Football: Everton's fountain of youth

Everton 2 Ball 49, Cadamarteri 56 Arsenal 2 Wright 43, Ove rmars 41 Attendance: 35,457
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Billed as men versus boys both literally and metaphorically, the youthful exuberance of an Everton side featuring three teenagers was sufficient to bridge the glaring skills gap. When the older and already more battle- weary legs of Arsenal started to flag, Everton found a collective spring in their steps.

All the time, Howard Kendall was casting a fatherly but astute eye over his young charges and the Everton manager worked miracles to transform a potential rout into a rousing second-half retaliation.

The Premiership leaders had emerged from a strangely subdued start to step up a number of gears in powering to a commanding half-time lead.

Kendall's tactical switch, sacrificing a central defender in an attempt to negate the explosive Arsenal bursts into the box, also bolstered his own side's offensive potency. It was at this point, the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, believed that the physical toll of a crowded early fixture schedule had a profound affect on his side's performance levels.

"Everton had more fresh players on the field - it is always like that when a team plays with so many young players," Wenger said. "We didn't really have the strength to score the third goal with collective pressure because our ball circulation was not good enough."

Dennis Bergkamp was again in the mood and created the opener from a pass which split the back-peddling defence. Ian Wright took control with a sumptuous first touch which opened the angle for a precision strike low into the far corner. Wright then turned provider for the second goal. His flicked through ball found Marc Overmars bearing down on Paul Gerrard in the Everton goal. A clever poke lifted the ball over the approaching goalkeeper and the winger's momentum was sufficient to ensure he won the race to capitalise on the vacated goal.

Everton, however, stunned a now resigned Goodison Park with an amazing second-half recovery. A long ball from Terry Phelan on the left was met by Graham Stuart who headed back into the danger area. Michael Ball, one of two 17-year-olds players in the starting line-up, was unmarked at the far post and headed down past David Seaman.

The home side surfed the wave of renewed optimism and the equaliser was provided by the other 17-year-old, striker Danny Cadamarteri. A foul by Ray Parlour on Tony Grant provided Everton with a threatening free-kick. Stuart's effort fell to Cadamarteri, a target of a host of international managers. Despite the even closer attentions of the Arsenal defence, the striking prodigy dug the ball out from under his feet to create the necessary breathing space for a clear shot. The cool end product flew into the top corner and belied his tender years.

Kendall was able to extract a number of positives from a potentially daunting fixture. "I thought we passed it well without hurting them on many occasions. The lads were down in the dressing room at half-time and I think you have got to do something positive, so we switched to 4-4-2," he said.