Everton Logo Everton 1 - 0 Ajax
Half-time: 1-0
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Umbro Cup, 1997 - Game 1
Saturday 26 July 1997
Goodison Park, Merseyside
Att: 15,249
Stoke City (a) Ref: Peter Jones Chelsea (h)
EVERTON: Speed (32)
Ajax: --
LINEUPS Subs Not Used
EVERTON: Southall, Allen Watson, Bilic, Phelan, Thomsen, Oster (62 Branch), Farrelly (84 McCann), Speed, Barmby, Ferguson (62 Stuart),   
Unavailable: Barrett, Parkinson, (injured), Dunne (Intl Duty)
Ajax: Van Der Sar; Melchiot, Blind, Oliseh, F De Boer, R De Boer (Reuser 80), Rudy, Witschge (Dani 76), Babangida (Gorre 69), Arveladze, Hoekstra.

Guy McEvoy Everton -- Destroyers of Ajax
Peter Griffiths Ajax defeated
THE SUNDAY TIMES A Touch of Sublime Speed
by Jim Munro
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Everton jeered as Southall denies Ajax
by Ronald Atkin
CARLINGNET Toffees Edge Past Ajax

Everton -- Destroyers of Ajax
Guy McEvoy
Having been beaten comprehensively by mediocre first division opposition a week earlier you would hardly expect us to make any sort of inroads against the former World Club Champions yet the lottery that is the pre-season friendly prevailed again. There is no justice whatsoever in the scoreline, but that is the nature of football so just enjoy it anyway.

The first panic of the day was when the team came out. No Z-cars. Instead we ended up with some sort of version of the 'Theme for the common man' fanfare. Let's hope that this is just for this tournament. On the upside, they had hired an 'ompah band' to give some atmosphere that was unlikely to be provided by the sparse crowds of supporters for teams in the first game (the Evertonians were all too spread out for any real chant to catch on, there were only a couple of half-hearted efforts throughout).

The pace of the game had 'pre-season' stamped all over it. Even the referee wasn't in proper gear (due to a clash with the Ajax away kit) and so wore a white Umbro top which only added to the 'training-session' appearance of the match. We yawned our way through the first quarter of an hour. Distressingly there was the return of the odd hoofed long-ball to Duncan with the familiar aimless flick on being picked up by the defence. Ajax ambled around, hardly seeming to break a sweat and chucked a couple of long range efforts in that Southall was equal to. Our first chance came when Oster had a go at a defender, lost the ball, inexplicably stole it back and fed it to Barmby who fired wide. Barmby looked intent on enjoying his day and it wasn't too long later, that he again found himself with the ball from an interception on the right. He released it quickly and Gary Speed was there to latch onto it and, cool as you like, gently lift the ball over the advancing keeper. A wonderful, instinctive goal.

>From there on in Ajax turned to screw back on. There were two key things that saved us. The first was the linesman's flag; Ajax scored from an unstoppable strike, but the linesman thankfully saw something I didn't. The second was the Welsh bin-man. The Sunday Times described his day's work looking as effortless "as a kitten chasing feathers". Vintage Southall.

Another big plus point was Bilic. The more I see the more I like. He is not just an obviously world class defender, he also has that rare quality of 'sheer presence'. He commands, he bullies, he cajoles, he praises and he shouts at his team-mates in Schmiekle like proportions. This man must be the next Everton captain.

It should also be recorded that Everton won the game despite as good as playing with 10 men. I honestly try to be objective and have given the man chance after chance after chance but Clause Tomsen has pushed my highly elastic patience to snapping point. The sooner we get rid the better. Everton did enjoy a period of improvement later in the second when the removal of Ferguson (with Oster) and the introduction of Branch and Stuart allowed us to concentrate on the quicker passing (on the floor) game that we play best. Nevertheless, this victory should be remembered as Nev's victory. Enjoy and savour the scoreline, I am, but don't read too much into it.

  • Players who stank; Tomsen
  • Players who played well; Bilic and Allen (who looks good at right back - very good), possibly could include Barmby here.
  • Mr Outstanding; Neville Southall.

Everyone else was OK.

