VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Everton moved into 8th place in the Premier League, at least until the results of the Sunday fixtures, with a comfortable 2-0 victory over 10-man Bolton Wanderers in soggy conditions at the Reebok Stadium. The direction of this largely forgettable encounter was established in the 19th minute when a poor touch by David Wheater saw the ball run away from him and his clumsy, studs-up tackle caught Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, earning the former Middlesbrough defender a straight red card.
Already struggling for form as they were, that effectively ended the home side's hopes of getting the three points they needed to move out of the bottom three and meant Everton just needed to accomplish what has been so hard for them to do at times this season... and that is score!
In the end, they found the net twice and wasted a number of other promising attacks due to poor decision-making and a lack of intelligent movement off the ball but neither manager David Moyes nor the fans who made the trip along the road from Liverpool will mind too much. The result, a third away win of the campaign, was paramount and, given the slippery conditions, any in-depth post-mortem would probably be redundant.
Already without Phil Neville, Sylvain Distin and Jack Rodwell due to hamstring, groin and rib injuries respectively, Moyes was forced to make more changes to his starting line-up when Royston Drenthe was ruled out with an ankle injury. Bilyaletdinov was given the nod to play on the left flank, John Heitinga continued alongside Phil Jagielka in central defence and Leon Osman again partnered Marouane Fellaini in central midfield.
The slick turf and the way the ball skidded off it would be a significant factor all afternoon and Jussi Jaaskeleinen was almost caught out in the third minute when Leighton Baines' free kick skipped through, just evading what would have a crucial touch from Jagielka, and the Finn beat the ball away awkwardly to clear the danger.
At the other end, Ivan Klasnic, Everton's tormentor in this fixture last season when he scored the winner in a 3-2 thriller, picked the ball up space following Kevin Davies' smart dummy but his shot was parried by Tim Howard.
As has been the case in many of their recent games, Everton were enjoying plenty of possession, but there were countless occasions in the first 20 minutes where they just gave it away cheaply. One of the most glaring culprits was Heitinga whose long-range distribution from the back was shockingly bad, and all three of Tim Cahill, Louis Saha and Osman let themselves down badly with poor ball control in forward areas.
Despite being thrown into what was potentially one of the most physical games on the Blues' calendar, Bilyaletdinov was acquitting himself fairly well, though, and it was he who found himself on the end of Wheater's ill-advised lunge. By the letter of law, the red card was probably warranted but had some context been applied, specifically to allow for the conditions, the lack of malice and the fact that the Bolton man only went in with one foot, albeit too high off the turf, a yellow would not have been a travesty from Everton's perspective.
Bily, however, dumped on the turf in considerable turf despite his best efforts to evade the challenge, probably wouldn't agree and given that referee Michael Oliver's decision was decisive in handing Everton the initiative, no one in Blue was taking Wheater's side.
The home side briefly rallied in an attempt overcome their numerical disadvantage, Chris Eagles giving Howard a brief scare with dipping shot that the American parried under his crossbar and gathered at the second attempt. But the game was now Everton's to win and they gradually assumed full control, Coleman setting Bilyaletdinov up from eight yards with a low centre but the midfielder side-footed over the crossbar.
All too often in the first half, Moyes's side just couldn't get things to come together in the final third and three potentially incisive passing moves collapsed once the ball got into the Bolton area, either because of a poor decision or because the Blue jerseys in attendance were too close to each other. Needing to pass the ball more to stretch and tire Owen Coyle's depleted side, all too often they chose the long ball and they just seemed to lack the pace to really capitalise on the increased space.
And when the Blues did create a geniune opening, Jaaskeleinen was aided by crucial deflections or blocks that took the sting out of the ball and enabled him to snuff the opportunities out. That was the case when Leighton Baines was clipped by Davies on the edge of the box and Heitinga's drive caught a defender and the ball ran into the 'keeper's arms and again early in the second half when Seamus Coleman cut inside and fired towards the far corner but a defender charged his effort down.
The second period had been less than four minutes old, however, when Everton did make the crucial breakthrough and it was Bilyaletdinov who was the provider, finishing a patient build-up that went through Heitinga, Baines and Osman by delivering a low cross to Fellaini who despatched the ball into the roof of Jaaskeleinen's net to make it 1-0.
