What The Papers Say - 3 March
Sunday's coverage of the Blues.
The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.
EVERTON bolstered their hopes of European qualification with an assured 3-1 victory over Reading at Goodison Park.
David Moyes’ side had too much attacking prowess for the relegation-haunted Berkshire outfit, as they secured back to back wins in the space of four days following their progress into the FA Cup quarter finals on Tuesday.
Neither side had their first choice goalkeeper available so it was a contest which was always likely to feature goals, and Everton took their chances in timely fashion to close the gap on fifth-placed Arsenal to two points.
Reading were still half asleep when Everton went close again; this time Jelavic turned provider and the South African scooped a close range effort over the bar.
The hosts lost their early momentum for a while then, and Brian McDermott’s side almost took advantage when Mikele Leigertwood flicked on Ian Harte’s corner and Le Fondre seized on the ball to strike the post with a venomous dive.
If it was something of a let-off for Moyes’ side, at least they responded in the correct manner, cranking up the pressure and carving out a string of chances.
However, as had often been the case this season, they failed to convert any of them. Jelavic had his effort on goal well saved by Stuart Taylor, Pienaar wastefully shot wide when well positioned and then Kevin Mirallas forced an excellent stop from Taylor with his ambitious attempt from outside the box.
In the dug-out, Moyes shook his head ruefully. He has seen his side pay for such wastefulness too many times this term.
Fortunately Marouane Fellaini hadn’t read the script. The Belgian swopped passes with Seamus Coleman who was pushing forward menacingly and the Republic of Ireland international’s cross was perfect allowing Fellaini to leap easily above Jobi McAnuff and head home at the far post.
Everton’s top scorer almost doubled his side’s lead with a thunderous strike from an acute angle just before the break which Taylor was forced to tip over the angle of the bar.
They maintained that pressure after the break, with Jelavic again probing. It seemed like his presence had earned a penalty hen Stephen Kelly shoved him over in a goal-mouth scramble, but Anthony Taylor somehow decided otherwise.
Mirallas wasted a useful chance in the aftermath, but the Blues were looking likely to build on their lead as Reading dropped deep.
Fellaini headed yet another chance over the bar after smart work from Pienaar, and Everton’s midfield dominance was total.
Pienaar might not have convinced with his gilt-edged chance in the first half, but he more than made amends on 59 minutes. The midfielder picked up the ball 45 yards from goal and burst forward. The nearest Reading player Harte appeared to turn his back, and the Toffees schemer unleashed an unstoppable shot which scorched past Taylor.
The visitors were bedraggled and demoralised, and pretty soon Everton rubbed it in.
The ball broke to Pienaar off Kelly and the playmaker slipped a defence-splitting pass to Mirallas who confidently beat Taylor at the near post.
On his first Premier League start Jan Mucha had largely been untroubled, but Tim Howard’s deputy played his part, making a fine reflex save from McAnuff as Reading attempted to hit back.
With 15 minutes remaining Moyes decided to further up the ante, replacing Osman with Victor Anichebe.
It had been a near perfect afternoon, but there was to be no clean sheet to make it complete. Harte was allowed too much time to cross from the edge of the area and substitute Hal Robson-Kanu rose practically unchallenged to score with a powerful header. It was disappointing, but not enough to marr an otherwise assured performance.
Anichebe went close after some nifty show-boating from Mirallas set him loose on goal, and Jelavic continued to take up dangerous positions in the area.
Everton continued to probe but were equally content to see out the remaining minutes secure in the knowledge that their much-needed surge in momentum may have arrived just in time.
EVERTON: (4-4-1-1) Mucha, Coleman, Jagielka (Capt) (Heitinga, 5), Distin, Baines, Gibson, Osman (Anichebe, 74) Mirallas, Pienaar (Hitzlsperger, 81), Fellaini, Jelavic.
Subs not used: Springthorpe, Oviedo, Naismith, Neville.
Goals: Fellaini (42) Pienaar (59) Mirallas (67)
READING: (4-4-2) Taylor, Pearce, Mariappa, Leigertwood, Hunt (Blackman, 75) McAnuff (Capt), Kebe (Robson-Kanu, 19) Harte, Kelly, Akpan, Le Fondre.
