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Stoke City (A) Wed 4 Mar 2015, 19:45, Barclays Premier League


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Sunday Express

EVERTON boss David Moyes believes his perseverance with forward Victor Anichebe is finally paying off

The Nigerian has won over many doubters and his display in the win over Manchester City a fortnight ago won widespread praise.

Moyes said: “He is someone I have always thought has all the attributes – that if he could knuckle down and stick at it, he has definitely got a lot going for him.”

The Mail on Sunday

Roman Abramovich is expected to visit Chelsea’s training ground next week as the club move closer to appointing a new manager to take over next season.

The Chelsea owner is understood to be meeting key personnel to discuss options as Chelsea finalise their shortlist for the job, with David Moyes and Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho under consideration, while Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini is seen as an outside bet.

Candidates are now being discussed by the board, with chairman Bruce Buck and chief executive Ron Gourlay leading the search — although Abramovich will have the final say.

Moyes is a serious contender after 11 years at Everton. He has not begun talks over extending his contract at Goodison, saying he will do so at the end of the season.

Mourinho’s comeback as boss would be the appointment fans would most welcome. Although his relationship with Abramovich is said to be good, there are concerns over how they could work together again, given the control Mourinho expects to exert over the first team.

Chilean Pellegrini was outstanding at Villarreal and they reached the Champions League semi-finals under him. He also did a stint at Real Madrid before taking over at Malaga, who play Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League quarter- finals this week.

His achievement is more remarkable given Malaga’s serious financial problems that led to the sale of Santi Cazorla to Arsenal.

The Mail on Sunday

David Moyes refused to give up on his dream of bringing Champions League football back to Goodison Park after Kevin Mirallas's startling winner claimed the points.

Everton, without suspended pair Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini - their top scorer - did not look like European contenders for significant spells of a game in which Stoke might easily have shared the spoils.

But Mirallas's pace, trickery and composure halfway through the first half kept Everton hard on the heels of Arsenal in fifth spot and only four points shy of Chelsea, who now occupy the coveted fourth place.

Not too long ago, Everton's chances of a Champions League return looked to have faded, but their victory over Manchester City before the international break has imbued new hope.

Moyes, still to commit his future to the club, knows that forthcoming trips to Tottenham and Arsenal will go a long way to deciding Everton's fate.

He said: 'It's a big call, but we're in with a chance of the Champions League. But we're underdogs, we need results to go for us.

'We've got the top teams to play and we believe in ourselves, we're hanging in there. We deserve to be in with a chance and we'll give it a go. We've matched most teams this season.'

Everton are not alone in having struggled to overcome Stoke's efficiency in recent seasons, but in Mirallas they had the man to grasp his chance when it came, via a punched clearance by goalkeeper Tim Howard from a Glenn Whelan free-kick.

The Belgium international's season has suffered from hamstring problems, but Mirallas was out of the blocks like Usain Bolt, with Stoke players trailing in his wake and Geoff Cameron twisting and turning as he back-pedalled furiously.

A cool finish to send the ball beyond Asmir Begovic at the end of his 70-yard dash for his third league goal of the campaign was greeted with a roar, with Moyes quick to join in the applause.

He said: 'Sometimes against Stoke you need an individual to win the game because they are so well organised, and that was a great solo act. He gives us something extra and the goal changed the game.'

Stoke, now looking over their shoulders on 34 points after winning just one of their last 12 games, responded in a lively second half and both Robert Huth and Ryan Shotton went within a whisker of rescuing a point.

Allied to the fact that Jon Walters hit the bar with the first real attack of the game inside three minutes, it left manager Tony Pulis - not for the first time this season - bemoaning his team's luck.

Stoke, now looking over their shoulders on 34 points after winning just one of their last 12 games, responded in a lively second half and both Robert Huth and Ryan Shotton went within a whisker of rescuing a point.

Allied to the fact that Jon Walters hit the bar with the first real attack of the game inside three minutes, it left manager Tony Pulis - not for the first time this season - bemoaning his team's luck.
Sunday Mirror

A SUPERB superb solo strike from Kevin Mirallas gave Everton a glimmer of hope in their pursuit of a
top-four finish.

This was a mostly forgettable encounter on a cold Liverpool evening – but Everton fans were at least briefly warmed up by Mirallas’ magnificent winner.

Indeed, the Belgian’s long run and fantastic finish might have brought back memories for Michael Owen on the Stoke bench.

Keeper Tim Howard punched clear a harmless Marc Wilson cross from the left and it was picked up by Mirallas a few yards back from the centre circle.

The midfielder then set off on a sensational run, reminiscent of Owen’s classic strike for England against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.

