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There was no Marouane Fellaini but Victor Anichebe, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman took Everton into the top four with a 2-1 victory at West Ham.
Since the start of last season, David Moyes’ side had only won one out of six matches (17%) without without the help of their Moroccan mane man Fellaini and 41% with him.
Yet against a West Ham sliding quietly down the Premier League table, Everton proved they not only had the character to come from behind once again to win a game. With the £15m Belgian starting a three-match ban, they also showed they are neither a one-man team nor a one-trick pony. And genuine Champions League candidates.
“I was pleased to prove we can win without Fellaini,” said Moyes. “And then we decided to go 4-4-2 with the two boys up front and altered what we have done, and won in another fashion.
“I have learned you can’t just have one way of playing in the Premier League. As the season goes on, injuries and suspensions take their toll. And I think it was a good lift for us as well to win without Marouane in the team.”
There were a few iffy decisions from referee Anthony Taylor - including red cards for Carlton Cole and Darren Gibson - yet no butts. Everton deserved this first away win since September.
While former Rangers striker Nikica Jelavic would probably miss with even a Glasgow kiss right now, Anichebe was the back-up plan up front. He was first involved in Taylor’s opening big call when he was adjudged to have fouled Jussi Jaaskelainen as Leon Osman headed in.
“I couldn’t quite understand what it was for and he said it was because Victor blocked the goalkeeper,” said the England midfielder. “It’s strange because every team in the league does that week in week out. But, as against Man City, the little decisions in the box seem to going against us.”
But after Carlton Cole opened the scoring after 14 minutes, Anichebe nodded home the 64th-minute equaliser on his first appearance for two months in his injury-hit season. It was also the first headed goal West Ham have conceded this season.
“Anichebe’s a really good player, he just needs to believe in himself a little but more because he’s got something about him,” Moyes continued.
“He continues missing chunks of it which stops us using him.
He’ll play a big part, he’s a really important player, he can do two or three jobs for me and he took his goal well.”
The excellent Pienaar was slightly more fortunate in netting the 73rd-minute winner but it followed more slick Everton build-up play. And Osman was simply superb.
“I thought he was the best player on the pitch,” said Moyes. “He took the ball, turned and passed it, was creative, was clever when he got the ball played to him. I think if Roy (Hodgson) had seen him play today he would realise he had made the right decision to select him for the first game. And if he keeps playing like that he won’t be far away from a second one in the future.”
Moyes insisted no player will be sold in January but his own future is not so clear with his contract expiring at the end of the season.
His three-page interview in France Football on Friday, where he extolled the virtues of German football and his own work ethic, put the Scot in the shop window before Christmas.
But qualifying for the Champions League again - they finished fourth in 2004/05 - would be the best bit of self promotion of all.
LEON OSMAN insists keeping Everton FC’s top four hopes alive is his priority – not whether he can make the next England squad.
The in-form midfielder has gone from strength to strength since being handed his belated debut cap by Roy Hodgson against Sweden in November, and shone during Everton’s 2-1 victory over West Ham at Upton Park on Saturday.
But even though the 31-year-old craves the chance to make the squad for England’s next game, a friendly against Brazil in February, he is focusing more on the club he has played for throughout his whole career.
He said: “I’d have to say I’m trying not to think about the next England squad. There’s a lot of important games for Everton in the meantime. Possibly it’s in the back of my mind but the focus is each Everton game when it comes.
“It’s important that as a team we’re playing well and performing the best we can. I suppose I got into the squad because of that and if things are the same situation where we’re near the top of the league at that point I may be considered.”
Osman is unsure whether playing 90 minutes for England in Stockholm has changed him as a player, but he is content to find himself in the spotlight more often.
“I’m not sure if it has changed the way I play,” he said. “I just go out there each game and play the best I can. They always say if a player is playing with confidence you’ll get the best out of him, and I’m certainly full of confidence right now.
“I’ve gone through patches where I’ve played really well but I suppose the main difference is focus and recognition. I’ve never really been under the spotlight because I played well in the past but now I am a bit. It’s nice but I’m not the type of player to get carried away with it. I’m certainly in a much stronger position to deal with the spotlight. I’m experienced and have been playing for 10 years so I can cope with it mentally and perform well on the pitch.”
EVERTON FC celebrated the end of its successful campaign to turn Liverpool city centre blue for Christmas 2012 last night.
For the past 12 nights the club has given some of the city’s most famous landmarks a festive makeover by projecting a cartoon image of the Toffees’ Belgian midfielder, Marouane Fellaini, and seasonal messages of goodwill to the people of Liverpool.
The iconic curly-haired Everton player, dressed as a blue Santa, featured on buildings and venues including the Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool ECHO Arena, Goodison Park, St George’s Hall and Prince Rupert’s Tower during the Club’s #bluecrimbo campaign.
On the eighth night of the campaign, Everton reaffirmed its solidarity with the families of the 96 Hillsborough victims with a projection onto Anfield supporting the campaign to make the Justice Collective’s single number one for Christmas.
Liverpool Town Hall was the last city landmark to receive an Everton makeover on yesterday evening, as the Club’s 12 Days of Blue Christmas campaign ended.
VICTOR ANICHEBE made the perfect return to Everton’s first team, netting the equaliser in a first away win for the Blues since September.
Not since the 3-0 win at Swansea City had David Moyes’ men picked up maximum points on the road but a victory over the Hammers handed Everton fans an early Christmas present.
Having netted in that match at the Liberty Stadium, Anichebe was back on the scoresheet with a deft second half header after recovering from a hamstring injury.
It was the perfect return for the Nigerian hit-man who was delighted to be back in the thick of the action.
“I was really pleased with the goal but even more so to stay on for the whole game,” he said. “I was doing well before I got the hamstring injury, but these things happen and hopefully now I can stay as fit as possible. Hopefully I can help the team out and we can keep progressing.”
Anichebe was quick to praise the hard work of the medical team at Everton for their hard work in helping him through his recent injury. “The goal meant a lot to me,” he added. “The physios, the staff, the team, everyone has helped be go through being injured again.
“I’ve never really had a hamstring injury before but they have shown me support and I was just happy to be back and to help the team. Sometimes I do celebrate and sometimes I don’t but inside I am always extremely happy. It’s always a blessing to score, even just to step onto the pitch.
“At the moment Felli and Kevin are out, but we have got other players who can come in and help the team through this Christmas period.”