The Big Nev Interview: Talking Tactics with Neville Southall

 EB had the opportunity to meet Everton (and arguably the World’s) best ever goalkeeper Neville Southall at the weekend. ‘Big Nev’ as he is known to the Goodison faithful, is Everton’s record appearance holder and the most decorated player in the club’s history. He also has an opinion or two on football…. so we asked him some tactics related questions….
 
Why do pundit’s say you should never get beaten on the near post? Surely getting beaten on the far post is just as bad?
I’d look to trap people and get them do what I wanted them to do…. it’s mostly a mental thing. I’d stand on the near post which is basically saying to the striker to go and hit it far post so I was telling them where I wanted them to hit it. In one on ones you could pretend to go one way to make the striker go the other way… knowing what they were going to do you could prepare your body to move that way when the ball is struck.
You played in Championship winning sides in the 80’s and had games when you were quite inactive due to the quality of talent in front of you at Everton. How did you maintain your concentration?
I’d use a red / amber / green light system. When we had the ball in their final third it was green, I could relax. When it got to the half way line it went amber, and when they took it to the final third it was red. Look at Rob Green in the World Cup (vs USA)… he’s switched off and wasn’t ready for the shot.  You can’t focus intensely for 90 mins…anyone who says so is lying…sometimes you can concentrate too much and your mind goes empty… but you need to get used to switching your brain up and down.
What is the number one attribute which defines a great keeper as opposed to a good keeper?
Decision making without question. If you haven’t got that right you haven’t got a chance of making it to the top. When to come for a cross, when to stay on your line etc. Look at Market Traders,  they know when to buy and when not to sell. In the top flight every player is fit, the difference is in the decision making, same as it is anywhere on the pitch. Look at Beardsley when he played for us, threading through balls game after game…but no one was on his wave length to get on the end of them.
Victor Valdez at Barcelona is often used as a sweeper. Do you see this as a growing trend for keepers?
Keepers have been sweepers for years. It’s dependent on the defenders in front of you. If you’ve got 4 quick defenders you know you’re not going to have to do much. If you have slow players you’ll be doing plenty. Barthez at United had Rio Ferdinand and Laurent Blanc in front of him, one very slow, one lightening quick, and this often confused him and he’d get caught out.  The tempo isn’t necessarily quicker these days, its just that teams all play deeper, counter attack football so with the break away it just seems quicker. In the modern games teams setup to counter attack, so deeper defensive lines, meaning you don’t get the through balls you used to get from the half way line years ago. Through balls now are closer to the goal and the mental knowledge to be able to read the game for a keeper is massive.

Would you advocate studying opponent’s pre match or ‘in-game’ technology for preparing to face opponents in penalty shoot outs like Joe Hart at Euro 2012?

No. You can’t look at it as one penalty in a shoot out, it’s over the 5. Buffon didn’t move unless he had to in that shoot out. Hart was wasting mental energy trying to put them off. He didn’t have the focus on what he was going to do. It’s all about emotion. If someone tells me Player X has hit his last 10 pens to the right but I fancy he’s going to the left it causes indecision in the keepers mind. The first penalty is vital, You need to go with instinct, I didn’t want people talking to me between penalties and if I needed to rely on an i-pad I’d be f*cked.

What would you say are Tim Howard’s strengths and weaknesses as a keeper?

