Baines saves a point from New Year battle

, 1 January, 0comments  |  Jump to most recent
Stoke City 1 - 1 Everton

Leighton Baines rescued a point for Everton with an injury-time penalty but Roberto Martinez will feel as though it was two points dropped in his team's quest for the Champions League.

Kevin Mirallas twice hit the woodwork in what was a mostly even first half notable for the seamless manner in which John Stones slotted into central defence next to Antolin Alcaraz in a makeshift partnership enforced by injury to Sylvain Distin. The 19 year-old made his Premier League debut just three days after Alcaraz's own first League start for the Blues and the pair looked assured and composed throughout.

Together, they restricted Stoke to just one real dangerous moment when Oussama Assaidi's goalbound shot deflected wide as the home side exerted some pressure after the half-hour mark. Everton, meanwhile, had threatened to exert their customary control over proceedings but didn't really get any rhythm going until the last 15 minutes of the half.

Mirallas smacked an excellent shot off the crossbar and then rattled the post from a free kick on the stroke of half time.

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Unfortunately, the Blues were not able to carry that momentum through to the early stages of the second half and they suffered a huge setback in the 49th minute when Stoke scored. Stones's headed clearance fell to Assaidi in plenty of space just outside the area and the drove home unimpeded from 20 yards out.

Everton steadily turned the screw over the remainder of the match, pushing their hosts further and further back in search of the equaliser but Stoke's massed defensive ranks, and Erik Pieters in particular, formed an inpenetrable barrier.

It looked as though it simply wasn't going to be Everton's day until Leon Osman, a 71st-minute substitute who had added some craft and guile since coming on, danced his way past Jermaine Pennant and was hacked down by the Stoke midfielder prompting Andre Marriner to award a penalty as the game moved into time added on.

Baines stepped up, sent Jack Butland the wrong way and calmly slotted into the corner of the net to earn a deserved draw. It wasn't enough to prevent the Blues slipping back to fifth in the table but it ensured an unbeaten start to 2014.

Quotes or other material sourced from ToffeeWeb Match Reports

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