Wigan came out brightly despite being spanked in midweek by Tottenham. They kept possession well but never really looked like scoring. Jean Beausejour was had some luck attacking Tony Hibbert but Wigan’s strikers were on their heels when his crosses arrived in the penalty area. Wigan’s best chance in the first half came when Maynor Figueroa played a dangerous ball into Franco Di Santo, who forced a fine save from Tim Howard down to his right.
As the first half went on, Everton began to push Wigan back and the match looked like it would eventually swing fully in Everton’s favor.
The second half saw Everton bring on Phil Neville for Tim Cahill. David Moyes likely thought that Neville’s presence in the center of the park would keep Wigan from linking their defense to their midfield. That strategy appeared to be working (but it’s hard to tell because Wigan’s midfield is dreadful), as Everton became more rampant and the Wigan attackers appeared outnumbered when they attempted to counter.
New signing Nikica Jelavic replaced Denis Stracqualursi in the 60th minute. Jelavic was immediately involved as he dummied a cross to give Marouane Fellaini a shot but the ball was cut out before it got to Fellaini.
Heartbreak struck for the Everton defense in the 76th minute, when Phil Neville poked his foot at Jean Beausejour’s cross, putting a nasty backspin on the ball. Tim Howard appeared to have it covered before the ball spun back away from him and into the Everton net. (Rage. Frustration. Recriminations. Normal service resumed.)
After looking like we could concede a second in short order, Victor Anichebe came on for Tony Hibbert, who trudged off looking like a sodden body double of Vladimir Putin.
Anichebe, never one to stand on ceremony, set to work on the Wigan defense. His labors quickly paid dividends as he powerfully headed home a Leighton Baines cross in the 83rd minute. Everton looked likely to grab a second and finish off Wigan after Nikica Jelavic won a freekick on the edge of the Wigan box.
Unfortunately, David Moyes had used Everton’s weekly supply of luck on his midweek signings and Leighton Baines fired over the Wigan goal. That was the closest Everton came to putting the relegation-strugglers away and the match slumped to a frustrating conclusion.
New Boys: So, positives to take from the game today. Steven Pienaar slipped back into the team as if he had never left. Considering that our team hadn’t recovered from losing him as the focal point of our offense, it wasn’t surprising that his return made our possession play take on a comfortable feel that it hadn’t all season. Jelavic was active when he came on but the service to him wasn’t particularly good. He may need some time to settle into the team but he definitely looks confident.
Negative Tactics Against Inferior Opponents: Everton went from besting league leaders Manchester City at midweek to coming back to draw against the bottom team in the league in Wigan. While this season has been nothing if not a Jekyll/Hyde adventure for Everton fans, I get the feeling that we’re forcing it on ourselves sometimes by not pressuring poor sides early. Instead, we allow them to gain in confidence by letting them keep possession early and then concede painfully poor goals. I wouldn’t mind seeing Tim Cahill lose his place to Nikica Jelavic and for us to have a real go at poor sides. Tim Cahill is great for when we want to slow the game down and rely on set pieces but he hurts our fluency against sides like Wigan.
Phil Neville: Moyes brought on Phil Neville at the beginning of the second half. Not that Moyes is never known for making negative decisions and Tim Cahill apparently picked up a knock, but Phil Neville has been drastically poor with the ball at his feet for at least the past two years. He misplaced more passes than any player on the pitch in midweek against City and, though he provides some defensive muscle in the middle of the park, he breaks up our play at least as well as he breaks up the other team’s. With Anichebe, Drenthe, and Magaye Gueye still on the bench and Leon Osman still to return from injury, I think Phil Neville is getting very close to his sell by date.
Offsides: Everton’s offense came to a standstill on seven occasions today because of players being offside. A number were quite close but every time we appeared to be building something, an offside would foil the attack. Denis Stracqualursi was notably at fault a number of times. Perhaps he was tired from midweek but he didn’t have the concentration he needed to help our team today.
Man of the Match: Bainaar.
Next Saturday, the Blues welcome Chelsea to Goodison Park. With any luck, losing at Goodison can be what gets the Chelsea manager sacked for the second year running. We’re five games unbeaten in all competitions and starting to put together a bit of a run, though wins are preferable to draws.
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