Bolt From the Blue Masks Flat Derby Display

Phil Jagielka's stunning equaliser lit up an otherwise wretched attacking performance but avoiding defeat is the real win.

Lyndon Lloyd 27/09/2014 31comments  |  Jump to last

Well, who was expecting that, then? A derby goal for the ages hammered in from 25-plus yards by Phil Jagielka silenced Anfield and secured what was, by that late stage, a very unlikely point. Another defeat to Liverpool was averted with a couple of minutes to spare.

The Toffees' captain doesn't score many indeed his last goal prior to today came in April 2013 but he chose as good a moment as you can to reach into the top drawer and pull out a quite stunning, unstoppable strike that cancelled out Steven Gerrard's free-kick goal from earlier in the second half.

It lit up what was, on balance, a frustrating afternoon for Everton, one that had arguably reached its nadir half-an-hour before Gerrard found the net via Tim Howard's unfortunately weak glove when Kevin Mirallas was stretchered away from the action with a suspected torn hamstring.

This is the Belgian's third season with the Blues and in each of them he has succumbed to serious injury when he was reaching the peak of his powers. His 2012-13 campaign was severely disrupted by hamstring problems and a tear to his groin robbed Martinez of his talents for the run-in at the end of last season. Now, having established himself as arguably the most consistent of Everton's players in the early part of this season, he faces an undetermined amount of time on the treatment table and blunts significantly a Blues attack that struggled throughout this afternoon.

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Indeed, it was the defensive side of the game that garnered much of the attention today, not least because of how much improved Everton's back line was from the last time the two teams met in January. Granted, it could only have been better but they can be satisfied with the fact that Liverpool, Adam Lallana's free header after nine minutes (saved superbly by Howard) aside, were largely restricted to shots from outside the box and that it was a piece of deception of referee Martin Atkinson by Mario Balotelli that won the free kick from which Gerrard would score with 64 minutes gone.

The Italian striker might have scored twice from close range himself, it should be noted he mis-timed a free header in the first half and was foiled by the slightest of deflections off Howard shortly after the Reds' goal that took his side-foot shot onto the crossbar and over to safety in the second but other than a decent claim for a penalty when Gareth Barry raised his arms to block a Balotelli shot in the 9th minute, the Reds didn't really threaten.

On another day, that incident might have yielded a second yellow card for Barry who had been booked in the very first minute for a late tackle on Adam Lallana but, having waved away appeals at the other end for an equally valid penalty appeal for Alberto Moreno's foul on Romelu Lukaku, Martin Atkinson played it safe. (Had he awarded the first penalty, it would have been only the second one awarded to Everton at Anfield since the Second World War... Feel free to pause there and ponder how staggering a statistic that is and what it says about the psychology of referees on the grounds of the consistently successful teams.) As it was, Barry should be commended for walking that tightrope to the other side by completing the full 90 minutes without getting sent off, although he was arguably let off again seconds later when he tripped Balotelli and escaped further censure. He also almost proved to be a liability with sloppy passing in front of his own back four that required an intervention from Howard to save from Raheem Sterling and keep the scores level going into the half-time break.

In between, in a match that lost its early fire and settled into a more cagey affair between two teams struggling for form, some neat footwork from Lukaku engineered enough space to test Simon Mignolet from 18 yards but his shot was too close to the goalkeeper. And, either side of Mirallas's disappointing exit, the Belgian was well placed on a couple of occasions near the six-yard box but neither Baines nor Aiden McGeady could find him from the left side of the box on the few occasions the Blues got in behind Liverpool's defence.

It's fair to say, though, that Lukaku's performance after that went steadily downhill. Deployed in the wide-right role in which he was so effective against Arsenal back in April but which has since, unfortunately, exposed some of his limitations when he doesn't have space to run into and is forced to either hold the ball up or beat his man, he was a constant let-down in possession in the last hour of the contest. His presence was crucial in preventing Moreno from attacking down the left flank but as a striking outlet for Everton he was ineffective.

