WEST BROMWICH ALBION 1 (Lugano 75) – EVERTON 1 (Mirallas 41)
After a satisfactory first half performance capped by a slick Kevin Mirallas finish Everton lost their way in the second half, conceded a sloppy equalizer and dropped two vital points. With Barkley, Pienaar and Deulofeu all side-lined and Leon Osman having one of his less accomplished games, the lack of midfield options was exposed for all to see.
Roberto Martinez had only McGeady, who hasn’t played a competitive game in three months, and in any case is a wide-man, available on the bench. Everton overcame the defensive crisis of a few weeks ago by blooding the promising John Stones and having the experienced Antolin Alcaraz available, here not one of the hooded figures warming the substitutes bench offered Martinez the required skill-set; that of an attacking, penetrative midfielder. The potency of the team, when everyone is available, was demonstrated at Old Trafford and the Emirates, here a fully fit squad would undoubtedly have bagged all the points.
Quite why the team, supposedly refreshed and reinvigorated from five days warm weather training in Tenerife, performed as though knackered by having, forty eight hours earlier, lost a cup-replay plus extra time, at a muddy Elland Road, would be a valid question for the management. As this game wore on the Blues became slower and sloppier and they looked, by the end of the game, bereft of ideas; disjointed and lacking the vigour and threat which a team challenging at the top-end of the league should carry.
As disheartening as the result was the sight, with about twenty minutes to go, of Seamus Coleman limping off clutching his hamstring. That Roberto Martinez chose to send on John Stones, rather than Tony Hibbert, shows how highly the manager rates the nineteen year old. The youngster, though on the pitch for a short time, was composed in defence, showed attacking intent and demonstrated again that he has an old head on those young shoulders; he did not misplace a single pass. Should, as seems likely, Coleman now miss the Merseyside derby, John Stones will certainly play in his place.
After the game Roberto Martinez said that the state of the pitch was a factor. Doubtless, even as you read this, the groundstaff at Broadhall Way – home of Stevenage FC – are busy driving heavy plant up and down their pitch.
WEST BROM (4-4-2): Foster; Reid, Lugano, Olsson, Ridgewell; Gera (Mulumbu 60), Morrison, Yacob, Brunt; Vydra (Anichebe 46), Anelka (Berahino 77)
Unused subs: Myhill, Amalfitano, Jones, Sessegnon
Booked: Yacob, Morrison, Ridgewell
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Howard; Coleman (Stones 79), Jagielka©, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Oviedo (McGeady 80), Mirallas, Osman (Naismith 89); Lukaku
Unused subs: Robles, Hibbert, Heitinga, Vellios
Booked: Barry, Mirallas
Ref: Michael Oliver