Sometimes professional sports teams can overachieve one season while in the midst of a rebuild and it is harmful to them. As a result expectations are raised when they shouldn’t be and undo pressure is put on the coach, players and management. Everton is not a big club in the class of Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool. Meaning they do not have the oodles of money required to change things quickly in regards to the line-up. Things have to be done slower and with more caution. They are on the right track with players like Phil Jagielka, Aaron Lennon, James McCarthy, and Romelu Lukaku. These are core players they can build around. Fans of the club have to be patient. The club is in a transitional phase from the David Moyes’ days.
Last season they did well and it was expected that the progression would continue. This season they have come crashing back to Earth. Far behind the number of points they earned last season, fans are angry. They are frustrated with a club that finds themselves deep in the season only 3 points out of the relegation zone at the beginning of this fixture against Newcastle United. They are 23 points behind last year’s pace and are allowing far too many goals. Total lack of organization in the back.
For this game Everton coach Roberto Martinez, who likes to play an attacking brand of football, made several changes in the starting side. One change was made for him as midfielder Gareth Barry was sitting out the first of a two game suspension. A massive amount of pressure is on the coach and his team. It might be strange for me to say about this seemingly nothing game, but it pretty much was a must win for Everton.
Newcastle United has problems of their own. The season has not gone the way they had hoped either. Such a mess that they had to replace their departed coach Alan Pardew midway through with former Toronto FC man, John Carver. He has been named the interim coach and in his 9 games in charge of the team has only managed 9 points. Hopefully he is given a fair shake as this is pretty much his dream job as he played for the club.
For the opening 10 minutes of the match it was the visitors who asked all the questions. There is some genuine width on this Newcastle side with the likes of Sammy Ameobi and Moussa Sissoko playing as wingers. Both have pace and technical skills. Dressed in their all grey kits (with Everton in royal blue and white), Newcastle United pressed the back 4 of Everton. Winning a corner in the 3rd minute they got a shot away only to have James McCarthy block a sure goal on the line. Newcastle players appealed for a hand ball on the play, but that would have been a harsh call by Martin Atkinson as McCarthy wasn’t even looking at the ball when it struck him.
You would think that Everton would be looking to exploit the left hand side of the Newcastle defense as they have had a slew of injuries in that position. But most of their eventual offensive forays came from the middle from the likes of Lukaku and Aaron Lennon. Romelu Lukaku has scored a few goals for his side, but has suffered due to a lack of service. He is not strong technically with his back to the net preferring to use his pace and strength to run onto the ball. His midfielders have to adjust to this to use what he has to offer most effectively.
Slowly Everton began to right the ship and take over the game. They opened the ledger in the 20th minute courtesy of midfielder James McCarthy’s first Premier League goal of the season. It was not the cleanest shot, but a goal nonetheless. Everton captain Jagielka played a long ball from his own half to Lekaku situated in a central position. He unselfishly laid it off to the oncoming McCarthy, who took a shot from 20 yards out. Newcastle keeper Tim Krul should have saved it. He was anticipating the shot going the other way and was wrong footed. On the goal you had to wonder where the Newcastle midfielders were. McCarthy had acres of space to run into unimpeded. 1-0 Everton.
Newcastle fullbacks were guilty of ball watching on several occasions and on this one they were punished for it. Making things hard on themselves, Newcastle has given up the first goal 18 times out of 29 games. Things did not look too hopeful for Newcastle as they had only won 1 of their last 8 games on the road and Everton had not lost a game this season when leading at half time.
There was a good pace to the game in the 1st half. After a sluggish first 10 minutes Everton was high energy and the crowd responded making it a very loud stadium.
In the game’s 55th minute Everton doubled their lead through a penalty shot. Yoan Gouffron collected the ball deep in his own end and cut towards the middle without taking a look over his shoulder to recognize that Lennon was coming in for the kill. Lack of awareness. The result was Gouffron losing the ball just inside the penalty area and proceeding to take down Lennon with a clumsy tackle. Atkinson rightly awarded Everton the penalty and gave Sissoko a yellow for dissent. Lukaku took the penalty and sent Krul the wrong way with his shot into the bottom left side of the net. Well taken penalty by the Belgian striker. Lukaku was in on the first two Everton goals and showed that he is playing with confidence. His hold up play was excellent all through the match as was his link up play with fellow striker, Arouna Koné. 2-0 Everton.
Just a few minutes later Newcastle central defender Fabricio Coloccini was awarded a straight red card from Atkinson for his brutal, two-footed tackle on Lennon, who thankfully was not injured on the play. Coloccini made no attempt to play the ball and now his team had to finish the game with 10 men. Coloccini is a defensive liability. Every week he makes mistakes.
In the 73rd minute Everton subbed out Lukaku and brought the youngster Ross Barkley in. In his 20 minutes on the pitch Barkley gave Everton fan’s a glimpse of what he is capable of. Just 3 minutes into his game Barkley, courtesy of a nice ball played back by Lennon, had beaten Krul with a low shot only to have it stopped on the goal line by Ryan Taylor. Barkley was vindicated in the 3rd minute of added on time when he scored. Once again it started way back in the Everton end when a defender headed clear a Taylor free kick. Substitute Christian Atsu ran onto it and had oodles of space along the right side of the pitch. He then played a perfectly weighted ball to Barkley. Barkley showed composure by going around Krul and putting the ball into the empty net from a sharp angle. 3-0 Everton.
Although there were signs of attacking life out of Newcastle over the last few minutes of the game it was a rather poor effort offensively for them. Throughout the game Newcastle was not able to get ball into their striker, Emmanuel Rivière. They were looking a little lightweight in the midfield. Other than the game’s opening few minutes they were not able to get into any kind of a rhythm always being closed down by Everton’s defenders. As for Everton’s defenders they are a physical lot lead by Jagielka and Antonin Alcarez. Will this victory be a turning point in the season for Everton? Stay tuned.
With the victory Everton stays in 14th place, but they are now 6 points clear of relegation. Newcastle should count themselves lucky to remain in 11th place. It doesn’t get any easier for Newcastle United as their next game is against Arsenal while Everton plays the very beatable Queen’s Park Rangers.
-Referee: Martin Atkinson
-Goals: 1st Half:
20th minute: Everton – James McCarthy
55th minute: Everton – (pk) Romelu Lukaku
90th + 3 minutes: Everton – Ross Barkley
-Shots on Net: Everton – 9
Newcastle United – 4
-Corners: Everton – 3
Newcastle United – 4
-Man of the Match: Romelu Lukaku – Everton
-Final Score: Everton – 3
Newcastle United – 0