Imagine a few years ago some Geordies sitting watching Shola Ameobi being generally cack and turning to his mates and saying, ‘One day he’ll be partnered up front by his younger, shitter brother’. He’d be laughed all the way to the Strawberry.
Seriously, it would be like us giving a dream Premier League start to Frankie Hibbert.
Anyway, both sly-eyed Ameobi boys did finish this game for the hosts but it was no, wait for it, joyous ‘family affair’ as Everton won with an oddly inconsistent performance. They have certainly played better and drawn this season, but they overcame some trademark horror defending to overturn Newcastle’s early lead and eventually take all three points.
With shameless sly-arse Demba Ba off to Chelsea, Shola Ameobi began the game up front for the home side and it was him who attracted both Sylvain Distin and Johnny Heitinga towards Tim Krul’s long punt upfield. Tim Howard shouted the Everton code word, ‘Kroldrup!’ and as both centre-halves collided with each other NFL chest-bump style and Leighton Baines stepped up to try and play Pappis Cissé offside – presumable expecting a touch off Ameobi – the Senegalese striker with the lonely tooth looped a header into the Everton net.
That was just over a minute in, so the Blues were almost certainly choosing to ignore the whole ‘put them under pressure early’ advice we offered in the preview, as is their right. Similarly, Steven Naismith chose to take no heed of the praise he got in a similar piece last week and had an absolute shocker of a game.
In fact, a few of them were distinctly sub-par for long spells, but fortunately an absolutely cobblers Newcastle team failed to take some of the decent chances they created. Very few of them came from great football – the most profitable route against this Everton side seems to be bladder the ball up the middle and feed of the chaos. At times we resemble one of them slick-looking Continental teams who provided so much fodder for robust English sides in Europe in the 70s and 80s. If Cheltenham have got a couple of hod-carriers up front on Monday night they will have half a chance.
James Perch hit the post with a header for the Magpies and Tim Howard was grateful to watch a couple of low crosses whistle harmlessly across his six-yard box. At the other end, where Nikica Jelavic played well without getting much of a sniff of goal and Steven Pienaar always looked dangerous, Baines had one shot smothered at close range and a delicately curling free kick pushed around the post.
On 42 minutes the returning Marouane Fellaini – who had some nice touches but seems to have developed a habit of admiring his own work at times – won a free kick 35 yards out. Much has been made about the soft nature of the award and it’s true, neither Fabio Coloccini nor Chiek Tiote really touched the big Belgian. However, it’s probably also fair to say that when Baines stepped up to have a dig he really did still have ‘a bit to do’.
What ensued wasn’t exactly art, science or even magic, it was more like Industrial Age heavy engineering. The sort of free-kick that could have been designed by Isembard Kingdom Brunel, such was its raw awe-inspiring defiance of the elements. When one of those modern balls gets struck with such power it ends up at some sort of event horizon, battling bleeding edge physics where nature struggles to know what to do with it, so what chance has some dopy-looking Dutch goalkeeper got?
On 58 minutes Naismith’s miserable night was mercifully cut short when Victor Anichebe was introduced and lordy did he make an instant impact at the end of the best move of the night. Well maybe the second best actually; Pienaar had a shot saved in the first half following a splendid through-ball from Baines into that weird, angled inside-left channel that the pair them often exploit so efficiently.
They combined again for the winner, with a classic example of what Tony Cottee in his book continually referred to as ‘third man running’ that also involved Fellaini, who released Jelavic down the left. The Croatian ‘hitman’ took on Coloccini before crossing low to the near post where Anichebe slid in and netted with what was apparently his first touch.
It was a brilliant goal and Anichebe also did well for the remainder of the match, especially in the closing stages, holding the ball up and frustrating the home side as Everton hogged possession and prevented them from building any sort of momentum.
Gabriel Obertan did force a save at the near post from Howard and the older Ameobi flicked a decent chance just wide following poor play from the distinctly off-colour Phil Neville, but the Toffees held firm this time.
An odd, open game then – one of those where the result and a couple of great goals masks the deficiencies that would have been picked over endlessly if it had ended up as even a draw, which it easily could have. However, given the number of points we have spunked while playing superbly, no one is really going to grumble. Just take the win and thank the man.
Elsewhere, Phil Jagielka has signed a new contract, which is great news, but Everton announced £9 million losses for last year, which doesn’t seem so brilliant. However, given that football finances are so fucking weird – think about it, how many people would actually be happy if Everton were making a profit? – how disastrous those figures are very much depends on who you listen to.