His shot stopping and dealing with crosses is great. He also swears more than me which is fu*king great.  If I was to be really picky I’d say he needs to look at his kicking. Sometimes if we’ve got little guys up front and you kick it long it’s going to come straight back at you.
You are now a coach with your own foundation. Tell us about how you learned your trade and the coaching style you use to train players
I’ve had plenty of coaches -Gordon Banks and Peter Bonetti for example – but Wilf McGuiness taught me everything I needed to know about goalkeeping. He’d say if a striker smashes you – Teddy Sheringham broke my ribs twice – you’ve got to get up and laugh at them. Jim Barron was probably my best coach; he got me the fittest I’ve ever been with his military sessions. My idol was Pat Jenning’s who also played at Everton in the 80’s in the later days of his career.
In terms of coaching, textbooks are well and good but individual plans are crucial. If you have one keeper whose 5ft and one who’s 6ft why teach them the same? One could be a coward whilst one will have plenty of bottle.  I encourage younger kids to mix in with the older lads who have different qualities and so it’s not that much of a change when they move up the age groups. Coaching is about learning on the spot, you need to give kids info but cant overload if they don’t understand it. From 10 yrs you’ve got to ask them questions, find out what makes them tick. I don’t talk, talk, talk to them. What’s the point? I like to facilitate, let them discuss things.
  Neville Southall’s new book  ‘The Bin Man Chronicles’ is available to buy at all Good Book Shops and online retailers.
Many thanks to James Corbett and De Coubertin books for enabling the interview.
EB

FBI Betting: Everton preview + Over/Under 2.5 goal tips

Everton v Southampton

 Everton are best priced for this one at 4/9 with Paddy Power. The draw is 4/1 with Skybet whilst you can get 15/2 with Totesport on an away win. As mentioned in Thursday’s preview, the Saints are shaky down their right and with our left side being hot the 11/1 Baines 1st assist  at Boylesports looks decent value. Goals look guaranteed in this one with the Saints scoring in all bar one game and conceding on average 3 per game; you can get 5/6 on both teams to score (Willie Hills) and 13/8 in the over 3.5 goals market with the same provider. You can also get 4/1 Leon Osman anytime goalscorer, Everton win double (Willie Hills)

 5 Games OVER 2.5 goals

 There have been over 2.5 goals scored in 13 of Rayo Vallecano’s last 14 away games in La Liga. Back them away at Valladolid tonight. There have also been over 2.5 goals scored in 9 of Werder Bremen’s last 10 games in the Bundesliga. Also back  Everton v Southampton,  Barnsley v Ipswich and BristolCity v Leeds Utd for goals.

 £5 stake returns £58 at WillieHills

 5 Games UNDER 2.5 goals

 Arsenal v Chelsea was 0-0 last season and the Blues have yet to concede on the road this season. There have been under 2.5 goals scored in 11 of ManchesterCity’s last 13 away games in the Premier League. Palermo have scored the fewest goals per game (0.2) in Serie A this season; they play Chievo who have just 3 goals from 5 games. Also back low scoring Oldham v Coventry and MK Dons v Crewe

 £5 stake returns £140 at WillieHills

 Good Luck!

EB

 

After the misery of Leeds on Tuesday we welcome Southampton – comfortably the most interesting to watch of the newly promoted sides – to Goodison in a fixture which has produced some high scoring and exciting games in years gone by.
Adkins Tactics & Selection

Defensively Saints will look to play a high line and condense the play further up field. They have made the fewest fouls in the top flight but have made the most interceptions with midfield workhorse Schneiderlin making the most in the top flight. In a contact sport where contact doesn’t seem to be allowed anymore, interceptions are the most effective, low risk method of regaining possession. It does perhaps hint that our visitors lack some bite although at the same time it reduces the amount of free kicks conceded which was a crucial error Swansea made against us last week.On the ball, they have played the fewest long…

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Scout Report: Moyes Tactical Blueprint vs Southampton

After the misery of Leeds on Tuesday we welcome Southampton – comfortably the most interesting to watch of the newly promoted sides – to Goodison in a fixture which has produced some high scoring and exciting games in years gone by.
Adkins Tactics & Selection

Defensively Saints will look to play a high line and condense the play further up field. They have made the fewest fouls in the top flight but have made the most interceptions with midfield workhorse Schneiderlin making the most in the top flight. In a contact sport where contact doesn’t seem to be allowed anymore, interceptions are the most effective, low risk method of regaining possession. It does perhaps hint that our visitors lack some bite although at the same time it reduces the amount of free kicks conceded which was a crucial error Swansea made against us last week.On the ball, they have played the fewest long balls per game and the most through balls, so they obviously like to play a short passing game and look for incisive balls in the final third. They are very positive too as was shown by the fact they led against both the Manchester clubs going into the final stages of the games. The United match in particular demonstrated this positivity in possession, with 33% of their passes being played forward compared to United’s 27%. This approach should be applauded given the predominance of percentage football evil cabal bores such as O’Neill and fattie Allardyce.

