WIGAN 2 (Kone 10, Di Santo 23) – EVERTON 2 (Jelavic 11, Baines pen 88)
A few weeks ago at Villa Park with about twenty minutes to go Kevin Mirallas made his league debut as a substitute. Everton were comfortably ahead and were pushing for more when Seamus Coleman broke down the right and put in a lovely cross which Mirallas buried with a powerful header, it was correctly ruled offside, by about half-a-yard. On Saturday at Wigan after ten minutes the blonde-bleached head of Kone scored a goal which to our eyes had exactly the same degree of offsidedness, yet it stood, a mistake by the assistant referee. Add to this a second-half shove in the back on Nikica Jelavic which should have been punished by a spot-kick and a narrative of ‘we were hard done by’ could easily be constructed. This though would be the easy way out when the real culprits were defensive mistakes and frailty in a fraught first forty-five which Everton lost 2-1: First Seamus Coleman allowed Maloney to beat him inside the area and set up Wigan’s opener and then Johnny Heitinga gave Kone far too much freedom as he got to the by-line and squared for Di Santo who fired ferociously past Tim Howard.
At the interval Moyes made the decision to withdraw the Dutchman in favour of Sylvain Distin; in contrast to last season the Heitinga of now looks rusty, hesitant and indecisive at key moments. Which is perplexing, because just a few months ago he was voted Everton player of the season in recognition of his tackling and excellent distribution. Perhaps his confidence took a knock when he was pilloried in his home media and publicly criticised for poor defending by Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk after they were beaten 2-1 by Bulgaria during their disastrous Euro2012 campaign. For a man like Heitinga who is emotional, extrovert, who loves to be loved and wears his heart on his sleeve, being dropped from his national team will have hurt like hell. He was subsequently recalled for a friendly against Belgium, but the Dutch conceded 4 goals in that game, and he is no longer a permanent fixture in the side. A fully functioning, fit in body and mind, Johnny Heitinga is a vital cog in the Everton machine; it will be an interesting test of David Moyes’ man-management skills to see how he goes about mending his ailing number five.
It’s not often that a side is inspired and driven forward by a left-back. It’s more usual for a midfielder or a striker to be the focal point of a fight-back, but then Leighton Baines is an exceptional player. In the forty odd minutes leading up to his nerveless dispatch of that last gasp equalizer, he took the game by the scruff of the neck and led by example – initiating and driving forward in attack. With the left-footed Distin on the pitch Everton effectively played three at the back as Baines was given carte blanche to attack, which he did with gusto.
Many will see this result as two points dropped, but in the fullness of a long league season with its ups and downs, it may be viewed differently, after all we are always being told by those Match of the Day pundits that the true test of a team is when they play badly and yet still manage to pick up points.
WIGAN (3-4-3): Al-Habsi; Ramis, Caldwell, Figueroa; Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour; Koné, Di Santo (McManaman, 84), Maloney
Unused subs: Pollitt, Jones, Watson, Gomez, Boselli, Miyachi
EVERTON: (4-1-4-1): Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Heitinga (Distin, 45), Baines; Neville © (Anichebe 81); Mirallas (Naismith 90+3), Osman, Fellaini, Pienaar; Jelavic
Unused subs: Mucha, Oviedo, Gueye, Duffy
Referee: Kevin Friend