VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Everton stretched their unbeaten run in the Premier League to six games and moved to within a point of local rivals, Liverpool, in the chase for sixth place thanks to a surprisingly comprehensive dismantling of Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux. Three superb goals had the match sewn up by half time, allowing David Moyes the rare luxury of being able to blood some of his young talent through choice rather than necessity in the second half.
The form-book, the recent history of this fixture, Everton's long absentee list and Wolves' desperate struggle to beat the drop suggested that this would be a tricky fixture for the Blues. Since the turn of the year, Wolves have beaten Chelsea and Manchester United and held Tottenham to a thrilling 3-3 draw on home turf and came into this weekend having lost just once in five matches but they fell apart after conceding mid-way through the first half and Moyes's side put them to the sword.
Watching the first 20-odd minutes of this encounter, however, offered little hint of what was to come. Wolves started with confidence and determination to make an early breakthrough and had Everton under the kosh in a manner they rarely allow these days, even against the top four.
As early as the third minute, Phil Neville had been forced into emergency action to block Adlene Guedioura's half-volley and Jamie O'Hara volleyed over from the resulting corner before Leon Osman headed out of his own goalmouth to deny Steven Fletcher's header from another in a succession of corners for the home side in the early going.
And when Phil Jagielka tussled with Ebanks-Blank and the burly striker went down in the area, the Molineux crowd were on their feet baying for a penalty but referee Phil Dowd waved away the appeals.
The visitors were defending stoutly and they had to as the ball kept coming back as such forward momentum as the Blues could muster foundered on poor passing or pointless punts forward to attack made up of one of the smallest players on the pitch in Leon Osman and arguably the League's least effective target man for long balls in Jermaine Beckford.
In marked contrast to a Louis Saha or a Tim Cahill, the ex-Leeds striker simply refuses to jump into any aerial challenge but put the ball in the right place in front of goal and it's a different matter. So it proved with 20 minutes on the clock when John Heitinga played Osman into space down the right flank and he whipped in a perfect cross that Beckford rose to expertly glance beyond Wayne Hennessey to make it 1-0.
Wolves, having dominated up to that point, were stunned and though Guedioura almost served up the perfect riposte when his excellent curling shot drifted the wrong side of Tim Howard's post from his perspective, they were almost two down with a repeat of the first goal. Osman again picked out Beckford from the right with a terrific cross but this time Hennessey was able to push away his downward header.
Wolves continued to pose a threat, though, and Howard had a momentary panic when O'Hara's shot from the edge of the box took a slight touch off Sylvain Distin and flew past his right-hand post. From the ensuing corner, first Jagielka and then Osman were on hand to block shots in a goalmouth melee as the Blues rode their luck a little.
Two minutes later and seven before the break, though, it was 2-0. Leighton Baines, who would have an uncharacteristically subdued afternoon, was fouled by Guedioura near the corner flag and though Hennessey pawed the ball off his line as it ricocheted off the back of Elokobi, when it fell to Neville the midfielder despatched a crisp shot into the far corner with all the control and finesse of a top-class striker. The captain wheeled away in celebration and did a quick Cahill impression by punching the corner flag.
2-0 really should have been 3-0 a few minutes before it actually was. Diniyar Bilyaltdinov, up to that point as ineffectual as you can be, released full debutante Magaye Gueye into oceans of space behind the home defence but with Berra bearing down on him the Frenchman tried a weak poke past the 'keeper and Hennessey denied him with an out-stretched foot.
Bilyaletdinov took matters into his own hands on the stroke of half time, though, when Fletcher's wayward pass gave him an opening. Driving through the center of midfield, the Russian advanced to around 25 yards out before unloading one of his trademark swerving left-footed Exocet missiles that flew into the Wolves net to send Everton into a commanding 3-0 lead at the break.
The match was over as a contest at that point. Although this Premier League season has seen some astonishing comebacks, Wolves never looked like effecting one, though they did force an excellent double save by Tim Howard around the hour mark where he palmed away Karl Henry's 25-yard effort and then parried Guedioura's header to safety almost from point-blank range.
Instead, the second half was more about Everton trying to pick them off on the break but Beckford was adjudged to be offside with one effort that he, in any case, bundled off the outside of the post, substitute Victor Anichebe had a soft chot deflected agonisngly wide and Bilyaletdinov miskicked embarrassingly when Anichebe's cross was diverted into his path by the 'keeper's outstretched leg.
Al in all, though, a hugely satisfying win that keeps the recent momentum going through the current selection crisis and what is a comparatively soft part of the Blues' fixture calendar. Next up, Blackburn Rovers back at Goodison Park and the opportunity to put more pressure on the Red horde before the daunting trip to Old Trafford looms the following week.
Player Ratings: Howard 7, Hibbert 7, Jagielka 7, Distin 7, Baines 7, Bilyaletdinov 6 (Forshaw
7 6), Neville 7, Heitinga 7, Gueye 6 (Anichebe 6), Osman 8, Beckford 7 (Vellios 6)
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1 Posted 09/04/2011 at 20:16:02
2 Posted 09/04/2011 at 23:47:17
My only negative was the way we started the game; if Wolves had have scored, it may well have been a different game. I reckon Osman was immense and covered lots of ground doing good work at both ends of the pitch. He definitely has not had a downward trend in his form since he signed his new contract.
3 Posted 10/04/2011 at 05:23:09
Really great to see the younger players getting the chance to play. I'm not sure that any of them have the genuine class to make it but at least they're getting the chance. Beckford for sure looks like he has the making of a genuine Premier League forward.
4 Posted 10/04/2011 at 11:09:38
5 Posted 10/04/2011 at 15:43:58
6 Posted 11/04/2011 at 14:08:20
Personally, I think Jags was very lucky with the penalty incident and he created the problem with a terrible pass out of defence. It seems to me that certain players can make mistakes and the manager is very tolerant, whilst other players only need to transgress the once and they get the "wrath of Moyes". A little less favouritism please, Mr Moyes.
7 Posted 11/04/2011 at 14:43:04
It's a long time since Everton had a player who has the ability to hit a ball with such power from outside the box. Asking him to play wide, is like asking Neville to play centre forward: mind you, after the rocket from him, you never know...
Congratulations to Leon Osman for another outstanding performance, another player who does his best work inside, or given a free role to roam, wherever he wants. Well done Beckford, a great striker's goal; he will soon be in double figures.
Keep up the good work boys.
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