VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Goodison Park played host to a truly stunning game of Premier League football as Everton eventually came out victorious in a roller-coaster encounter that had it all ? eight goals, refereeing controversy, an incredible goal-line clearance, a four-goal haul for a striker on top of his game in every way, and a home win for a side that so desperately needed another galvanising display in front of their anxious fans.
Blackpool have made attacking football and a never-say-die spirit the hallmark of their first season back in the top flight and the manner in which they turned the match on its head in two lightning-quick minutes just past the hour mark was testament to that.
But they could not hold back an irresistible performance by Everton, one laced with some scintillating moments of attacking football, some superb finishing ? a rare commodity in Liverpool L4 lately ? and marred only by another episode of calamitous defending and more evidence of vulnerability to the counter attack.
There were signs early on that this could be a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon for the Blues as they signalled their intent with some sustained forward pressure in the early going and some lovely touches by Jack Rodwell who was again preferred as the man to play behind Louis Saha.
There were also as many suggestions that those familiar failings in the final third could again be their undoing. Three direct free kicks in the first 17 minutes, all within 25 yards of goal by three different players ? Mikel Arteta, Leighton Baines, and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov ? ended up rebounding off the defensive wall, John Heitinga drilled a good shot too close to the goalkeeper, and Bilyaletdinov couldn't get sufficiently above a Phil Neville cross and headed well over from close range.
But everything fell into place in the 20th minute with a wonderful move that ended with Saha ramming home the first of four goals from eight yards out. It began with a Seamus Coleman interception inside his own half, saw Marouane Fellaini spin out of trouble and find Rodwell via a deflection. He in turn fed Bilyaletdinov who played a one-two with Baines, skipped delightfully inside two defenders and cut the ball back for the Frenchman to do what he does best with the goal at his mercy.
Five minutes later, Rodwell found himself in space in the area but having done the hard part with a nice piece of skill to wrong-foot a defender, he air-kicked his shot before a deft chip into the area by Bilyaletdinov set up a chance for Saha but he was crowded out by a forest of white shirts before he could dig the ball out from between his feet.
Blackpool had barely figured as an attacking force but were level thanks to a slice of fortune after 35 minutes . Sylvain Distin was somewhat harshly penalised for handball on the edge of the "D" but Charlie Adam's free kick was deflected behind by Arteta. When Adam's corner bobbled to the near post, though, Evatt was the first to react and he thought he'd scored after turning a shot off the inside off the post and onto the goalline. Baines stopped it from going in but Baptiste was on hand to turn the loose ball home.
Four minutes later, the Blues would have been back in front were it not for a horrendous refereeing decision by Kevin Friend. Coleman had touched the ball brilliantly past his marker and, having muscled his way into the box despite being held back, he squared it perfectly to Saha. The referee ignored the obvious advantage and blew the whistle as the striker turned the ball past the 'keeper for what would have been his second goal of the game.
Baines wasted the free kick that was awarded and Goodison erupted into a chorus of frustrated boos, that continued as Bilyaletdinov's cute chip-shot forced Rachubka into emergency action at the back post and then reached a crescendo at the half-time whistle a couple of minutes later.
David Moyes's side retained their fire as the second half kicked off, though, and were back in front for real within two minutes of the restart in yet more style. Rodwell's slide-rule pass released the over-lapping Baines down the left and his perfect low cross served the ball on a plate to Saha who just needed the appetite to beat two defenders to it and stab it home. 2-1 and game back on!
Bily was then picked out in space on the left side of the box by Saha but his powerful shot was parried away and Rodwell showed yet more quick thinking in the area to touch a square pass in front a defender but then, with the angle closed down by Rachubka, poked wide.
It felt like one of those days when the floodgates would open and deliver one of those increasingly rare Goodison hammerings so what followed felt like a kick to the guts.
It started with an ill-advised chest back in-field by Coleman that was intercepted by Adam but when the ball came loose, Heitinga went into a 50-50 challenge in unforgiveably weak fashion and came off second best, allowing Grandin to release James Beattie who crossed for Puncheon to tuck a shot past Tim Howard and inside the opposite post.
Two minutes later, Blackpool were ahead. Fellaini had a shot cleared off the line in front of the goalpost that resulted in an Everton throw down their right. When the ball broke loose and Adam slipped just as the counter-attack was on, it looked as the danger had gone, but Distin dallied and was robbed near the centre-circle allowing Puncheon to race away and play in DJ Campbell who was sure to score... until his shot came back off the crossbar. Unfortunately for Everton, the ball bounced back perfectly for Adam who stooped to head into the empty net and make it 3-2.
