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What The Papers Say - 18 March

Gibson & Heitinga speak about the Man City win in Monday's papers.

What The Papers Say - 18 March

The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.

Liverpool Echo



JOHN HEITINGA insists Everton must maintain the intensity which led to their rousing victory over Manchester City if they are to win their race for European football next season.

After a week of criticism and doubt sparked by their dismal FA Cup quarter-final exit last weekend against Wigan, the Blues responded in defiant fashion to beat the Premier League’s reigning champions 2-0.

And Heitinga, who also overcame his recent spell of poor form with a fine performance, believes that Saturday’s display proved that team spirit at Goodison Park remains as strong as ever.

He said: “I think we showed that the team spirit is still here. We had to come back after a difficult week.

“It was hard for us, because everybody wanted to go to Wembley. For the first couple of days, everybody was disappointed, but we bounced back today, which was the only thing we could do.

“It was a great team performance. It is hard to say who was our best player, everybody played well. The way I see it now is that we have to play nine finals. Before this match, I told myself we had 10 finals, and now we have nine left.

“I want to go and play with Everton in Europe. We have nine finals, and we must see it game by game. The squad is really strong, and the focus must only be on the next game.”

Heitinga admitted it had been “a hard week” at Finch Farm following the FA Cup heartbreak, with “more meetings than normal”, but said it was key that the side regained their confidence in the aftermath of that defeat.

“Everybody was frustrated after the game,” he said. “Normally you don’t bring defeats home with you, but it stayed a little bit longer than normal last week.

“We had some meetings. More meetings than normal. We were shown some bits of the Wigan game, and we saw that too many players didn’t play the level they normally do. But the manager was positive, he said we needed to realise how good we were.

“The training was good, and I think the meetings we had last week were positive. On Friday when we played a ‘young versus old’ match, as we always do before games, you could see that the team was fresh and ready to go again.”

The win lifts Everton above Merseyside rivals Liverpool into sixth place in the Premier League table. They remain within touching distance of Chelsea and Arsenal above them, and Heitinga says the win over second-placed City will fire them on.

“At the beginning of this season we played really well, but the last couple of weeks less so,” he added. “But when Manchester City come to Goodison, it is a big game. Our record against them is good, but they are still last season’s champions, and it was a tough game. We played very well.”

Liverpool Echo



MIDFIELDER Darron Gibson feels normal service has been resumed at Everton following their stunning win over champions Manchester City.

After a week of soul-searching following their shattering FA Cup quarter-final loss to Wigan, the Toffees roared back to their best to shock City 2-0 at Goodison Park.

It was a game City had needed to win to keep alive their slim Premier League title hopes but, even after having Steven Pienaar sent off just after the hour, Everton always had the upper hand.

A superb strike from Leon Osman after 32 minutes and a breakaway effort from Nikica Jelavic in injury time secured a win that provided a stark contrast to last week’s debacle.

Gibson said: “I think we needed to do that after the performance last week, but I think we have been great all season.

“Last week was a bad week for us but we have bounced back and showed what kind of a team we really are.

“We all knew as a team that wasn’t Everton last week. We had an off-day.

“But we showed everyone what we can do, even going down to 10 men I think we still deserved the three points.”

Pienaar was dismissed for two bookable offences, first a late challenge on Gareth Barry and then after catching Javi Garcia with his studs.

City had chances to equalise in the second half, most notably as back-up goalkeeper Jan Mucha denied James Milner and Pablo Zabaleta, but Everton’s resolve did not weaken.

Gibson said: “That just shows the team spirit.

“Most teams, against a quality team like City, would crumble but we dug in, kept our shape well and worked hard for each other.

“Luckily we got the second goal at the end.”

Everton’s hunger was clear from the start and they were unfortunate to have an early goal for Kevin Mirallas flagged offside.

Osman celebrated his England call-up by firing them ahead with a long-range effort and Marouane Fellaini felt he should have had a penalty when he tangled with Matija Nastasic.

Fellaini was involved in penalty controversy at the other end late on when he was penalised for handling a Carlos Tevez shot. Despite the offence occurring inside the area, referee Lee Probert awarded a free-kick outside.

Aleksandar Kolarov fired into the wall and soon after City broke through Fellaini and substitute Jelavic made the result certain with his first goal since January.

