Everton twice faced a two-goal deficit at Old Trafford but clawed their way back to secure a draw against league leaders Manchester United.
David Moyes set up his team against United as no one expected. Sure, it was a 4-5-1, but it wasn’t the same 4-5-1 that we’ve seen in recent years from Everton at Old Trafford. Sylvain Distin was at left back and Everton pressed high up the pitch, denying United time on the ball.
Everton’s defensive pressure helped to create two chances in quick succession. The first fell to Nikica Jelavić in the 4th minute. He got free of the United defense but his shot was easily saved by David De Gea. United then gave away possession to Steven Pienaar. Pienaar fired a cross-field ball to Leon Osman, who shot across the United goal, just missing.
United tried to rally from their sluggish start and Nani created a couple of chances, neither of which troubled Tim Howard.
Everton were rewarded for their fine start in the 33rd minute. Good attacking interplay between Pienaar, Osman, and Marouane Fellaini allowed Darron Gibson to find Tony Hibbert in space down the right hand side. Hibbert slung a cross toward the far post, where Jelavić was waiting. Jelavić cushioned a header across goal and into the side netting. 1-0.
Everton’s goal seemed to kick United into gear. Their tempo increased, and it was not a great surprise that they equalized eight minutes later through our old mate Wazza. Nani cut inside and fired in a cross that found Rooney. He headed at Tim Howard’s feet and in. 1-1. At least he didn’t celebrate.
Everton played well in the first half would have been happy to have more of the same in the second. But, at Everton Football Club, we never do things the easy way.
United went ahead in the 57th minute when Danny Welbeck latched on to a poor clearance from Darron Gibson/Phil Neville and, after evading John Heitinga, curled a beautiful shot into the top corner with his right foot. 2-1.
Nani doubled United’s lead less than three minutes later. He started the move, playing Carrick, who found Welbeck, who fired a reverse pass to Nani, who dinked it over the sliding Howard. 3-1.
After that goal, the announcers were clearly ready to give United the title. But Everton weren’t quite finished and began an unlikely comeback.
In the 66th minute, United showed that they hadn’t learned from their first half error. Substitute James McFadden found Hibbert in space down the right. Hibbert’s cross found Fellaini, who thrashed a volley past De Gea. 3-2. Hope.
The newfound hope was short-lived, as our old mate Wazza gave United another two-goal cushion in the 69th minute. Danny Welbeck started the move with a nice dummy to allow the ball to go to Rooney, who found Welbeck streaking into the penalty area. Welbeck returned the favor and Rooney cut his shot across goal into the far corner. 4-2. This is how Sir Alex’s teams respond to adversity! Give them the title! Give them the title!
Everton, in the depths of despair after conceding a fourth goal, almost did give them the title in the 81st minute. One of the Da Silva twins found space to put in a cross, which found a diving (not like that for once) Patrice Evra but his header careened off the post.
Not one to miss an opportunity, Nikica Jelavić doubled his tally in the 83rd minute. Phil Neville looped in a ball toward Fellaini’s head. United’s defenders intervened, heading it toward the center of the penalty area (Doh!). Jelavić was the first to react and fired a neat half volley into the bottom corner. 4-3. Not over just yet.
United were shocked. No one scores three goals at Old Trafford. Everton would add a pinch of horror to United’s shock less than two minutes later. Phil Neville found Fellaini in space in the United penalty area. As Johnny Evans and Paul Scholes came to close him down, Fellaini turned and passed to Steven Pienaar, who slotted in a fourth. 4-4.
United had one late chance to win it from the boot of Rio Ferdinand but Tim Howard was good enough to knock it over for a corner. I guess they’ll have to keep searching for that title next week… What a fantastic exhibition of the team spirit still alive at Everton even after such a massive disappointment last week.
Nikica Jelavić’s Game Won’t Translate to the Premier League: Jelavić did well in the SPL. It’s a completely different game up there; he’ll never score goals like that in England. I mean, he’s not even English. Alright, let’s be serious: eight goals in nine matches and he could play better. Every goal he’s scored has been with his first touch. If it wasn’t for Papisse Cisse slamming in goals for Newcastle there is no doubt in my mind that he would be hailed as the best signing of the January window. He makes every Everton match, even those at a venue where we normally crumble, more exciting.
It’s Blessing that Analysts Still Think Fellaini is a Clumsy Fouler: I get the sense that most analysts who watch our games still think of Fellaini as the clumsy guy with goofy hair from two years ago. His play today will give United’s defense nightmares for weeks. They didn’t know how to deal with the fact that he is both huge and has exquisite touch. The beauty of his scoring volley was nearly matched by his slip pass to Pienaar for the fourth goal. He is arguably our best player and the media don’t seem to have a clue. Perhaps that’s a good thing, though, as it could reduce the number of potential suitors coming to Bill Kenwright’s home with bags of cash.
Man of the Match: Marouane Fellaini
Next up, Everton play Fulham so they can try to see if they can break a 40-ish year duck at Goodison Park. Look out for potential Everton target (and my mate, cuz we went to the same university) Clint Dempsey, who is on a fantastic run of form. See you then.
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