There have been some excellent wins in the first campaign under Roberto Martinez for the Toffees. In fact the Blues acquired more wins in the league than in the past six seasons and gained a record number of Premier League points for the club in the process. In no order than chronological, here are the top five wins for Everton in 2013/14:
Everton 1-0 Chelsea – 14th Sept 2013
The win against Chelsea was the first in the league under Martinez and one of the important throughout the season in the long-term. On top of that it was the first Everton win against Jose Mourinho. Putting the latter aside, this was a vital win to kick-start the Martinez reign after three droll stalemates in the league and one extra-time win over League One opposition Stevenage in the Capital One Cup.
The encounter was won with a Steven Naismith goal on the stroke of half-time and without playing close to their best, the Toffees managed to hit an early dent into Chelsea’s title hopes. It wasn’t the result that was the most pleasing aspect of this game.
The performance of Gareth Barry, the man chastised from an unforgettable display in South Africa three years before, silenced all doubters at Goodison and in one moment became an Everton favourite. The former Aston Villa captain’s heroic block on Samuel Eto’o’s certain opener was all Barry had to do to change the universal opinion of him. As the game progressed so too did the notion that his composure on the ball and his vision and execution to turn defence into attack in an excellent pass were going to be important for a successful season.
Manchester United 0-1 Everton – 4th Dec 2013
It had been 21 years since Everton had last won at Old Trafford but the first encounter against David Moyes at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ had the Blues optimistic. With West Brom having beaten United on their turf early in the season, the Toffees smelt blood, circled for 86 minutes and then sprang the killing attack.
Two games before seen Leighton Baines suffer a foot injury in a thrilling Merseyside derby, with many of the Goodison faithful anxious about his long-time waiting replacement. In his first game deputising Bryan Oviedo not only helped the Everton back five keep a clean sheet but also found himself on the score-sheet with a low, accurate right-foot drive coming off the post. Four days later in his second game saw the Costa Rican repeat both feats, the latter of which was with his stronger left foot; nestling into the bottom corner.
With a ‘no fear’ attitude a breath of fresh air as opposed to the ‘keep it tight’, disciplined attitude to an intimidating away venue, the Blues came away from Old Trafford with all three points for only the second time in the Premier League era with a highly professional and comfortable performance.
Everton 2-1 Cardiff – 15th Mar 2014
After a disappointing away derby defeat, disparaging month in February and an exaggerated FA Cup exit the Blues’ season seemed to be going nowhere. Then came this win at home to Cardiff – on paper not a game that Toffees fans would circle in their calendars, but then again football isn’t played on paper.
A deflected Gerard Deulofeu shot was cancelled out by a Juan Cala goal and with David Marshall having one of a string of excellent goal-stopping performances last season the points seemed as though they were going to be shared. If anything Cardiff looked as dangerous as their hosts when Wilfred Zaha came on and had strong appeals for a penalty turned away. Then three minutes into stoppage time the ball was played out wide to Aiden McGeady (probably the first game Everton fans saw the real McGeady after regaining match fitness from a spell in the cold in Russia) on the left. The Glaswegian beat his marker and crossed to the back post, Gareth Barry headed the ball back to Seamus Coleman who sliced the ball to secure the three points – incidentally if the Irishman had hit it cleanly it wouldn’t have fooled Marshall into attempting a dive the other way.
The feel-good factor from a last minute or stoppage time winner can’t be matched but the atmosphere from the Coleman winner was nothing like I had experienced first-hand and the Gwladys Street was the perfect place to experience it from. Maybe it was that atmosphere that spurred the team on to win their next five games to hand them a top four spot and we’ll say no more after that.
Everton 3-0 Arsenal – 6th Apr 2014
In a fourth spot showdown, Everton came out fighting with one of the most dominant and complete performances I’ve ever witnessed in blue. The atmosphere was second to none at Goodison that day and was a complete personification of the phrase ‘twelfth man’.
Roberto Martinez sprung a tactical surprise by using Romelu Lukaku on the right to highlight the Gunners’ biggest defensive flaw in Nacho Monreal and Steven Naismith in a ‘false nine’ role to use the Scot’s movement from a deeper position. The change worked a treat. The Toffees only needed the first 15 minutes of the game to open the scoring through Naismith. The other part of the tactical change proved to be working 20 minutes later when Lukaku, steaming inside from the right, thundered into the Arsenal net. If any team deserved a portion of luck during a performance it was this one from the Blues. A minute after the hour mark, a former Everton player provided that when Mikel Arteta attempted to tackle Kevin Mirallas who was certain to took in to an empty net. Instead the Spaniard ended up winning the ball but also finishing into the Gwladys Street goal, something familiar to the Catalan.
This win was as euphoric as any I can remember and the end to the season didn’t do it justice, especially the following game.
Everton 2-0 Manchester United – 20th Apr 2014
Subsequently from that Crystal Palace defeat, the league position was put to one side for David Moyes’ first return to Goodison Park – ultimately proving fatal. Incidentally Paddy Power’s grim reaper was in the perfect spot before being ejected from the stadium. Another example of how the Goodison twelfth man can help Martinez’s side, this time overcoming their former manager.
Everton had the game won in the first half after an assured Leighton Baines penalty and a tidy finish from Kevin Mirallas. Moyes was axed just two days following the fixture after the last of a string of sorry and jaded performances.
There were several excellent wins over this season for the Blues, some for wider reasons; such as West Ham at home when the side were struggling without Romelu Lukaku and the Belgian made a telling return. All the wins involving late goals were as sweet as the dominant wins and because of that it was extremely difficult to narrow it down to the top five. Hopefully you’ll agree with my top five but I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t the case with it being hard to leave out West Ham United away, Aston Villa both home and away as well as Swansea City, Newcastle and Fulham away.