Teams and Formations
Everton made the one expected change with Gareth Barry coming in for Steven Naismith in midfield with Leon Osman shunted out to the left flank. Hull started in a 4-4-2 with goal shy strike duo Graham and Aluko leading from the front and key man Brady returning on the left wing.
Urban Fox outfoxes Tiger
It’s fair to say Kevin Mirallas has not quite been the ace buy toffee fantasy league managers would have liked so far this season. Thus far, he has only showed in dispatches what he can do – notably in the last home game against Newcastle. In this game , however, he was ace and created 6 of the 14 chances we engineered in what was otherwise a laboured display by his colleagues. It was the urban fox who was to open the scoring, as he fired in from outside the box after being teed up by Leon Osman in the 8th minute.
Sadly, rather than this being the catalyst of another Newcastle style goal frenzy, it acted as a jolt for Hull to get their game together.
Mauled by the Tigers
Our visitors pretty much did exactly what we expected; they provided plenty of grit off the ball, closed down space well in our half, and in the words of their former manager Phil Clown ‘got in our faces’ from the off. They also carried a colossal threat from set plays and utilised their sizeable height advantage well. Big Sam’s geriatric packhorse Abdoulaye Faye in particular was a constant menace despite us bringing back 11 men for corners.
On the touchline, the tinned corn beef headed Steve Bruce sweated profusely and gesticulated like a demented chicken throughout. With Martin O’Neill now firmly ensconced in the job centre, Bruce is the undisputed trendsetter in ‘epl’ soup kitchen clobber. Indeed, with his baked bean stained cash converter tracksuit and shiny Rucanor footwear, the ex Wigan gaffer’s cholesterol induced posture bore more than a passing resemblance to sopranos supergrass Sal ‘Big Pussy’ Bonpensiero
It was hard not to look comparatively across to the home dug out where Roberto Martinez stood studiously unmoved throughout. In his signature snazzy brown brogues he calmly and concisely directed traffic, only pausing once to put on his delightful, finely tailored overcoat. At this stage of the contest my thoughts principally concerned whether a wig and blouse would enable me access to his eagerly awaited ladies lunch in the new year.
It was that kind of first half from the Blues.
Hull were by now deservedly level and it was an equaliser that baines over cole campaigners will not want to see again. After some neat passing down our left flank Aluko rolled Baines far too easily and from the resulting pull back Sagbo was able to expertly hammer the ball into the roof of Howard’s net.
In general we looked off the pace and lacking a bit of tempo, something perhaps not helped by us having more players (10) involved in midweek world cup qualifiers than any side in the division. This is a theory confirmed by our comparatively poor results in recent years in games directly following international breaks.
Even if its not related, its a convenient excuse and saves me the toil of having to think up some clever tactical reason as to why we looked crud in the first half.
The Toffees may not have been as fluid as other games when in possession but the ball share (67.4%) was the most of any game this season and whereas Hull matched us in the first half, after the half time flavuccinos it was more one way traffic.
McCarthy did a great job in the first half defensively on the left side to repel Hull who prefer to attack down this channel. In the second period he did more work offensively on the opposite flank in picking up loose balls (he made the most recoveries =11) and feeding Coleman who hardly had a kick in the first half.
The Blues remained patient and eventually got the winning goal with Steven Pienaar scoring with his first touch of the ball after coming on for Leon Osman. The goal came from a familiar move with Howard’s long kick out being flicked on by Lukaku (the only aerial he won against the aggressive and highly competent Curtis Davies) . Ross Barkley then picked up play and neatly fed Mirallas whose centre was exquisitely dispatched by the South African schemer. It was basically the opening goal we scored against Newcastle. If there is one critique of Hull it’s that they don’t create much from open play and as such never really threatened a second equaliser.
This wasn’t vintage stuff from the Blues but we just about had enough to beat a spirited Hull outfit. The Tigers are a competent side and much better equipped and prepared than a lot of sides in the division – certainly enough to be able to remain aloof of any relegation battle. For us, the main positives will be the displays of McCarthy and Mirallas who were both instrumental in getting us over the line here. Credit must go to Martinez too for his changes. On a day when his predecessors trademark reactive substitution edged him closer to the Cheadle Hulme dole office, Martinez proactive substitutions have now accrued us 4 points this season – more than last seasons entire haul.