 6.5
Jo 7

Osman 7
Yakubu 6.5
Saha 7.5
Alan Kirwin
7   Posted 18/09/2009 at 19:00:20

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Howard: 7
Gosling: 7
Distin: 8
Yobo: 8
Baines: 7
Rodwell: 8
Cahill: 6
Fellaini: 7
Pienaar: 8
Billy: 7
Jo: 7
Dominic Bobadilla
8   Posted 18/09/2009 at 21:21:04

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I was watching those AEK fans and I was enthralled. Gotta love the bastards.

Howard: 7
Gosling: 8
Distin: 7
Yobo: 7
Baines: 7
Rodwell: 9
Cahill: 7
Fellaini: 5
Pienaar: 8
Billy: 8
Jo: 8
Steven Barton
9   Posted 19/09/2009 at 07:43:04

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Dominic... Fellaini: 5! where you watching the same game as me?

Both Fellaini and Rodwell were massive. I’d give Fellaini 9; some people seem to forget he’s only 21, a couple of months older the Vaughan. He will get even better as the season goes on, if he’s played in the correct position. When Arteta return,s it will give us options with playing the Thursday and Sunday games.

Dominic Bobadilla
10   Posted 19/09/2009 at 08:53:26

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Steven, Fellaini can’t tackle, can’t dribble, and does not know how to pass the ball. Please watch the game once more, and follow him closely. Take note of how many times he gets dispossessed by the Greeks. Count all the passes he gets wrong. There were occasions when we could have hit AEK on the break. These golden opportunities were squandered by Fellaini. I have never seen Fellaini play a game in which he has excelled. Being just 21 is no excuse.
Jamie Hynes
11   Posted 19/09/2009 at 10:21:28

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Bit harsh on Felli. I remember a couple of times where his distribution was lacking, but that was made up by the number of times he got the ball back, chased back, you know the type, coming across the other guy by stepping in and taking the ball, passing to Rodders etc, that came up a few times in the match.

Not saying he was man of the match and the passes he got wrong were memorable as they were on breaks where we could have created something, but he contributed well overall, certainly more than some of the subs who came on.

Steven Barton
12   Posted 19/09/2009 at 10:40:32

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Dominic, absolute nonsense.
Stewart Littler
13   Posted 19/09/2009 at 18:32:19

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Since when did we give 7.5s??? And Dominic, Fellaini has had quite a few very good games in a blue shirt - you’ve probably just not been there to see them - and Thursday was a good game for him, where he, along with an 18yo bossed the midfield.

People are very keen to jump on board and say the opposition were poor - and they were - but so were the RS’s opposition the previous night, and they struggled. This was a very good performance, and in a way, vindicated the recent opinions of those who some call ’negative’ (myself included), as without Hibbert, Osman & Neville, we produced a performance which not only got the job done, but was also entertaining. I pray for more of the same on Sunday. My ratings:

Howard - 6 - little to do
Gosling - 7 - settled into an unfamiliar role well, and maruaded forward at every opportunity
Yobo - 8 - lead by example, though needs to talk more as the captain. Good headed goal
Distin - 7 - solid performance, and well taken goal
Baines - 7 - best performance so far from one of last season’s brightest stars - needs to raise his game back to last year’s level though
Pienaar - 8 - great goal and full of energy
Rodwell - 7 - solid display from the youngster
Fellaini - 8 - just shaded MoM for me, everywhere and always breaking up the opposition play and finding a blue shirt
Bilyaletdinov - 7 - 2 great assists, and another great corner which lead to the 2nd goal, still looks a little low on fitness and doesn’t appear fully settled, which is understandable
Cahill - 6 - worked hard, but didn’t have a great impact on the game. Needs a rest IMO, booked
Jo - 7 - worked hard, held the ball up well, and got a goal for his endeavours. 1st touch needs to be better
Subs:
Osman - 5 - Ossie needs to find some form cos he’s been poor this season - and I’m normally a fan - even poorer than he was against Fulham
Yakubu - 6 - looks fitter and stronger, and set up the 4th goal, but needs 3 or 4 more subs appearances before he’s ready to start
Saha - 5 - has been on fire this season, but missed a sitter, and offered a petulant flick which the Athens player feasted upon - silly boy
Steve Morgan
14   Posted 22/09/2009 at 04:37:41

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To reply to the OP’s question regarding Saha, it appeared that the defender kicked out at Saha and he turned and raised his hand near the defenders face, who promptly went to ground like he’d been hit by Mike Tyson. This happened right in front of the ref, and he was conned into thinking Saha had made contact.

A blot on an otherwise great night.

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