Blues fall to second league defeat of the season following brace from Le Fondre.
Reading 2 (0) – (1) 1 Everton
By Thom Power
It should be well known by now, to all Evertonians at least, that the Toffees set a new record in the Premier League era last week after coming from behind in six successive matches to salvage something from each of those games. Maybe David Moyes’ men should always fall behind in matches from now on as breaking that streak caused their second league defeat of the season.
After an almost faultless first half showing, in which Steven Naismith gave the Blues the lead, Moyes’ charges turned in their worst second half performance of the season and fell to defeat thanks to two goals from the Royals’ Adam Le Fondre, gifting Brian McDermott’s side their first league win of the season.
Moyes was forced to make two changes from last week’s starting lineup, with Naismith and Thomas Hitzlsperger replacing the injured duo of Kevin Mirallas and Phil Neville. 18 year old summer signing Matthew Kennedy was also a surprise inclusion on the substitutes’ bench.
Despite missing the raw pace of Mirallas, Everton burst out of the traps from the kick off and should have been ahead within the first two minutes of the match. A corner from Hitzlsperger was almost poked home by Phil Jagielka, before the German fired another cross into the area, following a clearance, only to see Jelavic contrive to volley the ball over Reading’s crossbar.
The Blues were comfortably on top for the entire first half, and the travelling horde of Evertonians did not have to wait long for Naismith to put them ahead. The Royals failed to clear their lines three times, Jelavic hooked the ball back across the face of the goal, Fellaini chested the ball down and the Scot stole in to poke home a deserved opener.
Moments later Tim Howard almost gifted Reading an equaliser after losing out in a 50-50 challenge to Le Fondre, but the striker’s lobbed effort sailed harmlessly wide of the goal.
Following that let off, the Toffees continued to assert their dominance. Steven Pienaar flashed a right footed effort wide of the upright, Hitzlsperger saw one of his famous drives punched away and Leon Osman’s gilt edged opportunity was saved by the feet of Adam Federici after good work from Naismith. Jelavic also should have had a penalty after his shot was handled by Sean Morrison but unsurprisingly referee Martin Atkinson, who has previous with Everton, waved away the Croat’s appeals.
That decision to not give the Blues a penalty was further underlined five minutes after the second half had started. Nicky Shorey whipped in a free kick from the right flank and Le Fondre bustled in to nod home.
Almost shell shocked by being pegged back, Everton’s fluidity in the final third evaporated and Reading started to create the better chances. Le Fondre went close twice following crosses by Jobi McAnuff, whilst Hitzlsperger spurned Everton’s best second half chance when his left footed shot was blocked by Mikel Leigertwood in the Reading penalty box.
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And then the killer blow. Seamus Coleman, who had been lucky not to give away a penalty against Queens Park Rangers weeks ago, was again the culprit when he barged into the back of Le Fondre and gave Atkinson no choice but to point to the spot. Le Fondre’s spot kick was tame, but with Tim Howard diving in the opposite direction the 27 year old wheeled away to celebrate his second of the afternoon.
David Moyes threw on Bryan Oviedo and Apostolos Vellios in a bid to salvage a point but, save for a Marouane Fellaini header that cannoned off the upright, the Toffees were devoid of creativity and have now dropped to fifth in the league.
Man of the Match: Thomas Hitzlsperger. The German didn’t disappoint in his first start for the Toffees, with his neat passing ability backed up by his thunderous drive, and the 30 year old could have had a goal to show for his efforts but for Federici and Leigertwood.