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VIEW FROM THE BLUE

Everton 5 - 1 Hull City

By Lyndon Lloyd :  07/03/2010 :  Comments (5) :

With Everton having won five consecutive home matches in the Premier League — two of those in some style against the two Title favourites, Chelsea and Manchester United — and Hull City winless on their travels in 12 months and without a victory at Goodison Park since 1952, the ingredients were there for what eventually unfolded in front of the Sky cameras on this Sunday afternoon.

David Moyes's side swept to the kind of victory and goal-fest that has always seemed on the cards during their impressive run of form since being embarrassed by the Tigers in the first half at the KC Stadium back in November. Indeed, this five-goal haul was the Blues' biggest win since the first time these two sides met this season in Hull in the Carling Cup in September where Yakubu marked his first-team comeback with a goal in a 4-0 rout.

The Nigerian started a second successive game up front in place of the injured Louis Saha and while he might have had a hat-trick, the Yak somehow ended the game without a goal to his name, although that owed much to an anaemic first-half penalty and a first-time shot from eight yards out in the second period that would surely have rocketed past Boaz Myhill had it been on target.

This was indeed a match that featured the best and worst of Yakubu. When, in the fashion that typified his 21-goal season two years ago, he collected a Leon Osman pass on the edge of the box in slide but rolled a side-foot shot off the base of the post in the 13th minute, you got the sense it might not be his day.

But then, just four minutes later, as he served up a peach of a cross from the left wing to provide Mikel Arteta with the chance to score the opener, you were reminded of the talent he possesses when he is in the mood. A genuinely mercurial display.

The performance of the team as a whole, though, was one that started out fairly cold but grew hotter and more enterprising as the contest went on. Some nervy moments at the back where Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin were familiarising themselves with a new central defensive partnership almost saw Hull take an early lead when Garcia sprung the offside trap and found himself with just Tim Howard to beat. His attempt to knock the ball over the advancing 'keeper was foiled brilliantly, though, by the American whose simian leap and double-handed parry saw the shot away to safety.

Arteta dragged a couple of shots wide while Amr Zaki was similarly wayward with his shooting at the other end before the Spaniard lit the touch paper on what would turn out to be a virtuoso performance. Yakubu picked him out with a deep cross from the left and Arteta latched into it at the back post with a volley into the turf that bounced over Myhill's arms and into the Park End net.

The game was a couple of minutes shy of the half-hour mark when the opportunity to make it 2-0 arrived. Leighton Baines' left-wing cross was deflected towards the byline, Yakubu was quickly onto it but was scythed down by Kamil Zayatte and referee Lee Mason had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. The Yak stepped up to convert the penalty he'd won but his effort was lazy and Myhill saved fairly easily. TV replays would later show that, despite the attentions of the linesman, the 'keeper was a good three yards off his line when the touched the ball but Yakubu should have done better nonetheless.

The crowd groaned and, with an air of inevitability, Hull levelled the game four minutes later. A controversial free-kick was awarded to Zaki wide on the left but when the delivery was headed by Jagielka only as far as Cairney, the young midfielder took one touch before belting a crisp half-volley across Howard and inside the far post.

With the Blues starting to look a little sloppy, no more so than when Victor Anichebe, confusingly starting in the wide-right role for the second game running, failed to control Arteta's clever free kick and it rolled away for a goal kick, memories of home disappointments against the likes of Wolves and Stoke starting to stir in the collective consciousness of the home faithful.

Such thoughts were banished, however, six minutes before the break with a beautifully crafted second goal. Anichebe took advantage as his marker backed off to come in from the right flank before feeding Steven Pienaar in the area. With three orange shirts in front of him he wisely elected to back-heel it into the space behind him which was quickly filled by Arteta who picked his spot and stroked the ball home to restore Everton's lead.

Had Yakubu been quicker to react Anichebe's smart lay-off a minute later, he might have scored the third but, as it was, he had the ball stolen off him by a more alert defender and, after Garcia had scooped over from the edge of the box, the two sides went into the half-time interval at 2-1.

The second half was barely a contest. The Blues came out of the dressing room in top gear and Anichebe had the ball in the net within four minutes of the restart but his "goal" was ruled out for offside. Arteta fired a direct free kick attempt tamely into the wall but Jack Rodwell, who'd come on for the injured Leon Osman, must have thought he'd doubled the lead a few minutes later when he turned and fired across the 'keeper but Myhill got just enough on it to deflect it inches past the far post.

The resulting corner ended up with Arteta by the byline and when he delicately chipped it across goal and Myhill tried to bat it over his crossbar, the 'keeper missed the ball completely and it bounced off the head of the hapless Garcia and into the net. 3-1 and now it was just a case of how many.

Everton, and Arteta in particularly, were toying with Hull at times and when Pienaar led a quick break and set up Rodwell, the midfielder's goalbound shot was deflected over by a defender. Then it was Distin's turn to maraud forward down the left channel, the defender finishing his charge with a fierce shot that was beaten away by the goalkeeper.

