Arteta artistry proves bleak for Brown
Everton 2 Hull City 0
Sunday 11 January 2009
Considering that this was Liverpool's final day as European City of Culture, there was precious little of it on display at Goodison.
Everton won comfortably without ever looking remotely cultured, thanks to first-half goals from Marouane Fellaini's head and Mikel Arteta's superbly struck free-kick, whilst Hull, after their stirring start to the season, had the look of a side capable of a long and painful slide down the Premier League table.
Phil Brown's side never managed a serious attempt on goal and they looked doomed from the moment that Fellaini put Everton ahead in the 18th minute.
Leighton Baines took a return pass from Steven Pienaar in the left corner and was given far too much time to get in a cross to the near post. Fellaini, the one change to the side that struggled to beat Macclesfield in the FA Cup last weekend, got in front of Michael Turner and his glancing header beat the Hull goalkeeper, Boaz Myhill, to find the far side of the goal.
It was the Belgian's fourth goal of the season, a statistic dwarfed by his 10th booking of the campaign in the second half – one that will cost him an automatic ban and appearances against Liverpool in both the league and FA Cup.
In a match of persistent niggle and countless free-kicks, his was one of seven names to go into the referee, Martin Atkinson's, book.
Fellaini's manager, David Moyes, thought that booking, for a dangerously high boot, was unlucky. Conversely, he admitted that the goal could have been disallowed for offside.
Either way, this was a game Everton always looked destined to win, so poor were the opposition. Fellaini continued to be their main threat with a header just wide and a blocked shot, but fittingly for such a staccato affair the clinching goal came from one of that endless series of free-kicks.
Turner conceded it 25 yards out in time added on at the end of the first half and Arteta's dead-ball expertise sent it unerringly into Myhill's top right-hand corner.
"The first goal was a key factor and a bad decision by the assistant referee," said Hull manager Phil Brown. "The second was a piece of brilliance and you have to hold your hand up."
Chances were few and far between in a dull second half, but the two best fell to Leon Osman, scorer of the spectacular winner at Macclesfield last week. He wasted one run through the Hull defence and volleyed another opportunity over the bar, but neither failure ever looked likely to prevent Everton from improving on their poor home record.
Brown made three changes after the break, aimed at giving his striker Marlon King some much-needed support up front, but with Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka in commanding mood in the centre of Everton's defence, the visitors never looked like making a breakthrough.
The Tigers' manager admits that the January transfer window is a vital time for his side, and Hull undeniably looked like a team in need of freshening up. "We are still ahead of schedule," Brown said, but on this showing he might not be able to claim that for much longer.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Lescott
Match rating: 4/10
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