Everton 3, Liverpool 0 (Echo)
Sept 11 2006 By Dominic King
AS HE toddled home late on Saturday evening, a contented smile lighting up his craggy features, one overjoyed Evertonian in the twilight of life could be heard telling an old pal that one thing remained to complete a memorable few hours.
"Three goals, the winner of the Leger and a few pints," he said between hiccups, still trying to grasp the fact he had seen his beloved Blues destroy Liverpool and Sixties Icon do likewise to the St Leger field at York. "All I want now is to go home, get shouted at by the wife, then I can go to bed happy. What a day." Whether this man's better half scolded him for a late return at the weekend, only they will know. But even if she didn't, he - like every other Blue - will have slept contently after Everton delivered the kind of performance many have spent years fantasizing about.
But how many fans will have leapt out of bed yesterday morning with sore heads to buy every paper and watch repeats of Match of the Day, Football First and Jimmy Hill's Sunday Supplement to make sure it wasn't a dream? Fear not. There was nothing imaginary about the way Everton systemically dismantled and tormented a side that has visions of challenging Chelsea for the Premiership. On this evidence, such claims seem fanciful. Conjuring up a breathless performance that oozed calm and class, the 11 men David Moyes selected for duty secured a result which will be talked about for many, many years to come. Emphatic doesn't really do their efforts justice. Bragging rights have been secured at least until next February and the warm glow from this 3-0 drubbing of the old enemy will last long into the winter. Yet, more importantly, it can provide the kind of momentum to help achieve something significant this season. Taking 10 points from the first 12, scoring eight goals and conceding only two, Everton have made a start which demands they be at the forefront of clubs jostling for a place in Europe at the end of the campaign. It is easy to get carried away after such wonderful results as this, but Everton's performances have shown they are ready to make a meaningful step forward with a squad growing in confidence.How else would they have taken Liverpool apart? Some will argue that Rafael Benitez's side did not get the rub of the green, pointing to Steven Gerrard striking the post and that a penalty could have been awarded after Tony Hibbert handled Dirk Kuyt's cross. That, though, would be a myopic view. Even Benitez had the good grace to admit his side had been second best, given a chasing by the man he tried to sign from Crystal Palace in May 2005. Thankfully his target only had eyes for Everton. With Jamie Carragher clearly unfit and Fabio Aurelio looking bewildered by the rough and tumble of this local squabble, Liverpool's defence was out of sorts and Andrew Johnson did not need a second invitation to wreak havoc. How he took it.
Petrified his pace would cause problems, Liverpool simply did not know how to handle Everton's record signing and made a string of errors for which they were ruthlessly punished. Playing a key role in the move that led to Tim Cahill grabbing the first goal in front of a baying Gwladys Street on 23 minutes, Johnson enjoyed the kind of derby debut that usually appears in the pages of Roy of the Rovers. Goodison most definitely has its new hero. Two chances came his way and both were gleefully gobbled up, the second particularly sweet after Jose Manuel Reina - did the crestfallen goalkeeper earn his second name after the ham-fisted waiter in Fawlty Towers? - comically blundered in front of the Park End, as it gave Everton their biggest victory over the Reds in 42 years. However, it wasn't just his goalscoring that was so impressive. Moyes may have opted to go with a five-man midfield but this was nothing conservative about this line-up. Far from it. It had the perfect balance of silk and steel. Johnson's willingness to run into channels and hassle defenders means Everton can quickly launch counter-attacks from deep. It also brings the best out of Cahill, who has a gift that few other midfielders have in the Premiership. No matter how he is playing, invariably during a game he'll find a goalscoring position for himself out of nowhere. And more often than not, he will score. Expect to see him punch the corner flag plenty more times. To say he was the pick of the midfield, though, would be wrong. That accolade goes to Lee Carsley, who covered miles, tackled as if his life depended on him emerging with the ball and was involved in all three goals. Faultless, from first kick to last. Behind him, the defence stood firm whenever pressed. Hibbert, making his first start of the season, was especially impressive. Few right-backs in the Premiership can defend as well as he and if he improves his distribution, international honours may follow. Joseph Yobo and Joleon Lescott, meanwhile, ensured the menacing Robbie Fowler never got a chance to inflict pain and Peter Crouch was kept quiet. They also kept a close eye on Kuyt when he looked ready to impact. Another to catch the eye was Tim Howard. Moyes suggested before the match he would be busier than he had been to date and he came through the test with flying colours. His handling assured, his decision making sound, one save from Luis Garcia was superb, a word that perfectly sums up Everton's performance.
