Johnson (og) 54, Cahill 93
A Tim Cahill header and a Roger Johnson own goal were enough to give Everton a first Premier League win of the season, lift the Toffees off the bottom of the table and, for 24 hours at least, out of the relegation zone at Liverpool’s expense.
Leon Osman replaced Steven Pienaar in the only change from the side that drew a week ago at Fulham and, while the loss of the South African was a blow, the performance of the team as a whole meant the midfielder was not really missed. Lining up in their familiar 4-4-1-1 formation, Everton were dominant in the first-half but had nothing tangible to show for their efforts. Osman, looking far more comfortable on the left than in previous games on the right, drifted in-field to join Cahill in supporting Yakubu to good effect, also leaving the flank clear for the rampaging Leighton Baines. Seamus Coleman continued on the right-side and with the two attack-minded full-backs, Baines and Coleman (a converted full-back), offering great width and a regular out ball, Everton’s threat from the wings was one of the most dangerous parts of their game – indeed, both goals came from left-wing crosses.
This victory over Birmingham City marks the first time this season an Everton performance worthy of three points has been rewarded with just that. David Moyes’ side bossed the opening 45 minutes and then defended resolutely once Johnson’s error gave them a 54th minute lead. Travelling to the home of a side unbeaten on their own patch in 18 league games and controlling matters says a lot about the quality of Everton’s first-half performance, but also much about the lack of quality Birmingham displayed in a desperately poor first-half for the home side. Both sides had chances in the first-half due to opposition centre-back’s slips but Everton’s greater quality in midfield through Marouane Fellaini and Mikel Arteta, who played with a balance not before seen from the pair, meant the visitors always looked more likely to take the lead. Showing great poise, the Belgian and the Spaniard worked in tandem to maintain Everton’s superiority. The only blemish on Fellaini was a 15th minute incident with Liam Ridgewell where he again could not keep his elbows to himself. It was not a sending off offence, but Fellaini must not rise to any provocation.
After a run of games where the Blues’ build-up play was not matched by any kind of goal scoring threat the last two games have seen an improvement in that regard. Yakubu linked up well with Cahill behind him and used his bulk and his technique to hold the ball up, something Jermaine Beckford has lacked the tenacity to do. A more robust centre-forward has given Everton’s play a focal point, someone who can trouble defenders as much as he can get involved with the game and not just wait on the shoulder of the last defender. The Nigerian may still look laboured occasionally but his calmness of touch and awareness of those around him brings a much-needed craft to Everton in front of goal. And with a much-needed three points on the board, Everton can take breathe a little easier and get their season back on track.
18 Neville – 6 Jagielka – 15 Distin – 3 Baines
23 Coleman – 10 Arteta – 25 Fellaini – 21 Osman
79 – 5 Heitinga on for 22 Yakubu
86 – 7 Bilyaletdinov on for 23 Coleman