Teams and Tactics
Roberto Martinez made two changes to the side which narrowly lost to Chelsea last week with Kevin Mirallas coming in for Aaron Lennon on the right flank and James McCarthy replacing Mo Besic in midfield. The BSC Young Boys side was pretty much as we thought, with the only slight surprise being Sutter’s replacement by Hadergjonaj at right back for the home side. Both sides were pretty much 4-2-3-1 from the start.
From the off Everton were superb. The pitch perhaps played its part in making the ball zip a bit quicker, but this was secondary to Everton’s brave attacking play that was characterised by quick counters from Barkley, Mirallas and Lukaku, all of whom had the beating of their markers 1v1.
After 10 minutes Everton could have had already been 3 goals to the good with Lukaku (2) and Barkley all denied by the impressive Mvogo, however in true Everton style the toffees contrived to find themselves a goal down as Young Boys scored with their first shot of the game.
After Coleman had conceded possession via a miscued cross into the Young Boys box the home side broke down our right side through Nuzzolo. When the ball was worked inside to one time Everton target Guillaume Hoarau 20 yards from goal, Phil Jagielka should perhaps have shifted the French unit onto his weaker foot but instead let him take aim and curl a lovely right footed effort over Howard’s outstretched left hand with the keeper perhaps too far off his line.
Despite the goal Everton were by far the better side at this point.
Due to the massive pace advantage we had over the home side in their final third, Young Boys were dropping off to the edge of their own box when we won the ball back which meant there was bags of room for us to manoeuvre in between their defence and midfield lines. Barry, Barkley and Naismith were the chief beneficiaries, creating plenty of overloads predominantly down Young Boys right side.
Lukaku was having more joy in the air than usual, possibly due to Young Boys weak as piss centre back duo dropping off him so much. Having gone close with an earlier header from Oviedo’s cross, a double take was then duly dispatched by the Belgian with Gareth Barry, who was majestic throughout, the creator from the left flank with a lovely left footed delivery.
Everton’s control at this point was total, dominating possession to the tune of 70%+ and the second goal arrived 4 minutes later. It followed a slick 20+ pass move which had Young Boys defensive shape ‘ragged all over the place’ to coin a tactical soccer term. The move culminated in Naismith and Barkley – who dovetailed beautifully throughout the first half – playing an exquisite one two in the Young Boys box that ended with the relentless jocko drilling the ball across Mvogo for Coleman to tap in at the far post.
Naismith was having a monster of game, surpassing even his usual gritty standards by winning free kicks aplenty and generally running his tripe out for the cause. His defensive header from a BSC corner would set us on our way to goal number three just before the break in another rapid, quick fire counter. With Young Boys back peddling, Oviedo played a sumptuous back heel to the marauding – don’t adjust your set – Gareth Barry, whose centre was tapped home by Lukaku.
With the home side in meltdown, further misery almost arrived at their door just prior to half time. Another counter charge, this time led by Barkley, ended with Mirallas going clear however the Belgian forward was for once out muscled, meaning we went in 3-1 up at the interval.
The second period developed as per the first with Young Boys again trying to pepper us with crosses from Steffen down our right side, presumably in the hope that Hoarau could make something from the first or second ball. The approach yielded minimal gains.
As with the first half, Everton’s counters were relentless and on 58 minutes another break – again triggered by a Naismith header from inside his own box – ended in Barkley rolling in Lukaku to clip a great finish over Mvogo for goal #4.
Lukaku had 3 further great chances after this with Coleman, Barry and Garbutt all putting superb balls into the box for him to feed off, however on each occasion the forward’s finishing wasn’t as ruthless as it was earlier in the game. That shouldn’t detract from his display, though, as he had a highly impressive 7 shots on target – the best return of his Everton career.
The only sour note was the red card for Stones for a professional foul on Hoarau following poor concentration from the youngster. The tussle with the big Frenchman will serve as a good lesson for Stones, who struggled all night against a player who is in essence a glittery Kevin Davies.
Young Boys threw on another striker and went more direct after the red card, but the switch was to prove futile.
Martinez went 4-3-2 with Barkley and Naismith moving inside to join Barry to clog up midfield with Lukaku and Mirallas left up front for quick breaks. The move was a wise one as the Blues still managed to control the game even with a man less, to the tune of 55% of possession in the final 20 minutes.
In summary this was an ace, end to end game between two sides committed to attack. We finally seem to have found the balance between keeping things tight and looking a genuine threat in the final third – an equilibrium that has eluded us for most of the season. With key players seemingly coming back into form and a decent run of fixtures ahead of us it sets things up nicely for the last few months of the season.
Up the toffees!