What The Papers Say - 31 January
Match-winner Baines features heavily in Thursday's paper round-up.
The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.
LEIGHTON BAINES labelled Everton’s win over West Bromwich Albion as a “massive” three points for the club as they pursue Champions League qualification.
The Blues cut the gap between themselves and fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur to just one point with the 2-1 victory at Goodison Park last night.
Baines was the two-goal hero, firing home his sixth and seventh strikes of the season late in the first half.
Although he was disappointed with the manner in which West Brom were presented with a route back into the game – when Shane Long capitalised on John Heitinga’s poor clearance – Baines nevertheless felt Everton controlled most of the game and were worthy of the win.
“It was a massive three points as we start to draw in on the tail end of the season,” said Baines.
“It is important to keep winning and keep ourselves in a strong position and takes us forward into another big game at the weekend.
“The slight disappointment is that at half-time we came in and had been controlling the game. West Brom had to come out and offer up a bit more.
“The goal we gave away was a bit soft and had us on edge. It would be nice to win every game three or four nil but that’s not the case and we showed character to hang on in there and win the game.”
The game also marked the return of Darron Gibson from a long-term thigh injury and Baines says his comeback will be significant for the Blues as they chase a place in the top four at the end of the season.
“Darron gives us something different and keeps us ticking over,” added the England man.
“He’s all about his passing range and is an important player for us.
“It gives the team a lift and we need everyone in these last games. We need to get as many players fit as we can to give the manager some nice problems.”
EVERTON FC are in talks with Sevilla as they bid to land a transfer deadline day coup by signing Spain striker Alvaro Negredo.
David Moyes has identified the 27-year-old forward as his number one target before tonight's 11pm deadline, after a move for Dutch midfielder Leroy Fer broke down yesterday.
The Blues hope to negotiate a fee in the region of £9m for Negredo, who has scored six goals in 12 appearances for Spain, but will have to persuade his financially-stricken club to drop their £13m asking price.
Negredo has also been linked with Spurs and has built a reputation as an impressive marksman since an early spell at Real Madrid failed to take off, but if the Blues are unable to make progress in their talks rapidly today they will consider other options in Spain, with another La Liga striker in their sights.
Although Everton are unlikely to revive a move for Club Brugge midfielder Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, who almost joined in August until late paperwork scuppered the switch, they may yet try and resurrect a switch for Netherlands international Fer in the summer.
NEARLY but not quite…for a little while it looked as if Everton FC’s fortunes on the pitch would mirror their efforts in the transfer market last night.
Thankfully the Blues were sick of that script – and eventually looked the real deal against West Brom to earn three points which could be more important than any deadline-day recruit.
David Moyes’ re-jigged team should have ensured a far less nervy finish than the one which transpired at Goodison after they allowed their dominance to disintegrate from a comfortable position in the second half.
But unlike Leroy Fer, they had the legs to go the distance in the end thanks largely to the efforts of England’s best left-back.
And if Leighton Baines was imperious, scoring a brace and tormenting the West Brom back line at will throughout, he was joined in that highly impressive form by Victor Anichebe, who produced a display to suggest the world won’t stop spinning if Moyes is unable to add another striker to his ranks before 11pm tonight.
Nobody would suggest Everton’s bid for a top four place would not benefit from some brisk business to bolster them in the coming months, but at least their manager continues to make fine use of what options he does have available.
The Blues boss fielded a different line-up as he sought to avenge one of only three league defeats his team have suffered this season, and his changes were rewarded – particularly in a reassuring, injury-free display from Kevin Mirallas who started ahead of the out-of-form Nikica Jelavic.
Nevertheless, transfer deadline day can still leave some nursing sore heads, and Sylvain Distin knows how they feel.
Although Everton had the most of the early possession there was a headache for the Frenchman when he felt the full force of Graham Dorrans’ fierce strike in the face after the ball had been cut back to him by Romelu Lukaku.
It was only a brief moment of menace from the visitors though, with Mirallas – restored to the starting line-up despite limping off against Bolton on Saturday – revelling in his free role in advanced midfield and giving Steve Clarke’s side plenty to keep them occupied.
Victor Anichebe, who was leading the attack in Nikica Jelavic’s absence, went fortuitously close when his effort deflected off Billy Jones and looped towards the top corner only to sail narrowly over much to Ben Foster’s relief.
The Nigerian international was in confident mood though and rose powerfully to get on the end of Baines’ cross moments after and tee up Marouane Fellaini, who turned smartly and hit the angle of the crossbar with his close range strike.
