In the preview we dwelt on the snide side to Stoke’s game and then lo and behold the biggest talking point from a rather shite game was the violent conduct of one of Everton’s players.
You can talk about provocation and make all the excuses you like for Marouane Fellaini, but if one of their players had stuck the head on one of ours and then followed it up with a ‘community centre ladies’ self-defence class right after Weight Watchers’ palm strike we would be demanding at least some sort of custodial sentence as punishment. Fellaini had to release a statement apologising for his attacks on the admittedly unlovable Ryan Shawcross, and David Moyes was furious with his record signing, presumably for the actions themselves to a certain extent but probably more for the repercussions that they invited.
As it stands, Fellaini will certainly get a retrospective FA ban which will be a blow in itself, but it was only sheer luck that the officials never spotted at least one offence during the game and sent him off. That would have put the solitary point earned at considerable risk after poor defending, a dreadful finish and some shocking goalkeeping had already kiboshed the chances of taking all three.
The match was tight and tense throughout, neither side played much great football – no, honestly – and clear chances were at a premium.
Glenn Whelan appeared to handle Steven Pienaar’s shot during the opening exchanges but the referee and the hordes of bum-fluff-muzzied growlers in the crowd were not impressed. Everton definitely thought it was a Stone Island penalty though.
That’s the last one of them now.
When Darron Gibson’s half-intercepted through-ball popped up in the six-yard box Nikica Jelavic miskicked completely but Steven Naismith showed a bit more composure to nick a shot past the sprawling Asmir Begovic. However, with the travelling Blues poised to give a veritable whoop and hurrah Shawcross lunged in and hacked the goalbound ball clear.
The big defender was more or less the focus of attention for the whole match. On 38 minutes, under no pressure whatsoever, he got his head on what was a bit of an ‘I’ve really got no fucking idea here’ sort of chip into the area from Pienaar and sent the ball skimming over Begovic and into the top corner of his own goal.
Gift horse, mouth, and all that jazz.
Minutes later, at the end of the best move of the game, Leighton Baines cut the ball back from the bye-line, behind the recovering defenders, leaving Leon Osman time and space to pick his spot. Straight ahead into the fucking big net looked the most sensible option but for some reason the normally cool midfielder tried to side-foot an effort into the far corner. If it was on target he would have struggled to miss the keeper and two defenders – cunningly though he took them out of the equation by planting the ball well wide of them and the goal.
Tony Pulis admitted afterwards that he gave the half-time team talk that we suspect almost every manager facing Everton has dished out this season, letting his side know that they should be dead and buried but instead have a golden opportunity to put matters right. And as is so often the case they did just that when, on 51 minutes, Kenwyne Jones – no, still alive and well apparently – got on the end of a bollocks ball forward and rose more or less unchallenged just inside the Everton box and sent a header towards the bottom corner of the goal.
It wasn’t particularly powerful and travelled a reasonable distance – a re-enactment of Gordon Banks’s save from Pele was not required to keep it out. Unfortunately though, Tim Howard’s petition to have Premier League goalposts wrapped in padding a la professional rugby has fallen on deaf ears and so we were once again treated to the Everton keeper in an unedifying pose as he ushered the ball awkwardly into the net. You know the drill by now, his face says ‘angry De Niro’ while his body adopts a shape known in most coaching manuals as ‘the electrocuted cat’.
Seriously, to get gifted a lead at somewhere as awkward as Stoke and then blow it so cheaply borders on the downright unprofessional. You can’t keep doing things like that and expect, or in fact deserve, to get anything out of the season.
Jones almost put the home side ahead shortly after he equalised, bundling past Baines and Howard and then kneeing the ball against the post. The rest of the half was pretty grim though, with only a few half chances and Fellaini’s alehouse straightener moves briefly illuminating affairs.
There’s not really much to add, apart from perhaps something about Brendan Rodgers’ latest affectation, a ‘lucky’ Liverpool scarf worn jauntily in the Roberto Mancini style. Whereas the Italian opted for a classic blue and white bar scarf though, Bodger boldly went for a highly flammable Church Street stall effort instead. The only thing you can really say in defence of the massive attention-seeking phony is that he did stop short of donning one of those featuring a picture of Shanks looking like Bela Lugosi made out of Lego.