Cleverley and Baines hand Blues first win in nine.
Everton 2 (1) – (1) 1 Bournemouth
Cleverley 7′ Pugh 9′
Goodison Park (Attendance:38,345)
Everton have secured their first victory in nine attempts after they ran out 2-1 winners over Bournemouth at Goodison Park.
Tom Cleverley‘s early goal was immediately cancelled out by Marc Pugh after some typically comedic defending from the Toffees.
But Leighton Baines’ first goal of the season ensured that all three points remained on Merseyside and give the Blues only their fifth home league win of 2015/16.
Tony Hibbert made his first senior appearance of the season as a half-time substitute, while youngster Kieran Dowell was handed his first team debut in the final few minutes of the encounter.
Before kick-off, the Goodison crowd paid tribute to relatives of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, with a standing ovation handed to the ten family members, who were guests of honour, after this week’s verdicts that the 96 Liverpool fans had been unlawfully killed on that fateful day back in April 1989.
Proceedings got underway after an emotional rendition of the Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” was played over the speakers and, from the first meaningful attack of the game, Everton took the lead.
Baines’ ball inside found Ross Barkley in space, who in turn found Cleverley around the 18-yard box.
The midfielder sidestepped an attempted challenge from Simon Francis, before guiding a low left footed effort past the despairing dive of Artur Boruc into the bottom left hand corner for his first Goodison goal.
Just two minutes later, however, and the Cherries pegged the hosts back.
Callum Wilson was not adjudged to have fouled Matthew Pennington – starting his first league game for the Blues – from a long ball over the top and, after the striker’s cross had deflected its way into the path of Pugh, the winger side footed home at the far post.
Barkley saw a left foot shot blocked 10 minutes later, before Cleverley fired high and wide following a one-two with his midfield compatriot.
Matt Ritchie’s fierce drive was deflected behind by Darron Gibson and, from the resulting corner, Steve Cook nodded narrowly wide of the left hand post.
Oumar Niasse – also making his first start for the Toffees – then won possession just inside the Bournemouth half, fed Barkley and the 22-year-old fired over the bar after jinking infield as the sides traded chances.
Hibbert replaced Muhamed Besic at the half-time interval to a rousing set of applause from all four corners of Goodison, and immediately endeared himself once more to Evertonians with a number of well-timed tackles and interceptions.
As it was, Eddie Howe’s men were looking the more likely to add to the score, as Josh King and Wilson fired wide of Tim Howard‘s left hand post.
But it was to be Roberto Martinez‘s charges who struck the next blow as Baines fired home his first goal from open play since January 2013.
Barkley and Cleverley exchanged passes before the former sent Aaron Lennon sprinting down the right wing.
The 28-year-old’s low cut back evaded the onrushing Cleverley, but Baines was following in behind his colleague to guide a shot into the roof of the net to send the Gwladys Street wild.
Junior Stanislas and Benik Afobe were introduced by Howe as he sought a second way back into the game, and the pair combined moments after their introduction – Afobe seeing a low strike blocked by Pennington.
The striker then nodded wide after good work down the right wing from Wilson.
Blues boss Martinez gave Dowell his first-team bow with eight minutes to spare, and the young attacking midfielder was greeted with rapturous applause by the Everton crowd.
And the 18-year-old immediately set about imposing himself on the field – closing down Boruc on two occasions and showing off some neat touches.
In truth Everton have done enough to triumph on the day, and the victory will provide a smidge of respite after a turbulent past two months.