Coleman shows the way up as Everton finally achieve lift-off
Birmingham City 0 Everton 2
Monday 04 October 2010
Everton clearly like to think pink these days but their entire world suddenly looks several shades brighter. Thirteen days on from their Carling Cup humbling at Brentford, they have regrouped successfully enough to be cursing the fact they don't play again for nearly a fortnight.
The conviction they displayed in becoming the first visiting side to take maximum points at St Andrew's since September last year added to the widely held belief that the Premier League's lower reaches will soon have to learn to live without them.
Such was their dominance of Birmingham City, even at 0-0, that it was hard to fathom how they had failed to win a League match since the "gimme" that was playing Portsmouth at Goodison Park in May.
Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool lie in wait for them the other side of the international interlude and their manager, David Moyes, acknowledged: "We have difficult games coming up, but I thought Fulham and Birmingham away were difficult games.
"The one thing I have is a group of players who are right behind me and I'm supportive of them as well. We have to try to get a consistent run going, so the last thing we really need now is a break."
An uncharacteristic, clumsy own goal by Roger Johnson early in the second half and a trademark Tim Cahill header at the end of it left West Ham United as the new occupants of bottom spot, with the young Seamus Coleman impressing on the right of Moyes' midfield and Phil Jagielka looking worthy of another England call-up today. Leighton Baines, one of those peering in on Fabio Capello's squad, was a forceful performer, too, as he offered a more than passable imitation of a galloping Gareth Bale.
Worries persist over the availa-bility of Cahill, whose 100th League goal in English football was followed by more talk from his manager about a knee problem that is restricting his training. Maybe an exemption is on the way from at least one of those trips back Down Under.
If Everton can find a little more firepower, though, they appear to have enough for a steady climb of the fledgling table following their latest slow start. What with a first league win of the season, a first away league goal and a leap from the basement, they did not so much get a monkey off their back as half a chimp sanctuary.
As the outlook improves for one set of Blues, though, it grows darker for another. In decades to come, when grandfathers are asked what they were doing when Birmingham were trying to set an outright club record of 19 undefeated consecutive top-flight home matches, wrinkled faces will frown as the word "yawning" is uttered.
There is much to commend in what Alex McLeish has done in the Second City, not least in bringing stability at a club where it has not always been apparent. But the trademark 1-0 home victory of last season has been supplanted in recent weeks by a couple of goalless deadlocks and this was another turn for the worse.
Tim Howard did not have as much as a single shot or header to save and the fans who booed Birmingham off seemed to be less impressed by their side's feat of going over a year without losing at home and more mindful of their record of winning only twice in 17 league matches, starting with this fixture last March.
"There's more fickleness than ever before," McLeish said. "I don't think they should boo us off after that [display] but we have to take it on the chin."
Birmingham City 4-4-1-1: Foster; Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson, Bowyer, Ferguson, Fahey (Zigic, 71); Hleb; Jerome (Derbyshire, 80). Substitutes not used Taylor (gk), Murphy, Phillips, Michel, Jiranek.
Everton 4-1-3-2: Howard; Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Fellaini; Coleman (Bilyaletdinov, 86), Arteta, Osman; Cahill, Yakubu (Heitinga, 79). Substitutes not used Mucha (gk), Hibbert, Beckford, Gueye, Barkley.
Man of the match Coleman.
Possession Birmingham 45% Everton 55%.
Shots on target Birmingham 3 Everton 7.
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Match rating 6/10.
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