At this point, with the crowd stunned and haunting memories of disasters past from earlier in the campaign, the Blues might have descended into panic but they stuck with what had been working and almost carved out an immediate response with a virtual carbon copy of the second goal. Rodwell fed Baines, he crossed low and Fellaini tried to turn it home but Rachubka saved and, in any case, play was pulled back for offside.
Two minutes later, Rodwell thought he'd delivered the equaliser. Rachubka went walkabout outside his area,and got away from Coleman but not Rodwell and was dispossessed leaving the net unattended and just begging to be bulged by the 19 year-old's well-struck shot. Somehow, though, Evatt scrambled back and hurled himself into the path of the ball, stretching out a despairing leg that steered it clear and left the defender in a crumpled heap in the Gwladys Street End net. Rodwell couldn't believe it and neither could anyone else.
With 20 minutes left, Moyes decided to change things up, though despite the scoreline it was hard to see who he could pull off as almost everyone had been having a storming game up to that point. Rodwell and Bilyaletdinov were the ones to make for Tim Cahill and Jermaine Beckford and five minutes later, the Blues were back on level terms.
Saha won a corner that eventually came out to Baines and yielded a second corner when his shot was deflected behind. Arteta stepped up to take the kick from the Everton left, Beckford challenged for the wicked inswinger inside the six-yard box and when the ball bounced up invitingly for the unmarked Saha at the back post, the striker made no mistake by burying the header to mark his hat-trick.
With Holloway having put two defensively-minded players on when the score was 3-2, the momentum was back with the home side and just four minutes later, Goodison was rocking once more as the Blues reclaimed the lead. Baines stepped inside his marker on the left touchline, picked out Beckford's run with an inch-perfect ball in with his weaker foot and the mercurial striker delivered the perfect finish, a left-footed volley that guided it clean past the advancing 'keeper.
4-3 in a spellbinding game and Everton weren't done yet. Surging away on a counter-attack of their own another four minutes on from the fourth goal, Fellaini sent Saha away with a well-time pass across the halfway line and the no. 8 simply took it from there, powering in on goal and burying his fourth goal past Rachubka with the outside of his right foot before wheeling away to milk the celebrations from the home crowd.
Moyes gave him the opportunity for a standing ovation by substituting him with four minutes left and the Blues successfully played out time with just a Beckford overhead kick that flew over the bar the only real chance that fell to either side in injury time.
The scoreline belies the quailty that coursed through this Everton performance, easily the most complete attacking display they have put in all season. But for Blackpool's unfortunate opener and some poor defending for their second and third goals, this would have been a romp for Moyes's boys. As it was, Goodison was treated to an absolutely thrilling match and though Moyes has persistent concerns over his side's susceptibility to lapses in concentration at the back and to being hit on the break, he'll take enormous satisfaction from what ended up being a terrific victory.
He also has something of a dilemma now that Cahill is back from the Asia Cup because Rodwell, despite all the predictions he will make a great centre half, made a very convincing case for retaining that advanced midfield role. Were it not for a loss of composure at critical moments in front of goal and, of course, that miracle stop by Evatt, he would have added his name to the scoresheet, but his performance was notable for some wonderful vision, threading a number of defence-splitting balls through the Blackpool rearguard.
Indeed, there were great performances all over the park. Fellaini was immense, Arteta energised and more creative than we've seen him in months, Coleman a terror, Bily an occasional magician, and Baines inspired with his delivery from the left.
But the bulk of the plaudits rightly belong with Saha who grabbed four goals and scored another that was disallowed but also put in the complete striker's display, chasing everything, chesting down long balls, holding up play and generally haring around the Goodison turf like a man possessed. For a player that many had written off as injury-prone, disinterested and past it, he lit up this match in the manner that persuaded Manchester United to pay Fulham £11m for his services all those seasons ago.
Like the stirring win over Spurs here a month ago, this should provide a platform for Moyes's side to kick on and start climbing away from trouble at the wrong end of the table but a tricky trip to the Reebok Stadium in their next fixture will fully test that new-found resolve. Having shown that they can get their attacking ticking and the goals flowing, this game should provide a benchmark for the last third of the campaign.
