Everton v Wolves
Everton came from behind to secure a morale-boosting 2-1 victory over an unadventurous Wolves team at Goodison Park.
It was far from convincing, but after a torrid run of six defeats in seven against some of the country’s elite sides, a win is a win, and the Blues will hope to use it as a platform to climb the table.
Again there was no clean sheet as Stephen Hunt’s penalty left them needing to overcome a deficit in front of their own fans.
Referee Jon Moss missed a blatant penalty on the stroke of half-time as Karl Henry crudely prevented Tim Cahill from scoring and, despite an energetic start to the second half, clear-cut chances were not forthcoming.
That was until Cahill was again thwarted – this time by a quite brilliant defensive block from the lunging Stephen Ward.
But Ward quickly turned villain as his foul on Louis Saha presented Baines with the chance to claim the winner from the penalty spot.
Unfortunately for Everton their rising England star Jack Rodwell was absent after picking up a knock on duty with the Three Lions.
The Blues could have done with his composure on the ball in a disjointed opening passage, characterised by aimless punts and errant passes.
It took almost 20 minutes for a chance to arrive and, when it did, Wayne Hennessey proved the equal to Louis Saha’s volley.
Coleman crossed, Cahill nodded it back and Saha smashed his effort into turf only for an airborne Hennessey to claw it away as it skidded up towards the roof of the net.
Everton’s threat was sporadic at best, while Wolves were content to offer two banks of four and invite the hosts to break them down.
Mick McCarthy’s men were content with scavenging on the break and on 36 minutes they were gifted the lead.
Ironically for the Blues it was their best performer and man of the moment Marouane Fellaini who was culpable as he dangled a leg and invited Dave Edwards to go over for a penalty.
It was an unnecessary challenge given that the Wolves man was on the edge of the box and running away from goal – and while contact was minimal – Edwards was always going to take a tumble.
Stephen Hunt slammed home the opener and the visitors had trousered an unlikely lead.
That incident livened what had been a soporific affair and Goodison responded.
Thankfully for the hosts they found the instant response they craved as skipper Jagielka headed home Baines’ free-kick. Yet as the interval neared, it should have got even better for them by the time the teams turned around.
But for poor officiating it would have done.
Cahill looked odds on to tuck away a rebound after Hennessey had spilled Fellaini’s drive, but just as he prepared to bulge the Park End net the arm of Karl Henry reached out and unceremoniously yanked him to the deck.
Penalty. Red card, surely? Not according to referee Moss, who inexplicably awarded a corner. Replays confirmed what a blatant foul it was and anger spilled from the stands as the players left the pitch.
Undeterred, an unchanged Everton side started the second period attacking the Gwladys Street End.
The hosts managed to build some early momentum but that seemed to ebb away in a lengthy delay following an injury to Richard Stearman.
Yet out of nowhere a chance presented itself and Cahill will still be wondering now how it went begging.
Saha’s shot squirmed into his path and as his shot headed for the net a combination of Ward and Hennessey combined to somehow keep it out.
Yet as Irishman Ward took the congratulations of his teammates, within minutes he would be cast in a very different role.
A second corner in quick succession had the visitors scrambling and, as Saha darted towards the near post, Ward shoved him in the back and sent the Frenchman sprawling.
Baines calmly converted and, just as they had done against Wigan earlier in the season, the Blues had come from behind to win.