Cleverley late show staves off another draw

If the Bournemouth draw bore the hallmarks of the kind of result that Martinez might have referred back to at the end of the season as a psychological blow from which his players never recovered, the manner in which his charges won this game will hopefully feel like redemption and a new lease on life in terms of morale.

Lyndon Lloyd 28/12/2015 5comments  |  Jump to last
Newcastle United 0 - 1 Everton

This is how it was supposed to feel after Bournemouth. The elation of a last-minute winner; three vital away points and a psychological platform on which to build after a tough run of fixtures over the first quarter of the season.

That game at Vitality Stadium marked, of course, the first of four matches which Everton absolutely should have won but just couldn't get themselves over the line, leaving the club in the bottom half of the table at kick-off for the late afternoon game in the northeast. This one looked to be the heading towards the same frustrating conclusion of a draw until Tom Cleverley intervened with the last meaningful touch of the game.

True to recent form, the Blues' territorial superiority and dominance of possession had largely dissipated by the final 20 minutes of the contest and it was anyone's game at that point. That had allowed Newcastle a shot at winning a match in which they had mostly been second best for long periods.

Steve McClaren's strategy of allowing Everton the ball and hoping to catch the visitors on the counter attack hadn't proved successful in the first half and the only time they really threatened Tim Howard's goal was when Daryl Janmaat a player who benefitted from referee Lee Mason's lenience when he escaped a cast iron second yellow card crossed for Aleksander Mitrovic but the Serbian couldn't make a proper connection with his head.

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At other end, Everton's attractive football and purposeful movement lent them an air of complete control over proceedings but they struggled to fashion clear-cut opportunities. Neat control by Kevin Mirallas, handed a starting berth in place of Arouna Kone, saw him bring down an early cross and force the first of a number of saves by Rob Elliot from a tight angle.

The Belgian's second effort from a more central position 18 yards from goal was more routine but the Newcastle goalkeeper had to be alert to beat away a low drive from Romelu Lukaku shortly after the striker appeared to have earned a clear penalty when he was dragged down in the six-yard box by Fabricio Coloccini. Not surprisingly, Mason had either not seen the incident or chose not to award a spot kick.

The pattern established in the first period continued into the second where it was Everton who continued to carry the greater threat. John Stones and Ramiro Funes Mori were comfortable in defence and were even afforded license to roam forward from time to time, while Seamus Coleman was able to regularly raid down the right in support of Aaron Lennon who had been preferred to Gerard Deulofeu.

In midfield, Gareth Barry continued to be the age-defying mobile linchpin that he has been for so much of the season, ably assisted by Cleverley's energy and Ross Barkley's mercurial probing from deep behind Mirallas and Lukaku. The latter Belgian was searching for the goal that would have matched Bill Dean's record of scoring in nine successive games in all competitions and he looked a good bet to do so when he rolled Chancel Mbemba impressively and drove on Elliot's goal but, once again, the 'keeper was equal to it and made an excellent save with his leg.

Lennon, too, was foiled by Elliot who denied him with a one-handed save as the Blues continued to press for a winner that didn't look like it was going to come. The former Spurs winger made way for Deulofeu shortly afterwards, with Barkley being replaced, somewhat surprisingly, by Muhamed Besic but neither substitution prevented the relative parity in the two team's respective performances heading into the final 20 minutes of the game.

Ayoze Perez dragged a shot narrowly wide from 18 yards, Georginio Wijnaldum might have scored were it not for excellent positioning from Howard who parried his shot on the line, and Mitrovic probably should have scored but somehow headed wide from the Dutch midfielder's chipped centre.

At the other end, Ramiro Funes Mori's downward header was batted away off his goal line by Elliot and Coleman flashed a left-footer wide as the Blues pushed for a late winner but the two sides seemed destined to share the spoils from an entertaining but goalless draw until Everton sprang away from their own penalty area on the break.

Lukaku was fed the ball in the middle of the park and some distance from goal but, defying the heavy pitch which had taken a visible toll on the players by this stage of proccedings, he surged into the Magpies' box, was able to drag it away from Paul Dummett's challenge but was denied at the last by a superb covering tackle by Mbemba.

Deulofeu swung in the resulting corner, Elliot made arguably his first and most costly error of the game by punching straight to Cleverley and the midfielder sent the ball back into the top corner from 16 yards with a looping header to spark jubilation on the pitch and high in the stands among the travelling Evertonians. Finally, justice in terms of the balance of play had been done and Everton had handed their fans a nice Christmas present.

If the Bournemouth draw bore the hallmarks of the kind of result that Martinez might have referred back to at the end of the season as a psychological blow from which his players never recovered, the manner in which his charges won this game will hopefully feel like redemption and a new lease on life in terms of morale. A victory now over a much-improved Stoke side which looks to be gelling well after initial teething problems with Mark Hughes's new signings would dramatically improve the Blues' prospects and optimism heading into the New Year.

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Reader Comments (5)

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Mark Andersson
1 Posted 28/12/2015 at 02:16:43
Fantastic report well balanced and nearer to the truth than some fans’ view of the game.

I for one have decided to get off Martinez’s back for two reasons: Firstly he looks to be building a good young team, who try to play attractive football.

Secondly, what is the point in moaning as it achieves nothing? Roberto will not be sacked, he will still pick the players he deems best for the game in hand.

I personally replayed the players reaction to the last minute winner. That shows that this team are together this season, and should give them a lot of belief going into the next game.

Finally we should learn to enjoy the win as we still have a long way to go before we become consistent.

No predictions from me for the Stoke game. After all, this season is madder than a Scouser in an Ibiza nightclub.

Rob Hooton
2 Posted 28/12/2015 at 08:50:49
Well said Mark, you've voiced my opinion without me having to strong a sentence together.
Aidy Dews
3 Posted 28/12/2015 at 09:52:56
I thought that was one of our most fuller performances over 90 minutes in a long time. As per, we dominated the first half but once again, lacked that cutting edge and ruthlessness Infront of goal. Our play at times was brilliant and Newcastle couldn't get close to us, but like I've said, we just wasn't deadly enough Infront of their penalty box.

Second half was a bit more even, although we still had enough chances to put the game to bed. They also had some good chances to go ahead, a bad miss from Mitrovic and a good save from Howard preventing us from going behind.

I must admit, as the second half went on, I'd lost hope of a win and thought we'd either draw (again!) or lose but to get that injury time winner felt good, and the players and staff enjoyed that one and hopefully this can now be the kick start to our season!

By the way, good read up Lyndon, very balanced and to the point. And a good first response from Mark of which I totally agree with.

Ernie Baywood
4 Posted 28/12/2015 at 10:03:53
Haven't seen it mentioned on here but that Mitrovic miss was a shocker from us. A big, slow centre forward who has one aim... to pull away and then attack the ball with his head. The simplest of movement took him away from both of our centre halves and onto Baines and he should have scored from a cross that didn't have to be anything special.

I hope that's been shown over and over by Roberto because, as much as we enjoy the possession we have, it's simple stuff that is undoing us. Centre halves need to control the game defensively as well as being comfortable on the ball.

Andy Crooks
5 Posted 28/12/2015 at 13:32:49
Mark, I have git of Martinez's back and oraided tge performance and result. Howver, I cannot agree that there is no point in moaning when the performance is poor from players and coach. If thatwas the case thenwhat is the pont of this site.

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