Player Ratings: Howard 6, Neville 7, Heitinga 7, Distin 7, Baines 8, Coleman 8, Fellaini 9, Arteta 8, Bilyaletdinov 8 (Cahill 6), Rodwell 8 (Beckford 8), Saha 10* (Jagielka 6)
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1 Posted 06/02/2011 at 00:46:04
2 Posted 06/02/2011 at 01:32:00
3 Posted 06/02/2011 at 01:28:14
Firstly, before we get carried away, this Blackpool team will probably present the opposition with more space than any other side in the league.
Secondly, for all the hard-man image, am I right in saying that is the second vital 50-50 challenge where Johnny has failed this season? As a defender, you are first and foremost a stopper and the Jag, for all his limitations, would have put his body on the line in a similar situation.
4 Posted 06/02/2011 at 01:28:19
5 Posted 06/02/2011 at 02:06:31
How many times has Baines failed to close down the cross leading to a goal? How many blunders did Distin have in his early season form?
I still think we should persevere with him ahead of Jags, did you see his first contribution when coming on? Hoofed it 60 yards from midfield over the byline on the far side.With Heitinga in the side we have two centre-backs who can play it out of defence and we look much better for it.
6 Posted 06/02/2011 at 02:54:13
7 Posted 06/02/2011 at 03:13:44
When Cahill's ready, plug him in behind Saha with Rodwell and Fellaini in support and Arteta moving wide right. Rodwell's burgeoning confidence should be encouraged, and I would hate to see him back on the bench.
PS... Ian, in the interview I saw on Sky, Wenger not only said he saw Barton's challenge, but that he should have been sent off for it.
8 Posted 06/02/2011 at 03:24:56
9 Posted 06/02/2011 at 04:59:19
10 Posted 06/02/2011 at 05:15:54
I'm not sure why we are struggling so much defensively. Heitinga has a howler nearly every game but I agree with Martin that it is so much better to watch him and Distin bringing the ball out than Jags. Frankly Jags and Neville look so much cruder than the rest of the team. I know ultimately it is all about results and it is no good looking good (which I think we do more often than not in the last number of games) if we aren't grinding out results.
I guess I think we need to address our defensive issues on the training ground rather than changing personnel. The only exception to that might be Bily. I was thrilled he had a good game and I genuinely want him to succeed at Everton, but I do think he does better against a team like Blackpool rather than a well-organized super-fit, super-pressing team like Chelsea or Arsenal. Sometimes he just doesn't look up to the pace. That said, I don't think Osman is the solution in that situation either.
11 Posted 06/02/2011 at 07:54:03
Let's hope we can take that form (Louis especially) into the Chelsea game and salvage something from this season.
Could the tunnel incident at the Emirates be the turning point in our season? If it is / was, why does it take a moment of controversy to wake our lads up to make them perform.....?
Just watching highlights again ? awesome match. :D
12 Posted 06/02/2011 at 08:44:14
Fellaini is looking world class whoever he plays against, and putting Mikel in the shade. Heitinga made one shit tackle yesterday, but otherwise was good and, overall, I think the defence looks much better without Jags.
Now, all we need is a keeper. Howard was terrible again. Yes, he makes some great stops now and then, but that's what PL keepers are supposed to do. His positioning is terrible and I feel it's time for Mucha to step up.
13 Posted 06/02/2011 at 10:33:44
Just how was Howard "terrible again" yesterday? He has his faults but what did he actually do wrong?
14 Posted 06/02/2011 at 11:28:33
It shows even more how much of a liar he is because that's not what he said on MotD.
15 Posted 06/02/2011 at 11:42:46
16 Posted 06/02/2011 at 13:07:13
17 Posted 06/02/2011 at 13:10:07
18 Posted 06/02/2011 at 13:15:43
Ironic that, most of the season, our attack has been found wanting whereas now, our defenders are giving us cause for concern.
Nice weekend so far though for a change. Let's hope Chelski can keep the high-scoring theme up this afternoon :)
19 Posted 06/02/2011 at 13:32:32
20 Posted 06/02/2011 at 13:09:51
Who gives a flying fuck about them.
I,am just happy with a blues win.
21 Posted 06/02/2011 at 14:41:15
This is a genuine question, Im bringing it up because he's just been sacked, not because of yesterdays game!!