Ajax defeated
Peter Griffiths
I attended the temple of football for the first day of the Umbro. This was definitely not regarded as a 'proper' Everton home game by most of the regular supporters and the street end was particularly empty. I would go further and say that a lot of Evertonians there seemed to be the less regular 'family day out' groups of supporters. I mention this as the actual support the team received was extremely quiet and they could have been away.

There were a few (100?) Ajax supporters upstairs in the upper Bullens in the corner by the street end, the Toons (of the visitors) were best supported occupying the centre of the upper & lower bullens and Chelsea had the corner of the lower Bullens near the Park end.

The first problem is actually to get Everton to take your money and 18 and 9 is expensive for pre-season frivolities even for two matches. I could not get any details to buy the tickets before hand. (Unlike Dave's match where I eventually got through to the box office to be told that I could not buy from them by credit card but would have to send in a postal application for tickets if I wanted to use the credit card!) Yesterday, you could only buy tickets for the main stand and not the Top Balcony where you had to pay cash at the turnstile. This meant hanging around in the rain until the five of us all met up. The thing is designed for TV with a fanfare for the teams coming on and all the regular adds covered over and Dutch and Umbro replacements.

Never mind a striker, lets sign the Ajax band. The home crowd was happy to be entertained by them before the match and at half time but produced virtually their loudest expression of disapproval when the band played during the football. The master of ceremonies on the PA system encouraged us to welcome the 'Ajax' fans pronouncing it like scouring powder, (boom boom the foaming cleanser for those of you old enough to remember the adds on TV.)

Ajax had most of the play but Everton stuck to their task extremely well. Surely if you play Ajax and do not let them score you have achieved something even in a preseason match. We were lucky, particularly with the disallowed goal but we defended well. I bet they beat Newcastle who still have a defensive problem.

Neville seems to have had grudging praise from those of you who saw it on TV, I thought it was a top class performance and also, after his performance at Stoke, he will do a good job again this season. I thought Allen had a reasonable game but was exposed for pace a couple of times against a very good Dutch left winger. With no Earl on the field, Thomsen was the butt of the criticism of the Everton cognoscente. He had a pretty poor match looking clumsy most of the time and giving the ball away a bit. However, he did do some good things in defence and he did put himself about, (unlike some others!) but once Evertonians get their critical faculties into someone, he will now have a mountain to climb. ( Reference Barrett, etc. and back to Horn a couple of seasonsago.) Billic is excellent and now seem to have more to do with organising the defence than Waggy. An excellent buy and all you Royle knockers, ( though it breaks your heart to do it), did not Joe have something to do with him coming? Oster seemed overcome and did not run at his defended once that I can remember. (San exaggerates, he only looks 8 not 10.) Faralley moved around busily but with restricted success.

Barmby was certainly trying and his part in the goal was instrumental sucking in defenders and releasing a brilliant pass. Speedy is also carrying on from last season and both Stuart and Branch looked OK without a lot of penetration when they came on.

Duncan. He seems so lazy and slow so much of the time in attack. I say seems as he was trying quite hard, witness his trips back to defend. I saw him at Stoke as well and he has not been his dominant best in the air. The comparison with the now crocked Shearer in the next match was unavoidable. If you just look at the winning of the ball in the air, Shearer does much less of it but he actually heads to his team mates. He never seems to knock the ball straight back to our player running on

I know Duncan gets many more speculative lobs but the number of times it goes to his own side is so limited. Again Royle has recently been attacked on this prestigious list for not getting a striker who could score 20 plus goals. Surely that is why he bought Dunc. I am still not sure if Duncan will turn out to be part of the problem or part of the solution.

The Thomsen knockers behind me had started with 'for heaven's sake do not pass to him on the ground' and laughing at some of his lack of effort to put himself about in attack. Howard must motivate him back to his best, coach the rest to use him and either get Barmby, Stuart or Branch to work better off him or get in a new partner. (Or start again!!) I was hoping the Toons would get through to the final as I think their defence is more vulnerable at the moment…

Toffees Edga Past Ajax
Neville Southall turned back the clock with a superb display to deny Ajax and send Everton into the Umbro International final.  The Welsh international keeper will be 39 in September and last season looked on his way out of Goodison Park after 16 years with the club.