Gibson said: “That is what we are all about, closing down quickly, getting the ball back and then showing our quality when we get the ball.

“We played really well. We had to dig in it at times. They are a great team as well but I think we deserved it.”

Everton’s cup exit has damaged their chances of qualifying for the Europa League but they still have hopes of earning a place through their league position. The result took them back above neighbours Liverpool and into sixth place.

Gibson said: “It was disappointing going out last week but we have shown what we can do here.

“I think we will kick on from this performance and hopefully get as many points as we can.”

Gibson also had praise for team-mate Osman, who is enjoying another fine season and was also made captain with Phil Neville left on the bench.

He said: “He is on fire at the minute. He is showing everyone what a great player he is.

“He had the armband and I think the goal topped his performance off.

“It was nice for Jela to get the goal too. It’s been a while so I am glad he got one.”

Gibson, a substitute against Wigan last week, was pleased to be back in the starting line-up after what has been a frustrating season personally.

The 25-year-old has been limited by a thigh injury for large parts of the campaign and is expected to undergo surgery in the summer.

The Irishman said: “I always enjoy playing here at Goodison and getting three points makes it even better.”

Liverpool Echo



FROM seven miserable days of soul-searching to 93 minutes of thunderous redemption. How typically Everton.

There might have been an impostor on the pitch in Manchester City colours beforehand, but as for the Toffees – this was the real deal.

Yet even in the euphoria of a triumphant afternoon, something of a royal blue identity crisis lingered.

What was the authentic Everton? The side that buckled so disastrously with a trip to Wembley in sight last weekend, or that which over-turned the odds to land yet another telling blow on the reigning champions?

Maybe the answer is both.

David Moyes celebrated his 11th year in charge at Goodison last week and although Saturday’s finale will have left him with a deserved smile, the contrast between the two performances epitomised one of the most frustrating conundrums of his reign.

So often when big moments have arrived his team have fluffed their lines. The mitigation, of course, is abundant – but there’s no denying it. Too frequently, Everton have choked.

Then – with backs pressed against the wall and hope appearing lost – along has come the stirring response. The punch square between the eyes for critics too quick to write off his team.

It was the type of performance forged in the manager’s DNA – defiant, brave, committed and unflinching.

But why did it require adversity to spark it? At least Moyes was correct when he insisted there has been more sunshine than rain this season. As if to neatly summarise his point, a rainbow hung majestically over Goodison at the end.

The contrast between the display over City and the car-crash FA Cup quarter-final that preceded it was vast. This time, from the first whistle, Everton were purposeful and dynamic.

Marouane Fellaini – who copped plenty of the flak for his disinterested approach against Wigan – was desperate to atone.

At times he was in danger of allowing that intent to get him sent off. The Belgian was lucky to only see yellow for a late, scything tackle on James Milner in front of the Bullens Road, where his meltdown had occurred last week, but his drive was indicative of a shared spirit in the Blues camp.

Everton were unjustly denied the lead just after 10 minutes, when Leon Osman headed the ball back into the City area and Kevin Mirallas fired home. The assistant’s flag punctured the celebrations but replays showed he had been onside.

The play had almost exclusively been in the champions’ half, and it took them almost 25 minutes to even get a shot on target as Carlos Tevez skipped into the area and tested Jan Mucha.

It was Everton who were the consistent attacking threat with both full-backs finding dangerous positions. Leighton Baines’ contributions this term have been so plentiful he could be voted player of the season now, but Seamus Coleman has watched and learned. He appeared momentarily indecisive as he picked up the ball on the edge of the area after half an hour, but retained enough composure to spot Leon Osman in space calling for the ball.

Coleman delivered and Osman sent a swerving 25-yard drive into the top corner. It was an exquisite strike. He may have appeared weary in recent weeks but the 31-year-old reminded everyone why this has perhaps been his most impressive season of a long-serving Everton career.

A week before they had limped off at the interval, this time they charged into the tunnel.

That desire to make amends was still palpable after the break too.

Victor Anichebe had to briefly depart the field for treatment to a head injury but the striker couldn’t wait to get back on. His was a display of ceasless endeavour in attack and in his own area, and it was a necessary rearguard as City belatedly began to threaten.

Everton’s abrasive approach had been effective, but it cost them when Steven Pienaar got his marching orders for a second booking. The South African was late with a lunge on Javi Garcia, and even though the Spaniard made the most of it, ref Lee Probert’s decision seemed inevitable.

