Johnson gift lifts Everton off floor
Birmingham City 0 Everton 2: Own goal means Moyes' men win at last but there are boos for Blues, who lose long home record
Sunday 03 October 2010
No longer are Everton lumbered with the embarrassment of being the only team in all four divisions without a League victory this season. Three points finally came their way courtesy of an own goal by Roger Johnson and the more familiar route of a Tim Cahill header as Birmingham City's long unbeaten home record was dismantled with plenty to spare.
Such was the ease of Everton's rise, not only from the very foot of the table but also out of the bottom three, that Tim Howard was not called upon to make a single save; unlike their campaign thus far, it was all very convincing and comfortable. The only question was whether they had the firepower with which to underline their supremacy. That remains a moot point given that we were deep in stoppage time when Cahill became their first player since the spring to find the net in an away League game.
Not to worry. If you struggle to score for yourselves, find opponents to do it for you. Johnson, the epitome of defensive fortitude in the Alex McLeish era at St Andrew's, stretched to cut out Leon Osman's 54th minute left-wing cross andre-routed it virtually out of the hands of the diving Ben Foster and in at the near post. "It was a disastrous goal that set us back," McLeish said. "We have always told defenders that, if they can get their head or foot to it, they should. Maybe Roger could have been in a better position."
There was an unusual touch to the second as well. Everton were playing keep-ball following a free-kick near the corner flag when Leighton Baines found himself with no option but to drive across a centre from which Cahill got ahead of Lee Bowyer to plunder his 100th League goal in English football.
"I'm not jumping about because we've won," said David Moyes. "I expect us to win a lot of games. I thought we played well, especially in the first half, and how we came in at 0-0 at half-time, I don't know. Maybe we got the break we needed."
Everton never bore a hint of an inferiority complex, their pink shirts swarming towards Birmingham's goal in the opening half with a frequency that would have breached less resilient sides. Yakubu Aiyegbeni, having incurred the wrath of Osman by wastefully dragging wide a 20-yarder, laid the ball off shortly afterwards, only to see the midfielder scoop high and wide following a superb turn. In between, the Nigerian was inches away when his left-foot shot had some of the sting taken from it by Foster's hand, allowing Liam Ridgewell the chance to effect a desperate goalline clearance. For Birmingham, Cameron Jerome steered an effort off target when Sylvain Distin's misplaced header played him clear.
Retrieving a deficit was always likely to challenge Birmingham, given that their only two home Premier League goals had come from Craig Gardner, the midfielder who yesterday started a three-match suspension for his sending-off eight days ago.
They had more of the play in the second half and their captain Stephen Carr – one of two players under whose challenges Baines went down in the area before half-time – waged an angry one-man protest when denied a penalty following Baines' innocuous challenge soon after the breakthrough.
But a Bowyer overhead kick, which flew yards too high off his shin, was almost the only serious threat on goal before Birmingham's failure to set an outright club record of 19 successive top-flight home games undefeated was greeted with a hail of full-time boos.
Every silver lining has a cloud and, in Everton's case, that is the news that Steven Pienaar will be out for up to four weeks with the groin injury he suffered in training on Wednesday.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the match: Coleman
Match rating: 6/10
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