In response West Brom looked to counter attack and get the ball swiftly to Lukaku but the Belgian’s runs were predictable, and Moyes’ rearguard looked at ease.
Despite their dominance Everton had allowed the tempo to slacken as the half hour approached so thank heavens, as ever, for their marauding left-back. Baines had already been giving Baggies defender Jones a torrid time when he waltzed past the right-back and his team-mate Jonas Olsson before unleashing a venomous 20-yard effort which beat Foster comfortably.
Thing went even more swiftly downhill for the luckless visitors shortly afterwards. George Thorne was stretchered off after colliding with Anichebe, and his replacement Claudio Yacob had only been on the pitch for three minutes when he bundled over the Everton striker in the area. Ref Michael Oliver pointed to the spot, and Baines confidently dispatched his second from the spot.
The Baggies might have gone in at the break in reasonable spirits had the deficit remained a solitary goal, but the penalty left them floored.
Lukaku blazed their best chance of the contest over shortly after the restart, and then it was normal service resumed. Anichebe continued to provide a strong focal point for Everton’s attack, and Steven Pienaar also began to recapture his best with his vast energy levels seemingly revived after a recent dip. Not to be outshone, Mirallas forced a diving save from Foster after fine individual work and another goal appeared imminent.
Few would have guessed it would have arrived for the visitors. John Heitinga, who had been the last-gasp hero at Bolton, provided the respite on a plate to West Brom after he took a poor touch instead of clearing Lukaku’s weak effort and when the ball looped into the air, substitute Shane Long climbed above the Dutchman and headed into the net. It was an infuriatingly self-administered setback.
Albion skipper Chris Brunt, who had provided the pass for Lukaku earlier, then rattled Tim Howard’s crossbar with a 30-yard free kick. From a position of eminent comfort, suddenly Everton were quaking.
Baines tried admirably to re-assert their dominance with more penalty area fancy footwork, but their cutting edge appeared to have abandoned them, while Long continued to revitalise the visitors.
Still, West Brom remained incapable of dealing with Everton’s left flank and Dorrans received a booking for yet another foul on Baines, which almost allowed Pienaar to score with a direct free-kick from an improbable angle. If that was close, Leon Osman should truly have restored the host’s superiority after good work from the South African presented him with a chance and the goal at his mercy. Unfortunately the midfielder, who has had such a fine season, leaned back and blazed his effort into the Gwladys Street.
That howler led to a nail-biting ending, which four minutes of injury time did nothing to ease.
But they survived and the gap to fourth-placed Tottenham is down to just one point, and another home game against a down-on-their-luck Midlands outfit – Aston Villa – awaits.
It could be a vibrant end to the month regardless of whether a raft of new faces are unveiled on the Goodison pitch on Saturday.
It's time to drop the debate over who is the best left back in England, and start wondering if Leighton Baines is the country's best player.
Two goals and a quite stunning display to dismiss West Brom last night again emphasised the point that no Englishman, in any position, has played so consistently well over the last 18 months.
After he inspired his side to a significant victory which takes Everton menacingly to within a point of the top four, his boss David Moyes argued the point that no left back across Europe right now has maintained the heights of his defender.
"He is a manager's dream, seriously, he is getting better and that is a testimony to his determination to improve. He is as good as there is out there right now, no doubt," Moyes said.
Baines' first goal was a case in point. Not only did it turn this game inexorably in Everton's favour, it destroyed any lingering hopes the visitors had of challenging for the European berths.
That is the the player has. Every team knows the danger he poses, few - if any - find a way of containing him for long. He has offered more assists and created more chances than any other player in the Premier League...and he has done it from a defensive position where he also excels.
Effectively, with the brilliant assistance of Steven Pienaar, he plays two positions and only perhaps Gareth Bale, Robin Van Persie and Luis Suarez can lay any rival claim to influencing games more often this season.
It is probably a good job for Everton that the transfer window closes tonight, because if any of the big four clubs had any sense at all, they would recognise what a match-winner the defender has become.
This was a tight game until Baines intervened. West Brom showed they have the organisation and industry to cling on in the race for a Europa League place at least, but then the England man galloped onto a pass from Leon Osman, and everything changed.
The goal came on 29 minutes and was remarkable for the composure of the defender as he ran past his marker and almost casually found the top corner with that sweet left foot that probably now offers the best delivery since David Beckham.
Before that, Everton had struggled to impose their will on a resilient Baggies, with only Marouane Fellaini threatening when he turned smartly onto a Distin knock down to fire in a shot well saved by Ben Foster.
