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DAVID MOYES admitted Everton needed to be more clinical after they were held to their first goalless draw at Goodison Park in more than two years.
The Blues were left frustrated by a resilient, organised Swansea City side, as they missed the chance to make up ground on Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal in the race for a Champions League qualification spot.
It is the first time Everton have been held to a 0-0 draw at home since December 2010, and the first time they have failed to score in 20 games in all competitions, and Moyes felt his side needed to be more ruthless in their play, against a Swansea side that came to Merseyside for a point.
"We are a bit frustrated,” said the Blues boss. “Swansea did a really good job in midweek on Chelsea (in the Capital One Cup) and it was similar today.
"We needed to play a little bit better, pass it a bit quicker and be a little bit more clever in the final third. We didn't do that as well as we would have liked.
"I thought we had three or four good opportunities but I couldn't turn around and say anyone missed a real sitter.
"I thought we kept going, tried to do the right things, although we could have done it better. I can't fault the players for their effort because they went right to the last minute to try and get the goal.
"The draws could cost us if we can't turn them into wins, but we just couldn't get the ball over the line today."
Moyes admitted Vicente Del Bosque, the Spain coach who watched from the stands, would have found the game tough viewing, but said he was at least happy to see his side record a clean sheet – their first since September.
He said: “I didn't get the chance to see (Del Bosque), but I know he was here. I think he would have probably seen a typical January Premier League game, with the cold weather starting to tell on everybody's faces. I don't think he'd have been massively impressed.
“I'm happy with the clean sheet. We had to make sure today that, if we couldn't win, we made sure we didn't concede a goal on the counter attack and we did things right that way. It wasn't for the want of trying today, the players did everything they could to get a result. It was just one of those days.
He added: “We've got to be happy with where we are. We're in mid-January now, and we are in a decent position. Hopefully we can keep the form up, and stay with it. Only time will tell.
“The fact of the matter is we've played well enough to threaten those top positions in the league. There will be a lot of games at this time of year where you will have to find a way of winning and picking up points, because everybody is trying. Today, we just couldn't find that way.
“I think for all clubs, with the exception of maybe three or four, getting to 40 points as quickly as you can is always the big thing. Then you can look at what else you can do after that.
“We're getting close to that now (Everton have 37). And the questions I get asked by the media (now) suggest that expectations are maybe changing at Everton.”
GOODISON has guaranteed goals this season, but after a week of frenzied debate as to whether football provides value for money for its long-suffering supporters, Everton picked a bad time to serve up a rare stalemate.
Not for more than two years had home fans witnessed a goalless draw here, but a combination of tiredness, wastefulness and a Swansea side hell bent on ending a productive week by securing a valuable away point meant that the sequence would be broken.
It was also the first time in 20 games that Everton had failed to find the net, and the result puts a dent in their Champions League hopes, even if five of their next six Premier League fixtures look decidedly winnable.
“I think we needed to be a little more clean and a little more clinical in our play,” said David Moyes after this, and it was hard to argue with his assessment. Or that of the Spain national team coach Vicente Del Bosque, who left 10 minutes before the final whistle.
Everton made all of the running, enjoyed the bulk of the chances, and yet still there was little or no sense of injustice about the result. Challenged to go and take three points from a side content to take one, to break down the joint-best away defence in the league, the Blues came up short.
It wasn't for the want of trying. Everton hustled, they harried, they loaded the ball forward at every opportunity and, against a side feted for their retention of the ball, they enjoyed the majority of possession. Swansea, stretched by their cup clashes with Arsenal and Chelsea earlier in the week, spent the bulk of the second half defending their own penalty box, happy to play on the break.
Nothing wrong with that, of course. Swansea's away record, in a league as competitive as the Premier League, is something to be proud of, and has been built on solidity, compactness and organisation.
And here their manager, Michael Laudrup, deserves credit for an astute tactical move which saw Angel Rangel, nominally a full back, deployed in a wide midfield role, in a bid to combat the work of Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines down Everton's left flank.
That duo had ripped Swansea apart at the Liberty Stadium back in September, but here, with Rangel and Dwight Tiendalli offering a dual shield, their influence was stymied from the off, even if Baines' set-pieces produced the bulk of the home side's scoring chances.
Everton's general play was neat enough, but they lacked the variation, the change of pace, needed to unlock a massed defence. Only Seamus Coleman, enterprising as ever from right back, looked likely to catch Swansea by surprise, and even he faded as the second half wore on.
Still, had Nikica Jelavic, Victor Anichebe or Leon Osman taken presentable first-half chances, or had Phil Jagielka directed his second-half header a foot lower, then the story would have been different. Everton may feel they are entitled to expect more from Jelavic, who has six goals from 21 league outings this season, and drifted in and out of this game too often for Moyes' liking.
With Marouane Fellaini below his best, and with Anichebe enduring a similarly quiet afternoon, Everton's attack suffered as the game wore on. And when Moyes turned to his substitutes to change things, he found only an out-of-sorts Steven Naismith, and the raw, unproven talents of Apostolos Vellios and Matthew Kennedy.
It is a situation that will improve once Kevin Mirallas makes his long-awaited return from a niggling hamstring complaint. The Belgian's impact at Goodison has been overstated at times – he has just one league goal to his name, after all – but his direct running, his willingness to shoot from all angles and his general positivity are undoubtedly missed.