That was unfortunate because, with Martinez clearly having set his stall out to rely primarily on the counter-attack, it needed both Lukaku to be more threatening with the ball at his feet and also for the rest of the attacking unit to be better with their distribution when flying forward. Unfortunately, the final ball was all too often lacking and though Muhamed Besic, a surprise Premier League debutant, showed some welcome composure and an ability to pick a pass a dreadful touch in his own box just after the interval that almost let Balotelli in is best forgotten there was just no crispness or cohesion about the Blues going forward and no-one with, say, Ross Barkley's desire to take the ball and run at defenders.

Indeed, it was hard to see where an Everton goal was going to come from as the second period dragged on, with the absence of Mirallas's pace, invention and directness achingly evident and the wisdom of having last season's top scorer marooned on the right wing increasingly baffling. Still, Steven Naismith forced a routine save from Mignolet with a rare shot just before Liverpool scored and Lukaku passed up a gift-wrapped opportunity to equalise in short order a few minutes afterwards when he ghosted onto Besic's beautifully flighted ball over the top but failed to make contact when any would surely have steered it past the 'keeper.

It wasn't until the last quarter of an hour when first Tyias Browning and then Samuel Eto'o were introduced that the Blues started to look capable of salvaging something from the game, but even then the cavalry charge never really materialised. Sterling had really only exposed Tony Hibbert's age and lack of pace on a couple of occasions but Martinez would nevertheless move to shore up that part of the field with 17 minutes go by handing Browning a hugely encouraging debut in his place at right back.

There has been a growing buzz of aniticipation about the 20-year-old's abilities over the past few months and he didn't disappoint, his assuredness in possession and greater appetite for getting forward when compared to Hibbert will ease concerns among Evertonians over the lack of effective cover for Seamus Coleman. It also led to the equaliser a minute into stoppage time. Browning chased a raking ball forward from Jagielka into the corner before whipping in a cross that eventually ended with Dejan Lovren heading McGeady 's centre from the other side away from his six-yard box.

His clearance was met first time by Jagielka, though, the ball destined for glory the moment it left his boot as it arced divinely off his laces and into the top corner via the underside of Mignolet's crossbar. They don't come much better than that and it lifted the lid off the away end which then erupted in bedlam at the other end.

There was even enough time for Everton to threaten an improbable winner, too, when Lukaku was tripped by Moreno near the byline and Baines executed a training-ground free kick routine that Barry almost turned home with a deft heel flick but it missed the near post by a foot. The spoils were shared and while the Blues' wait for a win at their old home will stretch to a 16th year, at least they avoided the ignominy of defeat.

If the two draws with which Everton started the season felt like defeats because of the manner in which precious points were tossed away, then this should go down as a draw that felt like a victory, albeit it a somewhat hollow one given the loss to what looks like serious injury of Mirallas.

It's also difficult to know where this games leaves us. The point and the manner in which it was grabbed could prove to be one of those catalytic moments that ignites a season but it also represented something of a Get Out of Jail Free card for Martinez and his men who probably didn't deserve to come away from Anfield with anything on the balance of chances created.

In all honesty, it felt curiously like a Moyes-esque performance at times, with Everton labouring to break down a retreating Liverpool side for the last half an hour, few game-changing options available on the bench and the one potentially impactful attacking change in the form of Eto'o coming too late.

What this match did crystallise, though, is that the John Stones-Jagielka partnership is far and away Everton's best and needs to be the first choice pairing from now on. Restored to his preferred role at centre half, Stones was again magnificent in a way that beggars belief given his comparatively tender years and, watching from the stands, Sylvain Distin probably knew that it is time he handed over his first-team berth.

Combined with the emergence in the cauldron of a derby no less of Browning, that is definitely something on which to build as we prepare for the Russia trip, Old Trafford after that and the rest of a season that is, on the evidence thus far at least, shaping up to be one of consolidation and patient evolution rather than the expected charge for the top four.

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Reader Comments (31)

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Darryl Ritchie
1 Posted 28/09/2014 at 03:54:18
Just back from work and finally had a chance to watch the match.

Although we we were a little ragged going forward, we seemed to have solved the problems at the back. Jags and Stones the rest of the way, IMO. While Hibbert didn’t look out of place, he does limit the options in the attacking half. Tylas Browning has size, speed and a good first touch; plus he’s no slouch defensively. The way he muscled Sterling off the ball was classic. We need to see much more of him, that’s for sure.

A definite chess match of a game after the the first 15 minutes, or so. Neither side could make that final pass or get that last touch.

