Well what a night that was. Thankfully I am typing this as I can barely talk my voice is so hoarse.
The searchlights were shining at Goodison Park and seemingly they found what we have all been looking for; a team that played with passion, pride and above all looked interested in giving us, the fans something to cheer. Well, after twenty minutes anyway.
The first twenty minutes was the Everton that have played the previous ten games collecting very few points and even fewer wins. That Everton were sloppy, scared and lacked an edge. That Everton went behind through a cruel deflection off Williams from a poor Sanchez free kick. That Everton would have gone on to meekly lose this game 2, 3, 4-0. This Everton did not.
Around the twenty minute mark something happened. Lukaku chased down a few lost causes, the crowd reacted, as did Seamus Coleman and the impressive James McCarthy who put in some shuddering challenges. This really got the crowd going and the Blues never really looked back from there. Arsene Wenger said they we played the game as a cup tie, and I can’t really argue with that. The last time I watched anything close to last nights performance was the demolition of Chelsea in the cup last year.
After a period of domination for the Blues we were level thanks to our two full backs. Leighton Baines crossed over right footed to Seamus Coleman rising at the far post, this was one minute before half time, the proverbial “best time to score”.
After the break it was more of the same, with the Blues dominating and Arsenal creating very little. Mesut Özil however, really should have scored from a chance near the edge of our box, instead he skyed over the Park End crossbar.
The final breakthrough came on 86 minutes. A poor Barkley corner was challenged for by Calvert-Lewin but blocked by and Arsenal head to give Ross another chance. Barkley crossed deep in to the Arsenal box to the onrushing Williams who headed past Petr Cech. Queue crazy scenes of wild celebrations and that famous Goodison roar that has been absent for over 3 years. With just four minutes to go that really should have been the game finished but it could have ended either 2-2 or 3-1 with a mad goal line scramble preceding a breakaway from which the Blues should really have scored. It mattered not and the Blues held on for victory.
Almost to a man the players were impressive so I will run through a couple of standout performers here.
James was my man of the match. This was everything that Blues knew that he had in him, but that he rarely shows. This was a man filled with passion, a desire to win the ball and drive the team on. His tackling, tracking, passing heading was brilliant for 70 minutes, and indeed it was one of his crunching tackles that helped spark the Blues into the performance they delivered. Not quite Neville on Ronaldo, but almost as important. 9/10
Seamus Coleman & Leighton Baines
The national press often refer to our full-back pairing as one of the most productive and dynamic around. Us fans who go every week have not seen that for a long time now, both players seemed to be going backwards, looking stale and beyond their best. Last night they rolled back the clock. How many teams have one full-back crossing to the other to score? That’s what our two can do when on form. Both 8/10
Another solid game from Idrissa, harking back to his early season levels. I am sure every Blue winced when he took a tackle from his own man above the knee with the Derby coming up but he got up, shook himself off and put the Arsenal midfield back in his pocket. 8/10
Last but, most certainly not least. Sometimes the best players for a team are not the most technically gifted. Sometimes they don’t need to do anything other than run, for examples see Dirk Kuyt, Phil Neville, Denis Stracqualursi. Okay, I might be taking it too far with that last one but you catch my drift. For a team that has lacked the will to get into peoples faces and press that ball Enner was a breath of fresh air last night. He chased everything, closed down, passed well and linked up well with Rom. His performance may have played him into the Merseyside Derby team. 8/10
Other Special Mentions
Lukaku was at his bullish best, trying to chase down as much as he could and going on one great, powerful run. Ashley Williams got his goal, although there are still questions to be answered at the back. Aaron Lennon was full of work and determination. Stekelenburg, whilst I still have my reservations produced some stunning stops during the goal-line Meleé.
Anyway now that’s out of the way, surely the games only get easier from here? Oh wait…