Its more than likely Saints will open up in a 4-1-4-1 setup something like this; Gazzaniga – Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox – Shneiderlin – Puncheon, Davis,  Ramires,  Lallana – Lambert
Strengths

In Schneiderlin they have the player who has covered more ground than any other Prem player this season. The ex Strasbourg man has averaged over 7 miles per game, peaking at.7.31 miles vs Man City. Their energy as a team is similar to Lambert’s Norwich last season but their style is more akin to Blackpool’s during their solitary season in the top flight.Going forward they have scored plenty with Toffees fan Adam Lallana the key creative force. He will start on the left but will come inside. He’s not got the pace to go past players but he does have a great knack of drifting into pockets of space and playing a killer pass with 2 assists to his name already. The best way to defend him is to show him the outside as he isn’t a great crosser as the below chalkboard demonstrates; misfiring all 10 crosses vs Wigan. In many ways Lallana is a bit like Leon Osman style wise. You can get the Soton man at 16/1 with Boylesports to get the first assist

Weaknesses
Averaging 3 goals conceded per game is quite a damning statistic. Already goalkeepers and centre backs have been shuffled in and out which doesn’t provide cohesion.   Man United got 3 goals from crosses whilst Gibbs – very much a poor man’s Leighton Baines – had a field day in the Gunner’s 6-1 slaying a few weeks ago against Clyne at right back who was afforded little protection from Puncheon on the right side of midfield.
The above shows an example of Arsenal overloading down the left 3 v 1 on Clyne for the first of Gibbs two assists. The below visual is from our last home game against Newcastle and shows how Fellaini (blue) similarly likes to drop into this zone to assist Baines/Pienaar (yellow)  overload the opposition down the left. It’s likely this is going to be an area we can get plenty of joy.
Betting Forecast
Everton are best priced for this one at 4/9 with Paddy Power. The draw is 4/1 With Skybet whilst you can get 15/2 with Totesport on an away win
4 to ponder;
11/1 Baines 1st assist  (Boylesports)
5/6 Both teams to score (Willie Hills)
13/8 Over 3.5 goals (Willie Hills)

4/1 Leon Osman anytime goalscorer, Everton win double (Willie Hills)

EB

Tactical Deconstruction: How Everton beat Swansea at their own game

Teams and Formations

Jonny Heitinga was preferred to Distin at the heart of defence, perhaps due to the fact Swansea don’t have a quick central striker or have a significant aerial threat as a team. More surprising was Seamus Coleman’s selection at right back. Although this is his ‘natural’ position, it was the first time Moyes has selected him from the start in a premier league game.  Up front the much maligned but currently superbVictor Anichebe played through the middle with Fellaini again playing as the second striker. Swansea setup in a 4-2-3-1 but had big problems selection wise, leading to in experienced players being brought in and crucially without defence-midfield link man Leon Britton who was only fit enough to start from the bench.

Strategy

Much is made of Swansea’s passing game but it was ourselves who bossed things on the ball. After a solid start we had 72% of the ball in the first 15 minutes with 42% of the game being played in Swansea’s defensive third, compared to 7% in our defensive zone. Our hosts passing tempo in comparison was unusually slow. Very few teams have been able to dominate the ball against Swansea, and only on one other occasion since they came up to the top flight have a side had a higher possession total than we did yesterday (52%) against them.