Pienaar’s imminent suspension, along with a ban for Fellaini who picked up his 10th booking, were rare sour notes.

Roberto Mancini’s men belatedly remembered they were in a title race and rallied. First Mucha denied James Milner with a smart reflex save, and then Pablo Zabaleta curled an effort over the bar as Mancini’s men stepped up a gear.

Still Everton maintained an attacking presence, with Sylvain Distin heading narrowly over from another corner. Then Mucha was on hand to make another brave stop, this time throwing himself in front of Zabaleta at point blank range as the City captain shaped to shoot.

Goodison was in full bear-pit mode as the climax approached with every perceived injustice only cranking up the volume higher. It was that sort of afternoon, although the away dugout was entitled to feel hard done by near the end, as Fellaini appeared to block Tevez’s shot in the area with his arm, but Probert awarded a free-kick instead for handling by Osman outside the box.

It was fortuitous, but Everton had already seen a legitimate goal ruled offside and were not to be denied. There was enough salvation for everyone.

Fellaini charged forward on the counter attack with City committed upfield, and slipped the ball to late sub Nikica Jelavic, who confidently scored his first league goal in 14 appearances.

It might have gone in off City defender Gael Clichy but Jelavic won’t care – it could be the moment that revives him and his club in the most timely fashion.

There are no distractions now. The only remaining prize is European football.

If Everton can stay as mean, moody and uncompromising as this – they just might win it.

Liverpool Echo



EVERTON cult hero Tony Hibbert celebrated his testimonial dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Saturday.

All proceeds from the evening went to Claire House and The Rainbow Trust, as Hibbert was joined by team-mates past and present.

Following the Blues’ victory over Manchester City earlier in the day there was a celebratory air, as team-mates Leon Osman and Tim Howard paid personal tributes to the Blues stalwart.

Hibbert spoke of his pride at the record he holds as Everton’s record appearance maker in Europe.

Hibbert also revealed that he was hoping to rejoin his team-mates in training again in the next few weeks as his injury nightmare finally looks close to ending.

Daily Express



DAVID MOYES would shy away from comparisons between himself and Jose Mourinho, but the similarities are too striking to avoid.

Everton stand shoulder to shoulder with Real Madrid as the only sides to have beaten both Manchester clubs in competitive fixtures this season.

Moyes and Mourinho have perfected the art of making Roberto Mancini look like any other ordinary coach and both appear singularly under-appreciated by some supporters.

With 10-man Everton leading and in the process of hammering the final nail into City’s title aspirations, Moyes substituted Kevin Mirallas in the 70th minute and the mood noticeably shifted inside Goodison Park.

There was an audible sense of unease and doubt directed at a manager whose acumen has been dissected over the past seven days.

Little wonder that when Mirallas’s replacement, Steven Naismith, produced a key tackle that sparked the injury-time attack that saw Nikica Jelavic add to Leon Osman’s brilliant opener, Moyes’ emotions betrayed him.

He paced boldly onto the pitch and followed it with the sort of fist-pumping gesture that was aimed towards no one in particular – but, seemingly, everyone at the same time.

Everton stand shoulder to shoulder with Real Madrid as the only sides to have beaten both Manchester clubs in competitive fixtures this season.

Moyes and Mourinho have perfected the art of making Roberto Mancini look like any other ordinary coach and both appear singularly under-appreciated by some supporters.

With 10-man Everton leading and in the process of hammering the final nail into City’s title aspirations, Moyes substituted Kevin Mirallas in the 70th minute and the mood noticeably shifted inside Goodison Park.

There was an audible sense of unease and doubt directed at a manager whose acumen has been dissected over the past seven days.

Little wonder that when Mirallas’s replacement, Steven Naismith, produced a key tackle that sparked the injury-time attack that saw Nikica Jelavic add to Leon Osman’s brilliant opener, Moyes’ emotions betrayed him.

He paced boldly onto the pitch and followed it with the sort of fist-pumping gesture that was aimed towards no one in particular – but, seemingly, everyone at the same time.

Certainly watching homegrown Osman consistently outmanoeuvre pedestrian £24million Javi Garcia showed you do not always get what you pay for.

Seamus Coleman (£60,000) left Aleksandar Kolarov (£16m) trailing, Victor Anichebe (homegrown) put Edin Dzeko (£27m) to shame.

