Stoke City 1-1 Everton: Baines & Osman combine to rescue point

Leighton Baines struck from the spot as Everton grabbed a last-gasp point in a 1-1 draw at Stoke City.

The hosts led at the Britannia Stadium thanks to on-loan Oussama Assaidi’s 49th minute strike. Everton dominated for most of the game but failed to turn possession into chances before substitute Leon Osman was tripped in stoppage time.

Baines stepped up to convert low past Jack Butland to ensure the Blues took what they deserved from a rain-battered Brittania.

Everton were boosted by the return of keeper Tim Howard after his Boxing Day dismissal and midfielder Gareth Barry who missed Sunday’s win over Southampton having picked up his fifth yellow card.

Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas returned to the starting line-up while Roberto Martinez was forced into yet another defensive change, with John Stones making his Premier League debut alongside Antolin Alcaraz in place of Sylvain Distin.

A tetchy start saw Everton struggle to get into their passing mood while the home side sought to exploit space down the channels and hurt Everton from wide positions.

Peter Crouch headed wide from a Jonathan Walters cross while Howard saved superbly to deny Assaidi despite the whistle blowing for a foul on Stones.

Everton looked better as the half wore on. Barry headed wide from a corner early on and James McCarthy found space to shoot from outside the area, although his effort looked to be off target.

Pienaar and Mirallas switched flanks and their movement gave space for fullbacks Baines and Seamus Coleman to flood forward. Everton’s best chance of the half came when Mirallas cut in from the left, letting fly with his right foot and was unlucky to see his 20 yard strike come crashing back off the crossbar, with Thomas Sorensen helpless.

Just before the break Mirallas again hit the woodwork, this time from a free kick in a central position and this time it was Sorensen’s right post that came to his rescue.

Everton could and indeed should have led at the break but it was Mark Hughes men who found themselves in front five minutes after the restart.

Stones’s clearance from a cross fell as far as Assaidi and the Moroccan winger was afforded too much time and space to pick his spot from the edge of the area.

Everton -backed by their fantastic away support- were patient and stuck to their passing game, dominating possession. But Stoke were resilient and having suffered harrowing defeats in their last two games, were keen to hold onto what would be three vital points.

The likes of Ryan Shawcross and Erik Pieters demonstrated the art of defending in it’s ugliest form, with the latter blocking heroically on two occasions from sub Steven Naismith and then Mirallas.

But it was the introduction of Osman, replacing McCarthy with 18 minutes to go, that helped turn Everton’s possession into opportunities. A finely poised run to the Stoke by-line inside the area led to the England hopeful cutting back superbly for Naismith but his header was cleared off the line.

And the next time the midfielder waltzed into the penalty area, sub Jermaine Pennant took a swipe. Having partially gone to ground, Everton eyes turned to referee Andre Marriner who thought about pointing to the spot.

Osman’s control, even while partly astray on the ground, was first class and he managed to evade one challenge before Pennant came swiping again. There was no doubt about this one with Marriner awarding Everton’s first spot-kick of the season.

Despite the nervous eyes of the entire Everton section boring down on him, Baines coolly slotted the ball past Butland for his third goal of the season. The England left-back is now the only player in the Premier League  to have taken 10 or more penalties (11), scoring every one of them.

The point was no less than Everton deserved from a wet and wild New Year’s Day clash. Only Norwich City have visited the Britannia and left with all three points and Hughes’ men have only conceded 7 goals at home this season.

Everton dominated possession but Stoke worked hard, especially in their own half, to stop Everton getting into dangerous spaces. While some will see the result as two points dropped, Martinez will be look at this as a positive point gained which may well prove vital come the end of the season.

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