Over the weekend I caught Everton's final preseason game, a visit to Spanish outfit Malaga, on a delightfully pixelated feed from EvertonTV. Since I'm still attempting to get back in the swing of writing the match reports, I thought I'd go ahead and put up a post with some observations and notes I took on the game. There's still plenty to talk about in the aftermath of the Rodwell news, so don't miss Tom's excellent take on the sale, and also be sure to sign up for the RBM Fantasy Football League.
Notes on the Malaga friendly after the jump...
- Malaga is a team coming off a very strong season, finishing 4th in La Liga and making the Champions League play-off round, narrowly edging out Atletico Madrid. So this was a good benchmark for Everton, and a chance to face competition that should be on par with what they'll be facing in the Premier League.
- Of all of the players in the team for Malaga, the one who seemed to be involved the most was Argentinian defender Martin Demichelis. He made the spectators aware of his presence early in the match with a crunching tackle on Steven Naismith in the opening minutes, a challenge that the Everton players can't have looked upon too favorably in a friendly. I've seen straight reds given for less.
- I thought Nikica Jelavic put in a good, hardworking shift, but the timing still isn't there. I lost count of the number of times he was caught offside, though Malaga was playing with fire by letting him roam. Jelavic ends the preseason without finding the back of the net, but I'm really not too concerned. As long as he can rekindle the chemistry he built with Naismith at Rangers, we should be fine.
- Everton started brighter, but Malaga gained control of the proceedings as the first half wore on, and the Everton defense looked rather scrambly. Phil Jagielka was kept busy and looked ready to go for the new season. It's going to be interesting to see which central defender misses out versus Manchester United; I think by default it has to be Distin.
- In the second half Malaga continued with their chippy style of play, which again seemed like a questionable approach for a friendly. Of course, there was one of the most pointlessly over-sized trophies I've ever seen at stake, so maybe the Malaga players were simply motivated by visions of lifting the Tropheo Internationál Costa Del Sol.
- The absence of Marouane Fellaini become more apparent as the second half progressed. Apparently the Belgian is in a race against time to regain his fitness before the day of the big opener, and if he's not ready to go you just know Moyes will start Neville in midfield and Hibbert at right back against the Red Devils. Please no!!!
- Malaga finally took the lead after Leighton Baines committed a foul on the edge of the box, and then Everton completely fell asleep on the resulting free kick, allowing Weligton a free header which he buried for the 1-0 advantage. Substitute Sylvain Distin looked like he might have been culpable for the mistake.
- Not too much else of real importance to report. Everton did have a few chances to get a goal though: a goal correctly ruled offside despite a good buildup and cross from Baines, a great chance squandered by Ross Barkley in the closing minutes, and a terrific move and strike from Leon Osman that was parried. It wasn't to be though, and the game finished 1-0.
- Overall, this game had an air on "let's just get this over with" about it. Still, it was a good test for Everton on the road against a quality opponent, with no injuries to report. Finally, we're ready for the games to start counting. One week to go!