I thought before the game that Everton would pick up an easy three points at home to Hull. We had completely outplayed them over the 90 minutes at the KC Stadium earlier in the year only to concede two daft goals from corners and somehow contrive to draw 2-2 so I reasonably assumed that Hull would give it a go for 20 minutes or so and then retreat into their own half and suffer an inevitable defeat. As the fixture got closer however, my own internal Victor Meldrew got to work. Hull had beaten Arsenal and Tottenham away, they had recently outplayed Aston Villa at the KC before being cruelly beaten 1-0. Everton would be under pressure as their next three Premier League matches are against “top four” opposition and they had no fit strikers.
I had been informed before the weekend that The Clarence on Utting Avenue had been closed. It didn’t surprise me as so many pubs have closed in Liverpool but it did leave me with a dilemma as to where to meet and park with the inevitable army of friends and family attending the match. In the end my brother said meet at the Hermitage where, after some pyrotechnics, I managed to park. I had three tickets for my two sons and one of their friends and was looking forward to a seat close to the half way line as it was described to me by the ticket office in the Lower Bullens near the back. As it turned out I was just about as far away from the halfway line as you could possibly get, looking almost directly across the Gladwys Street goal line.
Much of the conjecture before the game was about the dilemma facing Moyes over the use of Fellaini. In the end it was as I thought. This game is as big a game in the Premier League as any other, you get three points for beating Hull not six for beating Liverpool even though it feels like it, and Fellaini played. Everton started with their strongest XI, in the much heralded 4-6-0 formation, although it looked like a fluid 4-4-1-1 formation to me. Hull City lined up 4-1-4-1. The promising goalkeeper Myhill in goal, McShane and Ricketts at fullback, the excellent Turner/Zayette combination at centre back, Ashbee in the Carsley role, Mendy, Marney, Barmby and Geovanni in the midfield and King ploughing a lone furrow up front.
The opening minutes were evenly contested, the ball zoomed a lot in the air and Fellaini was involved in several elbowing, pushing and shoving matches with Turner and Zayette. Fellaini drew blood off both of them in the course of the match so, added to the trip and foot-up offences, it was no surprise when he was booked. He was as much sinned against as sinning but really I think he could have no complaints.
Everton built a lot of pressure near the Hull goal, largely because the full backs got so far up the pitch. Hibbert was expertly put in to the by-line only to scuff his cross. Baines managed much better and Fellaini scored with a neat header on 17 minutes. As we were looking right across the goal line we could see that he was clearly a yard offside. How the linesman missed that I do not know but it was good to see Everton get some luck for a change, especially after that comedy Neville own goal at the KC Stadium and the Blackburn offside goal on the opening day etc. I think Everton would have gone on to win anyway but that doesn’t change the fact for Hull fans.
Hull had looked threatening in the first 15 minutes, Geovanni had got on the ball and Mendy and McShane had forced a corner but they faded after the goal.
The curse of the sausage roll (why do we do it?) prevented me from seeing a fantastic 30-yard free kick into the top corner from Arteta. My boys laughed at me when I came back to my seat. “Two extra large sausage rolls please”, “We don’t have any extra large sausage rolls love” “Two foot long hot dogs please”, “We don’t have any footlong…” You get my drift, nobody had informed the catering staff that there was a football match on at Goodison Park today with the possibility of 37,500 fans in attendance.
Two balti pies and two sausage rolls (£10 and a trip to the burns unit) later and we were treated to an anodyne second half in which Everton played some pretty patterns on the halfway line and Hull for all their substitutions and huffing and puffing couldn’t muster a single effort on target. Hull passed the ball backwards to their goalkeeper who hoofed it up to the rock solid Lescott and Jagielka.
Anichebe came on and made some good interventions. Osman should have played in one of his fellow players and didn’t, as well as missing a good chance near the six yard box and the game petered out disappointingly amidst some niggly confrontations and pantomime booing of Barmby who of course effectively ended his career years ago by opting for Liverpool reserves instead of Everton — the fool.
What did I take from the game? Well, the satisfaction of taking my boys to the game and the comfort of seeing a rather good Everton team comprehensively outplay Hull City. Howard was excellent in goal. Hibbert was thoroughly competent and ran intelligently even if he was as always found wanting in the final third. Baines was excellent for me, so quick in attack and defence and with an able assist for the first goal. Lescott was superb, Marlon King really gave it a go but never got a sniff. Jagielka too looked composed and athletic when called upon. Osman and Pienaar weren’t in the game enough for my liking although they both had their moments. Arteta was imperious, he kept possession, won any number of headers surprisingly and smashed in a wonder goal.
Neville was quietly industrious and effective (it was funny to hear the Everton faithful shout “shoot” when he got near the box). Cahill won a lot of free kicks and made a real nuisance of himself and Fellaini was, to my mind, the man of the match. He was so difficult to deal with in the air, scored and brought the ball down so well on his chest on a number of occasions before passing swiftly and accurately. An Everton fan next to me said that Fellaini was the sort of player who would do really well at Arsenal, a strange thing to say but quite true.
Hull were so comprehensively outplayed that I thought it wouldn’t be any fun at work on Monday. They have rode their luck and did fantastically well in the first half of the season but it now seems to have deserted them. They need to regroup and win some home matches to stay up. I was impressed with Zayette and Turner who never gave up and with the willingness of Marlon King but the midfield need to move more and combine with the fullbacks more to play some football. I wish them well.
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