Blackburn Rovers 1:3 Everton
Everton produced another impressive display as the Toffees first pre-season under Roberto Martinez gathered pace. Everton were worthy winners and controlled the game against their Championship opponents from the first minute to the last, dominating possession and creating a host of goalscoring opportunities.
Roberto Martinez will have been mightily impressed with his team, as they produced further evidence to suggest they are very quickly getting to grips with his method of play. Several players produced excellent individual performances but it will be the ball retention and fluid movement that will have excited him the most.
The team moved effortlessly from one formation to another at the half time interval, swapping from the 4-3-3 formation which has dominated pre-season so far, to the much talked about 3-4-3 formation, featuring Coleman and Oviedo as wing backs. Many of the Everton players appeared perfectly suited to either style, and with Martinez looking to instil flexibility in his playing squad, he will be pleased with the experiment, albeit against disappointing opposition.
One player, who flourished in the first 45 minutes, was young Ross Barkley. Still only 19 years old, Barkley started brightly and visibly grew in stature and confidence as the game progressed. The Liverpool born youngster has a tremendous talent and would relish the opportunity to play at the peak of the midfield three. The position would appear entirely perfect for Barkley, allowing him the freedom to play his natural game and protect him from the defensive responsibilities that hindered his progress under the previous regime. Barkley was unlucky not to open the scoring, seeing one shot cleared off the line shortly before Kevin Mirallas did put Everton one-nil in front with a deflected drive.
Bryan Oviedo was another to stand out, relishing the opportunity to impress Martinez with Leighton Baines unavailable due to an injury to his upper thigh/hip region. That injury is unlikely to keep the England full back out for long, but if the worst does transpire and Baines transfers to Manchester United, Everton may already have a replacement amongst their ranks. On the opposite side, Seamus Coleman was his typical effervescent self. The Blackburn Rovers left back will be relieved that Coleman only played the second 45 minutes, because the Irishman tore up and down the right flank with his unrelenting running, creating several goalscoring opportunities for the Everton attack.
The battle for the central striking berth, promises to be one of the most intriguing of the summer and the season ahead. Arouna Kone, fresh from an impressive debut season in the Premier League for Wigan Athletic, played the opening 45 minutes, with Nikica Jelavic, desperate to make amends for a disappointing season, playing the second half. For both players it was their first run out of the summer and both will be pleased with their contribution, although Kone will be disappointed that his rasping shot from just inside the area crashed back off the cross-bar. The Ivorian demonstrated a hunger for the game, always making himself available and despite standing at only 5 feet 9 inches tall, he is a good presence in attack. Jelavic will be particular pleased with his afternoons work, as he provided the perfect retort to those who dared suggest his time at Everton should come to an end. Two goals, one a brilliant near post header and the second a predatory strike after he had seen a first effort saved, perfectly demonstrated his hunger and determination to make a mark this season. He was unluckly not to score a hat-trick, but he will move on to the USA full of confidence and looking forward to the season ahead.
The only disappointment on a good afternoon was the late goal scored by Liverpdulian, Scott Dann. Everton did appear slightly suspect at set-pieces throughout the day and Joel will be frustrated with his inability to deal with crosses into the box.
Overall this was a very productive exercise for Everton and with the Blues now in America for the next 10 days, they will be looking to build on the strong start to the Martinez regime ahead of the Premier League season kicking off in three weeks’ time.
Team: Howard (Joel); Hibbert (Coleman), Oviedo (Garbutt), Jagielka (Stones), Distin; Gibson, Fellaini (Heitinga), Barkley (Osman); Pienaar, Mirallas (Naismith), Kone (Jelavic).
Goals: Mirallas, Jelavic x2