Suddenly Sunderland does not seem such an imposing place for Everton to travel on Tuesday night. Their first away win in six was just the fillip David Moyes's team required as they prepared for the FA Cup replay which boasts a Wembley semi-final with Liverpool as the prize.
Not only did Everton prevail on the road, they did so at a stadium which has attained a miserly reputation over the past eight months. This was only the third home defeat suffered by Swansea this season. As it is, Everton moved above them on to the heels of their neighbours. The League table might not reflect it, but there is still much to play for on Merseyside. Certainly the fortunes of Moyes and the city's other Scottish manager were a stark contrast last night.
Still, even in triumph, Moyes couldn't resist a pop at the authorities. "I'm really disappointed with the Premier League – I don't think they've helped Everton very much at all this season, particularly over fixtures" he said.
Moyes wouldn't expand on his ire, but it is easy to work out. Sunderland will be Everton's fifth game in 17 days, and the club believe the 13 March derby against Liverpool (postponed because of the Carling Cup) should have been rescheduled to later in the season. Moyes has felt obliged to rest players – as he did, controversially against Liverpool – and admitted to "leaving out a few" yesterday.
Whatever, this was a tactical masterpiece from Moyes, who first stopped Swansea playing and then enthused Everton to employ their own weapons. It was the first time in the Premier League that The Liberty fans have witnessed their boys being beaten by more than the odd goal – and their only consolation was the deficit could have been greater. With Steve Pienaar at the vanguard of a tremendous second-half onslaught, Everton attacked Swansea into submission.
"They were very organised and took their chances," said the home manager, Brendan Rodgers. Moyes, meanwhile, expressed his satisfaction at reaching the magical 40-point mark. "I always say when you get there you can start to look at what you can do," he said. On this form, the answer may be plenty.
Swansea just about edged the first half, although denied any clear opportunities. The passing game was neutralised by the pressing game. At the break, Moyes instructed his men to perform "as well with the ball as they had without it" and within 10 minutes Michel Vorm had to spring to his right to repel Darron Gibson from 30 yards. A minute later Danny Graham headed narrowly over for Swansea, but this was as close as they came. Leighton Baines skipped forward, was crudely brought down on the edge of the area by Ashley Williams, and got back on his feet to curl a sweetleft-footer into the top corner.
Rodgers made a triple substitution, but the gamble failed. Everton rejoiced in the sudden openness, with Pienaar in his element. After the South African had set up Nikica Jelavic, only for the Croatian to sidefoot it wide, Marouane Fellaini strolled into the box, putting the hapless Williams on his backside, before finding Jelavic, who this time hit the target.
As the blue shirts poured forward one felt sympathy for the Swansea fan, who, it was announced at half-time, had left his own wedding reception to attend. "He should have stayed where he was," said Rodgers. Indeed.
Swansea (4-3-3): Vorm; Rangel, Caulker, Williams, Taylor; Britton, Sigurdsson, Allen; Routledge (Lita, 71), Graham (Moore, 71), Sinclair (McEachran, 72).
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Hibbert, Distin, Jagielka, Baines; Neville, Osman, Gibson (Heitinga, 84), Pienaar; Cahill (Fellaini, 58); Jelavic (Stracqualursi, 82).
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.
Man of the match: Pienaar (Everton)
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content