That actor, Balotelli, sure shoots a lot, aye? Not very steady on his pegs for such a robust fella. Goes down a lot!

For me, Lukaku and Eto’o up front, with Naisy just behind. Romelu was wasted on the wing. Really sorry to see Kevin go down. He was rounding into the best form we’ve seen. Hopefully it’s not as serious as it looked.

It was RM’s plan to slow the tempo, while theirs was to counter at pace, and that is what happened. They had plenty of shots, though not many of quality. The shots that were quality were met by a back in form Howard.

A well earned point! I have a feeling that if we had a few more minutes, we’d of nicked it. I looked at the shite fans in the KOP when Bainsey was lining up that free kick. They couldn’t watch. LOL.

Tommy Davis
2 Posted 28/09/2014 at 04:38:28
As always, Lyndon, a very balanced and concise report! It seems a little odd to me that many Evertonians wanted RM to play a more solid defensive performance and screw the possession stats, almost Moyesesque?!? He appeared to do that, although yet again those screaming for it, were not satisfied: damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

The ploy of playing Rom on the right wing certainly stopped Moreno from attacking down the flank, but it left us devoid of any attacking prowess! The LFC media must have been squirming after the Jags thunderbolt almost ripped the kop net off, much to the chagrin no doubt, of all those ex-Reds commentating, or sat in the stands, smiling and congratulating each other, prior to the inevitable boring YNWA victory anthem, with only seconds to go..... Thank God for Phillip Nikodem Jagielka and his Exocet missile screamer!

A lot of bluenoses were saying during the week that our season was needing a "Kevin Brock" moment to raise our morale; perhaps... just perhaps, our captain produced it at Anfield today... the coming weeks will no doubt verify that, one way or the other?!?

That did feel almost like a win today, surely that must uplift the squad. Still a lot of work to do, tweaking etc, getting our walking wounded back. The season is still only 6 games old, not 15 or 20 like a lot of Evertonians would have you believe... understandable, well in this day and age, I guess it is, but let’s get behind RM and the team, perhaps we can get back on track......meanwhile, I am going to watch goal of the week, month, season, from our very own Jags, yet one more time!!

Hugh Jenkins
3 Posted 28/09/2014 at 06:20:26
There is a lot of despondency at the moment because of the injury to Mirallas. However, as the old saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. In this case, it was the emergence of Browning as a sub for Hibbert. If Browning can play a full 90 minutes as right back, Mirallas’s place can be taken by Coleman when he returns, which will probably be within the next week to ten days.

Coleman originally played in that position quite successfully under Moyes and will be able to cover for Mirallas until he has recovered. The problem we then have is, who covers at right back? Sadly, it has been apparent in recent games that Hibbert no longer has the "legs" for this level of play.

Mark Tanton
4 Posted 28/09/2014 at 07:02:19
Do they want it more than us and does it mean more to them than us? We always seems slower, weaker and generally less full-blooded than them. Baffling.

We were more solid than we have been for a while and I think Lukaku deserves praise for being a real pain on the right-hand side, he gave them a lot to do. He came of age a little with a selfless and committed performance.

Besic also deserves praise for not being afraid and for always looking for a forward pass. Any doubts over Martinez trusting him surely slain. Still though not really good enough.

Dan Nulty
5 Posted 28/09/2014 at 07:38:32
I’m not convinced we deserved a point. We played okay first half but were outplayed second, particularly when Coutinho came on.

Lukaku was definitely sacrificed yesterday and McGeady was a lazy so-and-so. One point in first half, the ball was played behind him and he just turned and watched the Liverpool player run on to it. I’d be having words with him when they watch it back.

Mike Childs
6 Posted 28/09/2014 at 10:23:11
I hear you, Dan, about that lazy sod McGeady when he let I think it was Markovic get behind him with ease. It’s still on video replay in my head, one of the truly boiling points of the match for me right up there with Mario’s dives.

As usual Lyndon another excellent report. Like many others I to look forward to your always even-handed objective analysis.

Paul Dempsey
7 Posted 28/09/2014 at 10:49:14
Lyndon, Tommy, Hugh. Massive thank you for the common sense and appraisals. I had almost lost hope with TW. The posts for the last three months have spiralled into something that is almost beyond satire or pastiche. 6 games and a poor pre-season and we are attacking RM & Kenwright, condoning selling Barkley for the right price, slaughtering Jagielka et al.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion but as someone said yesterday I hope no players ever read these posts! This is not designed to slag off fellow Blues but a little perspective wouldn’t go amiss.