Without him, Everton can occasionally wind up predictable. The link-up between Baines and Pienaar is, quite clearly, their most potent weapon, but when the ball is worked to them time and time again, well-organised teams can find a way of defending against it. Swansea's performance was far from pretty but, with Rangel and Tiendalli tigerish and disciplined, and the excellent Ki Sung-Yeung shielding in midfield, it was effective. Everton barely fashioned a clear-cut chance from open play.
No panic, of course. Moyes' side remain within three points of fourth-placed Tottenham. Four of their next six league games are against sides in the bottom eight – another is at Goodison against the fading West Brom – so the chance is there to make up for lost time.
All it will need is a little more inspiration than was on show here. “A typical January Premier League game,” was how Moyes summed this game up. If that is code for “one to forget”, then he is spot on.
EVERTON captain Phil Neville will not allow another frustrating draw to stop the team aiming high.
Neville’s men lost ground in their bid for a top-four spot in the Premier League as they were held by Swansea in a goalless clash at Goodison Park.
The Blues remain in a healthy fifth place but the result meant they missed the chance to gain ground on Tottenham while Chelsea pulled further away.
Yet with the Toffees traditionally strong in the second half of the season, Neville expects them to keep pushing.
The veteran skipper said: “We need to keep believing and thinking like that, it is the only way to be.
“We want to finish in the top four, and not just fourth. We want to catch Chelsea and Man City.
“We have got to keep aiming high, not waiting for teams to catch us up. We can’t look behind us.
“We have got to be positive, look forward to the next games.
“Every game in the Premier League in the next month or two is going to be really difficult.
“It is that time of year, the pitches are getting softer, a bit bobblier and the weather is cold.
“It is about digging out results rather than playing fantastic football. This was a disappointing draw but we live to fight another day.”
Everton had numerous opportunities to break the deadlock but did not overwork Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
Neville had one of the better chances early in the second half when he took over an attack from Seamus Coleman and forced Vorm into a low save.
Swansea earned a point through their defensive resilience and actually went the closest to scoring when Michu’s attempted chip was palmed onto the crossbar by Tim Howard.
Neville, 35, said: “It was slightly disappointing because we had two or three chances.
“Against teams like Swansea, who drop a bit deeper, you need to take the individual chances.
“We didn’t take them but maybe a draw was a fair result in the end.
“We need to play with more speed but we are still in a great position in the league to attack the second half of the season and we are still in the FA Cup.”
Swansea were not allowed to play with their usual fluency but they maintained their momentum after impressive recent cup results against Arsenal and Chelsea.
The Welsh side held the Gunners in the FA Cup third round – and will replay this week – before beating Chelsea in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final.
Manager Michael Laudrup made four changes in a bid to freshen up his side after their recent exertions and, after extending their unbeaten run to seven games in all competitions, felt it paid off.
He said: “When I am making a programme I have to think about a game and then the next games.
“If somebody has played three games of 90 minutes, for the fourth one I have to rest him.
“They are all important games - on Wednesday we play Arsenal and everybody wants to play at the Emirates.
“Then we play Stoke back in the league, very important. Then we have the second leg against Chelsea.
“After that, if we beat Arsenal, we will have another FA Cup game and then we will have two away games at Sunderland and West Ham in the league in only four days.
“They are all important.
“It is not to say, ‘For this game I leave seven out’, it just shows in this moment the confidence and spirit in the team is very good.
“It shows we can change three or four and you don’t notice.
“Obviously there are different individual qualities for each player but you don’t think the level has gone down. For a manager that is very important.”
Laudrup is considering whether to bolster his squad during the current transfer window but is not willing to comment on speculation.
Osasuna forward Roland Lamah has been linked with a move to the Liberty Stadium.
Laudrup said: “I can say nothing is done with any player, in or out. When things are done then we can talk about the players.”
SEAMUS COLEMAN rued Everton’s lack of cutting edge as they wasted several chances to beat Swansea at Goodison.
The Blues had to settle for a point from their goal-less draw with Michael Laudrup’s side on Saturday, meaning they were unable to make up ground on fourth placed Spurs in the Premier League table.
And Coleman was left particularly frustrated after a fine individual display, when he toiled endlessly to try and break down a determined visiting defence.
He said: “We got a lot of chances and possession but we just couldn’t break them down which was unfortunate.
“It was one of those days. I tried to get forward as much as I could and put a few balls in the box but unfortunately no-one was there to put them in. On another day we would have scored, but that’s part and parcel of football.
“They [Swansea] came here with a game-plan to maybe leave with a point and they got that.”
Coleman had started his second consecutive game since recovering from an ankle problem that sidelined him over Christmas, and he hopes the seven-day break before Everton’s next game, away at Southampton a week today, will allow David Moyes’ men to make the journey South in better shape.
“For me it was disappointing to miss the Christmas period,” added the Republic of Ireland international, who signed a new five year deal earlier this month. “It was good to get back for the cup game last week and hopefully I can go from now until the end of the season without any injuries.
“I think the Christmas period was really important and the lads got through that brilliantly and started off the new year well too,” he added.
“We will have a good week now in training and look forward to the next game.”