Baines growing into role of 'international player'
Everton 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
Monday 21 November 2011
Evertonians might have arrived here on Saturday hoping that Jack Rodwell, their new England man, or Marouane Fellaini, ink still drying on his big new contract, would provide some much-needed inspiration for their struggling team. Instead, with Rodwell absent with a rib injury and Fellaini making a silly challenge for Stephen Hunt's penalty opener, it was the hosts' dead-ball specialist, Leighton Baines, who ensured an "anxious" Everton – as manager David Moyes put it – brought an upturn to a miserable run of six defeats in seven matches.
Baines' free-kick led to England colleague Phil Jagielka's headed equaliser and he coolly rolled in the late penalty that meant an afternoon that began with a fan group's protest against chairman Bill Kenwright's stewardship ended with a restless home crowd appeased. Little wonder Moyes lavished praise on his left-back afterward.
"Overall his level of performance for probably two years for us has been excellent. He took the penalty really well, he had missed the last one [against Chelsea in the Carling Cup] but he took it today and he is beginning to show that maturity. Baines plays like an international player now."
The sight of Leon Osman screaming at Royston Drenthe to get back and defend underlines Moyes's view that the break-up of Baines' partnership with Steven Pienaar has not helped his attacking game – "he is probably in his own way missing Pienaar with who he could have some interplay" – but like Jagielka, playing after another injection in his injured toe, Baines is crucial to Everton's prospects of another mid-season revival, particularly with Rodwell and Sylvain Distin sidelined.
Moyes – publically assured of January transfer funds by Kenwright on Saturday night – will hope the same applies to Tim Cahill, whose 11-month wait for a goal goes on after he failed to beat Stephen Ward on the line from inside the six-yard box.
In mitigation, Cahill, like Jagielka, has played when not fully fit because of Everton's small squad. "What we need is to give Tim some help as well," Moyes admitted. "We are asking Tim to carry us a lot of the time which he has done for years in his own way."
Cahill's aerial challenge on Richard Stearman left the Wolves defender nursing a suspected fractured wrist but the visitors' complaints centred on referee Jon Moss's crucial late penalty award after Louis Saha tumbled under Ward's slight nudge. "He's played for the penalty and he's got it," Hunt fumed.
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