Sometimes in football we tend to worry too much about style points, and how good a team looks accomplishing a goal. We'd all love Everton to play stunningly beautiful football week in, week out, but that's not practical. Sometimes you have to deal with the sporting equivalent of trench warfare. That was the case on Saturday as Everton needed an own-goal to get a crucial win over Sunderland.
Admit it, just before Wes Brown accidentally directed Gerard Deulofeu's cross past his own goalkeeper, you were thinking not again. You were saying to yourself, "this is so Everton!"
It's okay, I was too. The game was starting to feel like classic Blues finding a way to slip-up against a really bad team at a pivotal moment in the season. It didn't happen this time, despite an overall lackluster performance from Everton. They did enough, they won their game in hand over Arsenal and now sit in fourth place with five games left to play.
If Everton can match, or better, Arsenal's results the rest of the season, the Champions League is theirs, and Roberto Martinez will probably get a statue. If that happens, we're going to look back at this game and talk about how important it was, because while it's a cliché, these are the games you have to find a way to win if you want to be a top 4 club.
For the moment, Everton is a top 4 club.
Here are some of my takeaways from the match:
- Before and after the own-goal, Sunderland were the better team. Everton were allowing them to sit in possession in the attacking third, giving them WAY too much space. A better team would have punished the Blues and probably won by three or four goals, so while they got away with it today, Martinez surely won't be thrilled by the performance.
- Romelu Lukaku is a great player but sometimes, he disappears. On Saturday, he disappeared. It happens to strikers sometimes, but in match where you really needed more possession, you would have liked to see some more from him when Everton was able to push the ball forward. In his defense though, the crossing and passing was pretty bad all day, so he wasn't exactly getting much of the ball.
- Set pieces. Barf. Let us just write that off and hope we'll be better next time.
- Gerard Deulofeu. What a talent. You still sense he's learning how to put everything together, but geez, the kid has so much skill. Barcelona have a tremendous talent on their hands if he continues to develop.