Everton out to make Wigan the fall guys in Euro quest
Everton are halfway to paradise, otherwise known as Europe; Wigan halfway to hell. The need for three points at either end of the Premier League table adds a literal dimension to this Boxing Day clash at Goodison. Everton found the big punch at West Ham on Saturday to secure a third away win of the season. Wigan fell to the sucker-punch of a soft penalty to slip into the bottom three with a home defeat by Arsenal.
Everton, who face Chelsea at home on Sunday, have made European qualification the goal this season. A win tomorrow, and another against Chelsea, would reinforce confidence that is already soaring and secure a platform for the continued assault on fourth place in the new year. "While we are up there we are not going to talk it down, we are going to go for it," Everton manager David Moyes said.
"We played really well at West Ham and deserved the win. Even at half-time I couldn't fault the players. If we could attain European football at Everton, and I don't just mean the Champions League... the Europa League would be a great success. We are bobbing in and out."
Central to Everton's prospects is the form of Barcelona tribute duo Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman, who dominated the midfield at West Ham in the tiki-taka tradition of Xavi and Andres Iniesta. The pair combined brilliantly for Everton's winner, bundled in by Pienaar, after Osman had earlier seen a fine header disallowed.
"To come away with a win is never easy in the Premier League but we did a really good job. We played our football and stood up as a team when they bombarded us with long balls," Osman said. "We showed great character when things went against us, heads didn't drop and we continued to play good football. It is a while since we won away from home."
A return of only four points from the last seven games has seen Wigan thrust into the habitual fight for survival. One penalty given when Theo Walcott went over in the box and another disallowed when Kieran Gibbs handled at the other end ultimately determined the outcome of a closely fought clash with Arsenal. Wigan are playing well enough but earning little other than plaudits.
Roberto Martinez is right to emphasise the quality of his team's displays but will not want to see the present run acquire terminal velocity. "We didn't get the result our performance deserved [against Arsenal] but that is the only negative feeling to come out of the game, because the display was as good as it gets.
"The penalty decisions were big ones. The referee has given one to Arsenal which is very soft and then you at least want consistency when Kieran Gibbs clearly handballs Jordi Gomez's shot. His arms are not in a natural position and it is a clear decision. We have to accept that we were stopped from getting a positive result, but if we continue performing in the same manner we're in for an exciting second half of the season."
Martinez was without seven players for the Arsenal clash and must wait until the new year for reinforcements, led by Manchester United's Chilean prospect Angelo Henriquez, who has already trained with Wigan. Martinez believes the 18-year-old flyer can make the difference where it matters most, in front of goal.
"Henriquez is a goalscorer," Martinez said. "He's going to be a top player, he's an out-and-out finisher and he can bring us goals. He comes in straight away to a very familiar dressing room."
Latest in Sport
Monaco is a street circuit where driver ability is more important than anywhere else and if we take ...
by Gareth Purnell
24 May 2013 02:00 AM
Three weeks ago as I drove off the Eurostar, I remember thinking what a very long time it was until ...
by Martin Ayres
23 May 2013 05:29 PM
McDowell did brilliantly to land the World Match Play title in Bulgaria last week, but it’s a format...
by Gareth Purnell
23 May 2013 09:13 AM
David Moyes delighted after Rio Ferdinand agrees to stay at Manchester United with new one-year contract
Sergio Garcia / Tiger Woods 'fried chicken' racism row takes fresh twist after 'coloured athletes' comment
After racist remark, Sergio Garcia fights for reputation as Tiger Woods slams 'hurtful' fried chicken joke
New Manchester City manager must deliver five trophies in five years
Manchester United slash interest bill by £10m a year
- 1 Pope Francis: Being an atheist is alright as long as you do good
- 2 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 3 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 4 Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
- 5 Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.