Everton endured a frustrating afternoon by drawing 0-0 in South Wales against Swansea after failing to find the finishing touch to a very impressive away performance.
The Blues lined up as predicated, with both Naismith and Browning coming in for the injured Besic and Coleman respectively. Apart from that it was the same side that de-constructed Chelsea so impressively 7 days ago.
The game started in predictable fashion with both sides feeling each other out with the blues having more of the ball and attempting to put our mark on the game early doors. Our first sight of goal game from a free-kick won on the edge of the box by Naisy. It was perfect for the left foot of Lukaku, the Belgian fired his shot goal-bound only for Williams to get a block and deflect it away for a corner.
Sloppy play in central midfield by Barry allowed Swansea in on goal, but thankfully Gomis pulled his shot well wide when clean through on goal. Swansea’s attacking play was very sporadic and it was clear to see we had come with a game plan to hit them on the break with numbers when we could. Barkley was finding space in central midfield and a break between him and Naisy resulted in the finding the Albino Pele in the box, but unlike last week he took a touch too many and Swansea players managed to get back to block his shot. Rom was struggling to find much space, although he did manage to find some space in the right hand channel but wastefully firing high and wide.
We were defending well as a team but the whole back were in superb form. Tyias Browning starting his first game for the blues was marshalling Montero fantastically, getting tight to him before he could get any room to put any kind of delivery into the box. While Jags did well to keep Gomis relatively quiet, The Barnsley Beckenbauer was gracefully bringing the ball out of defence and almost becoming a fourth central midfielder at times. The half ended 0-0 but we were the happier of the two teams.
The second half began with the blues continuing to look the stronger of the two teams. Swansea couldn’t get out of their half with their attacking players (we highlighted on Friday) having no impact in the game. Barkley was pulling the strings, Barry and McCarthy were winning the ball back as quickly as we’d lost it. Barkley created our first attempt of the second half by creating space out wide left before firing a great cross into the 6 yard box, only for Kone to get his feet tied up and completely miss the ball. It’s these chances you need to take, especially away from home. It was a relatively simple chance that went begging. We continued on the front foot though and wasn’t long before we were back in the Swansea box. This time Barry won the ball in midfield and surged forwards, playing a great slide-rule pass into Lukaku’s path, it had goal written all over it but once again our record signing only managed to blaze his shot high, wide and not very handsome. It was a chance you’d expect Lukaku to take, he had no defenders around him and with just the goalkeeper to beat there is no excuses. We continued to search for the crucial goal, McCarthy and Galloway both having good goal-bound shots blocked by the impressive Williams.
As mentioned before, I believe Martinez isn’t pro-active enough when making changes in games. Mid-way through the second half it was crying out for width down both flanks. Everything was too narrow. It wasn’t until Gerard Deulofeu came on down the right that we looked liked stretching the Swansea fullback. The Spaniard skinned Taylor and played a delicious cross into the six yard box with both Lukaku and Naismith a yard short of getting the decisive touch on the ball. As time drifted away Swansea came back into the game and Montero and Ki forced Howard into routine saves, but credit to the big American, he didn’t put a foot wrong and carried his job out impeccably.
The game was coming to its conclusion when Mirallas was sent on for his now statutory 3 minutes. I don’t understand the point of brining him on for 3 minutes. What impact does Martinez expect in that time?! Well he certainly left an impact, but not the one he was hoping for. The Belgian miss-controlling ball as it was going out of play, in trying to retrieve it he went over the top of the ball and stood down on Barrow’s foot/ankle. Mirallas received a straight red card for his troubles. It was a harsh red card considering the lenient nature of the referee throughout the game. However by the letter of the law it was a sending off.
In the resulting free kick Ki fired high over the bar from the edge of the box. The referee blew his whistle and the game somehow finished 0-0.
At the final whistle there was a real feeling of ‘what might have been’. There’s no doubt it was two points dropped. Now the dust has settled it is clear to see that scoring a goal aside it was a complete performance away from home against very good opposition, who some forget finished well above us last season.
There were many positives to take from the game, we kept another clean sheet away from home, Brendan Galloway gets better with every game and is proving to be a tremendous acquisition. Tyias Browning was faultless and had his hands full all game with Montero but didn’t give him a moment’s peace. Barry and McCarthy are returning to the kind of form of two years ago.
Ross Barkley was brilliant again and his decision-making is improving every week. He was the driving force for us today should really have led us to victory. Unfortunately we had the Romelu Lukaku of last season and looked awful in front of goal. Missing three good chances and numerous other half chances where he wasn’t in the right place. My worry all summer is he hasn’t really got anyone putting him under pressure. When fit he is an automatic starter. That said at least he is getting these chances. Last season the service was sporadic to say the least.
John Stones similar to Barkley is growing with every game. It’s hard to forget that he is still only 21. Second half he chested a cross down and started an attack. He makes defending look easy and has all the capabilities to play in midfield. The highest compliment I can pay him is he will make youngsters want to play in defence he is so graceful.
Man of the match this week goes to Ross Barkley, as mentioned above he was involved in everything good we did going forwards and is taking greater responsibility in games. He could’ve ended up with three or four assists if Lukaku had brought his shooting boots with him.
Next up is Reading away in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night, where hopefully we will return to winning ways.
Come on you blues!