The risk of playing two big physical players like Anichebe and Fellaini in the forward positions is that you will go direct but we played everything on the floor with our passing accuracy (85%) also better than the Swans.  Crucially, we made 135 successful final third passes to Swansea’s 44 which led to 64 touches in the Swansea 18 yard box compared to our host’s 24.

The power of the left side is helped substantially by one of the forwards – usually Fellaini – drifting across to the left side to help Baines / Pienaar outnumber opponents (check out Baines goal vs Newcastle as an example) but with Anichebe being more of a left sided player the Nigerain did this job with Fellaini playing more centrally as Jelavic would.

Our approach off the ball was to close down forward passing angles from Swansea, playing aggressively high up the pitch and generally stopping them playing through us, as shown in the below visual. As an example, Vorm is noted for being one of, if not the best,  distributor of any keeper in the top flight and being the starting point of Swansea attacks with an average pass completion this season of 79%. Against us it was down to 58%.

Our hosts play very narrow  – even their wide forwards are quite insular – and the ball was regularly played into the middle of the park where we pressed and their attacking moves were invariably quashed.

Foul Play

Swansea couldn’t handle our  quick passing tempo which led to constant fouling and subsequent free kicks with a foul committed by the home side every 4 minutes.  The significant physical advantage we had over our hosts was huge, demonstrated by the fact we also won 60% of the aerial duels. Pienaar in particular was buying fouls for fun and was brought down a massive 7 times, mostly from Angel Rangel who had a shocker although in fairness he was afforded no protection by Hernandez who was hauled off at half time. Only Gutierrez and Hazard have won more fouls in the top flight than the South African this season.

Goals  Goals Goals

Swansea’s foul play had a direct correlation with our goals output. The first goal came from a foul down the left side.  Fellaini had a hand in all three goals and his aerial threat is colossal. As the ball is whipped in by Baines 2 defenders are sucked in to occupy him – including Anichebe’s marker – enabling the Nigerian the space to slot goal 1.  Anichebe’s goal was his second consecutive scoring game in the league– something he has never done before – and the signs are good that his consistency is on the up as is his mental ability to dominate inferior opponents as he did with the hapless Alan Tate, who was put of his misery by Laudrup shortly after the interval.

The second goal owed much to some great cover play by Phil Neville who assisted Coleman a lot from centre mid. His defensive awareness snuffed out a Swansea break and played the ball to Fellaini who showed the importance of his versatility by dropping deep to assist the back four and then playing a delicious through ball which dissected a very flat looking Swansea defensive line. Pienaar then played an ace ball into the middle which Mirallas buried. Goal 3 was again a result of a free kick, this time when Michu clumsily hacked down Baines who then produced another superb centre which was dispatched by the curly haired menace.

Even without the fouls, we created enough chances to win 3 games. We all know the brilliance of the left side but now with Mirallas on the right we are less one dimensional. In total we had 31 shots and our average shots per game this season (20.4) is the best in the division.

EB

Saturday’s early kick off sees us head to Wales to take on a Swansea outfit who have made a bright start to the season with the same points tally as the Toffees so far. Against a side who keeps the ball like Swansea there is perhaps a plan A and Plan B you can use. ‘Plan A’ is to let them have the ball, block off angles for forward passes, conserve energy and  only press when they approach 20 yards from your goal. Plan B is to stop them playing from the source – their top keeper Michel Vorm – recruited from Utrecht as much for his ability on the ball as for his goalkeeping prowess – however this is a physically draining strategy. This preview will take a look at probable tactics, formations and setup plus intel on the best odds in premier league betting .  First up, lets…

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FBI Betting Column: Back Mirallas to shoot down Swansea

 

Kevin Mirallas to score first v Swansea is a top tip at 15/2 this weekend. The Belgian trickster claims he is still finding his feet at Goodison football-wise, and that he still needs a few more games to be fully fit. However, he has looked very promising for the Toffees in his first few appearances and will no doubt gain sharpness as each match comes along. So far he has averaged 3 shots per game which ranks him 15th in the league for shooting frequency.

