Everton 2 (Pienaar 5, Stracqualursi 71)
THE mantra amongst weight obsessed celebs is “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – ours should be similar. No league victory for either Man City or Chelsea will come close to matching the full blooded joy of our pair of empty wallet wins.
It took just five minutes for Everton to take the lead against the King’s Road dilettantes – Pienaar running on to a ball in the box and lashing into the roof of the net. My mind instantly turned to Saha’s goal seconds after the start of the FA Cup final against Chelsea. It came too early, and I was worried this had done too.
Instead this was a vintage Everton performance. We marched to a frenetic drumbeat – hustling, harrying, intercepting, and pressing Chelsea into mistakes. Denis Stracqualursi epitomised this. The Argentinian looks like a cross between Bela Lugosi and a caveman Elvis Presley. A bloodsucking hunk of burning love, clubbing heads and stomping on Chelsea’s blue suede shoes. And always to that frenetic drumbeat. When he was subbed off to a standing ovation against Man City he looked like he was barely able to stand, and he put in an equally impressive shift yesterday too.
Throughout the game Chelsea were allowed a bigger slice of the possession but failed to do anything with it. At the back Johnny Heitinga marshalled Fernando Torres well; and he becomes more assured with every game he plays at centre half.
I’m actually looking forward to the game against the lynch mob from across the park. If we can show the commitment and chutzpah that we did against Man City and Chelsea we will do well. In Heitinga we have a man who is in form and can be an agent provocateur in moments of tension. Who could forget his cheeky shoulder barge on Ashley Cole when the full back was strolling towards the penalty spot at Stamford Bridge? I have a feeling that he has something in store for Luis Suarez, a player he might be marking and who he can converse with in three different languages.
Our second goal came after 71minutes of pure heart. A 50/50 ball being contested by Phil Neville and Ashley Cole was turned into a 99/1 ball by the Everton captain. Both slid in but Cole demurred slightly, whereas Neville was firm and fair. Instantly commentators buzzed linking this challenge to Neville’s “season changing” reducer on Cristiano Ronaldo a few years back.
This was better.
Whereas Ashley Cole politely asked “may I” with his slide tackle, Neville’s screamed “FUCK OFF”. The challenge launched an Everton attack with Donovan claiming his umpteenth assist, slipping the ball to Stracqualursi the Stakhanovite. Cech could only help the Argentine’s shot into the back of the net. 2-0.
Yesterday the Goodison faithful renewed their vows with David Moyes. One victory against a billionaire’s plaything might be counted as lucky, two however – in consecutive home games – will hopefully mute the doubters. It is in games like this that everything is put into perspective. Season after season Moyes scrounges for bargains, turning yesterday’s soggy chip papers into tomorrow’s headlines. Compare that to André Villas-Boas (9 months younger than Phil Neville) and his boys who played like the embarrassment of riches that they are.
It can’t be hard to motivate Everton when they are playing a team like Chelsea. Jealousy can be an awful thing but Moyes has skillfully harnessed the green eyed monster turning it on the spoilt brats of the Premier League and inspiring sweat drenched victories.
There are still questions to be asked about our catatonic performances against lesser sides though. How we can play such an aggressive high octane game against the best teams in the league and falter again and again against teams we should be steamrollering is a mystery. My theory is that we let complacency come in. We try and compete with the Wigans and the QPRs by trying to outplay rather than outmuscle. In truth we should be doing both. We hound some teams out of town, but invite others in for hot cocoa. This needs to change.
After the game, stateside commentator Eric Wynalda lobbied for Landon to make his move permanent. “Am I the only one who wants this kid to stay,” asked Wynalda. No Eric you’re one of many. This is the other big shadow over this side. Donovan and his endless supply of assists will be leaving for Los Angeles soon. Pienaar is only on loan. As are Stracqualursi and Drenthe – who put in an unusually sober cameo towards the end of this game, distributing the ball wisely rather than charging into dead ends. If the papers are to be believed, Moyes is a hot favourite to land the Spurs job if it becomes vacant. Perhaps Pienaar could be playing for Moyes next season albeit at White Hart Lane – a thought that doesn’t bear dwelling on. Especially after another brilliant win against Premier League fat cats.
Nothing tastes as good as skint feels. At least for this weekend.