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Season 2011-12
COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

A Fun Day at the Game

By Paul Traill   ::  12/02/2012
 4 Comments (Last)

Everton 2 - 0 Chelsea

Having been laid low all week with a viral infection I was keen just to get out of the flat and do something yesterday. Instead of driving and parking I fancied making a bit more of a day of it and so jumped on the train and got to the pub in time for the days early kick-off ? the small matter of Manchester United vs Liverpool, made all the more intriguing by the recent Suarez / Evra racism row.

This didn?t disappoint with Suarez lighting the blue touch paper early on with his handshake refusal and the game was a feisty affair. The rest of the bunch turned up during the game as the pub filled up in quite a bouncy atmosphere with everyone cheering on Manchester United. The best moment in the pub was at the end of the game. The camera would fix on Patrice Evra over-celebrating and everybody would cheer. The camera would then show Suarez and everyone would boo. It was quite funny and went on for a little while. Liverpool losing and really getting us into the mood for the match.

We?d learnt the team news in the pub and were all a little disappointed we wouldn?t be getting another look at Jelavic and also a bit surprised Neville was in for Hibbert in the only change from the team which started at Wigan last weekend. Torres featured for Chelsea in their expensively assembled team which included Mata, Luiz, Essien, Lampard and Meireles amongst a few.

We won the toss and attacked towards the Park End in the first half, taking the game to Chelsea from the off and getting instant rewards when Pienaar buried his chance after just five minutes. The returning South African loanee did well to acrobatically intercept a throw in and nodding the ball to Cahill. In trying to play the ball I think Cahill was tackled and the ball bounced into the Chelsea penalty area. Pienaar had followed it and did well to get on the end of it and smash the ball into the net. Well finished by Pienaar and for the first time in as long as I can remember Everton had an early first half lead.

We maintained this tempo for roughly 20 minutes but then allowed Chelsea a 20 minute spell when they were really on top and on another day would have punished us for this. Daniel Sturridge came close with one chance which appeared goal-bound though Neville deflected over the crossbar. Lampard also had a great chance for his standards, the type he usually tucks away but this time he drilled his low shot wide of Howards left hand post. After weathering this Everton got back into the game, finishing the half well and going into the break in positive mood.

Any creeping nerves Everton may have had in the first half appeared to have diminished after the break as they seemed to get into the second half much more assured. Donavon and Straqualursi both stepped it up a notch or two as Everton went about making sure of victoty with Chelsea unable to find an answer. The second goal really got the place buzzing first with Neville making a splendid tackle on Ashley Cole as he dwelled in possession. This released Donavon who ran at the Chelsea defence before playing in an excellent slide-rule pass into Stracqualursi. The Argentine taking a touch before hitting his shot goalwards, Petr Cech getting a good hand to it but unable to keep it out?the Gwladys Street going wild. Brilliant Everton. Just brilliant.

With 20 minutes still to play Chelsea still had time to do something about the outcome but in truth you never felt they were capable as they simply never really got going all day. The introductions of Malouda and Lukaku unable to prevent their defeat, though Lukaku was denied late on by a splendid Tim Howard save, a bit akin to Peter Schmeichel wit the way he spread himself. It was probably the sort of save he needed after his blunder last week at Wigan and he was congratulated by a few of his team mates.

Other than one audacious bit of skill from Raul Meireles which even had me and others in the Gwladys Street applauding (much to Gary?s dismay), Chelsea had nothing left in the tank. The full time whistle prompted an outburst of joy as happy days seem to be returning to Goodison Park, as late as usual. Everton now just six points behind our beloved rivals with a trip to Anfield still to come. Am I dreaming to believe a late assault on 6th / 7th place is still possible? In all probability ? yes.

After the match we went back to the pub to watch the Spurs vs Newcastle game, but with Saha in form and the game all over by half time we got the bus into town to catch up with some friends in the Ship & Mitre ? a great post-match Everton pub to attend. Stefan, a friend from Nurnberg was over to take in the game and it was nice to catch up with him (albeit briefly).

All in all a fun day at the match with the Everton result, Liverpool losing at Old Trafford and a top day on the beers with pals ? ain?t that what going the match is all about!

