Wolves 0 - 3 Everton - Three first-half goals finish off troubled Wolves
A smart header from Jermaine Beckford and a thunderbolt apiece from Phil Neville and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov gave Everton only their fourth away league victory this season, to leave the hosts facing an almighty battle for survival. It was an assured display from a resurgent Everton side who have now gone six Premier League games without defeat, and this latest victory leaves Wolves’ top-flight future on tenterhooks.
Mick McCarthy recalled record signing Steven Fletcher up front to replace Adam Hammill whilst Adlene Guedioura made his first start since he broke his leg back in September. Mikel Arteta, Louis Saha and Tim Cahill were among the most notable absentees for the visitors, as David Moyes had little choice in his first XI selection, this was also reflected with Victor Anichebe being the most recognisable name on the Toffees’ bench.
The influential Cahill has managed just 70 minutes of football for Everton since the beginning of March, and although the Australian has been missed, the in-form Leon Osman has filled the void with two goals and two assists. The diminutive midfielder again occupied space behind Beckford and caused the hosts all sorts of problems. The opening goal epitomised why Wolves find themselves immersed in a relegation dogfight, as for all their commendable attacking intent, three defenders failed to stop Beckford meeting Osman’s near post cross.
The hosts had made a bright start but the visitor’s opening goal, extracted all belief out of the home side, who would surely have pencilled this fixture in as a chance for three points. Wolves looked dangerous when they directed play towards the ever impressive Matt Jarvis, but for all the early pressure they failed to test Tim Howard until the hour mark, when Karl Henry’s drive was parried by the American goalkeeper.
Leading by three goals at the start of the second half enabled Everton to take the sting out of the game as they subsequently dictated the pace. Moyes instructed his men to stay compact and therefore did not offer the hosts any incentive, as they sought a way back into the contest. Michael Kightly replaced Sylvan Ebanks-Blake at half-time as Wolves felt their best chance of success would come in wide areas, but the ever reliable Tony Hibbert and Leighton Baines gave little away defensively. It was all too predictable from the team in gold, as for all the organisation from the Toffees, a severe lack of craft and imagination will be seen as Wolves’ downfall.
The latter now have a two-week wait to resume Premier League action - as domestic cup matters inadvertently disrupt their schedule - so McCarthy must now decide just how to rally his deflated troops. Meanwhile, a top-six finish is not beyond Everton and they have added more pressure on rivals Liverpool - who occupy sixth place - to set up an enthralling finish for that final European qualification spot.