Monday, 17 September 2012

Everton 2-2 Newcastle: Pardew's changes get draw

Everton as the home side started with a 4-2-3-1 shape. New signing Mirallas played on the right while Fellaini played behind Jelavic up front.

Newcastle started with Demba Ba only on the bench, with Papiss Cisse up front, Gutierrez, Cabaye and Anita making up the midfield, and Marveaux and Ben Arfa in the wide areas.

Everton dominate first half

The first half was completely dominated by Everton. They played at a higher tempo, were more aggressive, won the second balls and forced Newcastle back.

The home side dominated the first half for a couple of reasons. Firstly their direct threat in the air was always an option; if Newcastle blocked the passing options for the Everton centre backs, Fellaini and Jelavic were both available for the long ball forward and Everton supported well and aggressively enough to win the second ball. From there they could push the Newcastle backline deeper and control possession with their switches of play, especially to the left hand side.

That left hand side was where Everton's biggest offensive threat came from - Newcastle weren't compact enough when the ball was switched to that area and they never got tight enough to pressure and stop the dangerous link ups that were occuring between Baines and Pienaar and the speed at which it happened. The first goal came from exactly this situation. As Gary Neville said in his analysis at half time, Newcastle didn't move across as a compact unit and Baines had plenty of space to make a penetrating run and score.

As for Newcastle's offensive threat, they carried virtually none. They weren't able to push Everton back and take advantage of their attacking threats because of the amount of possession Everton were having and also the way the home side were pressing. Long balls to Cisse in the air were fruitless; Distin was physically strong in the air to deal with him and the Everton midfield compacted the area around him well, making it difficult for Newcastle to win the second ball and build attacks. Ben Arfa, in particular had little chance to operate between the lines because of Newcastle being pushed back, though he did almost provide an assist with a pull back but the eventual shot was cleared off the line.

Half time changes

Alan Pardew had to make a some sort of change for the second half and he did, bringing on Demba Ba for Marveaux, switching to a 4-4-2 with Perch moved into midfield, Anita at right back and Gutierrez moved to right wing.

In theory this was the correct decision. Gutierrez was clearly more suited defensively against Baines than Marveaux had been in the first half and the physical threat of Ba and Cisse would provide much more problems to Everton's centre backs.

And so it proved. Newcastle were still having problems giving the ball away in their own half, allowing Everton to keep the pressure on but their attacking threat was more evident. For the equaliser, even though the home side gave the ball away poorly in midfield, when Cabaye won it there was a straight 2v2 on the counter attack and Ba got the equaliser.

That direct threat gave David Moyes' side far more of a problem. Like Jelavic and Fellaini had been for Everton in the first half, Ba and Cisse were always an option in the air to push Everton's backline back and that also allowed Ben Arfa more space between the lines to operate.

From there on, the game became more about who could push the other back. Both teams were direct and aggressive, looking to create with their physical threat in the middle. Anichebe wasn't as big a threat in the air as Jelavic had been and Moyes swapped him and Mirallas about 20 minutes into the second period.

Refereeing decisions aside, neither team had overall control of the second period as Everton had acheived in the first. Both teams looked to pressure aggressively, chase passes back to the goalkeeper and push the opponent back to take advantage of their physical threat. The changes made by both teams showed their intent on keeping things roughly the same; Naismith replaced Mirallas for Everton, Ameobi replaced Cisse for Newcastle.

Anichebe's superb turn and goal late on looked to have sealed the win for the home side, but Ameobi and Ba were still a big problem down the centre for Everton. The home side needed to try and move their backline as far out as possible and push Newcastle back into their own half but even just before the equaliser, they struggled to deal with a long ball down the centre to Ba and then moments later the movement of the two strikers, Ameobi coming short for the header with Ba looking behind for the flick on worked superbly and got the equaliser for Alan Pardew's side.

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