“You could have seen victory going only one way in the first half but the Premier League can do that to you.” DAVID MOYES ruminates on the second half slump which saw three points slip through his grasp..
“In the second half we stopped them playing. In the end it was a well earned point in the second half.” MICK McCARTHY reflects on a game-plan the blues are going to have to get used to from opponents this season.
ISAAC NEWTON wasn’t talking about football when he said every action has an opposite and equal reaction, but his famous truism is haunting Everton’s early season efforts.
Because those fine victories over Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City last term are causing a reaction this time around which the Toffees are struggling to cope with.
Make no mistake, the rest of the Premier League sat up and took notice of those victories, and they look set to set their stall out against Everton accordingly.
First Blackburn and now Wolves have taken points from David Moyes’ side, with performances which have focused on knocking Everton out of their stride and beating them in terms of aggression and perspiration.
This, coupled with a worrying habit of not converting their chances, explains why pre-season optimism is in danger of slumping faster than sales of that orange paint in Blackpool.
But first the good news – part of the problem is fixable. No Evertonian wants their side to stop trying to play football, but more often than not those scintillating displays last season mean they are going to come up against teams with 10 men behind the ball.
When the Blues adapt to this, and find ways to play through it, the points will follow. The first half against Wolves was already an improvement on the subdued showing at Ewood Park. Everton were bright, purposeful and created plenty of chances.
In truth, they should have gone into the break with more than a one-goal cushion and that’s something which will continue to worry Moyes. With Louis Saha out of sorts against Blackburn, the Bues boss handed Jermaine Beckford his Goodison league debut, and, while the former Leeds man ran tirelessly and got himself into good positions, he will take time to adapt to the top flight. His composure in the area was lacking at times, but Beckford is entitled to plenty of patience.
Everton were controlling possession throughout the first half, winning free-kicks in dangerous areas and attempting to unlock the Wolves defence. For their part, Mick McCarthy’s side were combative, with Christophe Berra getting stuck into Beckford and trying to rough up home side.
Then after some smart possession from the Blues Cahill teed up returning John Heitinga who unleashed a howitzer from 20 yards which Hahnemann did well to save.
It began to seem like their efforts, before watching England boss Fabio Capello, were going to be in vain until a contentious breakthrough minutes before the interval.
Referee Lee Mason denied the Blues a penalty when Stephen Ward tripped Mikel Arteta in the area, but the official inexplicably awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box.
But the Blues capitalised regardless. Arteta’s blast was blocked but as Jody Craddock tried to clear, Cahill nipped in and blasted home from close range.
Mason continued to endear himself to neither set of fans in the second period, allowing too much of Wolves’ rough-house tactics to go unpunished while the away side were fuelled by a sense of injustice over a perceived foul by Cahill before his goal.
Bilyaletdinov, who was full of energy, wasted a glorious chance from a Cahill knock down in the area but slowly the Midlands outfit began to out-fight Everton, and they struck through a combination of misdemeanour and desire.
Saha, on for Beckford, sloppily lost possession, and Adlene Guedioura was first to the ball via a reckless tackle on Heitinga which could have broken the Dutchman’s foot.
The Wolves sub carried on and fed Kevin Doyle who fired a cross into area for Sylvan Ebanks-Blake to stroke home.
Moyes was entitled to a sense of injustice at the equaliser, but even more entitled to expect his team to respond effectively.
Instead they mustered only a few half-chances, most notably a Saha header that just dropped over the crossbar.
Wolves might have sneaked it when Matthew Jarvis was denied, and the tricky midfielder gave the home crowd another scare steering a shot wide in injury time.
In the end there was further deflation to the pre-season optimism; put into context by how enthusiastically the away fans celebrated their point.
Everton’s progress last season has not just made an impression on Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. Teams will take on the Blues determined to stop their dynamic football finding its rhythm and many will approach fixtures here like they would trips to Old Trafford or the Emirates.
Everton need to accept this, fast, and then find a winning combination up front before too many points have slipped away for their lofty ambitions to be met.
EVERTON: Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Heitinga (Fellaini, 82), Areteta, Cahill, Bilyaletdinov (82, Osman), Pienaar, Beckford (Saha, 71). Subs: Mucha, Saha, Gueye, Coleman, Rodwell..
WOLVES: Hahnemann, Elokobi (Guedioura, 53), Craddock, Henry (capt), Ebanks-Blake (Stearman, 90+), Ward, Jones (Halford), Berra, Jarvis, Doyle, Foley. Subs: Hennessey, Keogh, Milijas, Zubar, Guedioura.
GOALS: Cahill 43; Ebvanks-Blake 81.
CARDS: Booked – Heitinga (fEveton). Elokobi and Halford (Wolves).
REFEREE: Lee Mason.