Tony Hibbert - we came, he scored, we rioted

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Tony Hibbert of Everton holds off Matt Jarvis of Wolves during the Barclays Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton at Molineux on April 9, 2011 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)


As a member of Everton's media team rightly pointed out, only Everton fans would launch a full scale pitch invasion following a goal at a pre-season friendly.

With much of the hype surrounding Tony Hibbert's testimonial involving that infamous goal drought, most fans arrived at Goodison hoping that long wait would end.

But more of that later, I want to talk about Steven Naismith first.....

Wednesday's match was the first time the home crowd at Goodison had the opportunity to see the 25-year-old in action.

With Nikica Jelavic also in the starting XI, many expected the pair to link up against upfront. However, Naismith began out on the right, with Marouane Fellaini pushed forward - a sign of Moyes' thinking for the new season?

He is also recovering from a serious knee injury that kept him out of action for nine months, with Moyes insisting he is to ease the former Kilmarnock man back into action.

Well, if this is a half-fit Naismith, we are in for a treat when he reaches 100%. With barely a minute gone he drifted in from the right and latched onto Steven Pienaar's chipped through pass and sent a first-time lob over the goalkeeper for his first goal in Everton colours.

The lead didn't last long, with 16-year-old midfielder Taxiarchis Fountas volleying home from the edge of the area to bring the game level again.

Everton hit-back though, displaying the attacking verve we saw so frequently during the second half of the campaign, Baines and Pienaar were again at the heart of things, combining down the left before crossing to Naismith, who nodded home at the far post.

With 'Bainaar' down the left, Naismith on the right, Jelavic upfront and Fellaini supporting, all of a sudden we have a plethorea of attacking options. Is this the year we finally start a season well?

That optimism only increased when Everton made it 3-1, Pienaar's corner met by Fellaini, who sent a towering header crashing onto the bar, with Naismith showing poacher's instincts to scramble the rebound home.

The sound of "I predict a riot" by the Kaiser Chiefs blaring out at half-time gave a warning as to what was coming next. With the game won, the only thing now was for Hibbo to get his goal.

To be honest, I thought it was going to be a soft penalty award, despite Hibbert insisting before the game that he did not want a "gimme".

And, to be fair, the free-kick he stepped over was a fair distance from goal. After 11 years of waiting, we finally saw him hit the ball into the net, his low drilled effort going under the wall and beyond the 'keeper, who could only push it further over the line.

Were AEK in on the 'let Hibbo score' plot-line? Probably yes, but few could begrudge him the goal, even if the descriptions of 'fizzing' strikes and 'spectacular' were using a bit of blue-tinted artistic licence.

What followed though summed up Evertonians.They followed up the promise to riot by pouring onto the pitch to celebrate with the players. The AEK team looked a little bemused to say the least, but the image of hundreds of fans on the lush green turf will go down as one of the more memorable moments of recent years, even if it is only a friendly.

All in all Everton can consider this a job well done. The players gained a little more fitness and confidence, quickly getting over their lacklustre display at Blackpool. With just this weekend's trip to Malaga to come in their pre-season schedule, the new season is tantalisingly close.

But just as importantly, we had the chance to pay tribute - in our own unique way - to a true Everton stalwart.

Congrats Hibbo, you scored, we rioted.




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