Subs not used: Henly, Gunter, Karacan, McGleary, Morrison.
Goals: Robon-Kanu (84)
Ref: Anthony Taylor
Everton have had their noses bloodied by lesser mortals in recent weeks so were grateful for the arrival of the Premier League's worst travellers to maintain their pursuit of Champions League football. A routine victory kept them within six points of the top four but a deep cut to their captain Phil Jagielka's ankle left them fretting after the final whistle.
Two minutes had passed in what turned out to be Everton's second league win since 2 January, when Reading striker Adam Le Fondre's over-zealous challenge felled the England defender. Jagielka was unable to continue and, according to David Moyes departed the ground in need of a hospital visit. "Jags is going to get surgery on his ankle to stitch it up. It's a bad, bad gash," the Everton manager said. "I don't mind robust challenges but I do mind one that puts out one of my best players. He might be out for a couple of weeks."
Brian McDermott absolved his player of blame. "Adam is not that type of player, he's a very honest player," the Reading manager said. "There is no way that Adam is a player that would 'do' anybody."
Having relinquished a winning position in the dying embers of the previous week's match at Norwich and also unexpectedly dropped points at home to relegation-threatened Aston Villa this year, it appeared the latest in a catalogue of setbacks might further disrupt Everton. They were already without the goalkeeper Tim Howard, whose jarred back in the FA Cup replay victory over Oldham terminated a sequence of 210 consecutive league appearances, three shy of Neville Southall's club record.
It meant a league debut for the Slovakia international Jan Mucha almost three years since his arrival from Legia Warsaw. But aAfter shaking off their early lethargy, Everton ensured it was Reading's Stuart Taylor who was the busier of the two goalkeepers. An ankle sprain in training on Friday ruled out Adam Federici and presented the perennial No2 Taylor with his 69th appearance in league football since signing professional forms with Arsenal in the summer of 1997. The 32-year-old's previous one had come in April 2009 for Cardiff at Preston. Ominously, he had been on the wrong end of a 6-0 scoreline.
However, Taylor acquitted himself admirably until the returning Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini's unruly barnet brought order to the contest by connecting with Seamus Coleman's inviting right-wing cross three minutes before the break. Only Taylor's fingertips kept out Fellaini's audacious volley from the most acute of angles in first-half injury time.
"He has got a lot of really good attributes, he can get better but he has an awful lot going for him and on his day he can be a handful," Moyes said.
Perhaps preoccupied with Fellaini's burst forward, Reading backed off Steven Pienaar on the hour with calamitous consequences, as a searing drive left Taylor helpless. By the midpoint of the second period it was game over as another Belgian, Kevin Mirallas, seized on Pienaar's pass, flashed his eyes one way and sent the ball the other to beat Taylor at his near post.
To their credit, Reading, who had struck the upright through Le Fondre with the scoreline goalless, refused to throw in the towel, and were rewarded when the substitute Hal Robson-Kanu nodded in an Ian Harte centre slung in from the left six minutes from time.
Even harder away fixtures are on the horizon for the Premier League new boys, with trips to Manchester United and Arsenal up next, but McDermott believes memories of last year's promotion campaign allied to their togetherness can inspire a successful survival fight. "We have finished the last three seasons very strongly and if we can do the same again it will give us a real chance. There's nothing in it if you look at it," he said.
David Moyes insists Everton can fight for Europe on two fronts – so it appears they have found their shooting boots at the right time.
Recognised striker Nikica Jelavic may have extended his goalless drought to ten games but the supporting cast did more than enough yesterday.
With another home league win in the bag – it is now one Goodison Park loss in 18 – Everton can concentrate on reaching the FA Cup semi-final.
Moyes insists he can juggle the Toffees’ dual ambition by earning a European spot from a league position as well as going for the cup he craves.
Remarkably, this turned into the battle of the reserve goalkeepers as Tim Howard was ruled out for Everton because of a back injury. That was the first time the American had not started a Premier League match since September 2007. An astonishing 210 games – just two short of Neville Southall’s club record.
