This Week:15 Years Ago

David Hardman 09/03/2023 2comments  |  Jump to last

Given that it’s been a nice round 15 years, and given what an eventful season it was (by recent standards!), I really should have re-visited the 2007-08 season more often. The calendars just haven’t aligned, though, so it’s limited me to mid-week games.


I first looked back for the start of our European adventure that season, at Metalist Kharkiv in early October. So it is fitting that I’m now going to look back at the end of it.


After going down 0-2 on their trip to Florence in the Uefa Cup Round of 16, the odds were very much against Everton in this one. Per Krøldrup returned to Goodison Park for the first (and I’m guessing only) time since his short-lived stay on Merseyside. 


Andy Johnson, who’d started the European campaign ignominiously by missing 2 penalties against Kharkiv, ended it in style by opening the scoring with his chest in the first half. It would be his last goal for Everton.


In the second half, Mikel Arteta hit a terrific long-range effort to level the tie, Goodison was bouncing, and if Everton had finished the job, I do believe it would have been one of the most memorable nights in terms of both atmosphere and sense of achievement since the 80s. Instead, the game went to a penalty shoot-out, which Everton lost.

After this, Everton’s season didn’t recover. They went into this match hot on the heels of the Champions League places. Between their European exit and the last day of the season, they would only win one game, 1-0 at home to Derby County, who had the worst top-flight season in living memory, possibly the worst ever (has anyone else only won one game all season?).

The school of thought is that the devastation of their European exit had such a negative effect on the Everton players that they couldn’t get going again.

It may also be that, like in 2002-03 that I commented about recently, Everton had to face several of the top sides during their final games, along with their bogey fixture at Fulham, so maybe their position prior to this tough run flattered them a little, but that doesn’t excuse them failing to win at home to West Ham or away to a relegation bound Birmingham City.

It could also simply be that the extra games that season (don’t forget they reached the semi-finals of the League Cup too) took their toll on what was still a fairly thin squad, and they just ran out of steam in the closing weeks. They’d been accustomed to playing about 10 matches less than that for the last few years.

Or maybe it was a combination of all three factors…

Going back to this game, and the reason I don’t get too bitter about Ferguson’s disallowed goal at Villarreal in 2005, is because I believe the same outcome would have happened there. The goal would have only levelled the tie – level on away goals too – and under Moyes, Everton had a habit of pounding away until they equalised, only to then sit back.

They would often settle for the point or take their chances on penalties if it was a cup tie, and often it would invite the opponents to attack, which ran the risk of all the hard work of getting back into the game being undone.

Early on in his first full season, it happened at Villa Park (0-2 down, got it back to 2-2 only to concede again late on). Worse was to follow the next season, against Manchester United, when they levelled from 0-3 only to lose 3-4.

So if you want to know what would have happened had Pierluigi Collina let Ferguson’s goal stand that night at El Madrigal, look no further than Fiorentina. But at least the circumstances would have been fairer.

And for what it’s worth, sitting back after equalising is sensible. As the cliché goes, a team is never more vulnerable than when they’ve just scored. The opponents are going to be pushing forward to reclaim their lead, so it stands to reason to keep players back to counter this, at least until the game settles.

There are other times, though, when the opponents look like they’re on the ropes, and sitting back just gives them time to regroup and get more confident in the game. Sometimes you’ve just got to go for the jugular.

It would have been very risky going for it against Fiorentina that night, though, because conceding an away goal would have meant having to score 4.

Besides, Moyes’s cautious approach had taken us back into Europe and as far as being only a penalty shoot-out away from our first European Quarter-Final since 1985, so who am I to question this?

And I concur with the comments after my Metalist article, that the 2007-08 squad was the best we had under Moyes, and the football played over the course of that season has only since been bettered during Martinez’s first season in charge.

In the Summer of 2008, things started to change… but that’s another story for another time.

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Reader Comments (2)

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Dennis Stevens
1 Posted 11/03/2023 at 13:25:47
I get your point, David. However, I'd always prefer that we fail as a result of our own shortcomings rather than the outcome being influenced by the incompetence or bias of officialdom. We certainly don't need any help from them in order to under achieve!
Lee Courtliff
2 Posted 11/03/2023 at 14:10:38
That was an excellent season with consistent League form, especially from the end of Oct to the end of March, and 2 cracking Cup runs thrown in to boot!!

We really did have a good team back then, with a good manager. But neither were quite good enough to actually win something/Top 4.

A real shame that manager and squad couldn't get just one Cup to their name.

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