Well, what can you say about that one? For 86 minutes, that was undeniably some of the most dreadful football I've ever seen played. The first half was like watching paint dry, the second half wasn't much better, and then out of nowhere... a moment of absolute quality from Leon Osman, a terrible clearance by Paul Scharner, and just like that three points for Everton. Happy New Year indeed. I'll try to make sense of an awful wonderful match after the jump...Game thoughts...
- I was all set to write a scathing analysis of David Moyes's tactical decisions, and in truth I think he still has some questions to answer about that midfield. I don't have the proof to back me up, but surely that has to be the most uninventive starting eleven Moyes has ever fielded for Everton. While it's great to have Jack Rodwell back, I really think he should have started Magaye Gueye on the left wing in place of Neville or Heitinga. With zero creativity in the midfield, the first half of the match was incredibly painful to watch. Really, the entire match was incredibly painful to watch.
- The one saving grace for Everton today? West Brom were, if possible, even more appaling. If my memory serves me correctly, they failed to put even a single shot on target. A single shot. At home, no less! The Baggies strike me as a team that plays a similar style to the one Everton usually employs, but they still have to be severely disappointed with the way the match played out. The camera shot near the end of the game of Roy Hodgson actually banging his head on the wall behind him in frustration was priceless.
- As strange as Moyes's team selection was, I have to give him credit for nailing his substitutions. He clearly saw that changes needed to be made, although he would have to have been completely delusional not to see that. It would have been a shame to settle for a draw on a day when the opposition was so poor, and taking off Neville was absolutely necessary to push ahead for the three points. The key to the substitutions today was that the bench players were given enough time to make a difference.
- How many of you placed your pregame bets on Victor Anichebe to score the winning goal today? It was the Nigerian's first league goal since March 2010, so needless to say it's been awhile. Leon Osman deserves a huge chunk of the credit for the goal though, with a beautiful pass to Tony Hibbert who in turn set up Anichebe. I still think Big Vic is a largely flawed player, and he is often an easy target for Evertonians, but considering the state of the squad he can still do a job offering a different dimension to the attack.
- I found it ironic that Paul Scharner gift-wrapped Everton's goal by heading the ball directly into the path of Anichebe for him to strike. Scharner, of course, is infamous for always scoring against Everton no matter which team he is currently playing for. Speaking of West Brom, I'm hard-pressed to think of a player who had a halfway decent game for them. Chris Brunt I suppose?
- Very strange scheduling lately. I feel for all of the hometown supporters who had to endure a second consecutive year without a holiday fixture at Goodison. Not only that, but who wants to play a soccer game at 12:30 on New Year's Day? Apparently not the fans, as the atmosphere from the home supporters sounded pretty dead. Of course, that could have just been the play on the field.
- Manchester City couldn't score at West Brom. As I type this, they haven't scored at Sunderland. Everton scored at West Brom and Sunderland. Therefore, Everton are better than Manchester City! (logical fallacies for the win)
T. Howard - Had almost literally nothing to do. Hopefully Timmy didn't overindulge in the Christmas goodies, because he hasn't gotten a decent workout in weeks. 6
T. Hibbert - No complaints about his defense, but his passing was pretty bad today. However, points for putting the ball into the box which Anichebe eventually lashed home. 6
S. Distin - Very good game. Caught napping once or twice, but overall he looked so much more comfortable than last week and made a couple of terrific tackles. 8
P. Jagielka - Fine, although at times he fell back into his old habit of hoofing the ball downfield too much. 6
L. Baines - Was really asked to do a lot today without a true winger to link up with on the left side for much of the match, but it's still no excuse for some mediocre crossing. 6
J. Rodwell (Gueye 56) - A good solid run-out for Jack after his hamstring problem, he was the best midfielder in an otherwise horrible first half. Very encouraging sign for the weeks ahead. 7
P. Neville (Anichebe 64) - Dreadful. His passing lacked any semblance of thought or direction, and even Moyes couldn't ignore his ineffectiveness. 4
J. Heitinga - Marginally better than Neville. Playing out of position and looks it. 5
L. Osman - Struggled to leave his mark initially when teamed with three defensive midfielders, but came alive after the substitutions and made a brilliant move to start the attack that led to the goal. 7
T. Cahill - Almost a complete non-factor. Did throw himself into a few aerial challenges on both ends of the pitch, at least. 5
L. Saha (Stracqualursi 64) - Shocking. All that can be said for him is that he wasn't given a lot of service to work with. 3
M. Gueye (substitute 56) - Should have started, I think. Wasn't exceptional by any means but provided the width that was missing early on. 7
V. Anichebe (substitute 64) - A goal for Big Vic? It's a (late) Christmas miracle! Full marks for a strong finish. 7
D. Stracqualursi (substitute 64) - Looked lively after coming on, and at the least he worried West Brom's defense more than Saha managed to. 7
Man of the Match: Sylvain Distin