Jan Mucha came in for his league debut while Stuart Taylor was in goal for Reading, his first start in more than three years.
Injuries kept on coming as Phil Jagielka was forced off less than five minutes in, after a crunching challenge from Adam Le Fondre. Jimmy Kebe also pulled up as he tried to take the ball around Mucha.
Marouane Fellaini rose above Reading’s defenders to head home his 12th goal of the season and set Moyes’ men on the road to victory.
Seamus Coleman skinned Jobi McAnuff on the right and Stephen Kelly and Alex Pearce were no match for man-mountain Fellaini’s charging header.
Then Pienaar’s stunning left-foot drive into the top corner just before the hour settled any nerves.
The South African then turned provider with a fine pass for Mirallas, who clinically slotted in the third as he scored for the second successive match.
Everton boss Moyes said: “Marouane Fellaini did well. He has lots of good attributes. He can get better but has a lot going for him and can be a real handful. We played well but it took us a while to settle after the injury. Reading were always a threat but that’s the way the Premier League is.
“Pienaar’s goal was a great goal and I’m pleased for him as one of the things that gets levelled at him is that he doesn’t quite score enough.
“But he’s beginning to get a few goals and he’s an important player for us.”
Reading kept going and Hal Robson-Kanu was given too much space to head home Harte’s cross.
Reading boss Brian McDermott said: “They’ve got major quality but had Adam Le Fondre’s shot that hit the post gone in, it would have been a different game.
“But they scored first and what can you say about the second goal?”
With pessimism being encountered across the corridors of Goodison Park, Everton really needed a result like this.
Not so long ago, there was a belief that David Moyes had a squad capable of contending for a place in the Premier League’s top four. Although they still might, Everton have recently fallen away; Moyes’s future is uncertain and the despondency caused by both factors has meant that even the prospect of a potential appearance in an FA Cup semi-final if Wigan Athletic are dispatched in the sixth round next weekend, has not roused the levels of anticipation on Merseyside that it usually would.
There was certainly 42 minutes of angst among the majority of supporters inside this famous old ground against Reading. Until the moment Marouane Fellaini headed Everton into a lead that was just about merited, there was a palpable sense that this was going to be another one of those afternoons where the home team ended up drawing or, on current form, without any points at all.
Then in the second half and after another three missed goalscoring opportunities, Steven Pienaar was repositioned from the left to the right of midfield. The South African cut inside and lashed in a shot from 25 yards with an exceptional left-foot strike as spectacular as any the Gwladys Street has seen this season. Finally, Everton were comfortable.
Before all of that, it did not go according to plan. Within five minutes of kick-off, Everton’s stand-in captain, Phil Jagielka, was substituted with an ankle injury following a tackle by Adam Le Fondre, for which the striker was correctly booked.
Moyes, though, felt the tackle deserved a greater punishment after revealing that Jagielka faces an operation and probably a minimum of three weeks out to heal an open wound.
“I don’t mind robust challenges but it’s one that puts out arguably one of my best players,” he said.
Jagielka’s early exit made the host’s nervous defensively. Everton had conceded 13 headed goals in the league this season, the equal worst in the division; and would later surrender a 14th with substitute Hal Robson-Kanu’s late consolation.
Jagielka has been in the team when the majority of those goals have been scored but his absence only served to make Everton more anxious when possession was flung towards the box, which Reading tried to do whenever the opportunity presented itself.
From one Ian Harte corner, Le Fondre was unfortunate not to volley the away side into the lead but his attempt thumped off the angle of the post and the crossbar.
“If that goes in, maybe it’s a different result,” Brian McDermott, the Reading manager, pondered.
Both sides started without their established goalkeepers. While Slovakian Jan Mucha made his Premier League debut after Tim Howard failed a pre-match fitness test, Reading were forced to field third-choice Stuart Taylor following Adam Federici’s late withdrawal. At 0-0, Taylor, who was appearing in only his 70th league match in a 16-year professional career, was quick off his line to deny Nikica Jelavic. But he could do nothing to prevent either of Fellaini or Pienaar’s goals, nor a third from Kevin Mirallas, who coolly dispatched Pienaar’s precise pass.
