Everton 2-0 West Bromwich: Sunday Mirror match report
Published 21:32 31/03/12 By Derick Allsop
It has been some week for the blue side of Stanley Park.
Not content with setting up an FA Cup semi-final with Liverpool, Everton now sit above their neighbours in the Premier League.
A season that threatened humiliation for David Moyes’ team has blossomed into the prospect of stirring achievement on two domestic fronts.
Moyes’ opposite number, Roy Hodgson, cites Everton as the model for West Brom – a club capable of punching above their financial weight and occasionally blackening the eyes of the Premier League heavies.
On the evidence of this feeble offering, Albion are unlikely to reach that level any time soon. They managed to stay in the contest at 1-0 and had their chances, but ultimately were swept aside.
Unlucky as they were with the opening goal, deflected into his own net by Gareth McAuley, they can be thankful they were not subjected to a heftier defeat.
Once substitute Victor Anichebe had put away Everton’s second, huge gaps appeared in West Brom’s ever-more ragged defence.
Moyes enjoyed the view over Liverpool’s heads.
He said: “If you’d said at the start of the season we’d be seventh and above Liverpool with seven to go I don’t think I’d have believed you. I think our signings in January have made the difference.
“We finished strongly but we needed that second goal because we were showing signs of tiredness, both mental and physical.”
Hodgson dismissed as a “storm in a tea-cup” a bust-up involving Odemwingie and Foster near the end.
He said: “Peter didn’t pick up his man as he had been told to, but in his defence he had worked hard and we were staring defeat at 2-0. There were no recriminations in the dressing room.
“The second goal killed us off a bit. In the end we were thankful the score stayed at two.”
Moyes has ordered his players to out the FA Cup to the back if their minds and focus on the job of garnering as many league points as possible. The message has clearly been received.
Phil Neville and Sylvain Distin, two of the elder statesmen in Everton’s sixth round replay win at Sunderland in midweek, were left out of the starting line-up, while the cup-tied Steven Pienaar returned to duty.
Everton almost delivered a couple of punishing blows in the opening exchanges. Leon Osman flashed a header wide and Darron Gibson’s powerful drive just cleared the bar.
Osman remained a menace to the West Brom defence and, unsurprisingly, forced the breakthrough. He played a one-two with Nikica Jelavic and unleashed a shot that took a big deflection off McAuley to leave Ben Foster a helpless spectator.
Albion had more cause to curse their own unwitting intervention. Paul Scharner cut through Everton’s back line and Tim Howard parried his shot into the path of Chris Brunt, who wheeled away in exasperation as his close range effort was blocked by team-mate Shane Long.
Marouane Fellaini stretched Foster to an excellent save down at his left hand post.
The Albion keeper was powerless, however, to prevent Everton from extending their lead midway through the second half.
Pienaar carried the ball in from the left and fed Anichebe, fresh to the fray after coming on for Tim Cahill. The burly forward took the ball in his stride and drilled a low, shot from 20 yards in off a post.
Pienaar should have put the issue beyond doubt after linking up smartly with Jelavic, but shot straight at the onrushing Foster.
Odemwingie might have pulled one back but his shot took a deflection into the side-netting and it was all up for the Baggies.