Everton v Reading
Everton made it two wins in five days as Reading were brushed aside at Goodison Park.
The Blues, who were impressive throughout, were in front just shy of half-time through Marouane Fellaini’s header and after the break the points were secured through further strikes from Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas.
The Royals did briefly threaten, Adam Le Fondre – the scourge of the Toffees backline in the reverse fixture – hitting the woodwork in the first half while Jobi McAnuff drew two fine saves out of Jan Mucha, and their efforts were rewarded when Hal Robson-Kanu nodded in a late consolation.
Both sides started with their back-up keepers, with Mucha handed his Premier League debut after Tim Howard was ruled out, while for the Royals Stuart Taylor was in for regular custodian Adam Federici.
Also handed a start for the visitors was former Blues Academy midfielder Hope Akpan.
It was Akpan’s former club though that threatened first. Seamus Coleman’s right wing cross was a deep one, Pienaar cutely nodded it to Nikica Jelavic who instinctively laid it back to him but Stephen Kelly knocked it out for a corner.
The Blues were then forced into a reshuffle as Phil Jagielka, the victim of a late challenge from Le Fondre, had to make way, with Johnny Heitinga replacing him.
The Royals gradually began to find their rhythm, Jimmy Kebe firing wide from range after a mazy run while Ian Harte’s free-kick allowed Mucha an early touch of the ball.
Reading were gaining in momentum, and Le Fondre came within inches of opening the scoring when he struck the corner of the woodwork with a first time shot as the ball fell kindly for him after a corner was only half cleared.
Everton then came within a whisker themselves. Fellaini’s pass to Baines down the left was good, his pull back for Pienaar was even better but the South African’s shot was tame, and Adrian Mariappa was able to block.
The Royals then had Taylor to thank for keeping the Blues at bay. A Baines long ball fell kindly for Jelavic but frustratingly for the Croatian, the Reading keeper was on hand to parry his shot.
Mirallas then tested the former Man City stopper from distance but again Taylor was equal to it, producing a fine save to keep the well-struck effort out.
The breakthrough finally came minutes before half-time. Slick approach play saw Fellaini spray the ball out wide to Coleman, and his pinpoint cross perfectly picked out the Belgian, who had continued his run, and he guided a header into the far top corner.
In first half injury time, Fellaini almost made it two with a stupendous shot from wide out on the right, almost on the touchline. Having been played in by Jelavic, the Belgian’s fierce shot swerved towards goal and needed a strong palm over the top from Taylor.
The Toffees looked to pick up where they left off after the interval, but when Mirallas was well picked out in the box, he was denied by Taylor, then Jelavic came close to seizing Leon Osman’s pass only for the ball to be whisked away at the last minute.
Everton were on top, and Fellaini looped a header over the bar as the latest Blue wave came and went.
The pressure finally told as a second goal duly arrived on 58 minutes. Pienaar picked up possession in midfield and drove at the Reading back line. With defenders backing off, the South African cut in on his left foot and from 25 yards let fly a shot that had Taylor completely beaten.
Two almost became three soon after as Mirallas twisted and turned before snapping off a shot that fizzed agonisingly wide, with Fellaini mere inches from tapping it home.
However a third was not far away, and when it came it was another fine goal. The ball was worked down the left before Mirallas spread it to Pienaar, who played it back to the Belgian and he calmly slotted the ball inside the near post.
Back came Reading and Mucha did brilliantly to turn away a McAnuff effort, before repeating the trick after Gibson had let fly from range.
But they were rare forays forward for the visitors. The Blues were firmly in their stride and more fluid football nearly handed Mirallas a second, but once again, Taylor was on hand to palm it away to safety.
To Reading’s credit, they never gave up searching for a way back into the game and Robson-Kanu’s late header handed them the slimmest of lifelines.
However that was almost extinguished by substitute Victor Anichebe, who must have thought he had scored only to see defender Harte superbly block his goal-bound effort.
And that’s the way it stayed, leaving Everton to celebrate three vital points as they look to put the pressure on the teams around them in the race for a European place.