Everton were suitably inspired from there, as Kevin Mirallas teased and tempted as he came twice came close, and on the stroke of half time Victor Anichebe darted into the box and was clipped by substitute Claudio Yacob, as he struggled to acclimatise.Â
Baines, naturally, converted the penalty, and Everton were in control until a moment of lunacy from John Heitinga allowed the visitors back in the game and a chance to show why they found such an elevated position before the turn of the year.
The Blues defender had the easy job of clearing a miss-hit Romelu Lukaku shot away from goal after the stumbling striker had rounded Tim Howard, but instead chose to take a touch which simply lifted the ball into the air for substitute Shane Long to casually head home.
Soon after Graham Dorrans hit the bar with crashing 30 yard free kick, which offered a tension to the game Everton's previous dominance didn't warrant and one that persisted after Osman missed a late sitter.
For Baggies boss Steve Clarke, it was too little too late, and he knows he needs to freshen up his squad after taking just one point from the last 12, but the manager admitted it looks unlikely with the window about to close.
"At the moment it does not look very good. It's the last day so any movement in or out would seem to be highly unlikely. I haven't spoken to anyone about Peter Odemwingie - there have been no other bids for him today and I expect him in for training tomorrow."
Despite the manager's disappointment, West Brom's late rally offered a tension to the game Everton's previous dominance didn't warrant, but with Baines showing his calm defensive qualities too, they held out, to inspire renewed belief they can challenge for the top four.
To do that, they will still need to strengthen their squad, but Moyes is confident of doing that, despite pulling out of an Â£8.6million deal to sign Dutch international Leroy Fer.Â
"We wish Leroy well, but on this occasion we couldn't conclude the deal. There are lots of things that influence transfers, and sometimes they don't come together. It's right we look after the boy," Moyes said of the collapsed deal.
"But we are still trying. I don't know if we can do anything at this stage, but we will keep going until the window closes." Moyes is trailing strikers Alvaro Negredo of Seville and Real Betis's Ruben Castro, while Belgium international midfielder Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe remains on his radar.
Everton manager David Moyes believes Leighton Baines has established himself as one of the best left-backs in the world - even with an injured ankle.
The 28-year-old, whose England career has been affected by Chelsea's Ashley Cole being first choice in front of him for so long, opened the scoring with a fierce drive before adding his second from the penalty spot after Claudio Jacob fouled Victor Anichebe in the 2-1 win over West Brom.
Substitute Shane Long pulled one back midway through the second half after a mistake by John Heitinga but Everton had enough to see out victory and move to within a point of fourth-placed Tottenham.
'I think Bainesy has been playing really well and over the last couple of games I've been thinking he needs another challenge,' said Moyes.
'He has to rise to it a little bit more and I think he has done that. He has picked himself up again.
'He has a lot of things going for him and he is turning out to be as good a left-back as there is.
'He keeps getting better when teams try to stop him, he tries to work on how he can alter doing things and he is a really good player.
'He is great for a manager because he wants to keep improving and we are very fortunate to have him here.
'He is carrying his ankle (injury) a bit but he misses no days of training and he gets on with it so he is a great player to have but he is also a great player to work with.
'He is a really good footballer, intelligent - apart from his style of hairdo I think he is all right.'
There had been disappointment earlier in the day when the £8.6million deal for FC Twente midfielder Leroy Fer collapsed as the Dutch side refused to accept restructured payments after the player's medical highlighted an issue.
With one day remaining in the transfer window Moyes does not think he will have time to find a replacement at this stage.
'He is not our player but it is right we look after the boy and it didn't work for the reasons it didn't work," he said of the failed Fer deal.
'The boy is a very good player and we wish him well but on this occasion we just couldn't quite conclude the deal.
'There are lots of things connected to signing a player: it could be a contract, it could be the agent, it could be the clubs and medicals as well.
'On this occasion some of them didn't come together.
'It is very late now so I don't know if we will be doing anything.'
West Brom boss Steve Clarke was left to bemoan his side's poor opening 45 minutes which contributed to extending their run to one point from a possible 15.
'If you go 2-0 down in the Premier League it is difficult to get a result," he said.
'We had a go in the second half but the key moment was the penalty on half-time - if we'd come in 1-0 down we would have had more chance of getting something from the game.
'I don't think we were great tonight but I don't think Everton were particularly great either, it was a nothing game.
'We were quite comfortable until we gave away a bad goal but even after that I thought we were in a decent place and the penalty on half-time made it much more difficult.'
Clarke has an injury concern over midfielder George Thorne, who was carried off with a knee injury in the first half and will be assessed tomorrow to discover the extent of the damage.
'Fingers crossed, but it doesn't look good,' Clarke added.