Birmingham v Everton
Everton boss David Moyes had compared his side’s start to the season to a bout of toothache ahead of the trip to Birmingham City.
In such cases most would hope for that bit of relief, the discomfort to ease and a potentially painful trip to the dentist avoided.
Well at St Andrew’s, Everton’s respite arrived in the form of an own goal - shanked in off the shin of home defender Roger Johnson to be precise, the centre-half’s 54th minute clanger putting Moyes' side on the way to a first Premier League win of the season and lifting them out of the bottom three in the process.
And despite the closing stages having a decidedly anxious feel, there were few moments to really set the nerves jangling and Tim Cahill’s late header completed a consummate away display from the Toffees.
The win was no less than the visitors deserved with them having dominated the first hour of the contest before a period of stout defending was crowned by Cahill’s clincher.
Seamus Coleman continued on the right of midfield with Phil Neville lining up behind him at right full-back. Marouane Fellaini sat in front of the back four with Cahill supporting Yakubu.
Birmingham were 18 games unbeaten at home in the Premier League and stood on the cusp of setting a new club record – a landmark Everton ensured remained unsurpassed.
The pink-shirted visitors comfortably enjoyed the better of the opening 45 minutes, with Leighton Baines’ willingness to overlap continually exposing the hosts.
A succession of early raids down the left yielded a tough headed chance for Coleman, a series of corners and a half-hearted penalty shout as the marauding Baines tumbled under a surly challenge having already lost possession.
Most of Everton’s joy had been from wide areas, but a straight ball midway through the half isolated Yakubu one on one with Johnson. Osman snaked intelligently into the box just in time to watch the Nigerian drag an innocuous effort across the face of goal.
The hosts hadn’t had a kick but two minutes later should have been in front. A mix-up between Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin afforded Cameron Jerome a clear sight of goal only for the former England Under-21 man to clumsily prod wide.
Play swung up the other end and some more calamitous defending – this time from Johnson – saw the ball spill to Yakubu inside the box.
The striker fired towards the far corner but a combination of keeper Ben Foster and the flailing boot of defender Liam Ridgewell conspired to see the ball squirm past the post.
The visitors were on top and the best move of the match – a slick interchange between Fellaini, Yakubu and Osman – ended with the latter firing high and wide from just inside the box.
Jeers from the home support at half-time told its own story. Moyes’ men retreated to the dressing room the happier side but still without a goal to show for their superiority.
Just shy of 4,000 Evertonians inside St Andrew’s were fearing a repeat of the last time their side visited the Midlands when a dominant display was rewarded with a 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa.
But they needn’t have worried as Osman dropped a shoulder, lost his man and curled a tantalising ball between back four and keeper.
The cross had centre-half Johnson facing his own goal, and the defender looked on desolately as the ball ricocheted off his shin and bulged the home net.
The hosts could have no complaints and Alex McLeish reacted by sending for the big guns – big being the operative word as Nikola Zigic, all 6ft 8ins of him, arrived from the bench.
His introduction had little impact and soon Matt Derbyshire replaced Jerome and partnered him up front.
Moyes responded by replacing Yakubu with John Heitinga, shoring up the midfield and pushing Cahill further forward.
The hosts’ late charge never really materialised and when Baines’ picked out Cahill to head home in injury time, a well-earned three points was sealed.