Everton lose Penalty Shootout: 2 - 3
Everton: Southall; Hinchcliffe, Unsworth, Watson and Hottiger; Grant (45 Parkinson), Ebbrell, Stuart, Speed; Ferguson, Branch (60? Rideout). Booked: Subs Not Used:
Ref: P Durkin
Next Match: Everton v Liverpool
Guy McEvoy: Euro '96 has conspired to mean that this was the third match I'd seen in a row in that toilet of a ground. Still, my over exposure was more than cancelled out by it being an anti-dote to my cold turkey from Everton's summer break.
Out the boys popped in their spanking new away kit (strictly for commercial reasons - Borussia were playing in white so there would have been no real clash). Even Nev was sporting a new top. I'm not exaggerating when I say 'fluorescent orange'. I'll let you make up your own minds about that! It was quickly apparent that we would be fielding a near full strength team with the only noticeable absence from the boys warming up being Andrei who was apparently being rested.
We played a flat back four of Hinchcliffe, Unsworth, Watson and Hottiger. In the middle Tony Grant was set the task of commanding the centre area with support from Ebbrell whilst sun-tanned new boy Speed took wideish left and Stuart held a forward position on the right. Duncan and young Branch played up front.
It quickly became apparent that the game was going to be played at no real pace, one touch passing was very much the order of the first half, and at times it has to be said that we played some good stuff. Branch quickly showed how the club are developing his pace into a real asset, Duncan played just behind him and the tactic seemed to be to knock the ball towards the big man for him to flick onto Branchy to pick-up and start the attack.
Despite the positive play, clear chances were rare, however, those that came went Everton's way:
It was by-and-large one-way traffic and Everton deserved the lead which came from an inch-perfect cross by Hottiger which Duncan cruised in to head into the back of the net. Let's hope we see many, many of these throughout the coming season.
We held this lead until half time. Although the game had been nothing special, we were looking very comfortable and the team left the field to deserved applause.
The second half began in much the same way as the first (except Grant had now made way for Parkinson). A very quick attack bought great skill from Branch on the left hand side, finding his way to the box and picking out Stuart who was running at some speed from the other side. Diamond's first touch was excellent and, had there not been brilliant goalkeeping to narrow the angle, Everton would have extended their lead.
But with that, Everton seemed to just give up. There followed half an hour of complete lack of imagination, lethargy and defensive lapses. We gifted the Germans back into the game.
I can't explain the change in Everton's play, maybe it had something to do with the creative Grant being replaced by the more defensive Parkinson limiting our options, whatever the reason, we were now living on luck. Nev managed two good saves but eventually the Germans equalised by squeezing home a loose ball and then went ahead after a fine header from a cross, which it has to be said should have been cut out well before it reached the scorers head. The defence was asleep, Nev was left with hands on hips.
Fortunately, the moderate crowd finally found it's voice as Rideout replaced the impressive Branch and seemed to stir Everton back into the game for the final ten minutes. Suddenly we started putting the screw back on, Duncan and Rideout were both keeping Borussia's defence occupied enough that Speed was able to find a deflected ball in the box and show a determination to finish which nearly busted the net. Speed's performance had up to that point shown some understandable signs of nerves and his first touch had let him down on more than one occasion, however the self-assurance he showed in that finish can only bode well.
We looked like we may steal it in the final minutes but eventually the unusually card restrained Mr Durkin blew for time and it all boiled down to a fiasco of a penalty shoot out which went something like this:
Only 2 out of 6 Everton players scored from the spot! They should've let Nev take one.
Some promising signs, showed good passing ability particularly in the first half, we were also very one-sided with most things going down the left in the absence of Kan-Kan. Also marked Branch's finest performance yet for the first team.
Of great consolation was that we played infinitely better than Liverpool did in their 2-0 defeat by Porto. During this game the Borussia team came out in their casual gear to watch the other game and sat right by me. I leave you with this sobering thought: Everton got beat by a team that to a man wear white socks with sandals!