Arteta 17, 39, Garcia (og) 51, Donovan 82, Rodwell 86
HULL CITY 1
A sublime performance from Everton reignited the Blues’ European hopes and pushed Hull City closer to the relegation trapdoor, leaving Toffees fans ruing what might have been with a full complement of players all season and the Tigers left staring into the Championship. With 10 games until the end of the season, both teams have much work to do to reach their respective goals of European competition and Premier League safety.
Despite a bright start from the visitors, Everton soon swamped the Yorkshire side with an avalanche of short, sharp passing and dynamic movement led by Mikel Arteta. The enigmatic Spaniard is looking more and more like the player he was before injury cruelly struck him down last February, and his best display since he returned to fitness was justly rewarded with two goals. The former Barcelona player was at the heart of everything good about Everton’s performance, along with midfield colleague John Heitinga who not only gave the Blues’ back-line valuable protection but sprayed the ball around the field like Frank de Boer in his peak.
Hull’s first-half showing should have been good enough to go in level – certainly, there was barely a gap between the sides at the break with the home side holding a 2-1 advantage. The second 45 minutes was so disastrous for Hull, however, that Phil Brown’s team-talk could only have gone worse if he gave it on the pitch, while conversely, Everton’s rest period energised their key players and it took just six minutes for the Blues to extend their lead. Richard Garcia knocked Arteta’s cross into his own goal and from then on, there was only one team in the game. Everton’s lead gave them the swagger to attack their opponents to the last whereas Hull only shrunk further.
If there is any consolation for Hull, it could potentially be found in two areas. First, they did manage the best goal of the game – Tom Cairney’s sumptuous left-foot volley that levelled the scores – and secondly, the relegation dogfight is so close one win will catapult them out of danger. Brown’s charges certainly showed enough in the opening period to suggest they have what it takes to avoid demotion but the lack of fight in the second stanza capitulation cannot be repeated again this season, lest the Tigers find themselves back from whence they came two years ago.
For Everton, it was a return to the form that saw off Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea within a matter of weeks. Those three results threatened to be an albatross around the Blues’ necks, setting an extremely high standard it was always going to be difficult to match week in, week out, but the confidence on display here should serve as a reminder, first and foremost to the players themselves, of what Everton are capable of. The quality of football proffered in this thrashing was of the absolute highest class and Everton were fully deserved winners.