Club legend Howard Kendall -who passed away on Saturday morning- remembered with minute’s applause
Blues’ 7 game unbeaten run ends with lifeless performance
Martinez’s men punished by slow start as Man Utd flex their title muscle
Everton’s seven game unbeaten run came to a dismal end on Saturday as they suffered a 3-0 defeat to Manchester United.
Goals from Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera put the visitors in a commanding position inside 25 minutes, as Everton were guilty of some poor defending.
Romelu Lukaku went closest for Roberto Martinez’s side in the second half but David De Gea was in inspired form to stop the Belgian. Everton showed more intent after the break but a calm finish from Wayne Rooney ensured the visitors took all 3 points to sustain their title challenge.
The result was a difficult pill to swallow for the home fans, not least with news of Howard Kendall’s death (announced hours before kick-off) to contend with. Black arm bands were worn by both sets of players and a minute’s applause observed on an emotional day for the Toffees.
Emotional day gets the better of Blues
The passing of ex-players is always met with touching tributes by Evertonians. Former Blues are well remembered by club and fans, and there was no doubt that such remembrance would be reserved for the greatest manager in the club’s history.
Goodison Park grieved for Kendall as it did for other club legends -the likes of Dixie Dean, Brian Labone, Dave Hickson and another third of that famous Holy Trinity, Alan Ball- with a memorable minutes applause, mixed with chants of “There’s only one Howard Kendall”.
In his pre-match comments Martinez called on his players to be “up to the level” of Kendall’s championship and cup winning sides of the 1980s. Unfortunately his players were barely up to the level of Mike Walker’s struggling Everton team of the early 90s.
Whether the emotion of the day got the better of them or not is irrelevant when it comes to analysing their performance. This was as poor as Evertonians have seen at Goodison Park this season, with too many players experiencing particularly bad days.
What makes the bitter pill of defeat all the more difficult to swallow is the excellent form Everton have been in coming into the fixture. Unbeaten in seven games and only outclassed up to then by Man City (who came to Goodison in a period of championship winning form), Evertonians were confident of three points.
Toffees need to throw off “slow starters” tag
And they had every reason to do so, considering the return of the imperious John Stones and Seamus Coleman to the back four. But Everton -not for the first time this season- were slow out of the blocks and the initiative was instantly handed over to the away side.
Attacking with pace, width and purpose United looked every bit a side serious about maintaining their title challenge. Everton struggled to cope with their quick movement off the ball and their inability to track runners from midfield (and set pieces) ultimately cost them the game.
Steven Naismith’s attempt to clear the ball from Juan Mata’s quickly taken corner put his side in even more danger, but a disorganised defence left Schneiderlin all on his own to calmly slot home on 18 minutes.
Just 6 minutes later, more slack marking let Herrera ghost into the box and meet Marcos Rojo’s excellent cross for 2-0.
Unfortunately this shabby Everton defence is becoming more and more a regular feature of Martinez’s side rather than the occasional anomaly. And with the absence of the slick verve and control which has been the hallmark of Everton’s best performances this season (Southampton; Chelsea; West Brom after going 2-0 down), there seemed no way back, even this early in the match.
There was an improvement in the first 15 minutes of the second half and who knows how the result might have finished up had De Gea not denied Lukaku with an outstretched right foot. It was Everton’s best move of the match involving Barkley and Aaron Lennon but Lukaku’s smart effort was brilliantly denied.
After that poked-leg of a save, there seemed a collective sense in the Gwladys Street that this wasn’t going to be Everton’s day. And so it proved moments later when Rooney coolly slotted home for his first goal of the season. Unsurprisingly, the goal came from another Everton error: Phil Jagielka has been Everton’s most consistent performer this season but even his day was marred by personal ineptitude as he gifted possession to United.
It took only four touches for the visitors to get the ball in the net, with Rooney netting his first of the season. Everton’s error leading to a lightning quick United break away: the game perfectly summed up in a 10 second phase of play.
The only solace Evertonians will take from the pain of an ex-player rubbing salt in the wounds was Rooney’s apparent tribute to Kendall and the latter’s role in that Holy Trinity. Under the circumstances of a painful and embarrassing performance, the muted celebration and solidarity from one Evertonian to another is worth taking comfort in.