Oh Gana Gueye, we’re glad you scored a goal yesterday…
It was quite a sight, the whole of the Enclosure doing an Andy McCluskey dance when Everton’s Senegalese midfield monster clipped his shot smartly past Jordan Pickford and into the roof of the Park End net for his first ever Premier League goal.
That effort on 40 minutes – at the end of a sweeping move involving visionary/ever-so-slightly-wayward passes from Tom Davies and Seamus Coleman – livened up a first half that up to that point put the ‘turd’ in ‘turgid’. According to visiting manager David Moyes’ post-match ‘presser’ (fucking ‘presser’, when did that become acceptable?), that was always the plan – to quieten and frustrate the Goodison crowd – a claim that pretty much writes its own punchline.
The Toffees could have gone in with an even more convincing lead when Davies struck a low, curling shot with the outside of his boot in a sort of old-fashioned style that somehow made him look like Colin Harvey hitting the dead heavy ball. All it lacked was the big semi-circles behind the goal, and for the post to have not got in the way.
At 1-0 the opponents, no matter how modest, are always in with a sniff and will at some point start throwing men forward in search of at least a point. Inevitably Sunderland broke and Jermain Defoe worked himself the briefest sight of goal – experience tells us though that’s enough for the diminutive goal-getter who unleashed a ferocious swerving drive that beat Joel Robles but smashed against the crossbar. Everton were spared further when Defoe’s onrushing teammates failed turn home the loose ball with the Blues’ keeper stranded.
‘When things aren’t going for you down the bottom..,’ etc. Moments after that let-off, Kevin Mirallas, on for the very quiet Ademola Lookman, turned defence into attack, releasing Romelu Lukaku down the right, with only everyone’s favourite Costa Rican fullback, Bryan ‘Chrissy Waddle’ Oviedo, for company. As soon as the two of them set off, you could see in Oviedo’s haunted eyes that he knew.
He just knew.
In fairness, the former Toffees left-back did well to match Lukaku for pace, but the Belgian held him off contemptuously before forcing home a shot from close range, with a bit of help from his former teammate’s desperate challenge that carried the ball over the sprawling Pickford.
There are simply no words any more for Lukaku, Everton’s highest European and Premier League goalscorer. Apart from ‘lazy bastard!’ obviously, if you’re still one of them fellas.
It took a little while for the damp-haired Dutchman, but by jove he has made his mark on this squad. Gueye was the season’s early midfield revelation, but the addition of the telescopic-limbed Morgan Schneiderlin has seen the Blues’ ‘engine room’ further transformed. They look horrible to play against, winning possession so efficiently and constantly looking to set the forwards free quickly. There’s still perhaps a lack of ruthlessness and experience up front, and an over-reliance on Lukaku, but a mark of the progress is when you see former first-picks Gareth Barry and James McCarthy only making the bench
Going to Tottenham next week will be a great test of our progress, especially when you see them blitz Stoke in the way they did this week. While we’re a match for them in many departments, they look much stronger at centre-half and that bit more experience in the attacking positions, particularly in the shape of the clever, patient Christian Erikssen, who does so much to create the space and the opportunities for Victorian pickpocket-faced Harry Kane.
One game at a time though, for the Super Blues, who in having nothing to play for, could potentially end up with everything to go at, if they keep on picking up points where expected and then maybe, with a fair wind, get a couple of wins in the games against teams above them.
Every game a cup final.
He who dares, Rodney.
He who dares.
(We’ll finish seventh).