Everton take three points back to Merseyside
The game started at a very slow pace and it took 14 minutes for there even to be the semblance of an opportunity at goal. Everton initiated the first meaningful attack as Phil Neville aimed a free-kick from high on the left flank in towards the back post area where it went over Phil Jagielka’s head. The defender did well to keep the ball in play and fed it back to Leon Osman who whipped it in towards the box. Jack Rodwell rose unmarked above the Newcastle defense but couldn’t quite get his head to the ball and it went out for a goal kick.
Everton continued this pressure with Louis Saha driving at the heart of the Newcastle defense minutes later before feeding the ball out to Mikel Arteta on the left. The Spaniard dribbled inside and across the edge of the penalty box before firing towards the top left-hand of the goal only to be denied by an excellent one-handed save by Harper.
Despite this early pressure it was Newcastle who took the lead with 23 minutes played. The hosts attacked down the left as Jonas Gutierrez slipped the ball inside the penalty area for Mike Williamson who played it to Kevin Nolan with a short pass in behind the Everton back line.
The Liverpudlian tried to extend his goal scoring tally for the season, drilling it towards the far corner but Howard managed to get a block onto it. It didn’t make a difference though, as the rebound found its way to Leon Best who was unmarked at the back post and he nodded it home for the simplest of goals.
Everton responded well to this setback with two goals in five minutes. The first came as Leon Osman dribbled straight through the middle of the Newcastle midfield before slipping the ball out wide to Arteta. The Spaniard looked to cut inside as he had done with his earlier chance, but instead of driving into the box he hit a low pass to Osman who had continued his run and the midfielder finds the bottom right-hand corner with a first time finish.
The visitors then took the lead from a Leighton Baines free-kick. The left-back curled an in-swinging cross into the Newcastle penalty area and Phil Jagielka threw himself onto the end of it as it arrived at the back post, connecting with his right foot. The ball hit off the crossbar and bounced into the underside of the Newcastle goal to put Everton into a 2-1 lead.
The second half started with Newcastle on the front foot. Substitute Shola Ameobi, on for the injured Jose Enrique, collected possession high on the left flank. With little support, he dribbled first inside then out at Jagielka, rounding the defender to burst into the left-hand side of the penalty area. He went for the near post with a firm shot but Howard was equal to it and pushed it out for a corner.
Everton still looked to threaten the Newcastle goal and came close as Jermaine Beckford tested Harper with a right-footed shot. Everton had worked the ball inside neatly from the right wing and Beckford ran across his marker to collect possession inside the Newcastle penalty area before unleashing a fierce shot that Harper managed to get fingertips to as he sent it wide of the left-hand post.
After a spell of Newcastle pressure, Everton created the next chance as Arteta did brilliantly to muscle past Coloccini and into the right-hand side of the penalty area before drilling the ball towards the far post. Saha threw himself at the ball but couldn't connect as an open goal goes begging.
Newcastle looked to be back on level terms as they bundled home a scruffy goal amongst a huddle of bodies in the penalty area. Nolan peeled away to celebrate but referee Howard Webb had ruled it out for an infringement.
The visitors then began to take control of the game, closing out any opportunity they could muster in the final third. They also had chances to grab the crucial third goal they wasted, the best of which saw Arteta release Seamus Coleman in the right-hand side of the box. But the youngster hit his strike straight at Harper.
It didn’t matter in the end, as Everton held on to collect a valuable three points in their fight to avoid relegation.
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