Today’s game marked the return to Premier League action for the Toffees.
Everton lined up: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Galloway, Mirallas, McCarthy, Barry, Cleverley, Barkley, Lukaku.
The Blues started in positive fashion with good link up play between Coleman and Mirallas. The away side set their stall out early with a five man midfield, meaning there was limited space in midfield and the game started to drift with both teams swapping possession on a regular basis. After this poor period of play we found ourselves 0-1 down. As usual we didn’t stop a cross coming in from our right and Jagielka’s woeful attempt at a clearance fell straight into the path of Layun who took one touch before drilling the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net, with Howard clutching fresh air.
The goal knocked us for 6 and we couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm and Watford continued to frustrate us. The Hornets were doing what all sides did last season, packed the midfield and hit us on the break. By this point we looked disjointed and Galloway and Cleverley were struggling down the left. Lukaku was starved of any space and the away side were content on letting us have possession 30 yards from their goal. The first half was so reminiscent of so many games last season it was frightening. Our only real efforts first half was a long-range efforts from Barkley and a looped headed effort from Barry which were both tipped over by the Gomes.
Watford were continuing to counter attack us and if it wasn’t for good awareness from Galloway things could’ve got a lot worse. Shortly before the break Troy Deeney dived in on the ex MK Dons youngster with two feet. The Gwladys Street were baying for blood. The tackle was high, reckless and very dangerous. Lucky for Galloway he managed to ride the tackle a little, otherwise he could’ve quite easily broken his leg. Fortunately for Deeney he escaped with a yellow card.
Half Time Everton 0-1 Watford
The second half began with Everton showing more energy and intent than they did in the first. We started to put Watford on the back foot and started to dominate possession. We started to whip in a few dangerous crosses but nobody was getting on the end of them. Barkley fired a brilliant ball with his left foot deep to the back post but Lukaku could only find the Gwladys Street when it was easier to score.
Around the hour mark Kone came on and replaced Galloway with Barry dropping to left back. It was a positive change and meant we went two up front. Kone’s first action was to head the ball over the goal from an excellent Tom Cleverley cross. It was a difficult chance but at least we were finally getting on the end of the crosses and beginning to look dangerous. Half chances began to come and go but we still found ourselves trailing 0-1. Mirallas then was lucky not to be stretched off with a serious ankle injury. Berahmi not intentionally, wrapped his studs around Kev’s ankle and turned it 90 degrees. He managed to run it off but eventually had to make way for Oviedo.
Just when it felt like all was lost a Seamus Coleman cross found Kone just in the penalty area, who with two touches controlled the ball and laid it off to an on rushing Barkley who riffled the ball through a crowd of on rushing defenders into the top right hand corner of the goal. Goodision was rocking and their was a belief we could go on and win the game. How wrong we were!
It was in fact the away side who seven minutes later regained the lead. This time through substitute Ighalo, who ran onto a forward pass, dissecting both Jagielka and Stones. Coleman went with his man so couldn’t press the ball, so that left Stones to close the ball down. Ighalo didn’t just once but twice put Stones on his back side before predictably sending a side footed shot past Howard into the bottom right hand side of the goal.
Just when I was thinking all was lost and that we would be staring at an open day defeat a certain Aroune Kone saved our blushes. The big Ivorian found space in the box and turned superbly to fire a low shot across Gomes into the bottom left of the goal. The final minutes petered out as Watford were more than happy to see out time.
Full Time Everton 2-2 Watford
Looking back on the way the match panned out it was certainly one point gained than two dropped in my eyes. The worry was our defensive frailties were all to clear to see. I’m not sure if the Stones transfer saga has affected them all as it did with the Lescott transfer a few years back. However they all looked so shaky every time Watford attacked. That coupled with our slow predictable approach to the first half, it was like they hadn’t learnt a morsel from the tepid performances last season, only looking interested once we were behind. From an attacking point of view the second half was much more positive and we looked a greater threat once Kone had come on to partner Lukaku up front. Up to that point Lukaku looked so isolated and was either offside or in the back pocket of the Watford defenders. Cleverley and Galloway didn’t work as a partnership down the left. For me you need a natural left back while Baines is out and a midfielder who is comfortable in that role out wide like an Osman.
If we were short on players due to injury, today just highlighted that fact and showed how desperate we are for attacking players. If the rumours of Austin and Shaqiri are true then we need to get these deals done ASAP and get both players involved. Both would give us greater threat in the final third and competition for current players not pulling their weight. So get that cheque book out Bill!
I must give credit to Watford who came to Goodison with no fear and stuck to their game plan impeccably. They can count themselves unlucky not to be heading back down with all three points. The Everton Manager and players need to realise this is how many teams will come and play and we need to be able to deal with them. As at present we are posing more questions than answers in our performances.
I really struggled for a man of the match today but for his impact, assist and goal I’m going to give it to the much maligned Aroune Kone. His first goal at Goodison and he can have an impact if he plays with someone else up front, not on his own.
Next up is Southampton away, much-needed improvement needed, but onwards and upward Blues!