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Goodison Park | 5th February 2011 15:00

Everton v Blackpool

He has been a leading Premier League striker for more than decade yet before this game Louis Saha had never scored a top-flight hat-trick.

Having been the most prolific scorer of doubles without ever adding a crowning third, Saha made a mockery of that geeky stat as he almost single-handedly demolished Blackpool at Goodison Park.

Not content with clinically dispatching a landmark treble, Saha added a fourth for good measure and walked out of Goodison Park flashing a broad grin, match ball firmly tucked under his arm.

His masterclass in finishing – he might have had five but for poor officiating – headlined an eight-goal thriller that from start to finish provided a wonderful advert for English football.

Lashing rain, a greasy surface, individual errors and feeble defending simply added to the brew as both teams mercilessly went for the jugular.

The game was wide open and played at a dizzying pace with Blackpool happy to commit men forward when their chances arrived and the Blues, at times, playing some slick inventive football.

Twice Saha fired his side in front only for Alex Baptiste and Jason Puncheon to drag the visitors level.
 
Charlie Adam then stunned Goodison by putting the Tangerines in front for the first time in the match, only for Saha to plunder his third as momentum shifted again.

Substitute Jermaine Beckford sparked pandemonium inside the old ground by volleying in Leighton Baines’ sublime pass with a razor-sharp finish.

And Saha put the seal on the win with the pick of his goals, running half the length of the pitch before beating keeper Paul Rabchuka with the outside of his boot.

It was an absorbing contest packed with action, fulsome in talking points and culminating in the Blues climbing to 13th in the table.

Louis Saha celebratesLouis Saha celebrates after opening the scoring

David Moyes resisted the temptation call upon top scorer Tim Cahill from the start following his return from Asia Cup duty in Qatar.

Instead, the Everton boss kept faith with the same team that performed so well at Arsenal in midweek before a late lapse cost them the game.

The Blues knew such errors could not be repeated in what had the feel of a massive game in the wider context of their season.

With that in mind, Moyes would have been delighted by his side’s start.

John Heitinga, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Marouane Fellaini had all threatened a breakthrough before Saha buried his first.

The goal was all about the guile of Bilyaletdinov though, as the Russian collected Jack Rodwell’s pass, popped it through Neal Eardley’s legs and picked out the lurking Saha.

The Frenchman crashed the ball home to make it five goals in his last six matches - a return he would stretch to eight in six before the day was out.

The Blues continued to look the more likely with Rodwell – playing the furthest forward of the midfield trinity – riding a couple of tackles in the box before missing his kick.

The visitors had scarcely threatened, but as the game neared the interval they suddenly found themselves level in freakish circumstances.

Marouane Fellaini leaps with James BeattieMarouane Fellaini leaps with ex-Everton striker James Beattie

A low corner from the right was flicked on by Ian Evatt and the ball somehow squeaked through the tiniest of gaps between Tim Howard and his post, clipping the woodwork and skidding square across goal.

It may well have crossed the line before Leighton Baines hacked it away.

But there was to be no debate as Baptiste bundled home to make sure.

There was little justice in the scoreline and there was little justice for Everton as they searched for an instant riposte, with referee Kevin Friend the villain of the piece.

The irrepressible Seamus Coleman bombed down the right only to be dragged back by the floundering David Carney.

There was little doubt he had been fouled but Friend inexplicably blew up rather than pausing for the split second it took for Saha to beat Rachubka.

It was an obvious opportunity to allow the attacking side an advantage. It was a bad call and Mr Friend knew it – the Leicestershire official later apologising to Moyes.

That moment could so easily have been deflating but the Blues emerged for the second half clearly intent on saving the official's blushes.

Rodwell was enjoying a good afternoon and it was his pass inside the full back that sent Baines racing towards the byline.

The Everton left back’s delivery rarely disappoints and his inch-perfect cross was cracked home by Saha for a beautifully-crafted goal.

The Blues had a real cutting edge about them and Rodwell almost added a third as he collected Phil Neville’s cross, bamboozled Evatt with an adroit first touch before poking a shot wide.

The Seasiders had barely had a kick but in the space of a few barmy minutes they were suddenly in the lead.

Heitinga lost a tackle he should have won, Elliot Grandin released James Beattie and the Everton old boy crossed for Puncheon to tuck it away.

Jermaine Beckford celebrates in front of the main standJermaine Beckford celebrates in front of the main stand

If that wasn’t bad enough more lackadaisical defending was emphatically punished just a few minutes later.

Caught short at the back following a corner, Distin was robbed in midfield and the visitors swarmed forward with a man over.

DJ Campbell curled a shot off the underside of the bar and Adam stooped to head home the rebound.

Chances continued to flow at pace with Fellaini and Rodwell both forcing goal-line clearances, the latter thwarted acrobatically by the brave Evatt.

More goals seemed a certainty and, with the Gwladys veritably sucking the ball into the net, Saha nodded home his third to level matters as Arteta’s corner wreaked havoc in the Seasiders defence.

Moyes, clearly intent on winning the game, had already thrown on Cahill and Beckford.

The substitution did the trick. Beckford knows where the back of the net is and frenzied scenes greeted his perfect volley – Baines exquisite pass topped only by a quality finish from the former non-league man.

Surely Blackpool were done for now, but still they surged forward.

But with Ian Holloway urging his men to attack, Fellaini exposed their shortage at the back and Saha raced on to his pass, eating up the turf as he covered half the pitch before dinking a cute shot past Rabchuka. What a finish. What a game.

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