Saha, who had a very disappointing game by his standards, then spurned a good chance when he was put in by Cahill but shot straight at the goalkeeper, Osman repeated the feat 16 minutes from time and Baines hammered a shot narrowly over from a tight angle.
Bolton were almost completely impotent as an attacking force but they were almost let in on the hour mark by an awful slip from Tony Hibbert but the defence was able to close down the opportunity. Five minutes later, and Eagles put Klasnic in behind Hibbert but Howard saved well with his legs to preserve the Blues' advantage.
When Cahill rose in typical fashion to steer a header destined to creep inside the far post and Jaaskeleinen clawed his effort away, it looked as though the decisive second goal would never come. Apostolos Vellios had other ideas, though. Introduced for Saha in the 74th minute, the Greek striker became Everton's top scorer for the season so far when he converted Cahill's excellent sliding cut back from the angle to seal the win.
That should really have been the invitation for Moyes to throw on Magaye Gueye and Ross Barkley in ideal circumstances to get some more playing time but the 17 year-old had to wait until the 87th minute before he was introduced and the young French forward didn't get into the pitch until the game had moved into stoppage time.
Nevertheless, Barkley still had time to try two efforts from outside the box, both of which were unfortunately blocked, and Everton were able to pass their way through the closing stages and pick up three really important points.
Again, Moyes won't care much how the points were one, just that they were. How his men go about their task against Stoke City next weekend will be more important and they will be aided by the confidence that comes from being back in the top half and with consecutive wins under their belts.
Player Ratings: Howard 6, Hibbert 6, Jagielka 7, Heitinga 6, Baines 8*, Fellaini 7, Osman 6, Coleman 7, Bilyaletdinov 7 (Gueye), Cahill 6 (Barkley), Saha 5 (Vellios 7)
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1 Posted 27/11/2011 at 08:44:29
As you mention in the report it was disappointing that the younger players never got more time as I've seen enough from all of them to suggest they can play at this level. Vellios seems
to have the knack of being in the right place at the right time, as well as technical ability.
2 Posted 27/11/2011 at 09:47:41
3 Posted 27/11/2011 at 10:03:54
Play more open attacking football? Ok that would be good, but his first goal is to keep EFC in the highest placing possible. And in my opinion give or take one position- we're there.
My worry is that our football will improve but as soon as we build another cohesive unit, Spurs et al will just take our best anyway.
Remember we still haven't seen a penny from Arteta or Pienaar.
4 Posted 27/11/2011 at 10:42:57
The problem is the squad's getting older and the manager is never given any money to improve the team; maybe bringing younger players through is the answer.
5 Posted 27/11/2011 at 10:59:10
As you say, the ref could've issued a yellow, and there would've been discussion afterwards. A lot of the "pundits" questioned why the ref pulled out the red instantly. I think in most cases, unless you are going to consult with a lino, the decision is made. The conditions were a factor, but if Wheater had half a brain cell, he'd have taken that into account before picking up his 2nd red of the campaign.
A win was a good result. If I had one gripe, it's that a better team would've murdered Bolton. Absolutely ripped them apart. That's not me being churlish, merely recognising that attacking-wise, and especially with Drenthe injured, we are seriously lacking any punch.
6 Posted 27/11/2011 at 11:12:28
At first I thought it was a bit harsh and then on seeing the replay, like you thought back to Rodwell and thought "fuck it" our players have been sent off for less.
7 Posted 27/11/2011 at 12:32:19
8 Posted 27/11/2011 at 12:58:18
Gary Speed died today. Ex-Evertonian and all round nice bloke.
9 Posted 27/11/2011 at 16:50:36
8th in the league now with a game on some others, and still all to play for. Obviously the greatest chance of success this season lies with the FA Cup coming up in a few weeks. In a healthy position in the league, some might say, and I remain hopeful but perhaps a Europa League place might be obtained by other challengers next time around. It's impossible to tell what could happen but I just have this feeling. Sorry if all sounds a bit pessimistic.
10 Posted 27/11/2011 at 20:07:57
Yes, the squad is getting older. But is the real issue / question is we have a manager that insists on playing the older players?
Imagine this not so old lineup if everyone was healthy:-
Baines Jagielka Distin Coleman
Gueye Fellaini Rodwell Drenthe
I'd rather see that week-in and week-out.... not too old at all.
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