Everton made two changes from the win over West Brom with Denis Stracqualursi replacing Tim Cahill and Landon Donovan making his second Everton dÃ©but in place of Jack Rodwell. Sunday's match winner, Victor Anichebe, had to settle for a place on the bench. The under fire Louis Saha retained his place in a new look 4-4-2 system.
Donovan showed glimpses of his ability, and after just 32 seconds, he burst past his marker earning a free kick. Leighton Baines' free kick hit Stracqualursi, who knew little about it, and went wide. Chris Eagles, David Ngog and Gretar Steinsson all tried their luck for the visitors, early on. None of the efforts troubled Howard as they were either misdirected or weak.
With 10 minutes gone, Donovan was again involved. The American had a headed effort from a Baines cross and his good run and cross set up Stracqualursi. The Argentine?s effort, on the turn, went wide of the near post. Donovan also had a penalty appeal turned down, later in the half, although he just appeared to lose his balance.
Saha squandered a glorious chance to give Everton the lead. Baines? driven cross missed Stracqualursi and Zat Knight mishit his clearance straight to Saha?s feet. The Frenchman?s failure to compose himself, when in on goal, ensured his rushed effort went horribly wide.
Osman curled a shot straight at Adam Bogdan and fired another agonisingly wide; after good work by Donovan. Everton began to stir and neat linkup between Baines and Osman earned a corner as Jagielka brought a save out of Bogdan. Ngog and Eagles had shots blocked as Bolton grew in confidence. Ngog had Bolton's best chance of the half, when he forced Howard into a save. Phil Jagielka was having a solid game until he got injured; Rodwell took his place.
Half time came with the scores level. Neither side had got close to moving out of first gear; both appeared stuck in neutral. Osman had been the one player, on the pitch, capable of creating a chance. Baines was his usual tireless self down the left and Donovan had shown glimpses of his ability. Ngog and Martin Petrov looked sharp for the visitors, as did the underrated Mark Davies.
The second half began with Rodwell firing a Baines corner into the side netting and down the other end; Davies drew a low save from Howard after a good run. The second half was less than 10 minutes old when Everton's injury jinx struck. Leon Osman had to go off; his replacement, Magaye Gueye, had little impact. This was big loss as Osman had been Everton?s best player and sole creative threat; to this point.
Just before the hour mark, Bolton began to turn the screw and Ngog almost gave them the lead. His curled effort was well struck and only a good Howard stop prevented Bolton going ahead. The corner came to nothing as Everton brought on Cahill; when Rodwell became the latest injury victim.
Everton took the lead as Tim Howard became the 4th Premier League keeper to score. His clearance gained speed, due to the windy conditions, and bounced over the unfortunate Bogdan into an empty net. The American didn't celebrate, as a similar thing happened to Howard; earlier in his career.
It was only the sixth time Everton had taken the lead, in 21 matches, this season. Worryingly, it's now eight games since Everton's last first half goal. The lead was short-lived with Ngog equalising four minutes later. Saha's attempt to atone; for slack marking, only served to put the ball into Ngog's path and he fired the ball into the bottom corner.
Stunned by the quick response, Everton lost their way. The injuries and enforced changes clearly hampered the team. The main problem was the central midfield pairing of Phi Neville and Cahill; neither are natural central midfielders. Both failed to press the ball and ultimately surrendered ground as the Bolton midfield overwhelmed them; with ease.
Everton's four man midfield was easily outworked by Bolton's five. The change to 4-4-2 was tactically flawed; especially with Fellaini and Rodwell out, Everton don't have the players to make it work. The problem isn?t the formation; it?s the players and their use within the formation.
Bolton took the lead, with less than 15 minutes remaining, through Gary Cahill. A Petrov free kick was only cleared as far as Eagles who turned the ball into Cahill's path; inside the 18 yard box. Horrendous marking from Neville allowed Cahill the time and space to drive the ball beyond Howard into the far corner.
Everton's sole riposte was a Baines free kick that beat Bogdan but not the crossbar. The rebound fell to the anonymous Saha who reacted poorly and the chance was gone. Despite the injuries, there was no excuse for such an insipid second half display.
Distin was the stand-out performer along with Howard. Heitinga and Hibbert were poor by their standards. Neville showed why he isn?t a midfielder and was at fault for Bolton?s winner. Saha no longer warrants his place, even in his preferred position as part of a front two; he was beyond poor.
Barkley and Vellios; the forgotten men of Everton, should come into contention for the FA Cup game. If none of the injured players recover, Moyes will have just 14 recognised outfield players at his disposal.
Moyes spoke of wanting to entertain the fans; in the build up to the game. He sympathised with fans over the lack of wins and goals; probably the reasoning behind the flawed 4-4-2 tactic. As Russell Crowe?s Maximus said; to the assembled masses, in Gladiator, ?Are you not entertained?? The answer remains a simple ?no?.
Howard 7 Hibbert 5 Jagielka 6 Distin 7 Baines 6 Donovan 6 Heitinga 5 Neville 3 Osman 6 Stracqualursi 6 Saha 2
Substitutes: Gueye 5 Cahill 5 Rodwell N/A
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1 Posted 05/01/2012 at 14:10:21
Saha was appalling last night.
2 Posted 05/01/2012 at 14:20:06
Neville - contributes nothing
Gueye - contributes nothing
Cahill - contributes nothing
But for that fluke, we could not have scored in a brothel last night.
Tamworth must fancy their chances for Saturday.
3 Posted 05/01/2012 at 15:06:14
Tamworth to beat us 33/1
Fleetwood to beat Blackpool 7/2
= 3200/1 treble (with Coral)
Bet of the century.
4 Posted 05/01/2012 at 15:22:35
5 Posted 05/01/2012 at 15:30:17
6 Posted 05/01/2012 at 15:25:57
I think Gueye does contribute something, at least something more than the other three mentioned. Remember that spell between him and Baines in the corner when Baines was ultimately offside? Gueye showed quick feet, a good touch, and some vision as well. Obviously he still needs to be refined, but that's to be expected out of a youngster. I think he does have something to contribute and should start on the left side every game Drenthe can't.
7 Posted 05/01/2012 at 20:51:32
8 Posted 06/01/2012 at 09:05:45
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