The Blues were playing some wonderful stuff and Phil Brown's side were being torn apart at times. Yakubu rampaged forward on another counter attack in the 68th minute with Arteta and John Heitinga for company but he ignored the Dutchman as he peeled away into acres of space and selfishly shot straight at Myhill, wasting a 3-on-2 break.

With 20 minutes gone, the moment both he and the home crowd had been waiting for arrived when Landon Donovan was introduced from the substitute's bench with Anichebe making way. The American captain had looked a little jaded in his time on the pitch at White Hart Lane last weekend but his omission from the starting XI today was a little bemusing.

Nevertheless, he packed plenty into this 20-minute cameo (which may be his last appearance at Goodison this season), starting with a nice interchange with Yakubu that saw the Nigerian shin Donovan's pinpoint low cross over the bar when it seemed easier to score.

Eight minutes from the end, a low Baines cross skidded all the way across the Hull area, just eluded Rodwell and fell to Donovan on the right side of the box. With clinical accuracy, the no. 9 drilled the ball unerringly back across the goal and inside the far post before wheeling away to milk the applause from the crowd.

And, fittingly, Donovan played a decisive role in the fifth and final goal when he picked up Heitinga's excellent pass out wide and the USA international squared it for Rodwell who gracefully fired home first time to put the icing on the cake.

This was a fine display by Everton that delighted the home supporters and went a long way to wiping out the damage to the goal difference done by that 6-1 home defeat by Arsenal on the opening day. True, Hull made it easy for them to rip them to shreds but the manner in which Everton's talent shone through to capitalise on the space made available to them was a joy to behold. It would have been nice to see Seamus Coleman given a run out at 3- or 4-1, but I suppose you can't grumble too much!

Arteta was simply magnificent and, with the possible exception of his range from ste-pieces, which still looks a little off, he looks back to his crowd-pleasing best on this evidence. Heitinga grew into his role as the midfield enforcer as the game went and simply a beast at times — one teeth-rattling challenge in particular exemplified his uncompromising approach, as did the fact that he sprinted away from it none the worse it — Rodwell was terrific at getting forward in a way that was lacking against Spurs, and Donovan rightly grabbed his share of the limelight with a superbly-taken goal.

Yakubu may feel a little disappointed in himself but would do well to remember that he has not had a run of games to get any kind of match sharpness. He holds the ball up brilliantly at times and exhibits some wonderful close control and intelligent distrbution. In the face of some questioning whether we should keep him, even allowing for his occasional lapses in workrate, to my mind we should be keeping hold of players of his ability.

So, on to St Andrews to face a Birmingham side whose spectacular unbeaten winter run has given way to some iffy results in recent weeks and it might be a good time to face them and put some distance between us in the battle for Europa League places. Certainly if we play the kind of football we did today as opposed to the frustrating fare we served up in the FA Cup defeat in January, we stand a very good chance.

Player Ratings:
Howard 7, Neville 7, Jagielka 7, Distin 7, Baines 8, Heitinga 8, Osman 6 (Rodwell 8), Arteta 9*, Pienaar 8, Anichebe 7 (Donovan 8), Yakubu 7

Reader Comments

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Geoff Trenner
1   Posted 09/03/2010 at 03:27:11

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Rodwell certainly seems to be playing in a much more forward role recently. I lost count of the number of times he popped up in the penalty area where he either got on the end of a cross/pass or just made a nuisance of himself. Good on the lad!
David Hallwood
2   Posted 09/03/2010 at 06:25:14

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Good report Lyndon; A great performance — eventually. But you touched on our tendancy to start slowly and this has been a problem all season, sometimes we snap out of it but other times we retreat into our shell. In this league you need to out of the blocks early
Danny Burke
3   Posted 09/03/2010 at 13:52:45

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great performance and brilliant to see Mikel back to his brilliant best. Donovan made up for last weeks shocking miss and Rodwell looks good surging forward. Heitinga looks great in the middle of midfield as he did at CB. Yak should have scored but I thought his oeveral performance was quality.

Glad you mentioned the great save from Howard when Garcia tried to lob him. After the stick Howard got (some justified) against Wolves after Doyle’s goal, I hope people can see that is why he did what he did, 9/10 players would try the lob, Doyle was clever enough to dink it under.
Aiden Doyle
4   Posted 09/03/2010 at 18:19:36

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David (p.2), I’ve also noted our tendency to start slowly, but I’m starting to wonder if Moyes is trying to steal another page from Sir Alex Ferguson’s book. United sides are renowned for finishing games strongly (which we tend to do) and for coming in to peak form at the business end of the season (here’s hoping). No doubt, there’s still some way to go, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a principle that Moyes was starting to emulate.
Chris Briddon
5   Posted 11/03/2010 at 09:41:44

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Decent summary - shame about the digs at the Yak though, I know he missed a couple of chances but his alround game was excellent - and Heitinga certainly wasn’t in acres of space and Yak had every right to sue the space created to have a shot.
Also on a minor point at your other dig (either at Neville or davey I’m not sure), but I for one am greatful thatColeman didn’t appear at 3-1 or 4-1 as we would have been fined very heavily - He wasn’t actually one of the subs available! the other unsused subs were Nash, Hibbert, Gosling and Bily!

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