VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Everton condemned Tottenham to their third straight Premier League defeat, a first under Harry Redknapp, thanks to a home debut goal by Nikica Jelavic. But it was a mightily close-run thing as the Blues clung to their slender advantage in a nail-biting second half.
Contrary to an apparent "gentleman's agreement" between David Moyes and Harry Redknapp, Louis Saha was introduced an hour into proceedings, and the Frenchman came within an inch of breaking his old teammates' hearts. Thankfully, though, his shot in the 93rd minute came off the inside of the post, hit Tim Howard's knee and bounced away to safety leaving Everton to close out a fourth successive home win without conceding.
With Phil Neville moved back to right back, Leon Osman partnering Marouane Fellaini in central midfield and Jelavic handed his first start up front, the Blues emerged from the early sparring as the more likely of the two sides to score. Seamus Coleman, deployed on the left to counter the threat posed by Gareth Bale, himself playing on his weaker flank, collected the loose ball after Royston Drenthe's drilled cross had been blocked and engineered space for a shot that he could only drag wide.
The Irishman then saw a deflected effort loop into Brad Friedel's arms before Jelavic's knockdown a few minutes later fell invitingly to Fellaini who fired goalwards from a narrow angle only for Friedel to save well with his foot to deny him.
A minute later, Everton scored what would be the decisive goal. Osman, who was everywhere in an impressive first half display from his perspective, jinked smartly past Younis Kaboul and into the area before centering perfectly for Jelavic. The Croatian striker side-footed beautifully across Friedel on the volley and the American could only get finger-tips to it as it sailed inside the far post.
It was a superbly controlled effort that deserved to go down as the ex-Rangers man's first goal in Everton Blue and Moyes will be hoping that the knock that forced him off in the 78th minute won't keep him out of the Merseyside derby on Tuesday.
Up to that point, Tottenham, who came into this game having conceded eight goals in two defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United, had been a fairly limp force. Jermaine Defoe had briefly threatened when put into the area after 18 minutes but John Heitinga muscled him out of his stride as he was trying to shoot and snuffed out the chance.
After the goal, Bale had tried his luck with two optimistic efforts from long range that flew well wide of Howard's left-hand post, Luka Modric's low drive was comfortably gathered by the 'keeper and Heitinga's blocking tackle denied Sandro at the back post following a 41st minute Spurs free kick.
But it was the home side who came closest to adding to the scoreline when Sandro barged Coleman over just outside the penalty area and Jelavic forced a diving save from Friedel to keep out his direct free kick.
The second half was an entirely different kettle of fish. From practically the first whistle to the last, Tottenham were on the front foot as Everton dangerously ceded the initiative to their opponents, inviting long periods of pressure. Within five minutes of the restart, Defoe had prompted Howard into his first two real saves of the game and blazed over after turning inside Leighton Baines as the Blues rode their luck a little.
That opening spell aside, despite having been allowed to dictate matters for the first 25 minutes of the second half, Redknapp's side struggled to penetrate the dogged blue wall in front of them. Moyes iteratively addressed the visitors' domination with more defensive substitutions, though, with Jack Rodwell replacing the increasingly peripheral Drenthe after 65 minutes and Jagielka replacing Coleman with eight minutes of the 90 remaining.
No surprise then that the Blues created only one chance of note in the entire second half, Osman profiting from great work by Coleman by collecting the Irishman's ball forward but then opting to shoot at Friedel's near post rather than firing across goal and the 'keeper parried his shot.
The bulk of the action, therefore, was concentrated in Everton's side of the pitch and impressive footwork by Saha in the 70th minute took him past two blue defenders but his poked shot hit Sylvain Distin full in the face and the ball was hacked away. And Defoe had the ball in the net six minutes later but his "goal" was rightly chalked off for offside, the striker standing two yards offside as the ball bounced forward off Bale after Rodwell had completely missed Assou-Ekotto's cross.
For all their territorial superiority, and flurry of set-pieces, Spurs were being frustrated by the Blues' back line and it wasn't until the third of five minutes of injury time ? quite where referee Mark Halsey found that much stoppage time was a mystery ? that they looked to have stolen a point.