In every sensible financial measure we are some way behind the SKY Super Sunday Super Big five and will never in my lifetime catch up so let’s value the unique nature of our fantastic, local football team whose bond and raison d’etre appears to be envied by anyone who knows their history....

Eddie Dunn
8 Posted 28/09/2014 at 11:50:48
Hugh (#3), I was thinking exactly the same thing.

Browning looked just the ticket, and Coleman could fit the right wing position, and Lukaku could be utilised down the middle. I think we may see more of Besic in the more difficult away games, as he has a bit of dog in him.

Steve Carse
9 Posted 28/09/2014 at 12:24:17
Bit harsh on Lukaku, Lyndon. You’re forgetting that the wide right spot has always been a graveyard position for anyone being played there out of position. Witness Osman and Naismith most recently.

I get the feeling that yesterday Lukaku was played wide right more to keep Moreno in check than do damage at the other end.

James Stewart
10 Posted 28/09/2014 at 12:30:25
Lukaku had a good first half but a poor 2nd one. Gave the ball away far too cheaply. Naismith was poor and couldn’t pick a pass which was unlike him. McGeady is an utter waste of time on the left. Offers nothing. Zilch.

Best part about it was seeing Stones and then Browning have great games. Browning deserves a start on Thursday.

Neil Quinn
11 Posted 28/09/2014 at 14:15:27
Hugo (3) & Eddie (9) I’ve said on another couple of forums that it would be an idea to play Browning at right back with Coleman in front of him. Coleman certainly has the pace & skill to perform in that role & he can also cross it.

I’d like to see Pienaar back on the left because I think it makes Baines plays so much better. McGeady just doesn’t cut if for me & is probably better suited to the role of an impact sub.

Harold Matthews
12 Posted 28/09/2014 at 14:57:42
Apart from the big fella, our team cost buttons and, in the circumstances, fared pretty well. Even Howard did okay but I’m still not a fan.

Shame about Mirallas. He’s a big player for us and will be sorely missed.

Jags looked back to form and McCarthy was tremendous. Of course many will disagree because the ex-Wigan lad is difficult to pick out. At one time, Owen thought he was Hibbo.

Stones gave a fine defensive display, especially in the first half. In the second half, two stray passes and losing the ball upfield almost cost us.

Besic is a talented addition but it’s easy to see why one of his ex-managers strangled him in the dressing room. Hopefully he will grow out of the risky stuff. The pass onto Lukaku’s head was sheer class and he always made himself available.

I’ve been a fan of Tylas Browning since he was young kid and it was great to see him get a few minutes. Fresh legs always flatter but he’s quick, strong and has a bright future.

The rest of the lads put in a shift and did okay. It’s easy to forget that they are sticking to very strict orders and rarely get the chance to play their natural game. As Baines said the other week. "We’re getting there." A fair comment because, hamstrings apart, Martinez will be planning for a strong second half of the season. Many high intensity teams only last six months. The Premier League is a killer and, with Europe also on the menu, we need to stretch things out.

Darren Hind
13 Posted 28/09/2014 at 17:58:34
Moyes-esque indeed, but it needed to be done. Nothing wrong in going back to basics when your defence hasn’t been performing.

I liked this report but would have liked you to be kinder to Tony Hibbert, Lyndon.

Starting his first league game in nearly two years, Hibbo made it very difficult for Sterling to get the space he was desperately trying to find all match. Yes, he skinned him a couple of times but that was it. Their main threat was negated for most of the game.

I’m excited by young Browning, but let’s acknowledge a proper proper Evertonian: Hibbo did nothing spectacular – he never does – but to face a lightening fast player many Kopites regard as genuine world class and restrict him to a couple of crosses speaks volumes for his competitive spirit and his love for this club.

Browning and Coleman are the future, but it’s nice to know that Tony will not let us down when the call comes.

Jay Harris
14 Posted 28/09/2014 at 18:31:29
An unusually pessimistic view from you, Lyndon. Unlike the other night when RM took some positives from an abysmal performance, I actually thought there were some positives from this game.

