EVERTON 3 (Pienaar 16, Jelavic 23, Heitinga 63) – NEWCASTLE UNITED 1 (Hibbert 73, og)
The Toffees secured seventh place in the league after once again dismantling a top-five team plank by plank with a fine display of attacking football. For the first time in seven seasons the Blues finish ahead of the Reds: by four points and with a superior goal difference. It’s surprising what £105m can buy – even more surprising what £6.5m, invested half way through the season, can buy.
For the first time in weeks David Moyes had the luxury of being able to select from a virtually fully-fit squad for the visit of Champions League chasing Newcastle United. Leighton Baines came in at left-back, Sylvain Distin dropped to the bench, while Phil Neville and Darron Gibson returned in midfield.
Pleasingly Goodison was packed to the rafters and once again a passionate home crowd and atmospheric old stadium played their part in subduing uppity visitors. it took the Blues only a minute or two to find their stride. Newcastle fleetingly looked as though they might cause trouble and almost went in front in the opening seconds when a free-kick ricocheted around the Everton box but, after Ba had fired a shot well over, Everton imposed themselves and the visitors were played off the park for the next forty-four minutes with goals from Pienaar and Jelavic sealing the points.
It was Marouane Fellaini who teed up the first goal on 16 minutes for Steven Pienaar, whose strike from outside the box took a deflection off defender Mike Williamson’s backside and looped in. The diminutive South African almost had another in the 21st minute but rifled narrowly wide from a Leon Osman cross.
Everton kept pushing forward and just before the half-hour they doubled their lead when Nikica Jelavic scored a superb solo goal. A beautiful long pass from Heitinga found Jelavic who skilfully controlled the ball and left Coloccini trailing in his wake before unleashed a powerful shot which Tim Krul saved brilliantly but the Croat was alert enough to flick home the rebound for his 11th goal since joining in January. The Toffees were launching wave after wave of attacks, were denying Newcastle any space or time on the ball and their keeper had to be at his best, which in truth is pretty good, to keep the score-line respectable.
The Newcastle changing room must have been lively at half-time and Alan Pardew signalled his intention to attack in the second period by substituting both full-backs and switching to a 4-3-3 formation. Moments after the restart Cisse dragged a good opportunity wide, but Everton were still not satisfied. After Darron Gibson brought another fine save out of Krul with a free-kick the Toffees added a third on 65 minutes when Johnny Heitinga headed home another fine Gibson free-kick from close range.
Tony Hibbert then managed to get himself on the score-sheet. Unfortunately for the hundreds of Evertonians who wager each week on such an outcome, it was in the wrong goal, as the full back got in a frightful mix-up and headed past his own keeper. Newcastle sighted a possible lifeline and Howard had to claw away a header from Cisse. However the Geordies could offer no more and Everton might have had a fourth with Cahill being denied by Krul, Gibson again shooting wide and Osman hitting the woodwork. There were disappointing scenes after the final whistle as players from both sides got involved in a skirmish, with Cahill being shown a red card after appearing to grab Cabaye by the neck.
Everton (4-2-3-1): Howard; Hibbert, Heitinga (Distin 70), Jagielka, Baines; Neville(c) (Cahill 74, sent off 90+5), Gibson; Osman, Fellaini, Pienaar; Jelavic (Stracqualursi 83)
Subs not used: Mucha, Gueye, Barkley, Coleman.
Sent Off: Cahill Booked: Baines, Heitinga.
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2): Krul; Perch (Marveaux 46), Williamson, Coloccini(c), Santon (R Taylor 46); Cabaye, Tiote (Sh Ameobi 81), Ben Arfa, Gutierrez; Cisse, Ba
Subs not used: Elliot, Gosling, Obertan, Ferguson
Referee: Andre Marriner