It was a third draw in succession for the Toffees in the Welsh capital today with a second successive 0-0 draw in the league. The amount of chance in the game probably deserved a low scoring encounter however it was the same story for the Toffees who were the better side as they were against Norwich and West Brom but couldn’t finish the ‘Bluebirds’ off; a narrative not too dissimilar to the previous campaign. Everton have now not won a Premier League away game since January the 2nd and until Roberto Martinez finds his first league victory will the pressure and anxiety ease for the Spaniard. It was a game of few chances but the both sides had at least one or two opportunities that should have opened the scoring for this fixture however did not.
The first ten to twenty minutes formulated a cagey affair with Everton, as expected, dictating most of the play and possession. However they did give the ball away cheaply, at time in their own half, which paved the way for some Cardiff counter attacks. It was obvious that the centre midfielders for the Toffees needed to take more responsibility and take the ball off the centre halves rather than let the defenders pass the ball between themselves. The 11th minute found the first real opening in play with Ross Barkley wriggling through four Bluebird players and hitting a deflected shot wide. Four minutes late Cardiff began to take the ball with a twenty to thirty pass move which resulted in a Peter Whittingham cross being blocked for a corner. The subsequent corner from Craig Bellamy was headed out by Leon Osman for a corner on the opposite side, with Whittingham striking an in-swinger to the near post and almost straight into the net with Howard pushing it away.
The 25th minute saw Kevin Mirallas with an unfamiliar header over after a good free kick from the left side delivered via the trusty left of Leighton Baines. The following three minutes saw Everton grow into the game and have more of a say on the ball in attacking areas, with most of the play down the left, having been unlucky not to conjure up a significant opportunity at goal from their good play. In the 29th minute Mirallas again showed his lack of heading ability after glancing a header wide of the goal from a Nikica Jelavic cross. In the 41st minute Leighton Baines went down in the area after skipping past two Cardiff City challenges but referee Anthony Taylor gave neither a penalty nor a yellow card for diving. Two minutes into stoppage time Seamus Coleman overlapped Steven Pienaar and delivered a cross and with the ball slightly behind him and coming back Jelavic headed but found Ben Turner’s arm which wrong-footed David Marshall but the former Celtic keeper recovered and stopped onto the post. Jelavic then in the same minute, looking more like himself, but from an offside position headed an in-swinging Marouane Fellaini cross from the left at Marshall once more. This ensured the third consecutive goalless first half in the league.
After the break it was Cardiff who started the better of the two teams and in the 47th minute Kim Bo-Kyung turned Jagielka inside and out after Mirallas lost the ball with Coleman already overlapping him, causing a Cardiff counter. The South Korean beat Jagielka and fired a pass across goal with no Cardiff player close enough to latch onto, soon after Cardiff’s right-back Matthew Connolly struck an effort outside the area and a deflection took it wide of the Everton goal. A minute later in response Ross Barkley had a shot deflected for a corner after striking from outside the area. Just past the hour mark Craig Bellamy was put through on goal by Kim and took the ball past the onrushing Tim Howard, however the touch he took to take it past the American took Bellamy too far wide of the goal to shoot and he was forced to cut it back to keep the ball in and alive Cardiff although Everton eventually cleared. Watching the game you could sense it opening up for both sides in attacking areas and attacking moves for both sides were beginning to fluctuate.
Martinez was the first of the two managers on the touchline to make a change, bringing off Nikica Jelavic and bringing on Arouna Kone. Two minutes later however in the 70th minute it was at the other end, Sylvain Distin had to intervene and clear another Whittingham cross out for a corner after Kim held onto the ball from the pestering Steven Pienaar and in the process appearing to elbow the South African to keep hold of possession and then spraying out wide to the left for the former Villa man Whittingham. Former Liverpool player and today’s Cardiff captain; Craig Bellamy was brought on for Don Cowie in the 78th minute. Two minutes later on the overlap, Leighton Baines received the ball from Pienaar and crossed to Fellaini who headed down to the offside Arouna Kone; the Ivorian could only find the Bluebird goalkeeper, David Marshall. In the 82nd minute Leighton Baines struck a ferious effort wide with his unfamiliar right foot after being teed up by Fellaini. Five minutes before the end Ross Barkley slid in Kevin Mirallas with a pass down just the left of the goal. The Belgian cut inside to beat the sliding defender however the covering right-back Connelly was able to take the ball off the twenty-five year-old. That was the last of Mirallas as he was taken off for the Capital One Cup star of the midweek; Gerard Deulofeu who, a minute after entering the field of play, hit a shot from distance straight at Marshall however. A minute into stoppage time it was the Spaniard again, who struck a pass across the Cardiff City area with no Everton player able to react to it and subsequently the result was a third straight draw for Martinez and Everton in the league.
In terms of the positives that came out of this game for the Toffees was that again they created good opportunities to score and they kept the ball very well through most of the encounter. Like against Stevenage Gerard Deulofeu on-loan from Barcelona looked a bright and creative spark however playing him out wide is not the way to go because he only has one trick; to try to slow his run with the ball down, get tight to the fullback and then knock it past him. In regards to negatives Everton are not taking the chances that they create and with only two days to go before the close of the transfer window that has to worry Martinez. It was obvious that the Blues miss Darron Gibson, they need someone who can take the ball and the responsibility of keeping the ball off the defenders and in the same breath start to build an attacking move, rather than Distin and Jagielka passing between each other. The next fixture at home to Chelsea will be crucial because the Toffees must rack up their first win and perhaps that will kick start the season however if they get beat three points from four games does not read well at all. Perhaps, the upcoming international break will serve the Blues well given the amount of pressure on their next game although it will be important for Everton that none of their players get injured on duty for their countries.
Cardiff City: David Marshall 8, Mattew Connelly 7, Steven Caulker 6, Ben Turner 6, Andrew Taylor 6, Aron Gunnarsson 6, Gary Medel 7 (Jordon Mutch – 89th minute), Craig Bellamy 7 (Don Cowie – 78th minute), Kim Bo-Kyung 8 (Nicky Maynard – 82nd minute), Peter Whittingham 8 and Fraizer Campbell 7.
Unused Substitutes: Joe Lewis, Mark Hudson, Rudy Gestede and Craig Noone.
Everton: Tim Howard 6, Seamus Coleman 7, Phil Jagielka 7, Sylvain Distin 8, Leighton Baines 7, Leon Osman 7, Marouane Fellaini 7, Kevin Mirallas 6 (Gerard Deulofeu – 86th minute), Ross Barkley 7, Steven Pienaar 6 and Nikica Jelavic 6 (Arouna Kone 6 – 68th minute).