Also in the score first category, StanJames give a shockingly overpriced 18/1 for Leighton Baines to break the ice. Some other great Bainesy odds include the 6/1 price for him to score at any time, and also the huge 12/1 from Boylesports for him to get the first assist.

Paddy Power are offering some great odds for this game including 17/2 offered for Victor Anichebe to be the last scorer. Plus, Paddy Power offers an extremely generous 6/4 just for Everton to win. For more Swansea v Everton related betting tips check out Paddy Power’s Everton betting zone.

Dead certs…..

  • Everton to win and keep clean sheet
  • Mirallas to score anytime / Everton win double

Selected Odds from Paddy Power

  • 8/11 Under 2.5 goals
  • 9/2 Draw H/T, Everton F/T
  • 17/2 Anichebe last goal

Over 2.5 Goals Treble:

Liverpool v Manchester United, Manchester City v Arsenal & Blackburn v Mboro. A £5 stake returns £28 at Willie Hills.

Under 2.5 Goals Treble:

Wigan have seen under 2.5 goals in their last 8 home matches against Fulham in all competitions.  Up in the decaying SPL, Aberdeen cannot score but are solid defensively, with 5 of their 6 games so far under 2.5 goals. West Ham have kept 3 clean sheet from 4 and Sunderland average the fewest shots in the league so….

A £5 stake on Wigan v Fulham,  West Ham v Sunderland, Aberdeen v Motherwell all to finish with under 2.5 goals returns £23

Goalscorer Treble:

A £5 stake on Robin Van Persie, Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe all to score at any time returns £49

Good luck!

Tom Clarke – @TomClarke40

Scout Report: Moyes Tactical Blueprint for Swansea

Saturday’s early kick off sees us head to Wales to take on a Swansea outfit who have made a bright start to the season with the same points tally as the Toffees so far. Against a side who keeps the ball like Swansea there is perhaps a plan A and Plan B you can use. ‘Plan A’ is to let them have the ball, block off angles for forward passes, conserve energy and  only press when they approach 20 yards from your goal. Plan B is to stop them playing from the source – their top keeper Michel Vorm – recruited from Utrecht as much for his ability on the ball as for his goalkeeping prowess – however this is a physically draining strategy. This preview will take a look at probable tactics, formations and setup plus intel on the best odds in premier league betting .  First up, lets take a look at last seasons’s meeting for clues on how Moyes will setup…..

At Goodison….

The Blues won 1-0 in a very entertaining game at L4 just before Christmas. Swansea had the bulk of possession ( 54%) and kept the ball better than the Blues (82%) but we looked more incisive in the final third than our opponents and secured the points when Osman rose ‘like a salmon’ to head home Drenthe’s delicious cross. Moyes looked to close out passing angles from Vorn to Swansea ’s defensive distributors and key midfield link Britton. If there is a critique of the Swans its that their domination of the ball is mostly in their own half and they lack penetration to force their way into the final third. Crucially in the game at Goodison, of the successful passes made 27% of ours were made in the final third whilst only 16% of Swansea’s occurred in our final third.

At Swansea……

Our hosts had most of the ball again (62%) kept it better (86% v 76%) and made more passes (585 v 359) but again lost without scoring.  The key factor again was us disrupting their fluidity in playing through us. Swansea’s key man last season was arguably Leon Britton. He is vital to Swansea’s rhythm and linking defence to midfield. Our game plan from the off was to position ourselves to block off the angles from Vorm to the defenders with Osman and Pienaar positioning themselves high up the pitch as shown below .