Everton (4-4-1-1) Mucha; Coleman, Jagielka (Heitinga 5), Distin, Baines; Mirallas, Gibson, Osman (Anichebe 74), Pienaar (Hitzlsperger 82); Fellaini; Jelavic.
Subs Springthorpe; Oviedo, Naismith, Neville.
Reading (4-1-3-2) Taylor; Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte; Kébé (Robson-Kanu 19); Akpan, Leigertwood, McAnuff; Le Fondre, Hunt (Blackman 75).
Subs Henly, Gunter, Karacan, McCleary, Morrison.#
Booked Le Fondre.
Referee A Taylor (Greater Manchester).
When all is said and done in May – the last ball kicked, the last referee derided and the final variation of "Sloop John B" butchered – David Moyes will sit down with a pad of paper to reflect on a season which at this stage could still go either way. In the negatives column will be the amount of points lost from winning positions, the number of headed goals conceded and a misfiring Nikica Jelavic. Under positives there will be a name right at the top – boldly underlined twice and probably accompanied by an exclamation mark or two: Marouane Fellaini.
The summer fight to keep hold of their coveted performer is certain to be labour-intensive and chairman Bill Kenwright will find it tricky not to accept offers upwards of £25million from Europe's elite. For now, though, Fellaini is an Everton player and a pleasure to watch. Scoring one and making another, he rarely seemed to break sweat and oozed the confidence to drive the hosts on.
With 11 League goals and four assists this season, Fellaini is invaluable. Without his consistency, Arsenal would certainly not be under the amount of pressure they are in today's London derby against Tottenham. The Merseysiders are just two points behind in the Champions' League scramble.
"He has got a lot of really good attributes. He can get better but he has an awful lot going for him and on his day is a real handful," said Moyes, who was without Tim Howard for the first time since 2007 and lost Phil Jagielka early to an ugly Adam Le Fondre tackle. The lunge incensed the manager, with Jagielka suffering an ankle injury which will keep him out for at "least a few weeks".
"He's going to need surgery," Moyes said. "I'm not happy with the challenge. I don't mind robust challenges but it's one that puts out one of my best players."
Reading played their part and were unfortunate not to stay in the game longer. Seamus Coleman was given plenty of time to attack the space by Jobi McAnuff in the 42nd minute, floating a wonderful ball across to Fellaini whose header was watched in by Stuart Taylor, deputising for Adam Federici who injured himself in training on Friday.
Fellaini in the hole behind Jelavic is a Moyes masterstroke. Above all else, he gives the side an increased physical presence higher up the pitch. That's especially crucial when the Toffees are behind the eight ball. See the last home match, a 3-3 draw with Aston Villa, for reference.
Le Fondre shuddered a post and Alex Pearce scooped over the bar, but it was over as a contest in the 59th minute. Leon Osman won a header in midfield and set Fellaini away. He found Steven Pienaar cutting in from the right and with Ian Harte inexplicably backing off, the South African rifled home the sort of fabulous 25-yard strike that he has available in his locker but is not seen nearly enough.
Reading are the only team in the Premier League not to have kept an away clean sheet. Manager Brian McDermott knows if they are to escape the clutches of relegation the sort of goals Everton scored need to be eradicated. The visitors lacked a depth in midfield when the ball broke and Pienaar was afforded ample opportunity to pick out the onrushing Kevin Mirallas, who wasn't being tracked, to coolly send Taylor the wrong way for number three.
"A clean sheet would be good," McDermott smiled. "We have to make up one or two points. Can we do that? We think we can. We've finished the last three seasons really strongly. If we do that again that will give us a real chance."
Hal Robson-Kanu headed in a late consolation – remarkably the 14th header conceded by Everton this season – but the points were already safe by then. Over to you, Arsenal.
Phil Jagielka’s FA Cup hopes were left dashed – and gashed – after an Adam Le Fondre challenge marred Everton’s cosy victory.