Realist that he is, Moyes and his staff will spend the next few days at Bellefield ensuring his players do not get carried away because, as sweet as victory was, it was only worth three points. The same prize will be on offer against Wigan next Saturday and it is arguably more important to get a maximum haul in that match to keep the momentum behind this encouraging start. Only then will dreams turn into reality.
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Howard; Hibbert, Yobo, Lescott, Naysmith; Neville, Carsley; Osman (Beattie 83), Cahill, Arteta (Valente 89); Johnson. Subs: Wright, Weir, van der Meyde.
BOOKING: Yobo (foul).
LIVERPOOL (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio; Gerrard, Alonso, Sissoko (Pennant 78), Luis Garcia; Fowler (Riise 64), Crouch (Kuyt 53). Subs: Dudek, Agger.
BOOKINGS: Hyypia and Riise (both fouls) and Sissoko (dissent).
REFEREE: Graham Poll (Tring).
Everton 2, Wigan Athletic 2 (Echo)
Sep 18 2006 By Daminic King
HAVING spent 90 minutes glowering at the fourth official, kicking water bottles in frustration and screaming at every perceived injustice against his side, Paul Jewell's dark mood had not relented when he met the Press at Goodison Park. "All I'd heard about in the run up to the game was how Everton were going to go top of the league and how Andy Johnson was going to do this and that," growled Wigan Athletic'smanager. "So I was delighted when I saw our name was on the programme and that we took a point off the champions-elect." Clearly Jewell had been irked that so much attention had been focused on Everton after the previous weekend's thumping of Liverpool and he was obviously keen to burst a few bubbles, whichWigan managedto do via a 2-2 draw. But although it probably didn't seem that way to supporters when referee Alan Wiley brought a hectic tussle to aclose on Saturday afternoon, Jewell might possibly have done the Blues a big favour. Of course, it was bitterly disappointing to see a winning position carelessly squandered. Yet if lessons are learnt from the mistakes that allowed Paul Scharner to score twice, there will be nothing damaging about this result. After ruthlessly dismantling Liverpool and Tottenham, some fans allowed themselves to be swept away on a tide of euphoria and many turned up expecting Wigan to be buried under an avalanche of goals.
Had Leon Osman not been twice superbly denied by Chris Kirkland moments after Johnson had given Everton the lead shortly after half-time, that scenario could quite possibly have unfolded. Wigan, though, are street fighters and just as Watford and Blackburn caused Everton uncomfortable moments in recent fixtures with a physical approach, so too did Jewell's men. To maintain progress, Everton need to learn how to deal with such upstarts. When they come up against teams who want to play football, David Moyes' side have no worries and it's to the manager's credit that he wants to fashion a side that wins matches with a style that is easy on the eye.
It should not be forgotten, though, that Everton are still very much a work in progress under Moyes and a few things need ironing out - and the squad still needs adding to - before they can play total football against every opponent and succeed.
Some quibbled that 4-5-1 was too defensive a formation against Wigan but there wasn't much wrong with it for 60 minutes, as the Blues looked comfortable and lead through Johnson's fifth goal in as many games. An injury to Lee Carsley, however, changed things dramatically. From looking calm and assured, suddenly the Blues appeared vulnerable every time Wigan went forward. Would Scharner have profited on two occasions if Carsley had been around? Unlikely. If Moyes had been able to swop like forlike when the Republic of Ireland midfielder succumbed to a damaged rib and kept the shape that had been hitherto successful, Everton would have had three points rather than one for their efforts. That said, it was impossible not to be taken by James Beattie's performance when he stepped off the bench. Working tirelessly and linking well with Johnson, Beattie showed great courage to smash home Everton's second from the penalty spot after Osman had been chopped down by Denny Landzaat. There is no question Beattie disappointed during pre-season but his attitude since finding himself out of the starting line-up has been exemplary and he will certainly have a major role to play on this evidence. That goal will have done wonders for his confidence. Sadly, it wasn't enough to securea fourth win in five Premiership matches. Scharner's first goal - teed-up by former Blue Kevin Kilbane - came after Joseph Yobo lapsed and his second came following more surprisingly shoddy defending. Ironic, then, that Everton's star performer was a member of the back four. Joleon Lescott was once again outstanding and with each minute he spends on the pitch, he looks moreand morecomfortable with the Premiership. Given the amount of outstanding strikers in the English top flight, the slightest chink in a young central defender's armoury will be exposed, but Lescott looks to have the full package. Strong, quick, good on the ball and dominant in the air, he has caught the eye.
