COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL
Quite a few of us went along to this one, including a few Manchester United
fans. We all set off in plenty of time and congregated in The Brick for a
couple of pre-match drinks. Nobody could quite believe the news that Wayne
Rooney was not included in the squad for the game. I think that surprised
pretty much everyone and even disappointed a few who were intrigued to see what
level of reaction ?Wazza? was to receive.
So it was just Berbatov in attack for Man Utd with Giggs playing a support role. Everton began without a recognized striker, with Cahill taking on the role as pest with Fellaini supporting. As I thought he might, Osman regained his place back in the team on the right flank with Pienaar combining with Baines on the left. Though on the bench, I can only assume Neville wasn?t quite fit enough to start the game following his recent injury so Hibbert continued at right back.
Arteta captained the team in central midfield with Heitinga in the holding role. The bench looked attractive, with Yakubu, Beckford, Coleman, Bilyaletdinov and Gueye all featuring. The referee was Martin Atkinson. Having won the toss, we attacked towards the Park End in the first half.
And attack we did, Everton immediately on the front foot at the start of the game with Goodison Park rocking. Arteta probably came the closest to scoring with a wicked free kick that dipped narrowly over the crossbar. Baines also had a presentable opportunity though snatched at his volley when well placed, and Osman curled high and wide with an opportunity from the edge of the box. The tempo was high, Everton squeezing Manchester United all over the pitch. ?We need to score whilst we?re playing well? noted Gary, as you always know Manchester United are going to create opportunities at some point.
This they did, really testing Everton as they drove forward in their usual menacing style. I thought John O?Shea had scored when he smacked a speculative half-volley goalwards and was unlucky not to find the net as the ball crashed off the post and away. This appeared to spur on Manchester United though and Scholes is probably still pondering how he didn?t score when he was denied by an unbelievable save by Howard.
A debatable free kick was played back to Scholes, catching Everton off-guard. He was closed down pretty quickly by five blue shirts though still managed to thunder his shot away, the ball deflecting of a blue shirt, wrong-footing the already diving Howard though he still somehow managed to get a leg onto the ball and divert it over the crossbar. Quite how he did it I don?t know and that certainly makes up for his error at Blackburn on the opening day. Our American stopper was at it again moments later also, denying Giggs with a good flying save. You got the impression Howard had a bit of a point to prove to his old employees.
Gary and Col went down for their half-time beer. Manchester United continued to press though it was Everton who somehow capitalized. A ball into the box, I think from a corner was cleared out. Cahill chased it down by the touchline by the opposite corner flag, looked up, and blazed an exuberant ball forward towards Arteta on the half-way line. Patrice Evra missed it, Arteta?s first touch couldn?t have been better and he found himself through on goal. With Neville trying to make up ground, the Spaniard got his shot away though Van der Sar saved. The ball came back to Osman who dinked a lovely ball inside for the supporting Pienaar who finished past the big Dutchman. Funny that, whilst we were in the ascendancy we just couldn?t score, though then did manage to find a breakthrough amidst Manchester United domination.
Sadly, the lead was short-lived and Manchester United were level again within minutes. A free-kick was clipped just past Fellaini to Giggs and all of a sudden the break was on. Nani put a cracking ball into the box which Everton couldn?t quite defend and ghoul-faced Fletcher stole in to nick the ball past Howard. A nice finish, though I found it a trifle unnecessary for him to goad the fans as he celebrated? I don?t remember any anti-Fletcher? or even anti-Manchester United chants prior to his goal. Anyhow, at half-time we were all square and Gary and Col had missed both the goals.
I normally go and see Ste at half-time but, with him away in Canada, I went down to join the boys for a quick pint. In trying to find them, I bumped into Col who had no idea where Gary was either, so we patrolled the concourse looking for him for the entirety of the interval, even getting up on the steps to try and spot him at one point but all to no avail.
I went back to my seat in time for the second half with Col still looking for Gary. It was just as well I came back when I did as it wasn?t long before Manchester United had scored their second. A corner was played into and then headed out of the box. The ball was worked back out to the flank and crossed in again, Vidic towering and planting his header downwards and into the net. A bemused Gary returned to his seat, saying as he couldn?t see us, he gave up on getting a pint, and he was followed by an even more bemused Col, who?d then missed yet another goal.
The goal appeared to flatten Everton a little bit and, if not for another good save by Howard, things could have been worse. They DID get worse when Berbatov got away from Distin and through on goal, making no mistake, nonchalantly placed the ball past Howard. 3-1 and mission impossible? or so it seemed.
Everton continued to try and force something and it was to our credit that we never stopped plugging away. Moyes made his changes, getting Coleman on down the right-hand side and removing the rather subdued Heitinga for a striker in the shape (ahem) of Yakubu. This aided Everton?s cause and, when Osman side-footed very tamely at Van der Sar with a glorious chance after tidy footwork by Yakubu, you felt Everton?s opportunity had been and gone. Baines also went very close with a free kick which dipped just wide.
Manchester United fans were getting cocky, sarcastically chanting ?what the fuckin hell was that? at any Manchester United miss and ?Fergie, give us a wave?. You felt they knew they?d won it. The game ticked into injury time, ?Rossy? stating over the tannoy that we were to play three minutes. Gary had seen enough, ?right I?m gonna get the round in, see you in the pub,? he said as he departed. About 30 seconds later Baines clipped a good ball into the box which Cahill attacked, planting his header past Van der Sar. 3-2 with two minutes to play. Possible?