Everton’s Jagielka was forced off yesterday after Le Fondre’s clumsy third-minute tackle left his ankle needing surgery.
Toffees boss David Moyes saw his side finish comfortable winners against struggling Reading.
But Jagielka’s injury left a sour taste – and a hole in the Everton defence – ahead of the FA Cup quarter-final clash with Wigan on Saturday.
Moyes was furious and blasted: “It’s a bad, bad gash and I’m not happy with the challenge that caused it.
“Jags needs surgery to stitch it up. I’m unhappy about losing a centre-half for a couple of weeks.”
But Reading manager Brian McDermott defended striker Le Fondre, saying: “No way would he ‘do’ anybody. He’s not that kind of player. He’s a very honest type.”
For the rest of the game, big-haired Belgian Marouane Fellaini gave Reading the real short back and sides treatment.
His first-half strike cracked open the rocky Royals, and his second-half set-up allowed Steven Pienaar to put home an absolute belter.
And as the visitors wilted under pressure, Fellaini’s fellow Belgian Kevin Mirallas put the game to bed with another text-book finish.
A Goodison victory ended the Premier League stutter being experienced by David Moyes’ side and put back on track Fellaini’s dream of playing Champions League football with the Toffees next season.
If that doesn’t happen, predators could lure away the £30million-rated talisman, with both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Real Madrid said to be targeting him.
The 25-year-old Belgian seems to have everything in his locker, from scoring goals to getting back in defence to play a vital role there. Moyes added: “Fellaini made a great return and was a great influence.
“He’s a fine player to watch and has a lot of attributes. He can get better, but on his day he’s a real handful. The cross for his goal from Gibson was a real peach and Fellaini finished it well.”
Fellaini’s opener – his 12th of the season – was a classic header that followed a great run by Darron Gibson. His tee-up cross to the far post gave Fellaini the chance to power the ball past Reading’s third-string keeper Stuart Taylor.
Then Fellaini took the ball forward from the centre circle before laying off to Pienaar, who cut inside to hammer in a blockbuster.
Pienaar then turned provider as he set up Mirallas, who kept his cool to strike cleanly past Taylor.
But as Everton kept alive their hopes of a top-four spot, Reading could only manage a late consolation goal by substitute Hal Robson-Kanu.
The Royals gave their all — Le Fondre also hit the woodwork early on – but it wasn’t enough to tame Moyes’s side, who are still aiming at FA Cup glory as well as that Champions League qualifying place.
McDermott said: “We didn’t do an awful lot wrong and it could have been a lot different if Le Fondre’s shot had gone in. We have to stick together and if we keep the spirit we can make it out of trouble.”
Everton defender Phil Jagielka faces two weeks out with a badly gashed ankle, manager David Moyes confirmed.
The England international was injured in a challenge from Adam Le Fondre in the opening minutes of Everton's 3-1 win over Reading on Saturday at Goodison Park.
Jagielka will certainly hope to be fit to take his place in England's squad for their next World Cup qualifiers, against San Marino on March 22 and Montenegro four days later.
When pressed, Moyes later said Jagielka could be out for 'a couple of weeks, maybe'.
Le Fondre apologised after the game, saying via Twitter: 'Fans were brilliant today! Shame about result! Everton were class! Thoughts with jags never meant to catch him,caught him late an apologised.'
Jagielka had to be immediately replaced, and Moyes said: 'I genuinely haven't seen it again but I thought on the pitch it didn't look good.
Jagielka knew about it and it is a bad one. He will have surgery tonight to stitch up his ankle.
It is a bad one because he is a key player for us.'
Moyes said he did not know how long Jagielka would be out but the 30-year-old must now be doubtful for next week's FA Cup quarter-final against Wigan.
The incident also reminded Moyes of some of the treatment goalkeeper Tim Howard received in the two previous cup matches against Oldham.
Howard was unable to face Reading after suffering a knock in the fifth-round replay win over over the League One side on Tuesday and was replaced by back-up Jan Mucha.
