So, David Moyes and Alex Ferguson decide to have a game of darts this time.
Not really, simmer down.
Everton’s early-season hot streak continued thanks to a great performance from Tim Howard and another inspired substitution by Roberto Martinez.
Resplendent in that yellow and blue away kit, and with last week’s returning hero Steven Pienaar starting ahead of Leon Osman, Everton began this game pretty slowly and Paul Lambert, dressed as a Premier Lodge night manager, made a fair point when he said he thought they should have really been three up at half time.
After only seven minutes Christian Benteke won a penalty when he cut across the run of Seamus Coleman and managed to get himself tripped. It looked very harsh as there was certainly no intent on the Irish defender’s part and it was hard to see what he was meant to do to avoid the offence.
Justice was done though when Tim Howard and his quite glorious hipster douchebag beard of bees dived to his right and displayed a ‘good strong wrist’ as he deflected Benteke’s ferocious but not particularly well-placed spot kick over the bar.
Undeterred, the home side proceeded to exploit Everton’s high defensive line and Howard had to be at his best to deny Benteke again and then Andreas Weimann in one-to-one face-offs. Or faces-off?
Eventually the Blues began to get their act together, with Brad Guzan making a good close-range save from Romelu Lukaku’s flying header. The Belgian then bundled through the home defence like Mario Kempes only to scuff his shot straight at the keeper as he tried to curl it with the outside of his boot.
Ross Barkley then turned and smashed a Rooney-esque shot from long distance that took a slight nick off a defender and crashed against the Villa crossbar.
Actually, when reading that back perhaps Lambert was being a tad one-eyed with his post-match analysis of the first half.
Anyway, on 60 minutes and with neither side really dominating Martinez had a decision to make. He withdrew Barkley, who apart from that one decent shot had a bit of an off-key performance, and sent on someone to win the game. With Aroune Kone missing due to injury – the physios have diagnosed a ‘broken spirit’ – the Everton boss chose to ignore Nikica Jelavic, Steven Naismith and the dribble and shrug bag of tricks that is Gerard Deulofeu. Instead he introduced little old Neon Leon Osman. Bless him.
And eight minutes later the veteran schemer gathered a pass from Leighton Baines out on the left and cut out three Villa defenders with a square ball to Lukaku arriving on the edge of the box. The Belgian swept his low shot just wide of Guzan’s outstretched glove and into the bottom corner, prompting unbridled tumult amongst Europe’s biggest collection of navy coats and grey sweatshirts.
The best celebration though was reserved for Martinez who merely raised one fist, cool as you like, as if to say, ‘That’s exactly what we showed Osman to do on the iPad as he got ready to come on’.
Agbonlahor, who usually plays well against us, wasted a decent chance to equalise when he fired straight at Howard and the Villans were duly punished again on 81 minutes. A short corner routine – these have definitely improved under the new regime – was worked to Gareth Barry who cut the ball back to Osman on the edge of the penalty area and he tenderly side-footed the ball home with his left peg for a goal that was similar to both Lukaku’s and Kevin Mirallas’s last week against the Hull City Tigers.
Once all the weekend’s matches were played this win left us up in sixth place, but there’s really very little dividing the teams at the top. Considering this was meant to be a season of transition it continues to look almost effortless for Martinez. Obviously it’s still early but the great thing is that this is undoubtedly his side now and the good start, and to a degree the ongoing tribulations at Old Trafford, mean that we seem past the point where he will be judged against his predecessor. Even when we eventually do have a shocker of a performance and a result he has already earned enough trust from the supporters to get through it without calling everything about his managerial style into question.
That said, the one area he does need to work on is his interview technique. On Match of the Day he started speaking and just kept going until he got to a point where he had to sort of tail off because he had clearly forgotten what the original question was.
Let’s just hope that after we play Tottenham next week he’s rambling on delighted about the focus and the dedication of the group and all that, because that looks like a tough game and no mistake. Should be a cracker.
Incidentally, have you ever done any of the following?
Waved your arms about to try and put a penalty taker off?
Wolf-whistled the announcement of the attendance?
Sang ‘Your support is fucking shit’?
Kept hold of the ball when it’s gone out for the opposition’s throw?
Took your shirt off at the game?
No, thought not, we’re still to meet anyone who admits to any of them.