The Blues average position / touch heatmap for the away game is above;

Cahill was asked to basically stand on Britton’s toes and ensure the midfielder had no space or angles to distribute forwards when the ball was played into him (expect Fellaini to be given the same job this time out). This tactic really frustrated their key midfield man and one of the key themes of the game was him constantly moving around the midfield zone looking for space, closely followed by Cahill. Unsurprisingly the duo covered the most – and almost exactly the same – distance in the first half from players on either side; Britton 2.78 miles and Cahill 2.76 miles respectively.

Swansea’s passing is often not going anywhere specific but the retention enables them to rest before building up another attack (i.e its easier to rest on the ball than chasing it). With containment achieved, the Blues kicked on and got the key goals late in the game before shutting up shop. Crucial to the win was the fact that we are physically capable of endurance in being able to withstand being off the ball for such long periods, mixed with some quick counter attacking play.

Whats changed?

Danish legend Laudrup was chosen as the new boss to develop the continuity the club have had from Martinez to King Brenny. The playing style remains the same possession based game, patient passing and looking to wear opponents down.  Key personnel have gone since our last duel; Sigurdsson opted for a massive bucket of Spurs cash instead of King Brenny’s offer of a ‘vision’ at the tin mine, whilst Joe Allen, a player whose type you could pick up for a few million in Spain went across the park for £15m. Great business.  Wannabe wideboy Scott Sinclair also buggered off to Citteh’s development squad on a 12 month sabbatical to play u-21 football before signing for QPR next season. The crucial incomings at either end of the pitch have been Chico and Michu, and their role has been to beef up Swansea’s aerial power. Last season this was a major weak spot (Osman’s headed winner at Goodison for example) as the Swans won fewer aerial duels per game (5.9) than any side in the top flight. This season the change has been colossal with 17.3 aerials won per game – 6th best in the top flight – with the new duo the top two for headers won per game at their new club.  So they are no longer a soft touch to the high ball into the box.

Team News

Swansea have a problem at left back with Neil Taylor out for the season with ressie fullback Ben Davies who started last week against Villa likely to continue.  Mirallas is very direct and I’d expect Moyes to probe him to test the rookie out early on. Chico is banned for his GBH style head chop on Saha so Tate will fill in.

Moyes is without injured Nikica Jelavic for a few weeks so boo boy Victor Anichebe will most likely deputise. Gibson is still out so expect Neville to continue in the middle of the park.

Betting Forecast

Paddy Power are offering 6/4 on the Everton win, with the draw at 9/5 and a Swansea win at 23/10. Last season, Everton won both games without conceding; both games were level at half time before the Blues went on to get the winning goal(s). Both games also featured under 2.5 goals. View more of EB’s weekend tips here

Dead certs…..

  • Everton to win and keep clean sheet
  • Mirallas to score anytime / Everton win double

Selected Odds from Paddy Power

  • 8/11 Under 2.5 goals
  • 9/2 Draw H/T, Everton F/T
  • 17/2 Anichebe last goal

For more Swansea v Everton related betting tips check out Paddy Power’s Everton betting zone.

EB

Everton 2-2 Newcastle – Tactical Deconstruction

Formations 

Newcastle lined up in a 4-3-3 with Cisse through the middle, Ben Arfa high up the pitch and Marveaux deeper with more defensive responsibility to drop and support the right side to shut down Baines/Pienaar. Everton were pretty much as you’d expect with Neville in for Gibson and Mirallas starting in place of Naismith who had been on the periphery of the action in his first league starts.

Left side

The game again showcased the interplay between Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar; unquestionably the most lethal left side in the top flight. In total they made 33 combinations and created 7 chances with a goal and two assists. It was surprising that Pardew opened up in a 4-3-3 given that with our width we usually prosper against sides deploying a narrow 3 man midfield (our games vs Ancelloti’s Chelsea sides are a good example of this). It was doubly peculiar given that Perch was given an absolute chasing in the last game of the season here when Pardew had to take him out of the firing line at half time as happened again here.

With Gutierrez ball watching and his run not checked, Baines exploited the alley between fullback  and centre half to lash home the game’s opening goal after a great one two with the South African schemer.

