Everton 3 (1) – (0) 1 Reading
By Thom Power
Everton recorded their first league victory since January 30th this afternoon thanks to a 3-1 win over Reading at Goodison Park.
Goals from Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas ensured that the Blues kept a tight grip on sixth place in the Premier League, but the scoreline could have been much greater for the Toffees who spurned a number of other good chances in a match they completely dominated.
David Moyes was forced into making a goalkeeping change for the first time in the Premier League since 2007 when Tim Howard failed a fitness test ahead of the clash at Goodison, and Jan Mucha stepped in to make his first ever league appearance for Everton since joining in July 2009. Fellaini overcame his own injury to take the place of Phil Neville.
Moyes’ men started the match in impressive fashion, and created a couple of early chances to register a goal. First, Fellaini dragged a left footed effort wide of the target, before Nikica Jelavic saw a header comfortably held by Stuart Taylor in the Royals’ goal. Down the opposite end of the field, a jinxing run by Jimmy Kebe culminated in the winger dragging his own attempt at goal wide of the upright.
Adam Le Fondre, scorer of both goals in Reading’s 2-1 win over Everton earlier in the season at the Madejski, should have put the visitors in front on 20 minutes but his half volley crashed off the bar and was helped clear by a startled Everton defence. Steven Pienaar and Jelavic then both saw efforts blocked and saved respectively as the game ebbed and flowed.
Kevin Mirallas, fresh from his return to goalscoring form against Oldham in midweek, then set off on a mazy run and drew a first class save from Taylor as his right footed strike brought out the best in the keeper, but it wasn’t long before the Blues finally nudged in front.
Seamus Coleman weaved his way up the right wing and, after jinxing past two challenges, stood the ball up to the far post and Fellaini climbed highest to crash home the opening goal, much to the delight of the Goodison faithful. The Belgian could have doubled his tally just before the half time break as well; his cross-cum-shot causing Taylor to tip the ball over the bar.
Buoyed by Fellaini’s goal, Everton set about dictating the match in the second half and created a hatful of chances to increase their lead. Mirallas, operating in a left wing slot in the second 45, saw a shot blocked by Adrian Mariappa just two minutes into the half, before Jelavic and Fellaini both failed to find the net after a deft through ball by Leon Osman had initially put the Croatian through on goal.
The Toffees finally earned some breathing space when Pienaar lashed the ball into the top right hand corner from 25 yards out after the Reading defence had backed off to allow the South African space to advance into, and it was a goal that the midfielder had deserved for his endeavour and creativity.
Mirallas notched Everton’s third midway through the second half after being put through on goal by Pienaar, with the 25 year old calmly slotting the ball into the net at the near post after fooling Taylor. Gibson saw a long range strike clear the cross bar not long after, whilst Jobi McAnuff saw two right footed efforts held by Mucha as Reading tried to find a way back into the match.
Brian McDermott’s side did eventually unlock Everton’s defence when Hal Robson-Kanu nodded past the Slovakian in the final ten minutes, before substitute Victor Anichebe saw a shot cleared off the line for the Blues as full time approached.
With back to back wins secured within a week, Everton can now look forward to an enticing FA Cup quarter final match against Wigan in a week’s time.
Man of the Match: Steven Pienaar. Despite starting the match on the left wing, the 30 year old was switched over to the right for the second half and produced a match winning display by laying on a goal for Mirallas, as well as bagging another for himself. Seamus Coleman and Kevin Mirallas also stood out for the Toffees in a match they dominated.