Player Ratings:
Howard: Still slightly jittery at times (i.e. punching instead of catching etc) but his save at the end will have done him the world of good. 6

Baines: Did very well. Great that he?s hit it off instantly with Pienaar. 7

Distin: Coped just fine at the back. Great that he?s straight back into the swing of things folloing his injury. We really oughta make sure we get him signed up to a new contract. Would be a real waste of money to have to go and sign somebody else this summer when Sylvain Distin is still more than capable. 7

Heitinga: Continued his current good form. Seems very focused at the moment. 7

Neville: Did very well. Had a big hand in the second goal with a terrific crunching tackle on Ashley Cole. Good call by Moyes putting him in, even if I didn?t agree with it when I saw the team news. 7

Fellaini: You didn?t always see a lot of the big fella but he was always there in the second half filling positions and making clever, important tackles. Looking very good at the moment though I?m still convinced he?s got the potential to step it up a notch or two. 7

Gibson: Still hasn?t convinced me really though one thing you can?t disagree with as some fella behind me pointed out ? results have certainly improved since he?s been with us. Need to give him time before judging him I reckon. Lets see how he gets on next season after bedding in. 5

Pienaar: Wow. Talk about hitting the ground running. We?ve got to make signing him up permanently a priority this summer. Baines, and then the whole team really seem to step it up with Pienaar involved. A well taken goal and a typically busy, industrious display. Shame he?s not available next weekend. 8

Donovan: After a quiet first half he really stepped it up for the second half and provided the assist for our second goal. He?s been terrific for us again. Shame we have to lose him after the Blackpool game?lets hope we can see him again next season. A truly great player for us. 7

Cahill: Busy. Seems to be benefitting from playing with Denis and seems more like his old self. 6

Stracqualursi: My man of the match. Wasn?t quite at the races first half but what a performance in the second half and he deserved his goal. Full of heart and effort, I can see him getting better and better with games. Still a fair way to go until the end of the season so things may chance I suppose but we should really explore the possibility of a permanent move if he can keep this up. I wonder how much he?d cost. 8

Substitutes:
Drenthe (for Pienaar): Never really got going. 5
Hibbert (for Gibson): Not on long, can?t judge.
Duffy (for Stracqualursi): Not on long, can?t judge.

Reader Comments

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Peter Hall
517   Posted 12/02/2012 at 21:16:31

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Enjoyed the story of your day and a fair assessment, though I would have given Distin (who never shirks a ball into our penalty area) and Donovan (vision!) both an 8. If Saha had tried a bit harder I'm not sure Straq would be getting the reviews - but he does deserve some plaudits.

As for Chelsea - they need to build from square one. And from number one - Cech was a liability in his decisions and so weak with the second goal.
Arthur Westhead
530   Posted 12/02/2012 at 21:56:57

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Paul, great report on your day out as always.

It's no coincidence that since Gibson arrived we have a couple of wins, couple of draws, not lost and Fellaini is suddenly playing great and dominating games. They have the makings of a really good partnership.

Considering Gibson has barely played first team football and has been pitched straight in, he has done well. I just hope he keeps improving as his match fitness picks up.
Dick Fearon
578   Posted 13/02/2012 at 05:23:44

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Paul, leaving aside your excellent match report, your pub craw had me nostalgic for the old days. It's all very nice at 11pm, the temp still in the high 20s, an air-conditioned cooling waft from the conditioner making life comfortable, seated in a comfy armchair in front of a large screen HD TV, a cold stubby close at hand watching the boys in Blue, my team for the past 65 years my beloved Everton, nerves jangling as Z-Cars rings out and wishing like mad to swap places with you for a few hours.
Jimmy Sørheim
581   Posted 13/02/2012 at 06:14:40

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The whole reason for our unbeaten run is Landon Donovan, we HAVE to sign him, this guy makes this team look fresh and full of hope.
IF not him then we need to find a good replacement for him. Maybe Pienaar can do the job, but I doubt Drenthe will be signed on a permanent contract. Drenthe simply wants to attack and nothing else, he is a liability in the midfield.
He never bothers to chase or defend, only run forard and take shots or make crosses.
Maybe Drenthe could be best used in the Cahill position????

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