Captain Neville sets a striking example
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Everton 3: Hard-working veteran bags rare goal to keep Wolves in the bottom three
Sunday 10 April 2011
If Phil Neville had been considering following his brother Gary into punditry in the foreseeable future, then he should think again.
While Gary has swapped his boots for broadcasting with Sky Sports, the younger Neville proved he still has plenty to offer at 34, even scoring his first goal in three years on an afternoon that was as perfect for the visitors, now unbeaten in seven League games, as it was harrowing for the home side.
Not even a touchline contretemps between the Everton manager, David Moyes, and Jermaine Beckford after the striker's substitution could take the shine off this victory after three goals in 24 first-half minutes condemned Mick McCarthy's men to a place in the bottom three.
It was alarming how the home defence disintegrated against a side shorn of so many leading lights. Continue in this vain and relegation will become a formality.
In a bold statement of intent, McCarthy had ditched the conservative 4-5-1 in favour of 4-4-2 and the omens looked promising as they dominated early on, Steven Fletcherseeing a goalbound header cleared off the line by Leon Osman.
But in the 21st minute the Toffees struck with their first opportunity when Beckford was allowed to ghost in unmarked at the near post to convert Osman's inviting centre .
Wolves almost equalised a minute later when Adlène Guedioura put an exquisite curling effort close to the right corner.
The excellent Wayne Hennessey denied Beckford a virtual carbon copy of the opener but there was nothing the Wales international could do to stop Neville's 20-yard drive into the top-left corner after he was teed up by Beckford.
It was his first goal since scoring against Aston Villa on 27 April 2008 and he celebrated by punching the corner flag, mimicking absent team-mate Tim Cahill's trademark celebration.
The Wolves defence was in disarray and Everton should have made it three seconds later when MagayeGueye raced through only to be again foiled by Hennessey. Before half-time they did add a third when a loose pass from Fletcher in midfield was intercepted by Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, who fired a swerving Russian missile into the top corner from the edge of the area.
Game over. Wolves huffed and puffed in the second half in front of an increasingly agitated crowd, but Tim Howard was only seriously called into action twice. First he turned Karl Henry's well-struck drive around the post and then, from the resulting corner, he showed fine reflexes to keep out a Fletcher header.
The most noteworthy action in the second half took place by the dugout, where Moyes and Beckford had a heated exchange following the forward's withdrawal in the 73rd minute.
Moyes said: "He scored a great goal and was probably the instigator of our goals but I just thought in the second half he needed to work harder.I told him that if you play at Everton, that's what you do."
Beckford would do well to follow Neville's example. As Moyes said of his captain: "His level of professionalism means that whatever he does in his life after football, whether it be management or journalism, he will be a success. He works really, really hard," adding that his goal "was a big surprise, I thought he was crossing it. I haven't seen him score in training, never mind the games."
McCarthy, who must wait two weeks before he can attempt to put things right when Fulham visit, said: "We started really well. It was Moyesey giving out. They scored the first goal and not us and it was hugely disappointing.
"We are a bottom three team at the minute. Quite clearly we are not one of the best teams in the League but we have had great responses before. The fortnight drives us mad. We want to play next week, it's not ideal but there's nothing we can do about it."
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the match: Neville
Match rating: 6/10
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