Yobo, too, also playedwell which made his mistake all the more puzzling and infuriating. His tendency to make the odd blunder looked to have been ironed out and in fairness, he has not made one fora while. Put this down to a lapse in concentration.
Other than not being able to administer the killer blow at 1-0, there wasn't too much wrong with Everton's performance. Johnson, once again, showed that he is going to scorea bucketful of goals between nowand May, his latest atypical poacher's trademark.
The midfield functioned efficiently with Osman catching the eye but if one player did give cause for concern it was Mikel Arteta. Sublime in the build up to the campaign, the Spaniard was yet to catch fire and showed an infuriating tendency to go to ground against Wigan. He's much, much better than that. Similar sentiments applyto Everton in relation to the result. True, some will have had their weekend spoiled by a failureto maintain their 100 per cent Goodison Park record but it is just worth thinking back to this time 12 months ago. When Wigan last visited, they won 1-0 and sent Everton plummeting to the bottom of the table. The Blues had only scored one goal and their next victory did not come until October 23 at Birmingham City. Fast forward to the present day and the picture is in stark contrast. Slowly but surely things are coming together and, though it doesn't always seem that way, frustrating results like this can only speed up the process. EVERTON: Howard, Hibbert, Naysmith (Valente 77), Yobo, Lescott; Neville, Carsley (Beattie 60), Osman, Arteta, Cahill; Johnson. Subs: Wright, Weir, van der Meyde.
BOOKING: Neville (30, foul).
WIGAN ATHLETIC: Kirkland, Boyce, Baines, Hall, De Zeeuw; Valencia (Teale 61), Landzaat (Wright 82), Scharner, Kilbane; Heskey, Johansson. Subs: Pollitt, Jackson, Cotterill.
BOOKINGS: Kirkland (19, foul), Valencia (31, foul), Heskey (78, foul), Baines (80, dissent).
REFEREE: Alan Wiley
Peterborough 1, Everton 2 (Echo)
Sept 20 2006 By Dominic King
WHETHER it was a tactic designed to lure Everton into a false sense of security, we will never know. But not for the first time in his career, Barry Fry saw another of his pre-match predictions proved completely wrong. Just before stepping down as Peterborough United chairman on Monday afternoon, this ebullient little character, who has had more than his fair share of ups and downs in life, took time to conduct an interview with a local radio station on Merseyside. Given his use of the Queen's English is a shade more colourful than celebrity chef and expletive expert Gordon Ramsay, there was always a chance he would say shatter the airwaves with something dynamite. True to form, Fry did not disappoint. "Gordon Bennett!" screeched Fry in his instantlyrecognisablecockney brogue. "We've got absolutely no chance against Everton. None whatsoever! They'll beat us 8-0. In fact, I might even ask Moyesie if he'll lend me some bleedin' players to make a game of it!" He didn't need to. Not surprisingly, playing in front of a televised audience and receiving the backing of the biggest crowd London Road has seen in some years, Peterborough posed Everton plenty of questions as they embarked on another Carling Cup journey. This is the kind of fixture that has caused the Blues untold problems down the years, especially in this competition. Since reaching the final in 1984, lamentable would be one of the kinder ways to describe their record. In recent campaigns, Everton have suffered embarrassments against lower division opponents suchas Bristol Rovers (2000), Oxford United (1999), Sunderland (1998) and Millwall (1995), while also in that period was a particularly horrific defeat at Coventry. So it is about time things improved in a competition that some still see as annoying distraction - what's annoying about winning silverware? - and last night offered the perfect opportunity to exorcise a few demons. But how they were made to work. Rising to the occasion, Peterborough, who dispatched Liverpool from this competition in 1991, never looked once like getting the hammering Fry predicted. Yet, in truth, they neverreally looked like claiming another famous scalp.Despite making seven changes to the side that had drawn 2-2 with Wigan Athletic on Saturday, a fewuncomfortable moments aside, Everton always looked to be holding their Second Division tormentors at arms length.
