Stoke City v Everton
Everton opened 2014 with a last gasp draw on the road as a Leighton Baines penalty rescued a fully deserved point at the Britannia.
Oussama Assaidi scored the opening goal of the game when he drove the ball past Tim Howard, one of five changes made by Blues boss Roberto Martinez.
Another of those, Kevin Mirallas, was twice denied by the woodwork in the first half, while Gareth Barry was inches away with a header that narrowly flew over the bar.
But just as it looked like the Blues were leaving the Potteries empty handed, they finally struck.
When sub Leon Osman was felled in the box, up stepped Baines to rescue a point from 12 yards.
With Sylvain Distin missing with a hamstring problem, John Stones was handed his first league start alongside Antolin Alcaraz.
The game opened with both sides prodding and probing, and Everton enjoying the better of the chances. After Charlie Adam saw a defected effort trickle into the gloves of Howard, Barry powered a header over the bar at the other end.
Stoke’s lone frontman Peter Crouch then guided a header of his own wide of the target as he looked to nod a Geoff Cameron cross back across Howard and inside the post.
But the Blues were now keeping hold of the ball more and were soon inches away from opening the scoring. James McCarthy had already tested Thomas Sorensen from range and when Mirallas followed suit, his rasping drive had the Stoke keeper well beaten only for the ball to cannon back off the crossbar.
Back came the hosts and the lively Assaidi was expertly picked out by Cameron at the back post but the Moroccan saw his shot deflect off John Stones and bobble wide.
Barkley then blazed a difficult half chance over the bar as Everton reclaimed the initiative.
Twice they threatened in the dying minutes of the first half, Mirallas’s perfectly struck free-kick crashing onto the post, then Romelu Lukaku guiding a free header from Coleman’s cross wide.
The missed opportunities would haunt Everton early in the second half. Four minutes after the interval, Assaidi picked up a clearance and rifled the ball past Howard.
The Toffees responded, but Steven Pienaar fired high and Lukaku shot straight at sub keeper Jack Butland.
It wasn’t quite all Everton – Adam forced a solid save out of Howard – but the Blues had added urgency to their play.
They were enjoying plenty of possession, but Stoke’s defenders were sticking to their task admirably. Erik Pieters superbly blocked a certain goal when he threw himself in front of Mirallas to stop his effort from Leighton Baines’ pull-back.
He did likewise when Barkley’s quick feet enabled him space to shoot. Martinez freshened things up by introducing Leon Osman, Nikica Jelavic and Steven Naismith for Steven Pienaar, James McCarthy and Lukaku, switching to 4-4-2, but still the Potters held firm.
The visitors were staying true to the style of football that had them in fourth place in the table before this fixture but the deflections and the bounces were just not falling Everton’s way.
Even when they did, Pieters was again on hand again to put his body on the line to preserve City’s lead. He was in the right place to block Naismith then Mirallas in quick succession as Everton dominated the closing stages.
Until the 90th minute.
When Osman tried to weave his way into a crossing opportunity, his legs were taken away froim him by Stoke sub Jermaine Pennant, and Andre Marriner rightly pointed to the spot.
It was left to Baines to haul the Blues level, and so he did, sending Butland the wrong way and earning the Toffees a point.