Everton breaks its four game winless streak in incredible fashion as Tom Cleverley heads home the game winner on the last possession of the game, giving the Toffees a 1-0 victory over Newcastle. Nearly a month after Everton were on the wrong end of a last-second goal, the side finally gets one of their own.
Over the last several weeks, Everton games had all had virtually the same narrative. The Toffees dominate a lesser side, but manage to make enough crucial errors on their way to another disappointing result. Your humble narrator was, in fact, crafting another such story for this week's tilt against Newcastle, when Cleverley decided to make a lot more work for me.
The first half was a frustrating one for Everton. With the exception of a few short stretches, Everton dominated the run of play but were unable to find the final pass in front of goal. The Toffees managed only two solid shots on goal: a narrow angled shot from Kevin Mirallas in the sixth minute and a laser strike from Romelu Lukaku at the 28th minute, both of which went, unfortunately, directly towards at Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot.
It has to be stated that Newcastle was greatly assisted by some very questionable (read: awful) referring from Lee Mason. First, Romelu Lukaku was clearly pulled down in the penalty area by Fabricio Coloccini at the 27th minute, but no penalty was given. Then a breakaway from Ross Barkley was thwarted as he clearly pushed down from behind by Daryl Janmaat. Janmaat had already earned a yellow card and the shove surely should have earned him a red.
Everton had the better run of play of the second half, although it was a much more even affair. As fatigue set in, the game opened up and both sides were able to create dangerous chances. Newcastle nearly hit home with several headers, most notably Georginio Wijnaldum's point blank strike at the 76th minute. The much maligned Tim Howard showed the reflexes that made him one of the Premier League's best 'keepers as he swatted the shot away. Elliot matched Howard save for save with a great reflex save of his own on a Ramiro Funes Mori header at the 81st minute.
Credit has to go the Newcastle center backs, Coloccini and Mbemba, who managed to get their bodies in front of several Everton strikes. The best of these came nearly three minutes into stoppage time as Romelu Lukaku got behind the Newcastle defense and nearly had a clear one on one with the keeper, only to be denied by a last second block by Mbemba.
Toffee fans surely thought that was their last good chance of the game but Cleverley had other plans. Gerard Deulofeu's corner was inadequately cleared by the right hand of 'keeper Elliot, who sent it careening towards a waiting Cleverley. The Everton midfielder took his chance with aplomb and scored his first goal in an Everton uniform.
After 18 games Everton still sits in 9th place, but managed to pull a little tighter into an already crowded field. They are still six points shy of fourth with Tottenham's victory today, but are now only four short of a Europa League place.
A big game against Stoke City awaits on Monday, but for now Everton can revel in a hard earned victory.