With Distin picking up Cisse, Jagielka was often left with no man to mark and with Gibson injured this was crucial. The centre back was able to step out of defence unmarked and distribute to the flanks in the way the former Man Utd man has made his trademark since joining the club. The below image shows this;

The thought at half time was that despite our dominance of the game, one goal wasn’t really much to show for it and wouldn’t be enough for three points given that Newcastle had carved us open a couple of times at the end of the half.

Newcastle 4-3-3 becomes 4-4-2

Pardew had by now seen the error of his ways and went 4-4-2 for the second half, sending on Ba and taking Perch (by now on a yellow card) out of the Bainaar firing line and into midfield with the more mobile Anita and Gutierrez in front of him tasked with shutting down our left side.

Whereas before with no real target man, Newcastle tried to play out from the back and were more often thwarted by our pressure high up field, with Ba on the pitch they had the option to play longer balls in behind which they did excessively – and very effectively – with 27% of their total passes going long.  After the break their long balls attempted went up by 33% and crucially there was a 20% increase in those finding a man now they had someone capable of holding the ball up. It was the second most long balls attempted by a team in a top flight game this season.

This is by no means dismissing our visitors as a long ball side; they were the better team in the second half and the ‘out- ball’ of Ba enabled them to hold things up in our half and get more of a foot hold in the game. Whereas in the first period Jagielka was able to step out of defence he was now occupied with Ba pushed right up. With the service drying up, Baines and Pienaar created just 2 chances in the second period after 5 in the first 45 mins. The below shows how Newcastle’s switch to 2 strikers occupies both centre backs and forced Howard to go long more in the second half.

Newcastle’s first equaliser came about when Cabaye capitalised on a rare poor touch from Leon Osman to thread a superb pass to Ba who slotted past a strangely wrong footed Tim Howard who will feel he could have done a lot better. Although the volume of Baines forward forays had been reduced his mate Pienaar was still causing havoc and his lovely through pass was gleefully cushioned home by Fellaini in what the home side thought was a clear goal before being chalked off in the officials opening gambit of buffoonery.

Victor Anichebe had come on for Jelavic and in fairness he did everything that was asked of him to the best of his ability; he held the ball up ok and occupied Newcastle’s defence as much as he could and linked up with the wide forwards.  Mirallas too showed he had plenty of graft to compliment the significant craft in his game. If anything his commitment was a tad too much and he made 7 fouls which was the most of any player on the pitch.

Anichebe should have got off the mark shortly after as he headed in from a set piece which following some aerial pin ball in the Newcastle box. Again the goal was chalked off for only going 1 yard over the line. To compound the official’s woes, the free kick which led to Anichebe’s ‘no-goal’ was also an incorrect decision. Jones had completely lost control of the game by this point and the way he pulled play back following Newcastle’s immediate break up field (which looked likely to yield a goal) was a clear admission of guilt for his calamitous actions that preceded it.

Unperturbed, the much maligned Anichebe kept his composure shortly after to slot a class strike past the static Harper, courtesy of another cute assist from the diminutive Pienaar’s back catalogue of impish brilliance. With the second goal the Blues had been relentlessly searching for finally in the bag our usually resolute defence again failed to deal with a long ball up field. Ameobi demonstrated superb chest touch to trap the ball in the air and supply Ba who slotted past Howard. In the build up to the stoppage time goal Fellaini had dropped deep into the DMC position and thus vacated his AMC role which meant there was no pressure on the ball up field. With Fellaini caught under the ball we were left two on two. You could perhaps point the finger at Jagielka for not challenging Ameobi or Distin’s lack of anticipation.

Conclusion

Against a major rival and with the significant personnel they had missing it was hard to look at the game as anything but two points lost. The display was excellent however and it’d be harsh to apportion blame in what was a committed display interspersed with some superb passing football by the Toffees against a very capable side.

EB