Football: Carbone casts spell on Everton

Premiership: Goodison gloom deepens as Wednesday's Italian striker crowns fightback with two second-half goals
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The Independent Online
Everton 1 Sheffield Wednesday 2

THOSE WHO could face the bitter end howled their derision and frustration. By then almost as many had drifted away in dismay, acknowledging that relegation is no longer a mere threat but a distinct prospect for Everton.

Their fourth consecutive defeat and a goal that gave Charlton victory at West Ham provided by Graham Stuart, a player they discarded, leaves Walter Smith's side in the bottom three and the signs are that no one at Goodison Park believes they can drag themselves back from the brink this time.

Wednesday, too, were in distinct danger of being sucked into the struggle for Premiership survival after a wretched sequence of five defeats and when they gifted Francis Jeffers the chance to put Everton ahead it seemed they were intent on professional suicide.

The perception of 18-year-old Jeffers and the aerial prowess of Kevin Campbell, making his home debut, promised a route to salvation. Wednesday, without Des Walker for the first time in two years, were in disarray, their self-belief holed.

The early indications of a recovery were evident in the closing stages of the first half and at the start of the second, Everton handed the initiative to Wednesday's little wizard Benito Carbone.

Two errors, one by David Unsworth and the other by Marco Materazzi, presented the opportunities and Carbone calmly dispatched them. He was the source of terror throughout that second period, draining dry any resources of optimism Everton possessed.

Anxiety riddled the home ranks and Carbone's impish skills exploited their malaise with unfettered relish. Only a couple of extravagant saves by Thomas Myhre spared Everton a more comprehensive defeat.

Wednesday are now virtually safe, but for Everton the run-in looms like a trudge to the gallows. Walter Smith, their embattled manager, wore the countenance of the condemned as he conceded: "I've always thought we'd stay up but when you get results like this the question mark gets bigger.

"We have to show determination and character to get out of it. This defeat wasn't down to anxiety, just errors. The disappointing thing is the manner in which we lost. It was only two bad errors on our part that decided it."

Everton had the benefit of Wednesday's generosity after just 11 minutes. Unsworth played a speculative punt forward and Pavel Srnicek, the Wednesday goalkeeper, inhibited by the presence of his defender Jon Newsome, spilled the ball. Jeffers reacted instantly and coolly, lobbing it into the unguarded net from the edge of the area.

Campbell's flicked headers provided constant encouragement for Jeffers and supporting midfield players, but Wednesday somehow came through the rest of the half unscathed. Nick Barmby thrashed an effort across the face of the goal and Jeffers could not direct his overhead kick on target.

By the break they might have paid the price for allowing Wednesday too many sights of goal. Carbone and Emerson Thome headed wide, but Andy Booth forced Myhre to plunge smartly to his left to protect his team's advantage.

Wednesday intensified the bombardment in the second half and the pressure took its toll after 52 minutes. Unsworth, patently rattled, nervously attempted to push the ball back to Myhre but barely made contact and the keeper was powerless to prevent Carbone's equaliser.

Myhre leapt acrobatically to beat out a shot from the ever-mischievous Carbone but the second goal came Wednesday's way in the 68th minute. To compound Everton's anguish, it was a Carbone copy of the first. This time his compatriot, Materazzi, fluffed his back pass and the striker beat the exposed Myhre.

Wednesday came close to adding a third, Myhre making a fingertip save from Wim Jonk, but potentially terminal damage had already been inflicted on Everton.

Everton (4-4-2): Myhre; Weir, Short, Materazzi (Ball, 75), Unsworth; Gemmill, Dacourt, Grant (Degn, 75), Barmby (Bakayoko, 77); Campbell, Jeffers. Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Cadamarteri.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2) Srnicek; Atherton, Thome, Newsome, Hinchcliffe; Alexandersson (Scott, 79), Jonk, Sonner, Rudi; Booth, Carbone (Cresswell, 89). Substitutes not used: Pressman (gk),Briscoe, Agogo.

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).