I actually thought the initial line-up was good. I have been advocating for weeks that to play with Lukaku, Eto’o, Osman, Naismith and McGeady in midfield left us very exposed if they couldn’t hold the ball up... and therefore midfield should be reserved for midfield players – not forwards who lose the ball and don’t chase back.

I was pleased to see Besic in there and feel he can grow when he gets accustomed to the pace of the Prem.

I also thought Lukaku showed some glimpses of the form we know he is capable of.

The only downside besides the injury to Kev was McGeady who IMO is not up to Prem levels.

Lyndon Lloyd
15 Posted 28/09/2014 at 18:41:02
Darren (14): Yes he skinned him a couple of times but that was it. Their main threat was negated for most of the game.

Which is pretty much what I said above, I think. My main point was that if most Blues are in agreement that he’s no longer up to playing effectively week-in, week-out, we can at least take heart that we have a younger, fitter option in Browning for when Coleman is out.

Jay (15): An unusually pessimistic view from you Lyndon. ... I actually thought there were some positives from this game

I was very happy with the line-up. I thought Besic acquitted himself really well for what was his first Premier League start. But given how good we’ve been as an attacking side this season, I was hugely disappointed at how poor we were going forward. And it needn’t have been that way simply because we were focusing more on keeping things tight at the back.

The loss of Mirallas was a big factor, in my opinion, but the distribution on the counter from Naismith, Lukaku and McGeady was pretty bad at times and we just never really built up a head of steam.

Ajay Gopal
16 Posted 28/09/2014 at 18:40:00
Darren (#14), I usually don’t agree with most of your views, but in this case, "Well said, Sir".

Not even Hibbert’s biggest fan thinks he is Cafu, but Hibbert doesn’t pick himself. If Martinez thinks that he is the best available resource to perform the right-back role, and he does that to the best of his ability, what more can you ask for?

Hibbo’s abilities are on the decline, no question about that, but he has played an important role for Everton over the years and surely he will be needed for specific situations; you can be sure that Hibbert will give it his best.

Stephen Brown
17 Posted 28/09/2014 at 18:54:42
I always count the Scousers on each team; with Hibbo playing, I think we won that 2-1.

Hibbo gets winner in derby!! (Sort of...)

Harold Matthews
18 Posted 28/09/2014 at 21:22:04
Yes Darren, all things considered Hibbo did okay,. According to Browning who was a bit overawed when first joining the main squad, Hibbo has helped him realise that he is a rightful member. Also Distin spoke of great spirit generated by Ossie, Hibbo and Bainsey.

Yes Lyndon, although I’ve tried to see things in a positive manner, I have to agree that our distribution on the counter has been very disappointing. Lukaku , Naismith and McGeady have not looked top quality on the ball, a fact always highlighted when Eto’o comes on and tries to show them how to do it. A fit Oviedo and Kone will improve things but that could be a long way off. Gibson and Osman no longer have the legs and Barkley seems to have disappeared.

It was also noticeable that when Naismith charged up the middle with the ball Lukaku didn’t make a run. Instead he halted the counter by wanting the ball with his back to goal so he could try to come inside on his left foot. Puzzling stuff.

Keith Glazzard
19 Posted 28/09/2014 at 22:02:51
I just wanted to congratulate the lads. A result which felt more like a win, and shut them up, did nicely, thanks. Jags deserves a lot of credit and Stones just gets better. Roberto had faith well placed in Besic and then Browning - what a great start to what could be a fine Everton career.

There are lots of jigsaw pieces on the table, and still a very long season to go. If we don’t hit a crisis, we have the makings of another good year.

Eric Holland
20 Posted 28/09/2014 at 22:32:23
I was told yesterday that Browning is the quickest player on Everton’s books.

His best position is also centre-back. Could this be the ideal partner for Stones and the future of our CD partnership?

Jimmy-Åge Sørheim
21 Posted 28/09/2014 at 23:09:56
I’m happy about Browning getting game time. In my view, he should step right in to right back when Coleman is injured.

The sad thing about the season overall is that we lack fitness and match practice. When are we going to see a regular first eleven again?

Martinez seems to be lost, he does not give game time to the right people, and the results so far are pointing to an ill-prepared pre-season from Martinez.

