Everton 0, Portsmouth 3: Defoe and Crouch shine but leave grey skies over Goodison

Another dismal afternoon for Moyes as England hopefuls find a way to work together
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The Independent Football

Jermain Defoe and England have rarely appeared a perfect fit, but the player that has often proved to be the country's most dispensable forward may just have earned himself a starting role in the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia after his two-goal display deepened the doom and gloom over Goodison Park.

Clinical finishing, awareness of his team-mates and positive signs that his partnership with Peter Crouch might not be the ill-conceived idea it had initially seemed were all evident against a dismal Everton and Defoe's Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, suggested the forward has done enough to earn the nod from Fabio Capello.

Redknapp said: "I don't know what Capello will want to do because he has people like Wayne Rooney available as well, but I'd expect to see Jermain in the squad. He was really sharp today. I've been waiting for him to come good, so it was nice to see him playing well and scoring a couple of goals. He is a fantastic little player. He can score goals and he has great ability and confidence, but those two goals will be good for him."

Redknapp has altered his formation to accommodate Defoe and Crouch in his front-line, but against Manchester United, in particular, they appeared totally incompatible as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic gleefully contained the pair during the champions' 1-0 victory last Monday.

Joleon Lescott and Joseph Yobo are no Vidic and Ferdinand, however, and Crouch and Defoe did not take long to work that one out. Indeed, the majority of Redknapp's players, operating in a 3-5-2 system that perplexed Moyes' team, soon discovered that an Everton team only beaten on home turf last season by the top four appears much less resilient this time around and the only surprise of the first half was that it took Portsmouth so long, 12 minutes, to score.

With wing-backs Glen Johnson and Armand Traoré allowed acres of free space on the flanks, Crouch was supplied with the type of crosses on which he thrives and he regularly out-jumped Lescott and Yobo to cause havoc in the Everton penalty area and Defoe capitalised when he scored Portsmouth's opener from close range.

Crouch's flick-on fell to the former Tottenham forward 12 yards from goal and Defoe used his low centre of gravity to good effect by spinning on the spot before prodding a right-foot strike beyond goalkeeper Tim Howard. His goal was an example of Defoe's goalscoring instinct and he almost repeated the trick five minutes later when after being teed up by Crouch, he forced Howard into a fine save with another quickly-taken shot from close range.

Everton responded well to Defoe's near miss and Mikel Arteta was only denied an equaliser by a tremendous double save by David James after 22 minutes. Arteta should have scored from Yakubu's cross, but James somehow kept out the Spaniard's first effort and his follow-up shot.

More chances went begging for the home side and Younes Kaboul denied Everton another equaliser when he kicked off the goal-line just as Yakubu was set to nod the ball into the net from two yards. Having lost at home to Blackburn on the opening day, Everton's confidence at Goodison is clearly fragile and their near misses did not help their sense of well-being. Neither did Johnson's goal shortly before half-time that doubled Portsmouth's lead.

On this occasion, Defoe was the provider, working a neat one-two with the former Chelsea defender, who confidently stroked the ball past Howard from six yards. If the result was in any doubt, James' save from Yakubu's 46th-minute penalty, awarded following a Johnson foul on James Vaughan, made it crystal for Moyes' team. Defoe's second goal, when he chipped Howard and saw the ball drop over the goal-line after hitting the crossbar, only rubbed it in.

Moyes said: "It was poor defending on our part today, very basic errors. You always expect Crouch to win his flick-ons, but what I can't take is five players standing around Defoe when he scores. We are lacking quality and aren't ready to win Premier League games at the moment."

Everton.........  Howard

Neville Yobo Lescott Baines

Arteta Rodwell Jagielka Osman

......... Vaughan ......... Yakubu......... 

......... Defoe......... Crouch......... 

A Traoré Davis Diarr a Diop Johnson

Distin Campbell Kaboul

Portsmouth.........  James