Everton

The Good Life? Not anymore at Goodison Park

Life at Everton could not be much different from this time last year, with the sweet success of last season being replaced by tales of tribulation for the Toffees, which is leaving a more sour taste in the mouth.

Monday night’s 0-0 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion was their eighth match without a win in all competitions.

Kevin Mirallas taking a penalty, ahead of first choice spot-kick taker Leighton Baines, and then missing the said penalty has epitomised Everton’s season so far.

This last time last year, coincidentally after a draw against West Brom (this time 1-1 away), they were sat in sixth, with 42 points, just one point off the top four, while this campaign they are looking over their shoulder.

Only 23 points have been amassed, 19 less, and they are perched in 12th, four points adrift of the bottom three.

Such a situation was unthinkable in the summer, as a side that ended up in fifth by the season’s end, bolstered their squad with Muhamed Besic, who was a regular for Bosnia and Herzegovina at the World Cup, and two time Champions League winner Samuel Eto’o.

Eto’o is, in fact, subject to speculation away from Merseyside already with Sampdoria monitoring the 33-year-old.

Half of the players Everton had on loan during 2013/14 also joined, this time permanently: Gareth Barry on a free transfer, as well as Romelu Lukaku for a club record £28 million fee.

Christian Atsu also joined from Chelsea on a season-long loan but, at the time of writing, has only managed three league appearances in Everton’s shade of blue.

Lukaku is the most puzzling disappointment of the quintuplet considering his impressive Premier League goalscoring record that has seen 32 goals in 76 games, 15 of those coming in the 31 games he played for Roberto Martinez’s men last season in a loan spell.

Just six goals in 21 have been provided by the big Belgian since his permanent switch, most worryingly of all, that tally makes him the Toffees’ top goalscorer so far this season.

Wonderkid Ross Barkley has also struggled to regain his dazzling form from last season after suffering a knee injury one day before the season started in what has turned out to be a foreboding moment.

The aforementioned Barkley is not the only Everton casualty, however, with eight sidelined in total – the third highest in the Premier League.

First choice goalkeeper Tim Howard is sidelined (calf), Besic too with an ankle problem, along with Mirallas and James McCarthy with hamstring injuries.

Martinez must have thought he had left relegation worries behind when he departed Wigan for Everton in 2013 but unless results turn around soon, he will need to dust off his great escape handbook.

Everton 1 (Lukaku ’90) West Ham 1 (Collins ’56)

Romelu Lukaku’s strike in added time saved Everton’s FA Cup lives as they ended a four match losing streak.

It was a sweet moment for the Toffees who were on top for the majority of the match but found themselves behind 11 minutes into the second half when James Collins powerfully headed in Morgan Amalfitano’s corner.

Everton and West Ham will now need to play a reply to decipher who will face the victors of Doncaster Rovers and Bristol City, who also drew 1-1, in the next round.

It was a game of few chances in a night but the hosts were the better side with Ross Barkley playing in record signing Romelu Lukaku with 26 minutes played, but the big Belgian took one touch too many as he shot wide, off balance, from the edge of the penalty area.

They knocked on the door again a minute later, again with no reply, as Scot Steven Naismith fired a shot across the face of goal as a result of a neat chipped through ball by Lukaku.

West Ham created an early chance of their own when Stewart Downing had a long range shot tipped over the bar by Joel Robles, who continued in goal due to regular goalkeeper Tim Howard’s calf injury.

Everton finished proceedings with a late surge and, shortly before Lukaku’s dramatic equaliser, Barkley forced a smart stop from Spaniard Adrian with an effort from a tight angle.

The replay will be played on either Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

“There is no room to rotate”, insists Hammers boss Allardyce

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has revealed that there “won’t be too many changes” for their FA Cup clash at Everton tonight.

“It’s not possible to play the best team each game due to fatigue levels, but, we’ve had four or five days rest which has helped so we can play a strong team,”Allardyce insisted.

The Hammers will be without Cheikhou Koyate and Diafra Sakho (Senegal) as well as Alex Song (Cameroon) who have left for the African Cup of Nations, while, James Tomkins (ankle) faces a late fitness test.

“Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan will play a big part, Ricardo Vaz Te might get an opportunity and Matt Jarvis will get a few games soon.

“We will play the strongest team available”.

Alladyce’s side are performing above all expectations in the league so far, sitting in seventh, but, are currently winless in three.

A 1-1 draw at West Brom followed back-to-back defeats to London rivals Arsenal (2-1) and Chelsea (2-0).

Roberto Martinez’s men are in a similar slump, losing four on the trot, away at Hull (2-0), Newcastle (3-2), Stoke at home (1-0) and Southampton (3-0).

Martinez has rubbished claims that his job is on the line.

“The truth is I feel under the same pressure when we win and when we lose because I always look forward,” Martinez said.

“My vision is to create a team that can become a winning team. Losing games forces you to try and find solutions and to look inside in a different way than when you win.”

Manchester United 2-1 Everton

Manchester United overcame Everton 2-1 at Old Trafford to secure back to back home league wins for the first time since November 2013.

Louis Van Gaal’s marquee summer signings won the game for his side with Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao scoring either side of Steven Naismith’s header.

Di Maria opened the scoring with 27 minutes played, sweeping in from just inside the area, assisted by Juan Mata after Phil Jagielka could not efficiently clear a cross from the right.

Naismith lost his marker Rafael to head home Everton’s equalizer from Leighton Baines’ cross 11 minutes into the second half but Falcao’s first goal for Manchester United seven minutes later proved to be the winner.

The Colombian was on his toes to pounce on Di Maria’s low shot and beat Tim Howard who had little chance of keeping it out.

Angel of the North: Di Maria celebrates his goal.

Angel of the North: Di Maria celebrates his goal.

It could have been an entirely different story however as Baines had a penalty saved in first half stoppage time.

Tony Hibbert was brought down in the box by Luke Shaw but David De Gea saved the spot-kick which was too near the centre of the goal.

United were worthy of their win however, putting Everton on the back foot from the off. Howard having to deny a Falcao header just four minutes in.

They started the second half with the same velocity, Di Maria’s miscued shot was almost turned in by Falcao from close range but there was too much speed on it.

Everton did fashion chances of their own however. Jagielka had a header cleared off the line by Falcao from a corner before a late flurry of chances.

Substitute Leon Osman forced a superb save by De Gea in the closing stages before fellow second half sub Bryan Oviedo’s effort from the edge of box was somehow tipped over the bar by the Spaniard.

Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael, McNair, Rojo, Shaw (Blackett ’71), Blind, Valencia (Fellaini ’78), Di Maria, Mata, Falcao (Wilson ’73), Van Persie

Subs not used:  Lindegaard, Thorpe, Fletcher, Januzaj

Everton: Howard, Hibbert (Browning ’77), Jagielka, Stones, Baines, Barry, Besic, Pienaar (Oviedo ’64), McGeady (Osman ’77), Naismith, Lukaku

Subs not used: Joel, Gibson, Eto’o, Alcaraz

Man of the match: Angel Di Maria