Monday, 1 September 2014

Everton 3 Chelsea 6

It’s difficult to know where to start after that.

Everton were again the architects of their own downfall, for the third time this season. If last week’s game was mental, this one went stark raving bonkers, particularly in the second half. Again, we saw some great attacking play from the Toffees, but the defending and decision making on show left a lot to be desired.

Chief culprit at the moment is Phil Jagielka, who is having a pretty awful time. As ever with modern Everton sides and players, there’s no lack of effort, and it may well be that the likeable club captain is trying too hard to be clever, and thus making mistakes. Unfortunately, one such mistake came after about 20 seconds, when, instead of running alongside Diego Costa and forcing him wide, Jagielka stepped out a fraction too late and allowed the deadly striker through to slot underneath Tim Howard. Bugger.

To make things worse, as would be the case throughout the game, Everton failed to gain their composure after the goal and made another quick mistake. The midfield sat off too far, Leighton Baines copied Jagielka before him and charged out of the line, leaving Branislav Ivanovic clear for an easy finish. Five minutes in, already needing snookers.

Replays later showed that Ivanovic was slightly offside, but it was one of those offsides which was very marginal, like the Naismith one last week, and the defending was the real culprit. In any event, Everton can hardly complain about the decisions first half as, shortly afterwards, Howard had a brain fart and came and caught the ball about two yards outside the area. Mercifully, the linesman on the Bullens side, hopeless all day, somehow missed it.

After about 20 minutes the game settled down a bit, with Everton – in particular through their two standout performers, Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith – scrapping very hard to get back into things. Lady Luck again wasn’t smiling after a crashing Lukaku header hit the crossbar – if your luck’s in, they hit the goalie and go in – and the rebound was correctly disallowed for offside. Naismith also skidded a shot from distance wide as Everton grew into the game. Again – no shortage of heart in the team, and they got their reward on half time.

 It was a beauty as well. Aiden McGeady, the only change in for Steven Pienaar, was very much in-and-out of the game, but had impact when he was – in this case a lovely ball inside the full-back to Coleman. His cross was a cracker, floated into space eight yards out, and Mirallas timed his run brilliantly to plant a header into the far top corner. Game on, and you hoped that the defensive calamities were now out of the system, paving the way for a second half fightback. Wrong!

Everton actually started the second half very well, with almost constant pressure in the Chelsea half, before, on 67 minutes, getting hit with a sucker punch. Eden Hazard went past McCarthy far too easily on the right and his pull back clipped the lunging Coleman and ended up in the net. Coleman had just been involved in a bit of handbags with Diego Costa, and the Chelsea man – who is absolutely brilliant, despite being a snide – followed up the goal with some kopite-level twattery, giving a few verbals until Tim Howard interjected. There was talk afterwards, from bellends like Graham Poll, that Howard could have again been sent off for this – he was booked – but in reality it was one of the few things that referee Jon Moss got right. Get on with the game.

Everton certainly did, as they exploded from the kick off and scored another lovely goal. McGeady furthered his reputation as a conundrum – doing nothing for 20 minutes followed by a bit of brilliance – and skinned a couple of defenders before playing a perfect pass to Naismith. The Scot finished clinically, and it’s a measure of his improvement and form that you honestly never thought he’d miss. Roberto Martinez immediately raised the Goodison crowd even more – McGeady off, Eto’o on.

What happened? Well another bit of crap defending, that’s what. Less than five minutes later, with Everton having failed to just calm down and control things a bit, Chelsea worked the ball sideways along the box to Nemanja Matic, who, with Distin only a couple of yards away, took a couple of touches to set himself. Close him down Sylvain. Close him down. CLOSE HIM DOWN FOR FUU…. Ahh bollocks. In off the post. It wasn’t as eye catching as some of the other goals conceded, but this was perhaps the worst – with Everton back in things, the defensive midfield was totally AWOL and the lack of pressure on Matic was appalling.

Remarkably, Everton again got straight back in things, as Baines’s free kick was headed home by Eto’o, in one of his first few touches. The debutant forward was one of the positives that can be taken from the game. He looks the real deal, with superb movement and intelligent play, and the likes of Lukaku can only learn from him. Lukaku himself has had a bit of stick after the match, but again his effort was good – another perhaps trying too hard – and if that continues, the goals will come. It’d be interesting to see Eto’o through the middle with Lukaku coming in from the right.

Unfortunately that attempt at Martinez-style positivity must stop there though, as some more Keystone Cops defending, only a minute later, finally took the game away from Everton. Baines, Distin and McCarthy were the culprits this time, allowing Ramires to waltz through unchallenged to score past Howard.

Everton tried to hit back again, and a lovely move involving Coleman and Eto’o led to a chance for Mirallas, which Courtois wonderfully saved onto the post. The Toffees were running out of ideas, though, and failed to really threaten any further. There was only time for the candle on the cake of shit defending to be lit.

Martinez introduced Muhamed Besic for a late debut – possibly 20 minutes too late, as both McCarthy and Barry had very poor second halves and looked knackered – and the Bosnian wasted no time in fitting in with his team mates. Receiving a simple pass, he inexplicably decided to just do a blind back-heel, setting Jon Obi Mikel through. Mikel played in Costa, who finished comfortably with Distin and Howard scrambling. Besic is obviously better than that and, of course, there were far more culpable on Saturday – but, fucking hell, it was one of the stupidest decisions you’re ever likely to see. The only consolation was that it was in a dead game, and so hopefully won’t now happen in tighter circumstances. You couldn’t make it up.

6-3 then. Not really rocket science in the final analysis – we’re good going forward, but painful at the back at the moment. The predictable immediate reaction has been that the defence needs ripping up and starting again, but that in all likelihood won’t work. John Stones will certainly be knocking on the door, and being on the lookout for a young, left-sided centre-half to eventually replace Distin is something that certainly should be done. The majority of mistakes are individual ones, though, and so it’s up to the players to cut them out. This is the same defensive unit that was almost impregnable at times last year, and it’s very unlikely that all of Jagielka, Distin, Baines, McCarthy, Barry and Howard will have such a poor game, all at the same time, again.

That said, this is one of the first real tests for Roberto Martinez – we’re looking like the na├»ve side we were all told he always produces – and it needs sorting out. Whether he decides to have a dip in the transfer market will be interesting, and you would hope that after the international break we will see a much sturdier Everton side.

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, McCarthy, Barry, Mirallas, Naismith, McGeady, Lukaku.

Subs: Robles, Stones, Alcaraz, Besic (Lukaku 89), Osman, Eto’o (McGeady 70), Gibson.

Goals – Mirallas (45), Naismith (69), Eto’o (76)

MOM – Mirallas, with an honourable mention to Naismith