First of all a question. What’s so technical about the technical area? It should be called something like the ‘gobby box’ or the ‘Lucozade bottle zone’.
Over to you, Mr Blatter.
Anyway, Wolsburg. The one thing’s for certain: the away leg will be a different kettle of Bratwurst. Everton won 4-1 but still managed to be slack as all fuck at times, allowing the Germans a ridiculous amount of chances that were only denied by shit finishing and some inspired goalkeeping and last-ditch defending.
Roberto Martinez showed he is taking the Europa League seriously, naming the same team that started against West Bromwich Albion, so really we are going to have to cut him some slack when he plays loads of kids – and Christian Atsu – in the thankless Capitulation Cup game at Swansea. There will still be some moaning though about how we are never going to win that piece-of-shit Kopite trophy.
A very Everton move – it’s great that no longer signifies a ball to the back post ‘mixer’ – saw Leighton Baines and James McCarthy combine to set up Steven Naismith. Soccer’s answer to Richard Stilgoe – he doesn’t like to talk about it – saw his shot blacked partially by their keeper – this is being written sans internet connection so names and times are likely to be a bit sketchy – but the ball struck left-back Ricardo Rodrigues (possibly) and rebounded into the Park End net.
The Blues then went into the interval two goals up thanks to a stooping header from Seamus Coleman. Their keeper parried a Kevin Mirallas drive into the path of the quick-thinking Leighton Baines and the naughtiest left-back in the Europa League scuffed the loose ball back across goal for Coleman to notch/slot/get-on-the-scoresheet.
Straight after the restart the visitors blew the game with a lazy back-pass intercepted by Aiden McShitcross. The panicked defender – again, no clue here – tried to atone for his error by grabbing at the Irishman, and although the foul apparently occurred outside the area, the referee awarded a penalty that Baines ‘dispatched’ with a foot. As opposed to a plum.
Whatever way you look at it, being able to bring on Samuel Eto’o when three goals up in Europe is about as big a sign of Everton’s changing fortunes as you are ever likely to get. Especially when he’s replacing a £28 million signing as well.
Eto’o, and we might have mentioned it before, is, well, he’s Samuel Eto’o. That in itself is ace. Even better was one flamboyant turn and cross-field ball and then the sly pass that put Mirallas through for the final goal on 89 minutes. The wild-eyed Walloon was set up better than Graham Sankey, as he burst through, looked to the far post and then stroked the ball home at the near.
It was comical to see the Blues’ defenders and Tim Howard giving it loads of fist bumping and high fives when McCarthy made a stupendous tackle in injury time. You could see them all preparing their post-match quotes about how keeping a clean sheet was as important as the goals to them and that the ‘none shall pass’ attitude they showed summed up the spirit at the club. And then Rodrigues planted a free-kick in the bottom corner with the last kick of the game, which took the wind out of their sails somewhat.
It was a most entertaining game though – there’s no real fear in Europe for us, because we are a good team and, if we’re honest, even our own fans don’t really expect that much of us any more after years of stinking the Continent out. It just feels like a bonus and an opportunity to go out and play the kind of attacking football that will make few teams fancy facing us, especially at Goodison under the new alien abduction floodlights.
One drawback of being the highlight of ITV4’s scheduling is that your league games get shifted to shite o’clock on Sunday, when you would rather be watching Manchester City versus Chelsea than Neil Warnock’s Crystal Palace. The South Londoner’s sand-bagged us at Goodison during the run-in last season, deservedly winning when they were on a veritable hot streak under Tony Pulis.
Whether they can continue that form under Scooby-Doo-baddy-rubber-mask-from-the-Wizard’s-Den-faced Warnock remains to be seen. Again, lack of an internet connection and not really being arsed enough to look it up on the phone or edit this at a later point means that we can’t confirm how they have actually started this season.
Whatever happens, you can guarantee there will be touching scenes at the final whistle between Phil Jagielka and the man he still calls ‘gaffer’.
Think on though. Only in football would the willingness to run through a brick wall for someone be seen as a compliment and not a symptom of severe and troubling mental illness.