There was little sign in the opening half hour or so that this game would provide the comfortable win that it ultimately did. The introduction of Pavlyuchenko, Bentley, Bale and Hutton into the team initially seemed to bring tension and tentativeness as the new boys attempted to make their mark. The passing in midfield was inaccurate, the distribution from the back dangerous and though the front two found space they rarely held on to the ball long enough to make use of it. Pav responded to Harryâ€™s plea for more aggression by giving away free kicks for pushing and dodgy tackles. The first few minutes were most notable for the Everton fans providing the earliest rendition of â€œWe shall not be movedâ€ Iâ€™ve ever heard during a game.
When, after twenty odd minutes, Keane collected the ball after some desperate ball juggling by Distin but could only flick his shot past Howard and against the post it looked like we were in for a long night. Less than two minutes later however we were ahead when on the break after an Everton corner, Bentleyâ€™s cross to the far post was thumped home on the volley by Huddlestone in what one would like to think will become trademark fashion. From that point on we were the better team. Tom got his passing going and Bentley and Bale made good use of the space available on the wings.
The second goal came after nearly an hour when following some great work by Palacios, who was outstanding all night, Robbie was tripped by Distin in the box. Keaneâ€™s penalty was parried by Howard but Robbie happened to be in the right place at the right time as the ball fell to him after efforts by Bale and Bentley from the rebound had also been fended off and he smashed his volley into the roof of the net. His apologetic celebration said it all. We could have scored again as the visitorâ€™s midfield wilted, most of the Everton team had played against Bolton on Sunday, and the remainder of the game was peppered with swift passing movements between Bentley, Huddlestone and Bale.
You would call Everton a pale shadow of their former selves if it wasnâ€™t for the fluorescent purple of their kit. Surely they couldâ€™ve worn their normal blue and white? They looked out of sorts. Of their danger men, Yakubu was invisible and Cahill played in an unfamiliar right side of midfield position. The admirable aggression the Australian is known for was most notably absent when Gomes could only parry a shot from Fellaini in the second half. Cahill was on heels as the rebound came towards him allowing the ball in the end to be easily cleared and causing much animated anguish amongst the away fans. They were short of pace at the back, Keane caught them square many times but he himself is no speedster these days. Pav had one golden opportunity when put through when it was 0-0 but he too didnâ€™t have the pace to finish it off and ended up snatching an early shot wide. Up front Saha was subbed at half time, presumably due to bruising on his arse caused by the amount of times he went to ground when he hadnâ€™t been touched.
Despite all that Everton werenâ€™t totally out of it until late on in the game. Gomes made a couple of excellent saves, especially one from Jo when it was 1-0 and one from Hutton whose headed back pass nearly caught him off balance. A few Toffee fans in the lower tier were singing defiantly until the end, presumably unaware that the top tier had nearly emptied above them.
So it was a good and deserved win and Bentley and Bale in particular can feel pleased with their nightâ€™s work. The talk before the game was of the drawings of the new ground and the â€˜kopâ€™ end in particular. The talk afterwards was of the hope of a good home draw in the quarter finals. The optimism is almost tangible.
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