To me Martinez just seems ill-equipped to handle the amount of games. Will things improve in the Premier League? I doubt it. The Europa League looks to be our best bet in getting anywhere near the Champions League.

I have a bone to pick with our medical department, they suck at getting players back from injury, it always takes longer then it should, and Martinez always gets it wrong when he estimates comebacks for injured players.

From my point of view I think we messed up when we bought Lukaku. He has been on the decline ever since he left WBA and we paid way too much for a player that is turning out to be very limited. I remember Yakubu doing better than what Lukaku has done this season.

Hugh Jenkins
22 Posted 29/09/2014 at 05:03:28
Jimmy (#22). Dare I say that perhaps your comments regarding Lukaku are a little premature? It is difficult to say with certainty that a player’s career is in decline (barring a career-ending injury or a clear case of rampant substance abuse), at the ripe old age of 21.

He is, perhaps "one for the future" who has matured so quickly that he has been playing at Premier League level for the past two seasons. In all similar cases I am aware of, such players do tend to get ’blips’ in their career before getting their "second wind".

I think we will find, over the course of the next 7 to 10 years, that this was, in fact, a sound investment on our part for a player who will prove to be one of the top strikers in the Premier League, during that period. I, for one, certainly hope so.

John Barnes
23 Posted 29/09/2014 at 05:57:02
Medical staff rubbish, Martinez lost, always gets it wrong on comebacks after injury, Lukaku in decline, Yakubu better ....

Glad Jimmy’s happy about Browning. I wonder who else he would be happy to see in a blue shirt again!!!!

Give it a rest lad will yer.

Chris Fisher
24 Posted 29/09/2014 at 10:54:01
Seamus 100% needs to be kept at right back, he is the best attacking full back in the world at the moment, no need to mess with that. Whilst Mirallas is out injured I think we should partner Lukaku and Eto’o upfront together, Rom is a £28 million striker being played bafflingly on the wing, I think playing him upfront with Eto’o would get us goals and Eto’o naturally drops deep anyway so we wont lose our shape or the effectiveness of Naismith.
Chris Fisher
25 Posted 29/09/2014 at 11:05:18
Harold Matthews, Barkley is injured!! He has hardly ’disappeared’.
Jay Harris
26 Posted 29/09/2014 at 18:55:19
Chris, I have argued hard and long that we should not play with 3 strikers Naismith, Lukaku and Eto’o because it leaves our MF too narrow, especially when we have Baines and Coleman flying up the wings. That has been our defensive problem all season for me.

We need a box-to-box centre midfielder who can score goals similar to Lampard and Scholes.

Now finding them is another matter but, with Super Kev out for a while and McGeady totally anaemic, I think we should stick with Besic behind a front two out of Naismith, Eto’o and Lukaku with IMO Rom looking the most likely to sit on the bench for a while.

I would also reacquaint Pienaar (if fit) and Bainesy.

Eddie Dunn
27 Posted 30/09/2014 at 11:08:45
Perhaps late in the game, Liverpool were trying to see it out, but could it be that Browning’s fresh legs & extra pace down the right showed what could be done to the Liverpool defence?

I saw Saints go there and terrorise them by direct running on the counter-attack, and they opened them up down that side repeatedly. (Southampton were very unlucky to lose.)

I know losing Mirallas was a body blow, but perhaps we could have had a real go with Eto’o on with 25 mins to go.

Geoff Evans
28 Posted 30/09/2014 at 13:56:54
Avoiding defeat against an average team isn’t really anything to shout about.
Peter Bell
29 Posted 30/09/2014 at 14:23:06
Geoff (#29),

I totally agree. It also baffles me when posters say grabbing a draw from the jaws of defeat makes up for the draws taken from the jaws of a win.

The first gains you a point, the second loses you two...

Harold Matthews
30 Posted 30/09/2014 at 15:01:28
Chris Fisher. Yes, I think we all know he’s injured but, apart from the City rumour, he hardly gets a mention.
Dave White
31 Posted 01/10/2014 at 08:35:11
Baines remains a concern for me: he just doesn't seem to be able to rediscover his form. I suspect that he plays much better when Pienaar is in front of him.

It was really encouraging to see a better defensive performance, overall it wasn't great but it could've been a lot worse.

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