With the personnel changing so radically, it was to be expected that a certain zip would be missing from Everton's play, and so it proved in the early stages as a number of the first team squad looked to try and get back up to speed. There were first starts of the campaign for Richard Wright, Andy van der Meyde and Victor Anichebe, while a senior debut was handed to young defender Mark Hughes. Also back in the fold were Simon Davies, James Beattie and Nuno Valente, giving little credence to some whotried to argue thatrotation means Everton have their sights on something different. Not a chance. This squad is desperate for medals. As was to be expected, some took their chances, others didn't.Heading the list of positives were Hughes and Anichebe, neither of whom would have put more effort in if this had been the Carling Cup final.
While the life of a young footballer is full of rewards,for all the financial perks and recognition, nothing comes close to actually being named among the starting line-up and Hughes and Anichebe could not have done any more. The performance of Hughes, in particular, was a pleasant surprise. His path to the first team might be blocked by Alan Stubbs, David Weir, Joseph Yobo and Joleon Lescott, but he showed the benefit of training alongside senior professionals. One challenge in front of the visiting section during the first half to get Wright out of trouble was timed to perfection, while his use of the ball and strength in the air caught the eye. On this evidence, he won't have to wait as long for another chance. Whether the same can be said of Andy van der Meyde, however, remains to be seen. A man who has lit up Champions League clashes for Inter and Ajax should have found this assignment a breeze, yet his impact was minimal. The one-time Holland international looked woefully short of fitness and never provided one pass of note. Many people want him to succeed at Goodison Park. Question is, does he have the desire? One man whose attitude could not be faulted was Davies, who ran miles against his former club and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet in the second half after Beattie sent him racing clear. This 90 minutes will have done him good. Had the cavalry not arrived, it might well have been 120 minutes as Peterborough made sure they pushed Everton every step of the way, refusing to buckle even after they had gone behind to a scruffy Jude Stirling own goal. Trevor Benjamin raised hopes of an upset in some quarters when he levelled the scores on 56 minutes,but the introduction of Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta ensured the balance swung back in Everton's favour. That they had to wait until four minutes from time for Cahill to settle matters following good work by Anichebe simply prolonged the excitement. Now their name is in the hat for the third round, prolonging the excitement in this competition is the order of the day.
PETERBOROUGH (3-5-2): Tyler; Holden, Stirling, Arber, Newton; Butcher, Gain, Davis (Crow 62), Turner; Benjamin, Richards.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Wright: Neville, Hughes, Lescott, Valente; Van der Meyde (Cahill 63), Carsley, Davies, Naysmith (Arteta 63); Beattie, Anichebe.
Referee: I Williamson (Berkshire)
Goals: Peterborough - Benjamin (56) Everton - Stirling (22o.g), Cahill (86)
Newcastle 1, Everton 1 (Echo)
Sept 25 2006 By Dominic King
THEY trudged off the pitch shaking heads in disbelief and shuffled to the team coach with faces as dark as thunder. No wonder. Though the unbeaten run remains intact and Everton continue to occupy a lofty position in the table, the body language of Everton's players suggested yesterday's visit to St James' Park should have yielded so much more. Chances to take three points comfortably from venues as inhospitable as this do not come around very often but there can be no denying the fact that David Moyes' side squandered a wonderful opportunity to make further progress.
But the fact they looked so miserable as they headed back to Merseyside should be seen as a positive. Everton have raised the bar in the opening weeks of this promising campaign and their reaction to this 1-1 draw confirms that. Newcastle United should have been put out of sight. Rewind the clock 12 months and a point in the North East - neverthe happiest of hunting grounds for the Blues - would have been warmly received, yet now it is the least they should be settling for. The players know it, so too does the manager and his staff. With the home side short on confidence and the atmosphere around this magnificent venue suggesting that Newcastle's fickle followers were ready to lambast the slightest mistake, it appeared Everton were perfectly set up to boss the opening exchanges. So it was a surprise, then, to see Everton emerge so sluggishly out of the traps, allowing Newcastle chances. Charles N'Zogbia was the first to cause panic with a near post cross but Joseph Yobo's telescopic leg nicked the ball away from Obafemi Martins. From the resulting corner,Martins wriggled free from his compatriot, but Yobo managed to recover and do just enough to ensure the £10m striker sent his shot sailing over the bar.
