I’m always a bit wary when I read statistics….
“Everton unbeaten at Goodison Park in the League in 2013”.
“Everton have only lost one game all season”.
And most worrying of the lot – “Fulham have never won at Goodison Park”.
It’s as if these stats only come out just as records of their type are about to be broken. I must confess, that after fantastic performances against Man Utd and Arsenal in the last week, I was a glass half full kinda guy on Saturday and had a horrible feeling that Fulham would do us. That perhaps was the old Everton – perhaps things like that don’t happen any more with Roberto?
After a reasonably upbeat start, not as slow as some have suggested, Osman scored a fine goal, taking responsibility for shooting when an easier ball to allow Deulofeu one on one with the keeper was the obvious option. After all, Gerard loves one on ones…..
Osman’s goal was a superb team goal, and one that summed up this style of play that RM has brought to the club. Good control all the way from back to front, incisive passing, clever running to take a good offensive position (Oviedo and Pienaar take a bow), and a goal taken with the kind of measured finishing that has been a trade mark this season, most notably seen at Villa. I sensed flood gates might now open, but once again the sloppy final ball meant Fulham were still in the game at half time when arguably their fan (singular) might have been expected to have made an early exit to beat the non-existent crush back down the M6.
Instead, Fulham came out for the second half whereas we didn’t. But for scarily awful finishing, and Tim saving us, they could have equalised twice in the first ten minutes. But it took a moment of clumsy defending from Barry to allow them their goal. I wasn’t sure it was a pen, I’m still not sure having seen it again and again, but after a moment of indecision (let’s be generous, after a moment of thought) from Taylor, the views of this observer, however obstructed, were irrelevant, and Berbatov stepped up to do the inevitable. A well taken penalty would have nearly lifted the roof off the two-seater convertible of the Fulham away fan.
After that, I thought our determination was good, as once again there was little sign of being deterred by things going against us, just as we showed against Arsenal. It was almost as if the philosophy is we will score, we will score more than you, it’s only a matter of time. That, in my mind, is the crux of the different way of things at Goodison these days. I won’t de-cry Moyes as he has built the springboard that Roberto is using to fantastic effect. And don’t forget, this is still a work in progress!
Coleman’s goal was another excellent team goal, with Pienaar once again having a massive influence, and I loved how he shaped to slam it in to the net (and risk ballooning it) and instead just tapped it in. A scruffy pinball third, and a lovely fourth from Stekelenburg (assist from Mirallas), and a 4-1 home win without playing particularly well. And a 6 goal GD swing on Arsenal whilst we were at it!
The consensus seems to be that it is winning like this when not playing well that marks us out as a top 4 team, some even daring to hope that we are a top 1 team, and why not a bit of optimism? Given that in pervious years we’d celebrate 31 points as meaning only 3 wins from safety, it is fantastic to look upwards and onwards as a kind set of fixtures until the end of January makes a real long run a distinct possibility. I still think Sunderland, who are playing pretty well without any results, and of course the surprise team of the season, Southampton, represent awkward home games where we will have to be playing at our best and not risk a game where we are ‘out of sorts’. But based on what we know we can do, playing like we have done every week since the Palace game (that still scars me), we ought to win them. But football, as we all know, isn’t based on ‘ought’, just ask Spurs fans.
A word on players of note. Coleman was fantastic again, as was Oviedo, but both largely untroubled as defenders. Gerard flitted in and out of the game until his injury (we will miss him either as a starter or as a game changer off the bench….step up Kevin Mirallas, and maybe even Jelavic), but my man of the match would go to Pienaar whose movement and touch I thought was superb. Given he is visibly upset (if you haven’t seen his Mandela tribute on Everton TV then do so NOW!) at the moment at losing the great Madiba, his performances are inspired at a time when I thought he might even struggle to play at all. Well done Steven, a model professional – aren’t you glad you came back?
On we go, we finish the weekend 5th again, but never mind where the table places us, just marvel in the quality of the performances that will ensure that our final league position will look after itself.
And maybe Deulofeu will return to make a major impact in the final third of the season just when defenders up and down the league are knackered!