He skilfully evaded Steven N’Zonzi’s challenge before effortlessly skipping past Geoff Cameron. As Asmir Begovic rushed out of his goal, the midfielder fired a superb left-foot shot into the net to claim his sixth goal of the season.

Mirallas moved to Goodison Park from Olympiakos last summer and the forward has been in impressive form in recent weeks after ­overcoming the hamstring problem that hampered him earlier in the season.

This 1-0 win keeps David Moyes’ men on the heels of Arsenal, Chelsea and ­Tottenham.

Yesterday evening’s late kick-off was expected to be a tough, physical encounter. The 1-1 draw between the two clubs before Christmas was marred by ugly scenes when Marouane Fellaini ­responded to provocation by Stoke defender Ryan ­Shawcross by headbutting his opponent.

Fellaini was missing ­yesterday due to suspension – and the Everton attack was further weakened by the ­absence of Steven Pienaar.

The hope was that Nikica Jelavic, who broke his duck to seal a great win against ­Manchester City in the ­Toffees’ last league outing, was about to rediscover his form from last season.

A fully fit and on-form Jelavic is essential for ­Everton’s push for the top four – but the Croatian squandered two great chances yesterday.

First Leighton Baines, ­operating as a wing-back in a 3-5-2 line-up, expertly pulled the ball back for him from the by-line – but he headed straight at Stoke keeper ­Begovic. Then he did exactly the same thing when Seamus Coleman put in a superb cross from the left flank.

Without Fellaini and Pienaar, Mirallas played a more integral role going forward. He set up ­Victor Anichebe for a good chance and was a constant thorn in the Stoke rearguard, linking up well with Baines on the left flank.

No wonder he received a standing ovation when he went off injured with 17 minutes remaining.

As for Stoke, their woeful form continues. Tony Pulis’ side have now won only once in their last 12 outings.

Moyes decided to play three centre-halves – Phil Jagielka, John Heitinga and Sylvain Distin – who dealt well with Stoke’s long balls, although the visitors managed to carve out ­several ­chances, mostly headed ones.

They should have opened the scoring in the first few minutes when, ­typically, a long throw was pumped into the ­goalmouth and Howard made a superb point-blank save from Robert Huth’s header.

Jon Walters, who scored a brace for Ireland in midweek, then contrived to hit the bar from the follow-up with the goal wide open.

Just before the ­interval, Walters cut in from the left flank and forced Howard into a flying save with a powerful drive from 25 yards.

Huth’s glancing header just after the restart had Howard ­beaten – but went wide of the post – and then Ryan Shotton nodded Cameron’s cross over from only a few yards out.

The Sunday Times

NOBODY expected a below-strength Everton’s tussle with a stagnant Stoke City to be an aesthetically sparkling feast of football. So it proved, but both teams could take succour from a fascinating evening.

Everton’s three points keep them in touch with the elite group and there was much to savour from the effervescent showing of Kevin Mirallas and Victor Anichebe’s new-found willingness to take responsibility. Stoke were reborn in the second half and had they left with a point, there would have been no serious quibbles on the Mersey.

“Things are just not going for us,” sighed Stoke manager Tony Pulis. “What we really need now is a break or just to play badly and win.” Stoke are in trouble. For all the riches Pulis has splurged, they remain stuck in a straitjacket of diminishing returns.

Heady talk of ambition has been quietly silenced in favour of another season of grim, attritional hanging on.

When Stoke almost scored in the third minute, it illustrated their laborious evolution. Ryan Shotton heaved in a long throw which Robert Huth headed on. Tim Howard made a fine save and Jonathan Walters headed against the bar.

From there Everton made the running: Mirallas led Marc Wilson a merry dance; Anichebe tested Stoke’s ability to take as well as give physically, but, oddly, their winner stemmed from a Stoke free kick. Glenn Whelan lobbed it in but Howard’s punch was long and masterful. Mirallas collected inside his own half and shrugged off Steven Nzonzi’s feeble challenge. Scarcely able to believe his luck and with Stoke’s giants marooned in the wrong penalty area, Mirallas hurtled towards goal, rounded Geoff Cameron’s woeful block and slotted neatly under Asmir Begovic.

Stoke appeared too staid to salvage the situation, but Walters’ long-range attempt which forced Howard into another nimble save heralded that rebirth. At one goal adrift, Stoke were never out of the game. They utilised the width provided by Shotton and the overlapping Marc Wilson. Soon, Huth was inches away with a downwards header and Everton were stretched. Their joy at the final whistle showed how close this particular shave had been.

“I’m nearly as pleased as with the victory over Manchester City,” smiled Moyes. “Making the Champions League is a tough call, but we have a chance and we have to play the top teams.

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