22 Posted 06/02/2011 at 14:35:54
As for Howard yesterday, first goal, should have reacted quicker. Second goal, did you see where he was when the ball went in, in the back of the goal, WTF is he doing in there? Third goal, too far out when shot came..Sorry Ray, dont like to be critical when we really play well, but we are never ever going to win anything with him in goal.
23 Posted 06/02/2011 at 15:02:37
Can't agree with your comments on Howard by the way. It was actually a superb save by him to put the ball onto the bar before the 3rd goal. I'd put all 3 goals down to poor defensive errors rather than Howard.
Oh well, just differences of opinion.
24 Posted 06/02/2011 at 15:26:23
Maybe it's grumpy old men time, but I must've been the only person in the ground that wasn't happy about the result, you can say what you like about great game for the neutral etc, but i would prefer us winning 1-0 or 2-0, and be in total control of the game. As it stands the last time we won and kept a clean sheet was the win over the RS, just not good enough and if we continue to make schoolboy howlers like like we did against Blackpool & Arsenal, we will be turned over by better teams than Blackpool.
25 Posted 06/02/2011 at 15:53:28
Thanks for the kind words regarding the report, Mike, but I'm going to disagree with you on Seamus :)
I don't recall too many glaring errors on his part recently in his own half and yesterday's mistake was a small one. It really should have been dealt with by Heitinga.
I agree with Dermot that the energy and the threat he poses down the right make him vital. Only a small percentage of what he does actually leads to anything directly (sometimes he needs to cross or release it sooner) but the free kicks, corners and throw-ins that he wins by charging at opposition defences do lead to chancs.
I love having someone of his exuberance and determination in the side and I think we'd be much the poorer without him.
26 Posted 06/02/2011 at 17:22:35
Or do you leave Cahill out?
27 Posted 06/02/2011 at 17:31:36
I think you're 180 off about Howard... I consider him among the very best in the Prem. I certainly wouldn't trade him for any of the other so-called "top" keepers... I just watch Cech cower away from a cross and give up an ugly goal to the Shite, and that after screaming in the face of one of his defenders. Who would you prefer? Rank blunderers like Green and Foster? A fading legend like Van der Sar or Friedel?
I'll give you one name I'd trade Howard for... Joe Hart. That's it. Other than that, forget it. When the shots are coming in, give me a guy who stops shots. Brilliantly. That's Howard.
28 Posted 06/02/2011 at 17:46:45
29 Posted 06/02/2011 at 18:05:23
Howard has cost us a cart full of points so far, and I think he is our weak link and he is having a bad season. Sorry, but that's my opinion.
30 Posted 06/02/2011 at 18:28:51
31 Posted 06/02/2011 at 20:50:53
32 Posted 06/02/2011 at 20:26:39
None of this is Howard's fault. I can think of a half-dozen saves he's made this year that nobody else in the EPL besides Hart could make. And most of them he wouldn't have had to make if his defenders were doing their jobs.
33 Posted 06/02/2011 at 21:33:50
Saha really rolled back the years. A 'perfect' hat trick and the best centre forward performance I've seen by an Everton player for a long time.
Like with others I did leave the stadium with worries amongst the joy. The goals we are conceding are just plain awful. Having dominated the first half I would have been gutted had we lost, but against a better team we would have. Going forward the midfield looks fine, if a bit impotent, but they are too slight defensively (contradicting myself here but Fellaini won almost everything today). I feel like I have seen teams walk through the midfield and defence to score on numerous times this season. We need someone nasty in there.
Oh well, guess we'll just have to score at least three to win every game :)
34 Posted 06/02/2011 at 21:48:53
35 Posted 06/02/2011 at 18:14:01
But I thought at the time that he or the Blackpool player would dive in studs down for the dead ball. An extremely dangerous challenge and it looked highly likely. I think Heitinga went in timidly part fearing that a red may have come from diving in, part fearing too hard a challenge would leave him a broken leg.
It was the wrong call. But a tad understandable, but he shoulda maybe just belted the ball, while getting his legs outta the way. Not decisive enough. And could cost him his place.
But I like Johnny. Usually very cool on the ball and good linking with Felli.
36 Posted 06/02/2011 at 23:54:07
We need someone to do his sweeper job after corners.
37 Posted 06/02/2011 at 23:57:15
Let's enjoy the win, pick out and discuss the positives (and negatives) from it, and take heart from a great attacking Everton performance. It doesn't always have to be about doom and gloom.