But after Gary Speed had fired Everton into a 32nd-minute lead, it was Southall who made sure that Howard Kendall's third stint in charge of the Merseysiders got off to a winning start with a string of superb saves to frustrate last season's Champions' League semi-finalists.

The victory means the Blues will meet either Chelsea or Newcastle in tomorrow's final - while Southall's show sent out a clear warning to Kendall that his much-publicised search for a new keeper is perhaps not as desperate as he first thought.

Kendall has been tracking Republic of Ireland international Alan Kelly at his former club Sheffield United, but the man he first brought to Everton in a 150,000 deal from Bury in 1981 did not look past his sell-by date.

The new Blues' boss gave debuts to summer arrivals Slaven Bilic, John Oster and Gareth Farrelly, while youth team graduate Graham Allen made his first full start.  And after an uncertain start in which Richard Witschge almost gave the Dutch visitors a first-minute lead with a deflected shot that dipped just over, the Blues soon settled to their task.

Nicky Barmby, looking to kick-start his Goodison career following a disappointing spell since his 5.75million switch from Middlesbrough, saw a fierce volley cleared off the line by Shota Arveladze.  And although the Blues were second best in terms of possession in the opening exchanges, they went ahead after 31 minutes courtesy of Barmby's vision and Gary Speed's finishing.

Barmby seemed trapped by two Ajax defenders wide on the right, but somehow managed to squeeze a pass into the path of Speed through the centre, and the Welshman lifted the ball over the onrushing Edwin Van der Sar to score.

Ajax are themselves rebuilding under new coach Morten Olsen after failing to win the Dutch title for the first time in four years last term.  And the goal stung the Dutch into immediate action, with Nigerian newcomer Sunday Oliseh impressively pulling the strings in midfield.

Southall was alert to snatch the ball away from Tiijana Babangida before producing a wonderful save to tip away Oliseh's sweetly-struck drive from distance.

Ajax finally thought they had beaten the Welsh veteran keeper when Andrej Rudy took possession from a short corner and cut in from the right to power a rising drive past Southall only for an offside flag to cut short the celebrations of the small band of Ajax fans that had made the trip to Merseyside.

Southall was in action again immediately after the break as Ajax maintained their grip on the game, smothering Mario Melchiot's opportunist effort and blocking out Witschge's low blast in expert fashion.

Terry Phelan then headed a Witschge corner against his own post and out and needed treatment after clattering into Southall before Everton finally threatened again.

Duncan Ferguson, who never lost a header all afternoon, showed wonderful skill on the floor to pick his way past two challenges only for Van der Sar to smother the danger. But Southall was soon back in the thick of the action, producing his best save of the game by throwing himself full length to tip away Ronald De Boer's swinging free-kick.

Then substitute Dean Gorre found himself denied by the Welshman as the visitors poured forward desperately.  But the game was up for Ajax when substitute Martijn Reuser's header clattered the foot of Southall's post with just four minutes remaining.

A Touch of Sublime Speed
by Jim Munro, The Sunday Times
Everton enjoyed their role as hosts on the first day of this two-day event, a Gary Speed goal after 31 minutes giving them a 1-0 victory over Ajax, of Holland, and a place in today's "final" against Chelsea.

Speed's sublime touch to a precise through ball from Nick Barmby lofting the ball over the head of Edwin Van der Sar, the Ajax goalkeeper was the highlight of an enjoyable stroll for both teams. But while some eased their way into new surroundings, it was an old-stager, Neville Southall in Everton's goal, who put in the performance of the day for the home side, sprinting around his area like a kitten chasing feathers, clutching anything and everything that moved.

Ajax will rue some over-elaborate play, but they still managed to produce some bright and alert football. Richard Witschge's first-minute drive was deflected into a spinning missile of a shot that dipped just over Southall's bar, and Sunday Oliseh, the Nigerian newly arrived from Cologne of Germany, orchestrated their midfield. When Southall was eventually beaten by Andrej Rudy's rising drive from the right, an offside flag came to Everton's rescue.

