Everton scored all four goals in a 3-1 final day tussle with Newcastle. Steven Pienaar started the party with a deflected strike, Nikica Jelavic doubled the lead, and Johnny Heitinga made it three before Tony Hibbert artfully headed a goal past Tim Howard.
Surprisingly, given how the rest of the match went, Newcastle had the first scoring opportunity. Within the opening minute from a soft free kick, Hatem Ben Arfa swung in a dangerous ball that Fabricio Coloccini flicked on. His header bounced off of Demba Ba’s face toward goal but Tim Howard latched onto it before it could cross the line.
Newcastle then began to give the ball away. Everton gladly took possession and ramped up the pressure on the Magpies’ goal.
Steven Pienaar took advantage of Newcastle’s sluggishness in the 16th minute when he received a pass from Marouane Fellaini just outside the penalty area. He took a touch and then curled a shot, which deflected off of the back of Michael Williamson and into the top corner. 1-0
Not to be outdone, Nikica Jelavic trained his eye on goal and, in the 27th minute, treated Goodison Park to a 2-0 lead. Heitinga played a long ball over the top to Jelavic. He brought the ball down with his chest (hint of a handball) and fired, sliding to the ground. Tim Krul could only parry the shot back toward Jelavic, who jumped to his feet and formed to shoot with his left before stopping in mid-swing to bash the ball into the net with his right foot. 2-0
Everton had Newcastle on the ropes at the end of the first half and nearly finished the match off on several occasions. Darron Gibson twice came close; he dragged one strike just wide and, with the other, forced Tim Krul into a difficult save in front of an onrushing Jelavic.
After absorbing several stern words from their manager at the half, Newcastle made two substitutions and came out looking like a new team in the second half. They maintained more possession and looked more dangerous going forward.
The changes nearly met with success as the half began while the Everton players still sipped their tea and plotted how they would repay Yohan Cabaye for shoving a young Evertonian ball boy into the advertising board during the first half.
Ben Arfa found Cisse running in behind the Everton defense. Cisse took his shot early, deceiving Tim Howard, but scuffed it wide of the post (I guess he used up all of his super powers against Chelsea).
Newcastle’s revival would be short-lived, though, as Everton notched a third goal in the 65th minute. Marriner finally gave a free kick for one of the numerous fouls that Coloccini perpetrated against Jelavic, Gibson provided the delivery, and John Heitinga, who stood unmarked in the penalty area, headed powerfully into the back of the net. 3-0. GAME.
Tony Hibbert pulled a goal back for Newcastle in the 73rd minute. Under pressure from Cisse, he attempted to head the ball back to Tim Howard but the American, hobbled by an apparent groin injury, couldn’t recover in time to stop Hibbo from coolly heading into the bottom corner. 3-1.
Despite the gilt-edged lifeline thrown to them by Mr. Hibbert, Newcastle failed to mount a challenge as the match drew to a close. David Moyes brought off John Heitinga, Phil Neville, and Nikica Jelavic so that they could receive acclaim from the supporters and the match lost much of its former fluency.
Tim Cahill would be responsible for the final memorable act of the season. Just before Marriner blew for full time, Cahill and the aforementioned Yohan Cabaye had to be separated. Clearly not happy about the conclusion to their ‘discussion’, Cahill jogged over to Cabaye after the final whistle and grabbed him by the throat in an homage to Duncan Ferguson.
After Cahill made it clear to Cabaye that he would like to fight him, Andre Marriner, ever the decisive referee, gave Cahill a red card and requested that he vacate the pitch. He gave Cabaye a yellow card, which would have gone well with the yellow card that he should have been shown for shoving a child in the first half.
Reloading: At the beginning of this season, I wrote that matches against Newcastle had lost much of their sheen because many of the players I hated had moved on to ply their trades elsewhere. Kevin Nolan left to fell more trees in the Championship with West Ham. Joey ‘King of Helmets’ Barton went to QPR to elbow Carlos Tevez in the face before kicking Sergio Aguero from behind to insure that the ‘Manchester City Champions 2012’ tattoo on his arse remained accurate. Anyway, before today, other than Gosling, I didn’t really hate any of the Newcastle players. I mean, Jonas Gutierrez looked jovial if a bit hungover and Papiss Cisse seems like a nice guy who’s content to bang in ridiculous goals. Then Yohan Cabaye shoved an Evertonian ball boy, a child, into the advertising board for no apparent reason. It was a cowardly act that incited fury amongst Everton fans and likely precipitated the throat grab from Tim Cahill at the final whistle. I don’t care that he apologized to the ball boy, he should have never touched the kid in the first place. Game on, Barcodes.
Seventh: I know it doesn’t make up for the FA Cup Semi-Final defeat but, with this victory, Everton clinched 7th place in the Premier League. This means that Everton finished above the RS for only the second time in the last twenty-five years. In so doing, Everton created a math equation that it will take a genius many years to solve: RS + £100 million = Everton – 4 points.
Signings: Another second half surge has seen Everton finish unbeaten in nine matches in the league and secure a berth in the FA Cup Semi-Final. It was made possible because of the astute signings that David Moyes made in January. Darron Gibson and Nikica Jelavic will remain with us, and Steven Pienaar seems set to re-sign in the summer. Give us an American or two (Donovan, Dempsey) and we might just be a dangerous team come next season. Though, don’t hold your breath, you know how we start seasons.
Man of the Match: Oh Johnny Johnny, Johnny Johnny Johnny Johnny Heitinga
Look out for an end of season review post next week on the website and get ready for the live show as Eric, Ped, Paddy, and I analyze the season gone by and sob into our microphones because we have to wait a whole month before football comes back. Watch this space.
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