'I'm not happy with the challenges on the goalkeeper in the last two games that have put him out and I am not happy with the challenge today that puts Phil Jagielka out,' said the manager.
'I'm not one who minds challenges. I like a bit of that, if that's what it is.
'I don't mind robust challenges but not one that puts out arguably one of my best players.'
Howard's absence ended the American's run of 210 consecutive Premier League appearances.
Moyes said: 'I thought Jan did very well but it came about because the goalkeeper wasn't protected in the first game against Oldham and they felt it was right they could do that again in the second game.
'In the end the goalkeeper has been injured because of decisions which should have been deemed free-kicks long before.'
Reading manager Brian McDermott also said he did not get a clear view of Le Fondre's challenge on Jagielka but defended his player.
McDermott said: 'Adam Le Fondre is not that type of player, no way. He is a very honest type of player.
'I don't know what they are saying but there is no way Adam Le Fondre is a player that would `do` anybody.'
Striker Nikica Jelavic may have extended his goalless drought to 10 matches, but the supporting cast did more than enough yesterday.
Marouane Fellaini rose above Reading’s defenders to head home his 12th goal of the season and set David Moyes’ men on the road to victory.
Seamus Coleman skinned Jobi McAnuff on the right and Stephen Kelly and Alex Pearce were no match for man-mountain Fellaini’s charge on 42 minutes.
Pienaar’s stunning left-foot drive into the top corner on the hour settled any nerves as Reading threatened in patches.
The South African then turned provider with a fine pass for Mirallas, who slotted in the third as he scored for the second successive match.
With another home league win in the bag – it is now one Goodison Park loss in 18 – Everton can concentrate on the FA Cup quarter-final against Wigan next week. And even Jelavic’s barren spell can be forgiven. Yesterday was certainly a case of bad luck rather than bad play.
Moyes insists he can juggle Everton’s dual ambition by earning a European spot from a league position as well as going for the FA Cup.
However, ever the pragmatist, he was adamant that he would place more on qualifying for the Europa League through where Everton finish in the table rather than a Cup final win.
He wrote in his programme notes: “For me it’s always been more important to be a good league side than a good cup side. Over a Premier League season you have to earn what you get an tend to finish where you deserve.” Remarkably, this turned into the battle of the reserve goalkeepers as Tim Howard was ruled out for Everton because of a back injury.
It was the first time the American had not started a Premier League match since September 2007. An astonishing 210 games – just two short of Neville Southall’s club record.
Jan Mucha came in for his league debut, while Stuart Taylor was in goal for Reading – his first start in more than three years, back when he was at Manchester City.
Injuries kept on coming as Phil Jagielka was forced off less than five minutes after a crunching challenge from Adam Le Fondre, and Jimmy Kebe pulled up as he tried to take the ball around Mucha.
Moyes was furious about the challenge that left Jagielka with a badly-gashed ankle that is almost certain to keep him out of the cup tie against Wigan.
“It’s a bad, bad gash,” said Moyes. ‘‘I'm not happy with the challenge and I’m one who doesn’t mind challenges. I’m just disappointed we are losing a centre-half because of it.’’
Reading boss Brian McDermott claimed he had not seen the Le Fondre incident and said: “Adam is a very honest player. I don’t know what they’re saying, but Adam is not a player that would do anybody.”
McDermott’s side had started brightly as Mucha was first into action by claiming Ian Harte’s goal-bound free-kick.
Then Le Fondre smashed the post on 19 minutes when Harte’s corner was not cleared.
Le Fondre and Noel Hunt were a pair of pests up front, but Everton eventually cranked-up the pressure and Reading eventually cracked.
Fellaini’s opener allowed Everton to cut loose and Taylor had no chance when Pienaar cut in from the right and lashed a shot into his top corner.
Even before Mirallas’ goal, Fellaini and Jelavic conspired to spurn a golden chance while the eventual goalscorer saw a shot drift wide.
It was game over but Reading kept going, and Hal Robson-Kanu was given too much space to head home Harte’s cross from close range.
However, the Royals are in dire danger of going straight back down. The chances of points from their next two away trips look slim – they head to Manchester United and Arsenal.