Football: Everton Hope for Top Four Challenge
Everton’s impressive opening Premier League win over Manchester United proved many pundits wrong in the build-up to the new Premier League campaign, and the blue half of Merseyside will hope they can finally enjoy a good first half to the season, so they can challenge for a European place again.
David Moyes’ side fully deserved their narrow win over United – forget what Sir Alex Ferguson said afterwards – because their first-half display was full of verve, passion, intensity, and no little skill against opponents fancied to push for the title once again.
In Marouane Fellaini, they had a man playing what appeared to be the game of his life, as he dictated the midfield action and made Paul Scholes look every inch the out-of-retirement veteran he is.
The Belgium international deservedly scored the crucial goal with a towering header that was symptomatic of the evening as, like much of the game, when the corner was delivered, United’s players could not get anywhere near him.
The desire that Fellaini showed to score was matched by his and his Everton teammates for the majority of the game, as they looked sharper than their more esteemed opposition, and only faded in the final third of the game, when Ferguson’s side pushed them back in search of an equaliser.
If last season’s runners-up had managed to draw level, however, it would have been an injustice, and Moyes can take great credit for the way he continually keeps moulding teams on a very small budget who can compete with the very best on their day.
Steven Pienaar’s permanent return to Goodison after his dalliance with Spurs was a major summer boost and the South African looks so much more at home in an Everton shirt than he ever did at White Hart Lane. Leighton Baines – courted by Ferguson over the past 12 months – is also a first-class player.
Add to that the attacking insticts of Nicika Jelavic, the experience and guile of Phil Neville and the reliability of Sylvain Distin and Tony Hibbert at the back and you have a side, with an on-fire Fellaini to top it all off, to worry anyone in the top flight.
Everton have been very slow starters in the past three seasons but their results in the second half were as good as the sides in the top four and others will be wondering nervously whether this is the season they can again be serious top-four contenders.
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