At least Vicente Del Bosque would have enjoyed his day. The man who has taken Spain to the greatest heights in their football history travelled to Merseyside to watch not Michu, as you might have expected, but Swansea’s centre-half, Chico Flores.
If, as Gary Lineker remarked, Michu at £2 million represents the “bargain of the century”, then Flores would count as a buy one, get one free (almost).
He, too, cost £2m, which would pay Mario Balotelli’s wages for a few months. Alongside the Wales captain, Ashley Williams, the man from Cadiz produced the kind of performance that suggested he would not be out of place alongside Sergio Ramos and Carles Puyol. It began with a fabulous tackle to dispossess Nikica Jelavic in the area and the standard was maintained thereafter.
In the second half it was Williams who threw his body around to counter any number of Everton attacks that did not quite possess the quality to force a breakthrough.
This would have been much to the disappointment of a coachload from Liège who had travelled to see their former player, Marouane Fellaini, in action. They had a less rewarding trip than Del Bosque, although judging from the interior of the bus, their journey home would have been smoothed by rather more alcohol.
Since Swansea had never beaten Everton in any competition and David Moyes’s side had not failed to score at Goodison Park since March, even before kick-off Swansea, playing their third match in seven days, would have taken a point. Not only did they take it, they probably deserved to and Moyes confessed that, when it comes to deciding European places, these results might count dearly.
“It could quite easily cost us if we don’t turn these games into wins,” said the Everton manager. “But we didn’t get it over the line today and that was the big thing.
“Swansea did a really good job in midweek against Chelsea and they did something similar here but we needed to play it a bit quicker and pass it a bit better.”
In many ways it was similar to the first leg of their League Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge, where Michael Laudrup’s side swayed on the ropes, took the punches and delivered two lethal blows with just about the only chances they created.
Here, they had precisely two shots and one of them was the closest either side came to breaking through. Laudrup commented that had Del Bosque phoned him before booking his flight, he would have mentioned that Everton away would not be the best place to watch Michu. He expected a defensive battle and he got one.
However, nine minutes from the interval, Nathan Dyer found Michu (below) with a diagonal pass and one of the bargains of the century shot on the run from a reasonably tight angle. It touched Tim Howard’s gloves and struck the top of the crossbar.
For Everton, there was a litany of opportunities, not least one from Victor Anichebe that Michel Vorm half saved and Williams cleared off the line. Then, as the afternoon reached a climax of sorts, Fellaini saw a close-range header shovelled away at the near post and ran his hand through his considerable mass of hair. The boys from Belgium would have reached for another bottle of Duval.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Anichebe (Vellios, 84), Osman, Neville (Naismith, 70), Pienaar; Fellaini; Jelavic.
Swansea (4-3-2-1): Vorm; Tiendalli, Flores, Williams, Davies; Agustien, Ki Sung-young, Hernandez (Routledge, 73); Rangel, Michu (Graham, 81); Dyer (De Guzman, 58).
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the match: Flores (Swansea)
Match rating: 5/10
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