Total football, League Cup style.
This was always going to be a thankless game, so with hindsight, given that we went into it without two influential midfielders and then had another sent off, there were some positives to be taken from it in terms of the spirit shown by the players and the point gained.
For the most part though, especially during the first half hour, Everton’s football was as gormless as that fella on the Autoglass advert. Yeah, the wool with the windscreen wipers, the windscreen wiper wool. Him. You’ll know him when you see him.
With Maraoune Fellaini out injured, rather than stick Victor Anichebe in as a straight(ish) replacement, David Moyes chose to – to quote an old boss when talking about organisational restructuring – ‘bash the birdcage’. Anichebe went out on the right, Kevin Mirallas started on the left and Steven Pienaar moved inside, presumably to try and compensate for the shortcomings of Phil Neville and Leon Osman.
You can sort of see a kind of logic to the manager’s thinking then, but you just get the impression that he over-analyses these situations a lot of the time. Put it another way, as soon as you saw that line-up you knew that 15 minutes in he would be reshuffling them all again, presumably negating everything they had worked on in training all week.
He wasn’t helped by the fact that after only two minutes the best laid plans of mice and Moyes were disrupted by a QPR goal. From an Everton corner the ball squirted out towards Neville and Junior Hoilett. The Everton skipper was favourite to keep the attack going but he was just basically out-footballed, by a Canadian, who raced the length of the pitch and had a dig that deflected horribly off the recovering Leighton Baines and left Tim Howard flopped on his arse as it settled in the net.
Bugger, as Unlucky Alf would say.
The home side were predictably buoyed by this and looked pretty decent, especially in central midfield, the area where Everton find themselves dangerously light at the moment.
Their most impressive player in the opening exchanges was every Englishman’s nightmare, Esteban Granero.
“Listen love, who is this fella with the guitar in all your holiday photos?”
“Oh that’s Esteban, he worked in the bar. He was lovely, he used to give us free drinks every night.”
“Oh aye, I bet he fuckin’ did.”
Fortunately for Everton, the defence that has come in for so much criticism this season operated superbly on an evening when the fluent attacking football was notable by its absence.
The home side were kept at bay despite enjoying more possession, and that gave the Blues the ‘platform’ – inverted commas are still an indication of a cliché or footy-nonsense word that we are aware of but too lazy to do anything about – to equalise on 32 minutes.
Horrible defending by QPR allowed Sylvain Distin a free header from a long free-kick – it struck the base of the post, rebounded off Julio Cesar’s back and crossed the line.
The R’s almost imploded at that point. A minute after the goal, Stephane Mbia trod on Nikica Jelavic’s foot as the Croatian tried to turn in the box. The referee missed it but that was almost irrelevant when, from the corner that followed, the brilliant Phil Jagielka smashed a free header against the bar.
Early in the second half Jagielka made a goal-saving challenge at the other end, denying Park Ji-Sung as the home side re-established themselves as the one more likely to go on and win the game.
Moyes replaced the ineffectual Anichebe with Steven Naismith in an attempt to alter matters, but the incident that defined the second half came with half an hour left to play. Already on a yellow card, Pienaar shoved Park as they challenged for a high ball. In fairness, referee Jon ‘no H’ Moss warned the South African while the home side howled for a sending off. Only moments later though, Everton played themselves into trouble down in the corner and Pienaar was left to chase José Bosingwa towards the flag. The Portuguese fullback went down under no challenge whatsoever but with the crowd screeching and bouncing around like the monkeys in one of them Animal Liberation Front videos everyone knew exactly what was coming.
Second yellow, out the derby, thanks very much, goodnight.
A fucking blow then, although Everton appeared galvanised by the dismissal and played some of their best stuff during the final portion of the game. Mirallas began to see more of the more ball and Mbia had to head the Belgian’s shot over the bar following one of the few ‘proper Everton’ moves of the match. Cesar made a point blank stop from another Jagielka header and Jelavic, who worked hard with no real service, chipped a shot onto the roof of the net.
Inevitably Rangers had chances of their own, although they hamstrung themselves to a certain extent by the introduction of Djibril Cissé. The Earl of Frodsham’s only real contribution came courtesy of his barnet, reminding everyone to dig out their Halfords sheepskin car scraping mitt as the cold mornings start to creep in.
Seamus Coleman’s indecision and poor touch in his own box resulted in Moss getting the chance to even matters up in terms of waving away appeals for blatant penalties. The Irishman clearly brought down the dangerous Hoilett.
If just wellying the ball into the stands is good enough for John Terry, Nemanja Vidic and, well, England’s Phil Jagielka, for instance, then it’s good enough for everyone else. Why take even the faintest chance in your own penalty area?
Howard made a couple of great saves in final stages and Jagielka capped off his performance with another crucial block, this time from Granero, deep into injury time.
It ended 1-1 then – not a classic footballing performance by any stretch of the imagination, but Everton showed other qualities in tricky circumstances and earned themselves a point the hard way.
Finally, the winners of the Everton Miscellany competition are:
Magnus Lonnberg – the temptation to call this one a spoilt ballot to save dough on postage was almost overwhelming.
If you chaps can email your addresses then your books will get winged (wung?) over to you forthwith.
Thankyou to everyone who entered.