City were too weak-willed to take advantage of Steven Pienaar’s second yellow card in the 61st minute.

Referee Lee Probert’s decision to award a freekick outside the box when Fellaini had handled Tevez’s shot two yards inside was balanced out by Mirallas having a goal chalked off incorrectly for offside.

Given the changes in the hierarchy at City, it is understandable that there are doubts about Mancini.

Respect for Moyes should be more readily available.

Daily Telegraph




It was impossible to leave a reverberating Goodison Park without reflecting on the future of the two managers, Roberto Mancini and David Moyes.

 This was a grim day for Mancini, who saw any faint hopes of retaining the Premier League title disappear, so ensuring more speculation about his job prospects.

Manchester City do not need a new manager. They just need Mancini to confront assorted issues: bonding the team more, criticising them in public less, bringing in another centre-forward, finding some width, replacing Javi García with a more commanding ball-winning central midfielder, buying a top-class left-back with a good fitness record and cutting their losses on the likes of Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko.

City’s defence of their title has bordered on the abject but it was always going to be complicated by Manchester United’s hunger and recruitment of Robin van Persie.

One poor season in the league does not make Mancini a bad manager. City are still in the FA Cup, Matija Nastasic’s hugely promising development is a good signal for the future while there is a sensible, long-term plan in place behind the scenes as anyone who has peered behind the builders’ hoardings at the Etihad Campus will know.

“There is an appreciation of Roberto from the supporters and the owners,’’ said David Platt, Mancini’s assistant and friend. “The expectancy levels of Roberto are a lot higher than what people think.



"If people want to talk about rumours and negatives that is up to them. All I know is that during his career he has won things. That is what his focus, desire and intensity is about. He won’t want to stop wanting to win things.’’

If Vincent Kompany, Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero had been fit, Mancini’s team might have made more of a fight of it at Goodison.

They were lacklustre, lacking leadership. Everton were better organised and motivated. Kevin Mirallas was wrongly ruled offside when beating Joe Hart. Seamus Coleman was the best player on the park, creating Leon Osman’s elegant opener. Osman and Darron Gibson bossed midfield.

Even when Steven Pienaar was rightly dismissed for two yellows, Jan Mucha made saves from Carlos Tévez, James Milner and Pablo Zabaleta, although Everton were fortunate that Lee Probert ignored Marouane Fellaini’s handball inside the area, indicating a non-existent Osman offence outside the box. At the death, Nikica Jelavic came off the bench to make it 2-0.

“We have beaten the champions at Goodison to keep our fight for a top-four place alive,’’ said Moyes. “Eleven years ago we were beating Fulham to avoid relegation.’’

It would be sad and illogical if Moyes were to walk away now, having built such a promising side. The FA Cup defeat by Wigan Athletic was a blip. The real Everton showed their new creativity in the first half and all their old resilience in the second half after Pienaar’s red.

Victor Anichebe may be the key to making Moyes’s preferred 4-4-1-1 system click. “He did the old-fashioned things – he ran around, created trouble and held the ball up,’’ said Moyes. He provided an outlet and made space for the midfielders.

Anichebe came on against Wigan only when Everton were trailing 3-0, a result that triggered some criticism towards Moyes.

“I wasn’t hurt by the way people lost perspective last week and I can’t even say I was surprised because it seemed that everybody thought the whole future of Everton was riding on that one game,’’ said Moyes, who then made a point about Coleman, the type of low-cost, high-yield footballer that Everton must rely on.

“Coleman has things to learn defensively but he is coming on. We’ve had a week where people are questioning things and we’ve paid 60 grand for Seamus Coleman.

"That shows the progress we’ve made yet people were pointing the finger at me for not progressing the side. This has been a reminder to the fans about where we are and what we have achieved, and maybe they do need that reminder sometimes. Players like Coleman may be the way we have to continue moving forward.

“Would I rather be here than anywhere else on a day like this? Well, if you’d asked me that when I made a substitution that didn’t seem that popular [like Steven Naismith for Mirallas] even though I felt it was right to keep us in the game, then there’s a wee element of that as well!

“I felt I was being questioned at that moment, but maybe people are now big enough to turn around and concede that we perhaps got it right after all. I’ve definitely given Everton the respect with my work here and I hope that’s mutual."

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