Rafael van der Vaart's shot had deflected heart-stoppingly off Jagielka and dipped onto the roof of the net forcing a corner on the right that Modric played short to the unmarked Assou-Ekotto. His scuffed low shot fell to the feet of Saha who ended up with his head in his hands as the ball came off the woodwork.
A booking for Howard for time-wasting, an additional half-minute off added time, and it was over, Everton having completed a trifecta of home victories over top-five opposition. Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham have all come to Goodison in the last month and been sent packing without a goal or a point to show for it. If only Moyes's teams could've put these kinds of runs together earlier in the season!
In the final reckoning, therefore, this was another excellent victory but the manner in which Everton sat back in the second 45 minutes was unnecessary and unforgivable. That they survived owed as much to Tottenham's own attacking failings as it did to yet more terrific work by the defence that only fleetingly looked like letting the priceless lead slip.
The inability to retain the ball remains a concern as will be the condition of Jelavic ? hopefully his withdrawal was precautionary and not due to a relapse of his groin/pelvis problems ? but the Blues' unbeaten run stretches to nine games in all competitions, sets them up beautifully for the next home game in the FA Cup next weekend but, importantly, brings them to within two points of Liverpool ahead of the derby in midweek. What a wonderful anniversary present a win at Anfield would be for Mr Moyes!
Player Ratings: Howard 7, Neville 6, Heitinga 8*, Distin 7, Baines 7, Fellaini 6, Osman 7, Drenthe 6 (Rodwell 6), Coleman 7 (Jagielka 6), Cahill 6, Jelavic 7 (Stracqualursi 6)
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665 Posted 10/03/2012 at 22:28:20
668 Posted 10/03/2012 at 22:54:38
676 Posted 10/03/2012 at 23:51:22
A win's a win, though, and I'm buzzing with anticipation about what *could* happen on Tuesday (while simultaneously dreading the derby itself).
679 Posted 11/03/2012 at 00:13:09
683 Posted 11/03/2012 at 01:09:40
Hate the build up to the Derby. My cousins, brother, nephew etc (all kopites) have tickets for the game - would love to make a few triumphant phone calls back to the UK.
"...it was a timely reminder of the Scot's ability to engineer a hard-working, effective team on limited resources." This comment from the BBC report on the match encapsulated just why Moyes will NOT be replacing Hawwy at Spurs. They want a Jose M not a Davie M.
695 Posted 11/03/2012 at 04:05:49
Rodwell was shocking when he came on. I just don't see what he brings to the team. Can't wait for Gibson to be back.
Also, it is sad to see Cahill's diminishing performances.
Now that the threat of relegation has receded, it would be nice to see Moyes bringing in a few youngsters for the remainder of this season - Barkley, Velios, McAleny, Lundstram, etc.
698 Posted 11/03/2012 at 04:49:18
703 Posted 11/03/2012 at 05:30:23
Worth mentioning, his headed lay off to Fella for that shot Friedel got his leg to. Vision and touch in the air!
707 Posted 11/03/2012 at 06:07:22
I thought Jelavic's full debut could not have gone better. Cracking goal, excellent work rate and showed some nice touches. He could turn out a right bargain.
Also good to see Ossie back, he was my MotM. Brilliant work rate and set up the goal. I just hope we show this commitment on Tuesday. I am sure we will so come on blues let's get right into them. COYB.
827 Posted 11/03/2012 at 12:35:07
Criticism of Rodwell is unjustified. He came on to do a very specific role - to pick up Modric when he came centre and then later sit on Parker, who 'Arry had pushed up.
847 Posted 11/03/2012 at 13:40:08
Glad you got one over on him Moysie. Make that two, George Green, top man... Everton 2 Spurs 1, haha.
901 Posted 11/03/2012 at 20:19:56
He's a world class center half, not a holding midfielder. I love Jags but Johnny's distribution is far better.
106 Posted 12/03/2012 at 19:45:40
107 Posted 12/03/2012 at 17:11:29
The blues though deserved to win ? for all the effort they put in during the first half, although we have got to stop giving the so-called "better teams" too much respect. DM must know himself he made a couple of dodgy decisions but we got away with it. Tomorrow, I want to see us really up for it and have more confidence to take them on ? Seamus and Royston, roasting their defence!
I know we can do it... COYB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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