Everton won a throw-in down by our own penalty box. ?We just need to get it forward and you never know,? I said to Col. We managed to work the ball down the left-hand side, excellent play by Pienaar freeing Baines. Another fine ball into the box by Leighton was headed down by Cahill. It fell to Arteta who composed himself and smashed a half-volley at goal, the ball deflecting off Scholes and into the net. He did very well there ,Arteta, as it would have been so easy to sky the ball. Goodison erupted. Man Utd were silenced. Somehow we?d clawed the game back from the death. Somehow Gary had missed five goals out of six.
Somehow, there was still more action to come. There was still time for Manchester United to force a corner when Distin headed it practically out of Howard?s hands... if in doubt and all that. The ball was cleared and, all of a sudden, Everton had a great break on. Arteta brought it forward and played in Jagielka whom drove into Van der Sar. The next thing I saw was Moyes, Round and Fellaini all laying into Martin Atkinson and so could only assume he?d blown up early à la Graham Poll. It didn?t matter, I guess, as we?d missed the opportunity anyway but Moyes had a point. Regardless, Everton had somehow rescued the game when all hope appeared well and truly lost.
There was more drama to come after the game also. As we headed on through the crowded Gwladys Street, there was quite a bit of commotion up ahead of us and the only conclusion Col and I could arrive at was that there was a spot of fighting, though it all seemed a bit too good natured for fighting. What was actually happening was some muppet was driving through the traffic in his Nissan Micra wearing a Liverpool shirt. People were rocking the car, ripping off his registration plate and his windscreen wipers. It was absolutely hilarious to look at. It must have been for some sort of bet or something like that was our overall conclusion. A comedy end to a thrilling game.
Back at the pub, and Gary just couldn?t believe how many goals he?d missed. Simo was at it as well. As his seat was at the very, very back of the Lower Gwladys, he couldn?t see the scoreboard. He?d had a pint at half-time and so had also missed United?s second goal, so when Berbatov added the third he believed that to be the goal which put United 2-1 ahead? and so, when Everton made it 2-3, he wondered why the Everton supporters weren?t celebrating too much. He left the game thinking we?d won 3-2!!!
We got ourselves back into town and had a nice day with a few beers. A good turnout. A cracking match? exactly what going the game is all about.
Hopefully that?s the goal which kick-starts our season. Fingers crossed we can get that first win next week at home to Newcatle Utd? we won?t get a better opportunity than that.
- Howard: Hard not to give him man of the match really as he made a simply unsaveable save and didn?t put a foot wrong. 10
- Baines: Excellent getting forward. One assist and a big hand in the equalizing goal also. 9
- Distin: Well. From my seat I couldn?t really tell how bad a mistake he made for the Berbatov goal but, having seen it since, I can see how bad it was. A few mates sat in the Main Stand were telling me he had an absolute shocker though so I?ll have to take their word for it. 5
- Jagielka: Was imperious at the back I though. Very solid and very sensible. Definitely a man in form. 9
- Hibbert: Did well defensively and was subbed for Coleman at the right time as his distribution wasn?t very effective. 7
- Heitinga: Definitely had an off-day. Still perhaps a little jaded from the World Cup. 5
- Pienaar: Kept working, kept probing and was rather important to Everton?s defiance. Got on the scoresheet also. 8
- Osman: A bit hit and miss. Played a brilliant ball for the first goal but was guilty of missing a sitter late in the game which could have been important. Still, he didn?t let it affect him to his credit. 6
- Fellaini: Not exactly dominant but was composed on the ball and also seemed to show good continued belief. 7
- Arteta: Led the team well. He kept on believing more than most and got his vast rewards right at the death. 8
- Cahill: Battled hard. It was some tussle between he and Vidic but he kept on coming back for more and got his rewards with a key goal in injury time. 8
- Coleman (for Hibbert): Not as effective as he has been but got involved. Had to defend more than he?d have liked I think. 6
- Yakubu (for Heitinga): Had a big impact on the game and could be in contention to start next week. Nice to see him back. 8
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1 Posted 13/09/2010 at 18:25:23
2 Posted 13/09/2010 at 21:00:29
3 Posted 13/09/2010 at 23:20:58
4 Posted 13/09/2010 at 23:15:05
Now, for a little question I have asked and recieved no response to all the above mentioned. When dishing out players points, do all of you never give less than 5 to anyone? Is five the bare minimum, a kind of base rate that is applied.
Cheers, and thanks.
5 Posted 14/09/2010 at 00:00:49
Only diff. in player scores from me would be Distin. I believe he failed to do his job properly in all three MU goals. I think 5 is too high! You must be in a generous mood. (note for Dick Fearon - Distin 3?)
Keep up the good work!
6 Posted 15/09/2010 at 12:53:12
Love your reports Paul, look forward to them every week. I'll bet Gary feels a right plonker, missing 5 of 6 goals! It takes me back to a game in the 70s (forget who against) where we thought we's get a late pint in, arrived 10 minutes into the game, we were 2-0 up already, and that turned out to be the final score!
7 Posted 15/09/2010 at 13:11:08
Howard 5, Distin 1, Heitinga 3, the rest 4.
8 Posted 15/09/2010 at 13:31:32
Bob - yes. Gary does go 'walkabout' during games. I'd love to see a compilation of goals he's missed.
9 Posted 16/09/2010 at 16:50:11
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