38 Posted 07/02/2011 at 05:25:42
Now, I am putting my head on the chopping block here, he might be a major let down, but I am beginning to wonder how Howard can keep David Moyes's trust.
39 Posted 07/02/2011 at 09:18:28
DM has a few tough selection decisions to make for the Bolton game. I suspect he will name an unchanged team again with Cahill and Beckford still on the bench.
40 Posted 07/02/2011 at 10:52:15
Was it Bob Latchford?
41 Posted 07/02/2011 at 15:12:15
As for Mucha, talk about a blind stab and a prayer. Did you actually watch the guy at the World Cup? I did. He gave up seven goals in four games, including an absolute howler against Paraguay and an easy one to little New Zealand. He had a good game against Italy with several fine athletic saves, but then got caught hopelessly out of position on Holland's gamewinner. I saw no sign that Mucha is ready for the EPL or anything close to it. Also, he couldn't beat out Fabianski at Legia Warsaw, and despite his great game against us, I don't consider Fabianski a top EPL keeper by any means.
I can't believe you want to throw this unknown quantity into our goal. Obviously you really dislike Howard. I'm happy to know that Moyes has a different opinion.
42 Posted 07/02/2011 at 14:53:48
I saw this attitude when Keegan managed Newcastle and it only ended when they for some inexplicable reason had to (or were made) to sell Andy Cole. Their football up to that point was extemely entertaining and they had the title within their grasp.
Everton at the mermont (sorry couldn't resist) seem to be in a transitional tactical state of thought. Do we go with attack or defense. Moyes needs to get a handle on which way he wants to go and stick with it.
To many times this season Moyes has dallied with one or the other. If you can't do both, which we would like, either attack mega or defend mega and win games 1-0. Or do what you did on Saturday and win 10-8 every game.
I know which one I'd go for.
43 Posted 07/02/2011 at 16:37:04
44 Posted 07/02/2011 at 16:46:09
45 Posted 07/02/2011 at 17:06:14
46 Posted 07/02/2011 at 17:13:22
47 Posted 07/02/2011 at 17:23:34
48 Posted 07/02/2011 at 17:45:41
The whole idea with a football squad is that players should be looking over their shoulders and producing good performances, to keep in the team. Maybe it's this that is sadly lacking at our club. Are they all playing well enough to keep being selected, week-in, week-out? Why has Beckford not been given a proper chance? Because our strikers have been top-notch this season... I think not. Has Arteta delivered this season? I think not... but he is selected every game.
So don´t panic, Mike, Howard will play every bleeding game, even though his positional play is shit, his only strength is stopping shots on the line, except shots taken from outside the box.
I just wonder how many points we would have if we had a good keeper like (this hurts) the Liverpool keeper. I reckon we would be sitting around 6th in the table... nuff said!!!
49 Posted 08/02/2011 at 01:42:37
In my view, Howard starts because he never gives up tricklers between his legs (Foster), little squirmers off his hands (Green in the World Cup), soft mushies under his arms (Gomes on Sunday), and he never pathetically cowers away from bouncing crosses as Cech did to lose to the RS.
If you think Hart is better than Howard, I agree with you. If you think Reina is better, I will consider the point worthy of debate. If you think anybody else in the Prem is better, I think you'd better have your eyes checked. Maybe with Hart or Reina in goal, we'd be sixth; maybe not. But with anybody else ? Robinson, Myhill, Foster, Green, Hahnemann, Friedel, Jaaskeleinen or anyone else down the league you'd care to name ? we'd be staring at a relegation battle. So I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.
Regarding Beckford, I thought the prevailing view was that Moyes pushed him too hard, too soon, not the other way around. But keeping in mind that Moyes tends to keep his new acquisitions on the bench for a while ? Cahill, Baines, Jags, Fellaini all had to serve extended apprentice time before breaking through ? I'm willing to trust him on Beckford. The Becks I saw in the last two games was far more controlled and confident than the guy who ran around like a headless chicken in the early games this season. I don't think that's a coincidence.
50 Posted 08/02/2011 at 12:25:38
51 Posted 08/02/2011 at 14:37:24
And no, I do not have faith in Moyes'ds judgement. How did you you come to that conclusion? You are obviously a pro-Moyes man. Sorry, but I can not wait to see him go.
Beckford running around like a headless chicken!! Well, it's no wonder you are a defender, Mike.
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