The second half brought much of the same, with Southall snuffing out a cheeky pot-shot from Mario Melchiot and a bullet strike from Witschge.

Ajax became frantic in their efforts to force an equaliser. Ronald De Boer blasted a free kick only for Southall to produce a full-length dive, deflecting the ball to safety. Dean Gorre and Martijn Reuser were brought into play by Morten Olsen, the new Ajax coach, but they fared no better, Reuser thumping a header against the foot of Southall's post with just four minutes remaining.

Report Times Newspapers Ltd

Everton jeered as Southall denies Ajax
Ronald Atkin , Electronic Telegraph
VICTORY over Ajax and a place in this afternoon's Umbro International tournament final. Not too bad for Everton, then? Well, yes, pretty bad actually. Not for the first time Everton were heavily in debt to their ageless goalkeeper, Neville Southall. He already holds an MBE and on the strength of yesterday's showing he might also be awarded Goodison's Order of Merit.

Elsewhere they were the same punchless Everton, tighter at the back thanks to the arrival of Slaven Bilic, but not likely to inflict much damage in the Premiership on this showing. They were stretched and embarrassed so frequently by Ajax that their own supporters began to jeer Everton late in the second half.

Yet by their standards, Ajax are in a period of decline. Dutch league champions for three straight years from 1994-96, as well as European Cup winners in 1995, they finished a poor third last spring and the loss of some great names has seen them turn, as many other clubs in Europe are doing, to Africa and Eastern Europe for the replacements.

Their 10 summer signings included a Pole, Andrzej Rudy, and a Nigerian international, Sunday Oliseh, who was recruited by the new Ajax manager, Morten Olsen, from Olsen's former club, Cologne. That both were shrewd buys was shown in a first half dominated by the Dutch team's slick passing and smart movement.

Everton's close season has been one of good intent rather than heavy spending. Bilic, the Croatian defender, came to Goodison from West Ham but the only other new faces on parade in the starting line-up yesterday were John Oster, from Grimsby, and Gareth Farrelly, from Aston Villa. The Dutch brass band, inevitable on such occasions, let rip with an early version of Happy Days Are Here Again but you would need to be an Everton optimist to believe that on the evidence here.

For some reason Ajax turned out in an all-black strip instead of their usual red and white, and it needed only 10 minutes and a couple of complaints from Everton before referee Peter Jones was forced to don a white jacket. Everton were having enough trouble marking the real opposition in black without having a man needing to shadow the match official.

Southall, whose appearances in Everton's goal are heading towards the 800 mark, committed an early gaffe when he dropped Frank De Boer's corner kick but he got away without further alarms and then showed his worth by beating away a fierce long shot by Rudy.

Just as Everton's followers in the thin attendance were beginning to despair of anything from their team, they took the lead against the flow of action. Speed seized on a ball directed into the penalty box by Barmby and as Erwin Van Der Sar sprinted off his line to limit the danger Speed prodded it past the on-rushing goalkeeper.

Ajax promptly clicked into a higher gear and Southall had to go full stretch to turn away Oliseh's carefully measured shot. Five minutes from half-time the Dutch seemed to have equalised when Richard Witschge rolled a free kick into the stride of Rudy for a tremendous shot but it was disallowed for a trivial infringement.

Next Tiijana Babangida lobbed clear of Southall but just too high and the Everton 'keeper needed to be swift to hold Mario Melchiot's low drive. There was no let up in the Ajax pressure after the interval either as Witschge saw a brilliant low drive rebound for a corner off Southall's body and then Frank De Boer's corner cleared everybody only to bounce away off an upright.

A rash of substitutions failed to enliven Everton as Ajax pressed with some desperation for the equaliser. Ronald De Boer's swerving free kick was knocked aside by Southall and towards the end, when he was twice beaten, Ajax were out of luck as Dean Gorre shot over and Martijn Reuser struck a post. Then, in the dying seconds, Oliseh strode through elegantly to unleash another marvellous effort - but once again, as you might have guessed, Southall was in the way.

Report The Electronic Telegraph

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Michael Kenrick 1997