But just when Everton looked as if they had weathered the early storm, they found themselves behind thanks to officiating so poor that to call it embarrassing would be paying it a compliment. The naked eye could see that Shola Ameobi, Martins and Peter Ramage were offside and the fact that Ameobi looked over at the assistant referee suggested he expected to be penalised following an Emre free-kick.
Inexplicably, though, Roy Burton kept his flag down which allowed a gob smacked Ameobi to apologetically slide the ball past Tim Howard and give Newcastle the lead. He couldn't believe his luck. Nor, for that matter, could anyone else. No surprise that the decision enraged Everton's defenders, management and supporters. So unhappy was Moyes that he waited for the officials at the entrance to the tunnel and waved three fingers in disgust at them. While thereisno question asense of injustice consumed the visiting ranks, there can be no arguments thatfor the ensuing 20 minutes Everton were comfortably second best. Quite simply, it was as bad as they have played this season. Thankfully, however, this team is nothing if not resilient and they deserve credit for fashioning a wonderful equaliser to haul themselves back into the game. Up until then, they had given a poor, poor Newcastle side far too much respect.
There didn't appear to be much on when the ball ended up at Phil Neville's feet 45 yards from goal, but an instant pass out wide found Mikel Arteta in acres of space and with so much time, it was only to be expected he would conjure up something magical. Crossing with laser-like precision, the Spaniard'sdeep cross was given the finish it deserved by Tim Cahill, arriving late in the box to thud a header past Steve Harper and register his fourth goal of the campaign. There is no question that the interval came at the wrong time for the Blues and once again they were listless when the second period began, taking awhile to warm the task. Better teams than Newcastle would have ended the game as a contest. Slightly harum-scarum at the back, the pace of Martins was causing plenty of trouble for Yobo and Joleon Lescott, while danger loomed whenever Scott Parker - by some distance the best player on the pitch - had possession. On this evidence, it is easy to see why Moyes so vigorously pursued his signature in the summer of 2005. No matter. The players he has bought this time around once again showed themselves in a positive, especially the commanding Lescott, who is getting better and better with each game he plays in this division.
Howard, too, is quietly going about his business but he has certainlymade a favourable impression. The American international, whose handling was again exemplary,needed to be at his best to keep the Blues in the game on 68 minutes when Martins burst clear. After that scare, it was all about Everton, but the scowl that kept contorting the manager's face was all the evidence needed to show that they should have taken advantage of some atrocious defending on Newcastle's behalf. Leon Osman was guilty of wasting two glorious chances after picking up loose passes from Ramage. Arteta ballooned a free-kick over the bar from a wonderful position. Osman volleyed wide after being picked out by Johnson. Wasteful. Even after Titus Bramble and Tony Hibbert had been sent off, there was no let-up in Everton's attacking ambitions. Every time they countered, the electric pace of Andrew Johnson sent shivers down the spine of every person clad in black and white. Yet infuriatingly, the winner they could and should have had never arrived and for the second week in succession, they headed for home without getting the rewards they deserved. Opportunities like this cannot be wasted in the future.
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2): Harper; Carr, Bramble, Moore, Ramage; Milner, Emre, Parker, N'Zogbia; Martins (Rossi 81), Ameobi (Sibierski 24). Subs: Krul, Taylor, Butt.
BOOKINGS: Bramble and Emre (both fouls).
SENDING-OFF: Bramble (second bookable offence).
EVERTON (4-4-1-1): Howard; Hibbert, Lescott, Yobo, Naysmith (Valente 45); Osman, Carsley, Neville, Arteta (Beattie 90); Cahill; Johnson. Subs: Wright, Weir, Davies.
BOOKINGS: Cahill, Neville, Hibbert and Osman (all fouls).
SENDING-OFF: Hibbert (second bookable offence).
REFEREE: Steve Bennett.